RAINSFORD, Charles (1728-1809), of 29 Soho Square, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



15 Dec. 1772 - 1774
1 Feb. 1787 - Dec. 1788
1790 - 1796

Family and Education

b. 3 Feb. 1728, 2nd s. of Francis Rainsford of West Ham, Essex by Isabella, da. of William Bale of Foston, Derbys. educ. until 1744 by a clergyman at Great Clacton, Essex. m. (1) 18 July 1775, Elizabeth (d. 27 Jan. 1781), da. of Edward Miles of Greenwich, Kent, 1s. 2da.; (2) 16 Feb. 1789, Anne Cornwallis, da. of Sir William More Molyneux of Loseley Park, Guildford, Surr., s.p. suc. fa. 1770.

Offices Held

Cornet, 3 Drag. 1744; ensign, 2 Ft. Gds. 1745, lt. and capt. 1751, capt. and lt.-col. 1760, maj. 1771; brevet col. 1774; a.d.c. to the King 1777; maj.-gen. 1777; col. 44 Ft. 1781-d.; lt.-gen. 1782; c.-in-c. Gibraltar 1793-5; gen. 1796.

Equerry to the Duke of Gloucester 1766-80; gov. Chester 1776-96, Tynemouth 1796-d.


Rainsford, an army officer, regarded a seat in Parliament as a means of assisting his promotion in the profession. In December 1788 he had given up his seat on the interest of his friend the 2nd Duke of Northumberland’s brother, Lord Lovaine having sided with Pitt over the Regency, while the duke went over to opposition. The duke made it up to him by returning him for his borough of Newport at the general election.1 Rainsford followed his patron’s line in voting for Grey’s resolutions on Oczakov, 12 Apr. 1791. No further minority vote is known, nor any speech, and Rainsford, whose patron was absent in Lisbon, was listed a Portland Whig in December 1792 (though Portland disclaimed the Duke of Northumberland’s friends) and was one of those invited to Windham’s house in February 1793 to rally to government. He duly attended the meetings of 10 and 17 Feb. Shortly afterwards he was appointed second in command at Gibraltar, where he had served many years before under Lord Tyrawley. He assumed the command there on the death of Sir Robert Boyd. He was relieved in March 1795, and on his return was promoted general and retired from the service, ‘fully satisfied to remain quiet’ and

in full hopes of going down the remainder of the hill of life in comfort and ease under his own roof and enjoying the society of his family and friends, and by strictly observing his duty to God and his neighbour to go when called upon to that regime of eternity assigned to those it shall please God to approve of for that purpose.2

To achieve tranquillity, Rainsford also divested himself of his seat in Parliament. Soon after his return, his patron the duke wrote, 5 May 1796,3 ‘I must trouble you on parliamentary matters, particularly as a dissolution is expected immediately’. He went on to relate the story of the ministers’ attack on his interest at Launceston, which was ‘such that as a man I must resent it to the utmost of my power’. He asked Rainsford to pledge himself therefore to attend Parliament constantly and on every occasion to oppose the measures of ‘the present ignorant and wicked administration’. The duke foresaw that Rainsford might be embarrassed by going into opposition, which would damage him professionally, and therefore advised him to ‘make no scruple of signifying your wish ... if it is so of being for the present out of Parliament, for be assured nothing on earth can ever alter the high esteem ... I have ... for you’. Asking for an immediate answer, he added ‘if our sentiments should not quite agree, I trust you will in that case not attend during the rest of this session, for I am sure it would hurt you much to give a vote in direct contradiction to the wish of the person who gave you the vote’.

In his reply, 7 May 1796, Rainsford informed the duke that he was not attending the House—‘was the duration of Parliament of any longer date than is expected I would have taken the same line of conduct as in 1789 [in fact December 1788] and begged leave to vacate my seat’. He declined a seat for the next Parliament, assuring the duke that this made no difference to their private friendship. The duke assured him that he had made the right decision.4 Rainsford died 24 May 1809. In a list he had made in 1794 of the ‘singular avocations of Gen. Rainsford’, he had placed ‘Member of the British Parliament’ fifth, after his military employments and before his membership of learned, masonic and Rosicrucian societies.5

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Add. 23668, f. 27.
  • 2. Add. 23667, autobiog. memoir.
  • 3. Add. 23668, f. 63. This correspondence contains few political references and a tedious cypher.
  • 4. Add. 23668, ff. 65, 67.
  • 5. Add. 23667, appendix.