FOX, Charles (1660-1713), of Chiswick, Mdx. and Farley, Wilts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



8 Dec. 1680 - Jan. 1681
26 May 1685 - 1687
1689 - 1698
1698 - 1700
9 July 1701 - 21 Sept. 1713

Family and Education

b. 2 Jan. 1660, 3rd s. of Sir Stephen Fox* by his 1st w.  educ. travelled abroad (France) 1669, (Italy, Germany, Holland, France) 1676–8.  m. 1679 (with £6,000), Elizabeth (d. 1703), da. and coh. of Sir William Trollope, 2nd Bt., of Casewick, Lincs., s.p.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Salisbury 1680–4, Oct. 1688–?d., Portsmouth 1684–8.2

Paymaster of forces 1682–5, (jt.) Dec. 1702–5; jt. paymaster of army in Ireland May–July 1690; jt. receiver-gen. and paymaster-gen. [I] July 1690–8; treasurer to Queen Catherine of Braganza by 1700–aft. 1704.3

Commr. R. Hosp. Chelsea 1702–d., taking subscriptions to S. Sea Co. 1711.4


An amiable man, but quiet and unremarkable, Fox never outran his father’s shadow. Despite marrying a considerable heiress, supposedly worth some £2,000 a year besides her portion, he did not establish a home of his own and was always content to live under Sir Stephen’s roof. He was thus an absentee landlord of the Water Eaton estate, near Cricklade, which had been settled on him at his wedding, though this did not impair his management of the family interest in the borough, for which he was returned again in 1690. The only respect in which he differed from his father was that, not having had to make his own way in the world, he was less cautious politically, and on two notable occasions was to allow himself the luxury of placing party principle above personal position. At the outset of this period, he was still following Sir Stephen’s lead. The Marquess of Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) classified him as a Tory and probably also as a Court supporter in March 1690, when it was already being rumoured that he was to be given office, and he was included in a second of Carmarthen’s lists in the following December, possibly a calculation of support in case Carmarthen was attacked in the Commons. Meanwhile, in May Fox had been named with Thomas Coningsby* as joint paymaster of the army in Ireland, the office being transferred to the Irish establishment two months later as joint receiver- and paymaster-general. This appointment was intended less as a recognition of Fox’s own abilities than as an inducement to Sir Stephen to return to the Treasury and give his personal financial backing to the war effort. While Coningsby was the man on the spot, Charles Fox stayed in England to take charge of affairs there, or rather to let his man-of-business and deputy in office, Edward Pauncefort*, take charge for him. Fox was in essence a figurehead, and little that was done in his name should actually be credited to him: the paymaster’s business was for the most part undertaken by Pauncefort, and the very substantial loans he apparently made to government came in reality from Sir Stephen. As paymaster he was obliged to play some active part in Commons’ proceedings, which went against his natural reticence. Even a sympathetic Tory pamphleteer observed that ‘notwithstanding he always voted honestly . . . his modesty made him backward in attempting set speeches’. His office accounts for his frequent appointment to committees on Irish army affairs in this period and to the occasional drafting committee. He was as loyal to the administration as his place dictated, being listed as a member of the Court party by Robert Harley* in April 1691, figuring on no less than five lists of placemen in 1692 and 1693, and being included as a Court supporter on Grascome’s list. He was also, in the 1694–5 session, listed among the ‘friends’ of Henry Guy*, then under investigation for corruption. Difficulties arose eventually, almost inevitably, under the Junto ministry. He was at first forecast as ‘doubtful’ in the divisions of 31 Jan. 1696 on the proposed council of trade, but this was then changed to indicate his likely opposition to the Court, and indeed he voted on the same day with other Tory office-holders against imposing the abjuration oath on council members; and although he made no bones about subscribing the Association, and voted in March for fixing the price of guineas at 22s., he could not acquiesce in the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†, and voted against that bill on 25 Nov. 1696. His father was still too useful to government to permit him to be dismissed forthwith, and Charles retained the paymaster’s post for a further 20 months, during which time he frequently appeared in the Commons, reporting on various petitions from Irish army officers for settlement of arrears. Listed as a placeman in July 1698, he was finally replaced just before the 1698 election, though news did not leak out until August and he himself was not told for several weeks. Despite the recognizable party logic behind the move, and the compensation of a pension of £1,500 a year, it was still galling to him. He had carried out his trust honestly, never taking more than his salary; for all the efforts of the accounts commissioners no irregularities had been found; and his father’s huge loan in 1693 had extricated the Irish revenue from a desperate predicament. Sir Stephen complained that Charles had been ‘made a sacrifice for his steady principles towards the Church and government by Parliament’, and blamed Coningsby for what had happened:

Now, after all this most reasonable service, in which my Lord Coningsby could or would not bear any share, by his treacherous insinuation with King William did so represent Mr Fox’s proceedings in Parliament against the Whigs that the King at his going to Holland . . . left a warrant to displace Mr Fox and grant the whole office to the said Lord Coningsby, which was not communicated to the lords of the Treasury till after the King was in Holland. So that till his Majesty’s return Sir Stephen had no opportunity but by letters not answered to represent to his Majesty the faithful services of Mr Fox, particularly in Parliament, always to forward supplies and to keep steady to the constitution, which he did so effectually that the King granted him a pension of £1,500 per annum.5

Although neither Sir Stephen nor Charles himself accepted the pension as adequate, both continuing to press either for reinstatement or for ‘the same bounty out of that office . . . as all his predecessors have ever had’, to wit a lump sum of £16,000, this gesture, combined with Sir Stephen’s continuance on the Treasury Board, seems to have prevented any violent reaction on Charles’s part. Chosen at both Cricklade and Salisbury in the 1698 general election, and opting for the latter, he was marked with a ‘query’ in a comparative analysis of the old and new Houses of Commons, voted against the third reading of the disbanding bill on 18 Jan. 1699, but was classed as doubtful or possibly as opposition in an analysis of early 1700. He was a teller twice in this Parliament: on 29 Mar. 1699, against recommitting a report on the Malmesbury election, in which Edward Pauncefort* was involved; and on 14 Mar. 1700, against receiving the reports of the committee of privileges at that time. Defeated at Salisbury in January 1701, and a petitioner himself, he came in at a by-election after the death of the sitting Member, against whom he had petitioned. He did not figure on the anti-war ‘black list’, but Harley’s list of the December Parliament classed him with the Tories, and on 26 Feb. 1702 he supported the motion in favour of vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the impeachments of the Whig ministers. In April he presented a bill on his father’s behalf to extend the deadline for entering Sir Stephen’s claim with the trustees for the Irish forfeitures. Through the agency of Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†), who had been instrumental in his earlier appointment in 1690, and once again principally in order to gratify his father, he was given a share in the English paymastership in December, being responsible for the forces in the Low Countries. Once again it was Pauncefort who did the work, and reaped the unofficial pecuniary benefits, while Fox merely drew his salary – at £1,500 no advance on his pension. As paymaster he appeared before the Commons in November 1703 with his accounts, and was forecast in March 1704 as likely to support Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) in his actions over the Scotch Plot, but otherwise remained in the parliamentary background. In the next session, on 24 Oct. 1704, it was reported that Fox had told his friends he expected trouble from the ministry as he had written to John Methuen*, the ambassador to Portugal, demanding a muster roll of the army currently stationed in that country. Moreover, this time the issue of occasional conformity was to prove his Achilles’ heel – although on Harley’s lobbying list for the Tack, on 28 Nov. 1704 he voted for it. Thereafter no argument from Sir Stephen could keep him in office:

I did debate the matter with [Godolphin], representing how hard a case it was that Mr Fox, who never did an unworthy action in his life, should not be permitted to proceed with honour . . . according to the trust reposed in him as a Member of the House of Commons and according to her Majesty’s royal words from the throne of giving liberty of speech to the House of Commons, but nothing could prevail, neither old acquaintance, a constant, steady friendship with his lordship, many obligations that he has received of me.

According to this evidence Fox also lost his ‘pension of recompense’, but there are indications that he was still in receipt of some kind of annuity in 1707.6

Fox’s dismissal took place in April 1705. At about the same time he was said to have arranged to marry a daughter of Lord Rochester (Laurence Hyde†) but this came to nothing. As in 1698, the loss of office made no difference to his position as an MP, though on this occasion it was not for want of effort by his enemies. Bishop Burnet, who later claimed to have acted only after a clear hint from the Queen herself on the subject, ran a candidate against him in Salisbury. Fox’s success in these circumstances was a considerable fillip to the High Church interest not only in that borough but in the country at large. Lord Halifax (Charles Montagu*) considered that it was owing entirely to the delay in announcing his removal as paymaster, and related a story of Fox’s having been ‘in so much despair when the Parliament rose’ that he had spoken to his nephew, Lord Cornwallis (Charles*), ‘to bring him in at Eye’. On the other hand, Fox had built up a strong personal interest in the corporation. This he reinforced in 1707, when he was able to secure a new charter. As well as bolstering the ascendancy of the Tory faction in the borough, it was interpreted locally as a demonstration that he was back in favour at court, and he was returned again without difficulty thereafter, and without even having to put in an appearance in the town. Any improvement in his standing with Godolphin’s administration was short-lived, however, and did not deflect him from the Tory path. Listed as a placeman and as ‘True Church’ in 1705, he voted against the Court candidate on 25 Oct. 1705, and was listed as a Tory twice in 1708. He had told against the third reading of the bill to secure American trade on 17 Mar. 1708. In 1710 he opposed the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. He was quick off the mark in congratulating Harley in August 1710, but, if seeking restitution to office, he came away empty-handed. He appeared on two lists compiled during the first session: the ‘Tory patriots’ who voted in favour of peace, and the ‘worthy patriots’ who exposed the mismanagements of the previous ministry. He was also a member of the October Club. He told on 10 Jan. 1711 against an additional clause to the bill to prevent bribery and corruption at elections, saving the Quakers’ right to affirm. He was marked as a Tory in the Worsley list of the 1713 Parliament, to which he was returned but in which he was never to sit.7

Fox’s health had been causing concern since he was a young man, when his early tendency to corpulence had been noticed by John Evelyn, and on one occasion in 1691 news of his death had been confidently given out. In the summer of 1713 he was seriously ill, and he died at Chiswick on 21 Sept. His body was transported to Farley for burial, where over 2,000 were said to have followed the cortège, including ‘about 20 clergymen and several of the corporation of Salisbury’. The pallbearers included John Gauntlett* and Edward Pauncefort, and Pauncefort was also named a trustee in his will. Fox left his finances in an unhealthy state. Election costs have been mooted as one cause, but probably more important was the fact that Fox coupled ‘a weakness for speculative investments’, especially in the realm of foreign trade, with a surprising lack of judgment and business acumen. By the time of his death he had sold off much of his wife’s inheritance, and still faced debts of around £15,000, nearly half of which was owed to Pauncefort alone. His assets were sufficient to cover these, but not to pay the £6,000 he had disposed of in legacies, mostly to members of the family, and his father was obliged to make up the shortfall.8

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. G. S. Fox-Strangways, Life of Henry Fox, 1st Earl of Holland, i. 12–14; C. Clay, Public Finance and Private Wealth, 266.
  • 2. Hoare, Wilts. Salisbury, 477–8, 480, 487; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 367.
  • 3. Clay, 270; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 678; x. 119; xvii. 425; Add. 43772, f. 36.
  • 4. C. G. T. Dean, R. Hosp. Chelsea, 168, 178; Pittis, Present Parl. 350.
  • 5. R. Eyre, A Sermon Preach’d at the Funeral of Charles Fox . . . (1713), 17; Evelyn Diary, iv. 219; Clay, 194–6, 228–9, 237, 242–3, 245, 269–72; Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 24; iv. 410; Morrice ent’ring bk. 3, p. 127; Mems. of Sir Stephen Fox (1717), 77, 88; CJ, x. 511, 518–19; Luttrell Diary, 101; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 165; Cal. Treas. Bks. xiii. 397; HMC Lords, iii. 433–4; Add. 51324, ff. 57–59.
  • 6. Add. 51324, ff. 57–59; 51335, ff. 50, 53; 17677 YY, f. 316; Clay, 246, 270–2; Univ. Kansas Spencer Research Lib. Methuen–Simpson Corresp. Ms. C163, [?John Methuen] to Sir William Simpson, 24 Oct. 1704; Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 425; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1702–7, p. 487.
  • 7. Cal. Treas. Bks. xx. 236; Add. 17677 AAA, f. 211; 70227, Fox to Harley, 17 Aug. 1710; 61458, f. 160; Luttrell, v. 536; Burnet, Supp. ed. Foxcroft, 513; HMC Portland, iv. 213; Bodl. Ballard 21, f. 222; Hants RO, Jervoise mss, Peter Phelps et al. to Thomas Jervoise*, 26 May 1707, James Harris to same, 23 June 1707; Dorset RO, Fox-Strangways mss, William Davis to Fox, 30 Sept. 1710.
  • 8. Evelyn Diary, 248; Luttrell, ii. 274; Ballard 31, f. 102; Add. 51336 (unfol.), acct. of Fox’s funeral, 30 Sept. 1713; Mems. of Sir Stephen Fox, 95–97; Clay, 272–4.