Wyndham, Charles (DNB00)
WYNDHAM or WINDHAM, Sir CHARLES, second Earl of Egremont (1710–1763), statesman, born on 19 Aug. 1710, and baptised at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields on the 30th, was son and heir of Sir William Wyndham, bart. [q. v.], of Orchard-Wyndham, Somerset, by his first wife, Katherine, daughter of Charles Seymour, sixth duke of Somerset. He matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, on 4 May 1725, from Westminster school. He was elected to the House of Commons for Bridgwater in 1735 in the tory interest. Having lost his seat there at the general election of 1741, he was returned through the Tufton influence for Appleby. But in the new parliament he changed his politics, and offended the patron of his borough (Lord Thanet) by supporting the proposal of the whig government for taking Hanoverian troops into British pay. He now left the party of the Prince of Wales, and attached himself to Lord Carteret [see Carteret, John, Earl Granville]. In February 1744 ‘the convert son of Sir William Wyndham’ seconded Lord Hartington's motion of support to the king against the impending invasion by the young pretender (H. Walpole to Sir H. Mann, 16 Feb. 1744); and after the rebellion was over even went so far as to call Lords Balmerino and Kilmarnock ‘malefactors,’ for which Lady Townshend quarrelled with him (to George Montague, 12 Aug. 1746).
Meanwhile he had in June 1740 succeeded to his father's baronetcy and Somerset estates, and was enabled to get himself returned in 1747 for the family borough of Taunton. He was elected at the same time for Cockermouth, but preferred the Somerset seat. From this time he drew closer and closer to the whigs, allying himself more especially with the Duke of Newcastle.
In February 1750 Wyndham inherited the Cumberland and Sussex estates of his maternal uncle, Algernon, seventh duke of Somerset. Somerset had been created Earl of Egremont and Baron Cockermouth, and according to the terms of the patent his nephew succeeded to these titles.
On 22 March 1751 Egremont moved in the House of Lords the address of condolence with the king on the death of Frederick, prince of Wales. In the same year he was appointed lord-lieutenant of Cumberland. But he neglected his northern estates, and lived almost entirely at Petworth House in Sussex.
Though he rarely took part in debates, Egremont's political reputation steadily increased. Earl Temple, on 8 April 1757, declared him destined to be another Pitt (Grenville Papers, i. 193). In the course of the same summer Egremont, who was now closely connected with Fox, was approached with the view of his becoming secretary of state in the ministry which James Waldegrave, second earl Waldegrave [q. v.], attempted to form (ib. i. 190; Waldegrave Memoirs, p. 120). He at first accepted, but afterwards withdrew his consent. He finally left town, declaring he knew nothing of the matter (Walpole to Mann, 20 April, 9 June 1757). In the spring of 1761 he was named one of the British representatives at Augsburg, where a congress was to meet to arrange terms of peace with France. Both Pitt and Newcastle had recommended him for this employment (Chatham Corresp. ii. 115, Bute to Pitt). The congress never took place; but when in the following October Pitt resigned the seals, Egremont succeeded him as secretary of state for the southern department. He had two months before (8 July) been sworn of the privy council. He remained in office for the rest of his life, serving successively under Newcastle, Bute, and George Grenville, who had married his sister Elizabeth. With the last-named he allied himself closely, and, like him, never thoroughly identified himself with the ‘king's friends.’ He maintained relations with Newcastle and the Yorkes; and the staunch whig Hardwicke, writing to Lord Lyttelton when Egremont took office, expressed the esteem and honour he felt for him, adding that he feared nothing in his case but precarious health (Hardwicke to Lyttelton, 17 Oct. 1761). During his first three months of office Egremont was engaged in negotiations with Spain, occasioned by the news of the Bourbon family compact. His first official act was to instruct George William Hervey, second Earl of Bristol [q. v.] (the British envoy at Madrid), to make pacific assurances, but to demand proof that the Spanish understanding with France contained nothing hostile to English interests. This despatch appears to have been concocted between the king and Egremont, even Bute being kept in ignorance of it (Newcastle to Hardwicke, 20 Oct. 1761). In the abortive negotiations which followed, the object of which was to show Spain that the rejection of Pitt's advice to declare war was not due to timidity or division of counsels, Egremont, according to Newcastle's secretary, Hugh Jones, was ‘opposed to any softening.’ On 19 Nov. he instructed Bristol to demand an immediate clear explanation from Spain on the subject of the family compact, and in a ‘most secret’ letter of the same date ordered him instantly to quit Madrid, ‘if either directly or by implication any agreement to join France, or any intention to, should be acknowledged’ by the Spanish court. His reply to the memorial of Fuentes, the Spanish ambassador in London (issued on Christmas day 1761), has been called a masterly state paper, and his declaration of war (4 Jan. 1762) put the Spaniards completely in the wrong. In the following March Egremont was reported to be dying of an apoplectic seizure (Walpole to Mann, 22 March 1762), but he soon recovered, and was engaged throughout the year in conducting negotiations for peace with France. With Grenville and Mansfield he opposed the peace-at-any-price views of Bute, more particularly insisting from the first upon some equivalent being given for the Havannah. But Bedford, who was negotiating the treaty at Paris, declared that the French recovered in London the ground they lost in Paris, owing to the conferences Egremont had with the Duc de Nivernais, in which he allowed certain questions to be reopened [see Russell, John, fourth Duke of Bedford]. Bedford himself complained to Bute that Egremont put him ‘on a worse footing than he would put one of the clerks in his own office,’ because the cabinet had been induced by him to agree that the preliminaries should be submitted to the king before being signed. Bute prevailed upon the king to interfere on behalf of Bedford; but in the interview Egremont remained firm, though George III ‘spoke daggers’ to him and Grenville (Rigby to Bedford, 30 Sept. 1762). An attempt made to separate the brothers-in-law in the early summer, by inducing Egremont to take the viceroyalty of Ireland in exchange for the seals, had failed; but in October Grenville consented to give up the leadership of the commons to Fox, and to exchange the seals for the admiralty. The relations between Egremont and Bedford became severely strained; but the former succeeded in gaining over Bute and the majority of the cabinet to his views about the terms of peace, and when the preliminaries were signed on 2 Nov. it was agreed that Florida should be given in exchange for the recently captured Havannah. Rigby had charged Egremont with ‘cordial hatred’ of Bedford and mischief-making for its own sake, but Fox thought that Grenville and Mansfield were rather to be blamed. Junius declared there was a moment at which Egremont ‘meant to have resisted [the peace] had not a fatal lethargy prevailed over his faculties’ (Letter to the Duke of Bedford, 19 Sept. 1769).
Fox, in a memorial he prepared for Bute after his resignation, said that in 1762 Egremont was ‘led by Mansfield through George Grenville to very bad purpose, and talked publicly of the necessity of widening your bottom by a reconciliation with the Duke of Newcastle.’ Since Bute came into office Egremont's attitude towards him had been that of ‘a useless, lumpish, sour friend,’ whose sincerity was open to doubt. Yet Egremont is said to have been selected to break the news of his favourite's retirement to George III (Walpole to George Montagu, 14 April 1763).
In addition to his disputes with Bute and Bedford, Egremont had differences with Shelburne (whom the king, on the advice of Mansfield, supported against him) on American affairs. Egremont, on 5 May 1763, enclosed to the president of the board of trade a paper in which he asked for a report ‘in what way least burdensome and most palatable to the colonies can they contribute towards the support of the additional expense which must attend their civil and military establishments upon the arrangements which your lordships shall propose.’ Upon its reception he refused to allow the department to correspond directly with the colonial military officials; and when Shelburne cited the order in council by which it was instructed to do so, Egremont had to admit he had never read it. Shelburne, on his side, resisted the secretary of state's proposal to include in the new province of Canada all the British possessions in the continent of North America.
When Bute retired from office in April 1763 Grenville succeeded him as premier. The brothers-in-law with Halifax, the other secretary of state, formed a kind of triumvirate which carried out the king's wishes, but resisted the secret influence of Bute and opposed a general proscription of the whigs. The king employed Egremont to induce Hardwicke to join the ministry. In an interview on 13 May Egremont ‘professed to wish of all things to see the bottom [of administration] widened,’ seeing in it the interest of both king and country, and made strong declarations that, should he discover that Bute still had any influence, he would immediately ‘have nothing more to do’ with office. The conferences were resumed in the summer, the chief difficulty being the readmission of Newcastle to power, which the triumvirate opposed. Egremont was associated with Halifax in the prosecution of Wilkes for No. 45 of the ‘North Briton.’ According to Almon he gave the messengers verbal orders to enter Wilkes's house even at midnight, and to seize his person and papers. After his arrest Egremont assisted Halifax in examining Wilkes, who ‘grievously wounded the haughty dignity attempted to be assumed by Lord Egremont.’ When committed to the Tower the demagogue ‘desired to be confined in the same room where Sir William Wyndham (Egremont's father) had been kept on a charge of Jacobitism’ (Walpole); and when in Paris in the following August he was challenged to a duel by a Scots captain in the French service, named Forbes, he pleaded in excuse a ‘previous account he had to settle with Lord Egremont.’ Walpole is sceptical as to the reality of this engagement, which Egremont did not live to fulfil. After Hardwicke's rejection of office on 3 Aug. the king had promised that if within ten days he could not bring him over, he would abandon the attempt and ‘strengthen the hands of his three ministers’ (Grenville, Diary). But on the 19th inst. he seemed by his language to the secretaries and Grenville to be ‘in the resolution of changing his ministers’ (ib.) Next day, however, the king saw the two secretaries (Egremont and Halifax), ‘and seemed more inclined to abide by his then present ministers’ (ib.) On the 21st Grenville was on his way to give Egremont an account of a similarly favourable interview which he had just had with George III, when he was met by Dr. Duncan, who told him that the secretary was struck down with an apoplexy and was past hope of recovery. Walpole, in recounting his seizure to Sir Horace Mann, writes that ‘everybody knew he would die suddenly; he used no exercise and could not be kept from eating.’ He himself had said a few days before his death, ‘Well, I have but three turtle dinners to come, and if I survive them I shall be immortal’ (Walpole to Mann, 1 Sept. 1763). Egremont's death put an end to the triumvirate. Though the king had quite made up his mind to get rid of them, and had already begun negotiations with Pitt, he showed great concern at the event. To Halifax, who went to announce the end (which took place at Egremont House, Piccadilly, at eight in the evening of 21 Aug. 1763), he ‘spoke in very high commendation of him;’ and in the two succeeding days spoke to Grenville ‘of nothing but Lord Egremont,’ making him give ‘a very particular account of his will’ (Grenville, Diary).
All estimates of Egremont's character agree in ascribing to him a large share of the inordinate pride of his maternal grandfather, ‘the proud Duke’ of Somerset. Walpole also adds to his bad qualities ill-nature, avarice, and an incapacity for speaking the truth. He denies him parliamentary ability and business capacity, but allows him humour and sense. Chesterfield thought him self-sufficient but incapable. Lord Stanhope's pronouncement that Egremont owed his advancement to his father's name rather than to his own abilities seems scarcely tenable in view of the fact that for the greater part of his career he was in close alliance with leading whigs.
Egremont married at St. George's, Hanover Square, on 12 March 1751 (N.S.), a reigning beauty, Alicia Maria, daughter of George Carpenter, second baron Carpenter of Killaghy, and sister of the first Earl of Tyrconnel. In 1761, when she was a lady of the bedchamber to Queen Charlotte, some verses were written in her honour by Lords Lyttelton and Hardwicke. In June 1767 she married, as her second husband, Count Bruhl, and survived till 1 June 1794. By her marriage with Egremont she had four sons and three daughters. Of the latter, Elizabeth married Henry Herbert (afterwards first Earl of Carnarvon); and Frances, Charles Marsham, first earl of Romney.
The eldest son, George O'Brien Wyndham, third earl of Egremont [q. v.], is separately noticed. Of the younger sons, Percy Charles Wyndham (1757–1833), secretary and clerk of the courts of Barbados, died unmarried; Charles William (1760–1828) left no issue; William Frederick (1763–1828) was twice married: first to a natural daughter of Lord Baltimore, and secondly to Julia de Smorzewska, comtesse de Spyterki; the eldest son by the first wife succeeded his uncle as fourth earl of Egremont. A portrait of Egremont, engraved after E. Harding, is at Petworth, where is also a painting by Hudson, engraved by Arkell, of the countess and one of her sons.[Burke's Extinct Peerage; Doyle's Official Baronage; G. E. C[okayne]'s Peerage; Gent. Mag. 1763, p. 415; Harris's Life of Hardwicke, iii. 240–1, 258–9, 268, 310, 313, 320, 326, 350–2, 369 et seq.; Grenville Papers, vols. i. and ii.; Bedford Corresp. vol. iii. passim; Walpole's Mem. of George II, i. 80, iii. 2, of George III (Barker), i. 43, 65, 156, ii. 215, 219, 224, and Letters (Cunningham), vols. i–iv. passim; Bishop Newton's Life and Works, i. 68, 89; Chesterfield's Corresp. (1845), ii. 478, iv. 368; Albemarle's Rockingham and his Contemporaries, vol. i. ch. iii.; Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne, i. 189, 247–8, 266 et seq.; Ferguson's Cumberland and Westmoreland M.P.s, pp. 117, 118, 121, 127; Mrs. Delany's Autobiogr. ii. 450, iii. 421, iv. 344; Lord Stanhope's Hist. of England, vols. iv–v.; Almon's Memoirs of Wilkes, pp. 100, 214, 220–1; Arnold's Petworth; Murray's Handbook of Sussex, 5th ed. pp. 122–8; Evans's Cat. Engr. Portraits. Many of Egremont's most important despatches are contained in his correspondence with Newcastle (1750–62) among Addit. MSS. 32720–33067, passim.]