Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.
Charles James Fox
January 24 1749 to September 13 1806
Fox served in Parliament for 38 years. For a few months he was the Leader of the House of Commons and three times he served as the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Never for any great length though. Fox, as his father before him, was a leading Whig, a liberal in a time when Conservatism was in vogue.
Conservatism that had at its forefront another son, William Pitt the Younger. It is possible that to distinguish himself, Fox’s liberalism turned to radicalism. A position that cultivating only made an enemy of King George who would force him from office. Fox supported such liberal ideals as the abolishment of slavery, the liberty of religious minorities, and even support for the French.
Fox, through his mother, was the great grandson of King Charles II. Educated at Eton and Hertford College Oxford, Fox left before getting his degree. He was accustom to leaving school having been taken out for the coronation of King George III and a tip to the Continent. At the age of 14 he was taught by his father to gamble, and the ways of women. At the age of 19, Fox was given the pocket borough of Midhurst. Over the next six years he addressed Parliament 254 times. In 1770 he was appointed to the board of the Admiralty, but quickly resigned within the month. Then to the Treasury in 1772 and once again he resigned though after more than a year.
During these shorts stays at a government post, he earned the king’s distrust. With the American War of Independence he began to be mentored by Edmund Burke, he actually supported the colonists. He was a correspondent with Thomas Jefferson and had met Benjamin Franklin. Fox saw that George IIIs support of the war and how it was waged as a challenge to the powers that Parliament had fought for since 1688. The two became opposed to each other further, and with a vote in April 1780, Fox had the Commons by vote show how opposed the members were to the king over the king’s trying to gain more power.
Fox now became the representative of Westminster and titled ‘The Man of the People.” With the end of the war with America, Lord North finally resigned in 1782 and Fox’s party came to power. But the Marquess of Rockingham died unexpectedly and Fox and the Earl of Shelburne split the party. Fox now joined with his enemy, Lord North and they formed a coalition government. They did so without the consent of the King.
George the III might have resigned, but Prinny was a good friend to Fox and that stayed the hand of the king from doing so. Later Fox put forward a bill for the governance of the British East India Company that easily passed the commons, but George III said any peer voting for it in Lords would be a personal enemy. It was thus defeated in the upper house.
George now in 1784 got involved in politics so much that he interfered with the elections, and Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire, and perhaps a lover of Fox, helped to run his reelection campaign. She was said to kiss a shoemaker to bribe the man for his vote. Fox won his seat by a slender margin. Legal challenges though (arranged by Pitt and the King) prevented the declaration of victory for more than a year.
The truth uncovered is that George III was trying to control government. The King though manipulated things in such a way as to make the people see Fox as a troublemaker. In any case, the new government was that of Pitt, and he sought to do away with rotten Boroughs. Which had launched Fox in his career. In 1785, the Trial of Warren Hastings came about, one in which the Whigs sought to discredit a very loyal servant of the crown. The trial was something that was completely politicized and trumped up. Fox should never have gotten involved and it cast the Foxites between alienating their country constituents, and the King.
In 1788, George III showed the first signs of his Porphyria. The rumor even circulated that Fox had poisoned the king. Prinny of course wished at this time to become Regent, yet his ally Fox was in Italy at the time. Fox rushed back to England and became ill himself. Fox foolishly said that the Prince of Wales should become Regent at once, and this contradicted the many years that Fox had championed Parliament’s rights over that of the Crown.
Commons agreed to a Regency but before the Lords could vote, George III recovered. Then the French Revolution came, and this was quite close to home. Fox championed the ideals of the French Revolution but his closest friends, such as Edmund Burke, saw that the French had gone too far. In 1791, after a quarter century of friendship, Burke walked across the House of Commons to sit with Pitt. The alliance was shattered forever.
As the Terror took over, Fox still championed that the new France was better than a monarchial England. As the war with France loomed, he lost allies, but when the King’s carriage was attacked, Pitt introduced laws that Fox spoke out against. The Seditious Meetings Act 1795, and the Treasonable Practices Act restricting liberties that the people had. These laws were passed, but because of his defense of the liberties of the people, he regained his support from the people.
By 1797 the country was supporting the war, and the Foxites found themselves losing support. Fox was now losing his grip on power, and even as the first interlude of the war finished, he was not really the man he had been before. In hindsight, he looks very much like the Duke of Windsor who had been dazzled by Hitler, for Fox acted as if Napoleon was the first man of Europe. Joining the coalition government after the death of his long time adversary Pitt, Fox finally admitted that he had been wrong about Napoleon.
His last major act was the Abolition of the Slave Trade act for 1807. It passed with 114 votes in favor to 15.
His life as a gambler saw him suffer about £200,000 of losses over his lifetime. He was bankrupt twice. He was a follower of continental fashion, and he was also the most ridiculed figure by Gullray. He was a womanizer and met his wife, a former mistress of his friend the Prince of Wales, and then married her, Elizabeth Armistead, ten years later, but took seven more years before he told anyone.
For all this he was considered amiable his friend said that one thing missing from Fox, was a heart.
Previous Notables (Click to see the Blog):
|George III||George IV|
|William IV||Lady Hester Stanhope|
|Princess Charlotte||Queen Charlotte|
|Queen Adelaide||Dorothea Jordan|
|Maria Fitzherbert||Lord Byron|
|Princess Caroline||Percy Bysshe Shelley|
|John Keats||Jane Austen|
There will be many other notables coming, a full and changing list can be found here on the blog as I keep adding to it. The list so far is:
Lady Caroline Lamb
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
John Phillip Kemble
Wellington (the Military man)
General Banastre Tarleton
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Sir Marc Brunel
Marquis of Stafford George Leveson-Gower
Paul III Anton, Prince Esterházy
Thomas Egerton, 2nd Earl of Wilton
Henry Herbert Southey
William Arden, 2nd Baron Alvanley
Sir Walter Scott
Duke of Argyll, George William Campbell (1766-1839)
Lord Barrymore, Richard Barry (1769-1794)
Lord Bedford, Francis Russell (1765-1802)
Mr. G. Dawson Damer (1788-1856)
Duke of Devonshire, William Cavendish (1748-1811)
Lord Foley, Thomas Foley (1780-1833)
Colonel George Hanger (c.1751-1824)
Lord Hertford, Francis Seymour-Ingram (1743-1822)
Lord Yarmouth, Francis Charles Seymour-Ingram (1777-1842)
Edward “Golden Ball” Hughes (1798-1863)
Earl of Jersey, George Bussey Villiers (1735-1805)
Sir John , John Lade (1759-1838)
Duke of Norfolk, Charles Howard (1746-1815)
Duke of York , Frederick Augustus Hanover (1763-1827)
Louis Philippe Joseph, Duc de Chartres, acceded 1785 as Duc d’ Orleans (1747-1793)
Louis Philippe, Duc de Chartres, acceded 1793 as Duc d’ Orleans (1773-1850)
Captain John (Jack) Willett Payne (1752-1803)
Viscount Petersham, Charles Stanhope(1780-1851)
Duke of Queensberry, William Douglas (1724-1810)
Duke of Rutland, John Henry Manners(1778-1857)
Lord Sefton, William Philip Molyneux (1772-1838)
Admiral Lord Hugh Seymour (1759-1801)
Sir Lumley St. George Skeffington Baronet (1771 – 1850)
Lord Worcester, Henry Somerset (1766-1835)
Lord Worcester, Henry Somerset (1792-1853)
Hon. Frederick Gerald aka “Poodle” Byng
Patronesses of Almacks
Emily Lamb, Lady Cowper
Amelia Stewart, Viscountess Castlereagh
Sarah Villiers, Countess of Jersey
Maria Molyneux, Countess of Sefton
Mrs. Drummond Burrell
Dorothea Lieven, Countess de Lieven, wife of the Russian Ambassador Countess Esterhazy, wife of the Austrian Ambassador