Wolseley, Charles (1769-1846) (DNB00)

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WOLSELEY, Sir CHARLES (1769–1846), seventh baronet, politician, born on 20 July 1769 at Wolseley Hall, Staffordshire, was son of Sir William Wolseley, sixth baronet, and Charlotte Chambers of Wimbledon. Sir Charles Wolseley (1630?–1714) [q. v.] was his ancestor. He was educated privately, and, as was customary, travelled on the continent before he reached manhood. During his absence there he was brought into contact with the revolutionary forces that were then at work (probably with the consent of his father, who was an ardent reformer). He was present at the taking of the Bastile (14 July 1789), and implied in a speech delivered at Stockton on 28 June 1819 that he assisted the assailants. He appears to have made his first connection with the reform movement in England in 1811, when he signed a memorial in favour of parliamentary reform (Cartwright, Life, ii. 374). The original list of members of the union of parliamentary reform (1812) contains his name, and he was one of the founders of the Hampden Club. He succeeded to the baronetcy on 5 Aug. 1817, when the reform movement was becoming formidable, and identified himself with the more extreme section of radicals. His first appearance as one of the leaders of the agitation after it had come into conflict with the authorities was as chairman of a great demonstration held at Sandy Brow, Stockport, in June 1819. At this time these demonstrations began to be used for the purpose of making a show of electing popular representatives, and on 12 July in that year the Birmingham reformers met at Newhall Hill and, in his absence, elected Sir Charles as their ‘legislatorial attorney,’ and empowered him to present their grievances to the House of Commons. Major John Cartwright (1740–1824) [q. v.] and another conveyed the resolution of the meeting to Wolseley Hall, where he stayed for some days, occupied with Sir Charles in devising means for meeting the measures which the government had adopted (ib. i. 166, &c.). On the 19th Sir Charles was arrested for his speech at Stockport, taken to Knutsford, and liberated on bail. Pending his trial he interested himself in the victims of the Peterloo ‘massacre,’ which had occurred in the meanwhile. He supported some of their families, attended their trial, and became their surety. In April 1820 his own trial came on at Chester. He and Joseph Harrison, dissenting minister and schoolmaster, were charged with sedition and conspiracy, and were sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment. Sir Charles was lodged in king's bench, Abingdon. While in gaol he was elected on 16 Jan. 1821, with eight others, including Jeremy Bentham and Sir Francis Burdett, to constitute a committee of Middlesex electors to promote reform, and his liberation was made the occasion of a great demonstration.

Like the radicals generally, he was a champion of the cause of Queen Caroline, and addressed from his prison letters on her behalf to the ‘Times’ and Lord Castlereagh. In one of them he offered to go to Como, where he said he was in 1817, and investigate the truth of the rumours regarding her conduct while residing there.

He continued for some time to support the reformers, and when Hunt was released from Ilchester gaol in 1822 Sir Charles was one of his sureties. But he gradually with- drew from the forefront of the agitation, and from about 1826 he does not appear to have taken any public part in politics. He became a convert to Romanism, and was received into that church in October 1837. He died on 3 Oct. 1846.

He married twice: first, on 13 Dec. 1794, Mary (d. 1811), daughter of Thomas Clifford of Tixall, Staffordshire, by whom he had Spencer William, who died in Milan in 1832; secondly, on 2 July 1812, Anne, daughter of Anthony Wright of Wealdside, Essex, who died on 24 Oct. 1838; he had issue by her Charles, born in 1813, who succeeded to the baronetcy, two other sons, and two daughters.

[Gent. Mag. 1846, ii. 536; Annual Register, 1819 p. 105, 1820 pp. 908, &c.; Greville Memoirs, ii. 336; Hon. G. Spencer (Father Ignatius of St. Paul), A Sermon on Wolseley's conversion, 1837.]

J. R. M.