Mohun, Charles (DNB00)
|←Mohl, Mary||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 38
|Mohun, John de (1270?-1330)→|
MOHUN, CHARLES, fifth Baron Mohun (1675?–1712), duellist, born, it is believed, in 1675, was eldest son of Charles, fourth baron (d. 1677), by Philippa, fourth daughter of Arthur Annesley, first earl of Anglesey. His parents had on 2 Dec. 1674, after a long estrangement, been reconciled by the lady's father, the Earl of Anglesey, who took his son-in-law's view of the difference, and regretted that he lacked power to beat his daughter for 'an impudent baggage' (Hist. MSS. Comm. 13th Rep. App. pt. vi. pp. 275-7). At the time of the fourth baron's marriage in 1668, an order in council was issued by Charles II, that Lady Mohun should, as a Roman catholic, give security 'to breed her children in the protestant religion,' but Mohun can hardly be supposed to have derived much benefit from religious teaching of any denomination. When he was only a year old his father was mortally wounded while acting as second in a duel between Lord Cavendish and Lord Power, and after lingering for many months died on 1 Oct. 1677, and was buried in St. Giles's-in-the-Fields (ib. 12th Rep. App. vii. 130). Thenceforth the young peer appears to have been subjected to no control. On 7 Dec. 1692 he quarrelled over the dice with Lord Kennedy, and was confined to his lodgings; he nevertheless broke out with the aid of his constant ally, Edward Rich, earl of Warwick, and fought his first recorded duel, in which both parties were disarmed. Two days later he played a sorry part in the death of William Mountfort [q. v.] He and Captain Richard Hill, who was jealous of Mrs. Bracegirdle's supposed partiality for Mountfort, paraded Howard Street in company, with their swords drawn, lying in wait 3r the actor. The latter, upon his arrival, was greeted with drunken cordiality by Mohun. Mountfort, however, thought fit to remonstrate with his lordship upon the company he was keeping, whereupon, after a brief scuffle, Hill ran the player through the body (Colley Cibber, Apology, ed. Lowe, ii. 243-245). Mohun, who, unlike Hill, made no attempt to evade justice, was arrested, and the grand jury of Middlesex found a true bill of murder against him. His trial before his peers in Westminster Hall, in January 1692-3, was the sensation of the hour. The king is said to have been constant in his attendance. After a protracted and impartial trial, the accused was on 4 Feb. acquitted by sixty-nine votes to fourteen. Mohun was consequently released from the Tower; he was but seventeen years of age at the time (a circumstance omitted by Macaulay), and a relative is stated to have suggested during the trial that he should ' be taken away and whipt ' (Henry North to Archbishop Sancroft in Tanner MSS. xxv. 7, where there are other curious particulars ; cf. State Trials, xii. 950-1050 ; Macaulay, Hist. of England, 1858, iv. 310-11). In October of this year Mohun was lying dangerously ill at Bath. His recovery was followed by a resumption of his riotous life in London. In October 1694 he was engaged in a duel with Francis Scobell, M.P. for Grampound, who had remonstrated with him in Pall Mall concerning a murderous assault which he was making upon an offending coachman. In this year also he volunteered for the Brest expedition, and was made a captain of horse in Lord Macclesfield's regiment. Be served with distinction in Flanders during the next two years, but returned to England early in 1697 in as aggressive and turbulent a mood as ever. No later than April 1697 he was involved in a duel with Captain Bingham, in St. James's Park, but the combatants were separated by the sentinels before any serious damage was done. On 14 Sept. however, he was in at the death of Captain Hill, which occurred in a confused and discreditable brawl at the Rummer Tavern, and in November 1698 he was engaged with his old associates, Warwick and Docwra, in deep potations at Lockets', which were followed by an affray in Leicester Square, and a mortal wound inflicted upon a Captain Richard Coote. True bills of murder were brought in against both Warwick and Mohun, but the latter was not tried by his peers until 29 March 1699, when he was acquitted. It appeared in evidence that he had not fomented the quarrel, but rather the reverse ; and before leaving the bar he uttered some expression of contrition for his past life, which seems to have been for the time sincere.
Thenceforward Mohun occasionally took a prominent part in the debates in the House of Lords, and was a staunch supporter of the whigs. On 13 March 1703 he stood proxy for the elector of Hanover when the latter was installed knight of the Garter. In the debate on the Occasional Conformity Bill he remarked bluntly that if the Bill passed they might as well tack the Pretender to it. When in the debate on the Act of Security (1704) Nottingham appeared to cast a slur upon William III, Mohun was with difficulty restrained from proposing to send him to the Tower. Finally, when in a debate in the House of Lords the Duke of Marlborough was grossly insulted by Earl Powlett, it was Mohun who was commissioned to bear Marlborough's invitation to the earl ' to take the air in the country.'
Meanwhile in June 1701 Mohun had been appointed to attend Charles Gerard, earl of Macclesfield [q. v.], who was sent as envoy-extraordinary to present the electress-dowager Sophia with a copy of the Act of Succession. Macclesfield died on 5 Nov. 1701, and by his will Mohun came in for the personal estate valued at 20,0007. With regard to the real property he entered upon a long, complicated, and fluctuating lawsuit both with the crown and James Douglas, fourth duke of Hamilton [q. v.] Mohun claimed through his first wife, Macclesfield's niece Charlotte, daughter of Thomas Manwaring ; Hamilton through his second wife, also a niece of Macclesfield's, while the crown claimed the reversion on the ground that the reversal of Macclesfield's attainder had never been legally recorded. In the course of the proceedings the duke and Mohun met in the chambers of Mr. Oillabar, a master in chancery, on 13 Nov. 1712. On the duke remarking of a witness named Whitworth, ' There is no truth or justice in him,' Mohun rejoined, 'I know Mr. Whitworth, he is an honest man, and has as much truth as your grace.' A challenge ensued, not from the duke, but from Mohun. The duel took place in Hyde Park, between 6 and 7 A.M. on Sunday 15 Nov. Mohun spent the previous night at the Bagnio in Long Acre. On the parties arriving on the ground, Mohun said the seconds should have no share, but his friend, Colonel George Maccartney [q. v.], demurred, and the duke, turning to Colonel Andrew Hamilton, remarked, 'There is my friend, he will take a share in my dance.' They fought until their principals fell, when Maccartney went to Mohun and turned him on his face 'that he might die the more easily.' Neither Mohun nor his adversary attempted to parry, but thrust without intermission, 'fighting,' says a contemporary, 'like enraged lyons,' Mohun was riddled with dreadful wounds (see the account of Le Sage, the surgeon), but it is said that he only inflicted the duke's death-wound with a shortened sword as Hamilton was bending over him. The duel was at once interpreted by the dominant party as a whig conspiracy, Swift in the 'Post Boy' (for 18 and 20 Nov.), and in the 'Examiner' (20 Nov.), suggesting that 'the faction, being weary of Mohun, resolved to employ him in some real service to the cause,' i.e. in the prevention of Hamilton's embassy to France, which it was dreaded would be favourable to the cause of the Pretender.
Mohun was buried in St. Martin's-in-the-Fields on 25 Nov. By his will, proved on 6 March 1712-13, he left everything to his second wife Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Lawrence, state physician to the queen, on condition of her paying 100l. to 'Elizabeth, my pretended daughter by my first wife' (Crisp, Somersetshire Wills, 5th ser. p. 11). The peerage became extinct.
Though perhaps excessively vilified by tory writers (who regarded him, not altogether without reason, as the bully of the whig party), there can hardly be two opinions as to Mohun's character. Hearne, mentioning his death, says with probable truth, 'he should have been hanged before . . . divers times.' Macky writes, 'In his youth a scandal to the peerage, he now rectifies as fast as he can his former slips.' By 1705 he certainly manifested a tendency to corpulency, hardly compatible with the wild excesses of his youth. Swift adds to Macky, 'He was little better than a conceited talker in company.' His only would-be apologist, Burnet, says significantly, 'I will add no character of him; I am sorry I cannot say so much good of him as I could wish, and I had too much kindness for him to say any evil without necessity' (Own Time, ii. 130). The fatal duel with Hamilton, coming so soon after that of Sir Cholmondeley Dering, evoked much unfavourable comment, and a Bill was introduced into the Commons for the prevention of duelling, but was lost on a second reading. The duel also forms an incident in Thackeray's 'Esmond,' in which novel a Lord ' Harry ' Mohun, who has little in common with the historical character, figures as villain.
A portrait was painted for the Kit-Cat Club, of which Mohun was a member, by Kneller and engraved by Cooper.
[The whole Life and History of my Lord Mohun and the Earl of Warwick, with their comical frolicks that they played, London, 1711, sm. 4to; Lives and Characters of the most Illustrious Persons who died in 1712, pp. 402–10; Smith's Lives of the Highwaymen; Burke's Extinct Peerages; G. E. C.'s Peerage; Gent. Mag, 1852, i. 219; Luttrell's Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs, vols. ii.–vi. passim; Wyon's Queen Anne, i. 217, 316, ii. 270, 388; Swift's Journal to Stella and Four Last Years of Queen Anne; Evelyn's Diary; State Trials (Howell), xii. 950, xiii. 306; Roxburghe Ballads, iii. 390–1; Hatton Correspondence (Camd. Soc.), i. 142, ii. 187–9, 235; Macpherson's Original Papers, ii. 364; Boyer's Annals of Queen Anne, 1735, passim; Reliq. Hearnianæ, i. 208; Hearne's Collectanea, ed. Doble, iii. 483–6; Calamy's Hist. Account, i. 428, ii. 4, 255; Spence's Anecdotes (1858), p. 256; Elwin's Pope, v. 73, ix. 382; Macknight's Bolingbroke, p. 316; Thornbury's Haunted London, 1880, p. 50; Tom Brown's Works, iii. passim; Tyburn Chron. i. 139 (with fancy picture of the duel); Lysons's Environs of London, i. 781; Noble's Continuation of Granger's Biog. Hist. 1806, ii. 55; Chambers's Book of Days, ii. 583; Larwood's Story of the London Parks, i. 101, 103; Millingen's History of Duelling, ii. 29; Steinmetz's Romance of Duelling (1868), i. 233; Mackay's Popular Delusions, ii. 289–91; Knight Hunt's Fourth Estate, i. 165; Memoirs of the Kit-Cat Club, p. 120; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. i. 312 (containing an account of all the chapbooks and pamphlets evoked by Mohun's trials for murder and more especially by his duel with Hamilton); Ashton's Social Life in the Reign of Queen Anne, p. 362; Notes and Queries, 2nd. ser. x. 481, 3rd ser. v. 135, 312, 6th ser. xii. passim; Add. MS. 33051 f. 223 (containing the order of Sir Christopher Wren to erect seats of 750 persons in Westminster Hall, preparatory to trial of Mohun and Warwick); Egerton MS. 2623 f. 53; Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. v. (Dartmouth MSS.) contains a full account of the evidence given on the subject of the duel before the privy council, pp. 311–14; see also articles Douglas, James, fourth Duke of Hamilton; Maccartney, George; and Mountfort, William.]