PALMER, Charles Fyshe (c.1770-1843), of Luckley House, Wokingham, Berks.
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Family and Education
b. c.1770, s. of Charles Fyshe Palmer of Luckley by w. Lucy Jones of Celyn, Flints.1 m. 25 Nov. 1805, Lady Madelina Gordon, da. of Alexander, 4th Duke of Gordon [S], wid. of Sir Robert Sinclair, 7th Bt., of Stevenson, Haddington, s.p. suc. fa. 1807.
Palmer, popularly known as ‘Long Fyshe’, was described by Mary Russell Mitford in 1818 as ‘vastly like a mop-stick, or, rather, a tall hop-pole, or an extremely long fishing-rod, or anything that is all length and no substance’. As a young man he was evidently a trial to his father, whose hopes of his being taken in hand ‘as soon as he came of age’ by the 3rd Duke of Chandos, lord steward of the Household, were dashed by Chandos’s death in October 1789. Shortly afterwards Palmer was in Geneva, under the care of a Monsieur du Salgas; and in 1790 his father wrote at least twice to Sir Robert Murray Keith of his wish to send him to Vienna
not as a young man on his travels who thinks he has nothing else to do but spend money: but that he may have the advantage of seeing something of real business and being employed every day for a few hours under your secretary. I should also wish him to board in some reputable house that he might learn German.
It is not clear whether anything came of this, but in 1792 Palmer was in Scotland, where he had property dealings with his future father-in-law and where he seems to have contemplated settling. Forty years later he claimed to have visited his uncle, Thomas Fyshe Palmer, the Unitarian minister transported for sedition, in the prison hulks, presumably at Woolwich in 1794. In August 1795 Palmer, just after his return from the Continent, was encountered at the Coutts’s by Sir Francis Burdett’s friend, William Bagshaw Stevens, who conceived an instant dislike for him:
Of horses all his talk save that he told us he had just sold his estate in Scotland. He is a remarkably tall, ugly looking fellow with a very harsh dissonant voice, a bold rider, a nimble dancer, and very attentive to the ladies.2
Palmer, whose marriage made him brother-in-law to three dukes (Bedford, Manchester and Richmond) and a marquess (Cornwallis), gained entry to aristocratic circles, including Holland House, but also developed friendships with Dr Valpy, headmaster of Reading School and a prominent local politician of Whig persuasion, and with Major John Cartwright. He announced his candidature for Reading, at the next general election, in December 1816, and in the ensuing months was an active advocate of reform and critic of repression at Berkshire meetings. In his Letter to the electors of Reading (1818) he stated the case for triennial parliaments, householder suffrage, disfranchisement of corrupt and close boroughs, and called for rigorous retrenchment. At the general election of 1818 Palmer defeated a ministerialist in a contest for the second seat, but faced the embarrassment of having his wife’s pension, granted on the death of her first husband, decried by his opponents as a reason for his disqualification. Palmer’s victory and the rejection of a petition embodying the protest against the pension were hailed in reforming circles as triumphs for ‘independence’ in Reading3
In his Letter Palmer wrote:
My hostility ... is to measures and not to men. I shall ... be as ready to ... support ... the King’s ministers ... if they act wisely and honestly, as I shall be, to oppose them, whenever, I believe in my conscience they do neither the one, or the other.
He nevertheless marked his party allegiance by signning the requisition to Tierney and acting consistently with the advanced wing of the Whig opposition in the new Parliament. He voted regularly for economical reform and supported motions for inquiry into Scottish burgh reform, 1 Apr. and 6 May, and Burdett’s parliamentary reform motion, 1 July 1819. He took a leading part at the Berkshire meeting of protest against Peterloo and its aftermath and was one of the diehard opponents of the repressive legislation during the subsequent emergency session, in the course of which he was elected to Brooks’s. Palmer’s only recorded intervention in debate before 1820 was to present a petition from Reading for inquiry into the Peterloo disaster, 30 Nov. 1819.
John Richardson recalled Palmer as
a man of remarkable appearance; in height about six feet three, upright as a pike, and by no means overburdened with flesh or fat; his limbs, loosely joined together, were without elegance or muscular development; his features relieved from insipidity by positive ugliness; his costume, that of a man of fashion of bygone days, but smart and well-appointed; his manners were those of a gentleman of the old school, and he rarely failed ... to capture by the amenity of his address and the politeness of his attentions.4
He died 24 Jan. 1843.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: David R. Fisher
See N. and Q. clx. 399-401; W. Lyon, Chrons. Finchampstead, 128.
- 1. N. and Q. clx. 463; Hasted, Kent., ix. 572-3; Northill par. reg.
- 2. Life of Mary Russell Mitford ed. L’Estrange, ii. 31; Add. 35542, ff. 20, 118; Parl. Deb. (ser. 3), xii. 1180; Jnl. of William Bagshaw Stevens, 287.
- 3. J. Richardson, Recollections, i. 69, 73; Add. 51644, Lady Holland to Horner, 30 Dec. 1816; Cartwright Corresp. ii. 186; Jackson’s Oxford Jnl. 15 Feb.; The Times, 4 Mar. 1817; Reading 70 Years Ago ed. Ditchfield, 61, 80-83; Letters of Mary Russell Mitford (ser. 2), i. 56.
- 4. Recollections, i. 70-71.