TENNYSON, Charles (1784-1861), of Park Street, Westminster.

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



1818 - 1826
1826 - 1831
1831 - 1832
1832 - 1852

Family and Education

b. 20 July 1784, 2nd s. of George Tennyson* by Elizabeth, da. and event. h. of John Turner of Caistor, Lincs. educ. Louth g.s. 1798; St. John’s, Camb. 1801-5; I. Temple 1801, called 1806. m. 1 Jan. 1808, Frances Mary, da. of Rev. John Hutton of Morton, Lincs., 5s. 3da. suc. fa. (who had disinherited his e. s. George) and took additional name of D’Eyncourt 30 July 1835.

Offices Held

Clerk of Ordnance Dec. 1830-Feb. 1832; PC 6 Feb. 1832 (honoris causa).

Capt. 1 regt. N. Lincs. vols. 1803.


Tennyson’s father was prominent in Grimsby politics and from 1796 until 1807 coalesced with Lord Yarborough in returning the Members. As a rising barrister, Tennyson hoped that his father would provide him with a seat there. He disliked his father’s deference to the peer and in March 1807 suggested that, as Yarborough was in opposition, ministers would ‘jump at’ an arrangement with the Tennysons and agree to support Charles as one of their nominees. Finding that his father’s agreement with Yarborough made this undesirable, he suggested that Yarborough should endorse his candidature together with that of his own son, leaving him free, however, to act as he wished. He added:

The modern plan is for men to get into Parliament while young, and we certainly do find that those who have done so have succeeded best, while those who enter late find themselves posted in the outset by striplings ... What is the strongest inducement to me is the certainty of some provision being made for George and myself whether in pursuance of former promises, or as a recompense for the assistance I propose.

He gave up the notion, however, on his father’s persuasion and even agreed to act as counsel for Yarborough’s abortive petition after the election.1

Tennyson’s plan was at length realized in 1818; he had announced his intention of coming forward after the previous election, and in December 1817, when it was clear that Sir Robert Heron would contest the county instead, offered himself. All his efforts to secure a colleague from the Treasury failed and in the end he stood alone, refusing even to pledge himself to ministers, though his ‘general intentions’ to them were favourable. He was successful and promised ‘a new era’ for Grimsby: shortly before, the finest ship ever built there, the Charles Tennyson was launched. Had he not succeeded, he would have come in for his brother-in-law Matthew Russell’s* borough of Bletchingley and his father occupied that seat as an insurance against Charles’s being unseated on petition. As it was, Russell financed his return and acted in concert with Tennyson in electoral and political affairs.2

Tennyson’s first speech, 1 Feb. 1819, was against the Westminster hustings bill: he thought it ‘unconstitutional’ to ‘fix the expense on the candidate’. Later that day, he spoke in favour of referring the Oxford petition alleging unconstitutional interference by the Duke of Marlborough in the election there to a committee of privileges. This was, of course, also a dig at his rival at Grimsby, Lord Yarborough. On 7 Apr. Tennyson pursued the matter, seeking to present in turn three Oxford petitions, each of which was rejected, whereupon he remarked bitterly that the privilege in question might as well be rescinded. On 22 Feb. he had voted with the minority on the Windsor establishment bill and one of his Grimsby agents informed him, 2 Mar., that he was pleased to see Tennyson’s name ‘in the list of the minority who voted for Mr Tierney’s amendment’. He was in the majority on the complaint against Wyndham Quin*, 29 Mar., on the first division, but in the minority on the second, being one of eight Members who wished to excuse the House from proceeding to expulsion.3 On 5 Apr. he opposed the qualification of Members bill, which he claimed permitted a Scottish qualification to suffice for Scots to contest seats outside Scotland; this and his remarks on the acts in desuetude (Scotland) bill, 16 June, were inspired by his animus towards John Peter Grant, whom he had defeated at Grimsby in 1818 but who continued to be a threat to him. Tennyson voted with the minority for the amendment respecting the Camelford writ, 8 Apr. 1819. He voted against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May, but appeared with the minority on delays in Chancery and the repeal of coal duties, 20 May. Next day he unsuccessfully proposed a fresh clause for the Marriage Act amendment bill. He was in the majority for the extension of the franchise at Penryn, 22 June, and next day voted for inquiry into charitable abuses.

When on 1 July 1819 he spoke on parliamentary reform, he favoured specific, but not general reform and preferred giving additional seats to counties and towns, to throwing the franchise of corrupt boroughs into the neighbouring hundred, which only made for plural votes. His correspondence confirms this picture of independent behaviour: if present, it seems, he would have voted for Mackintosh’s motion for criminal law reform, 2 Mar. 1819; he opposed Ridley’s motion on the junior lords of the Admiralty, 18 Mar.; he was described by the Whig Sir Charles Monck as ‘a capital attender and gives us a vote when he can’, 16 June; he was rumoured to be in favour of the Catholic claims, which, one of his Grimsby agents informed him, would not do, in July 1819. He pleased his constituents by his opposition to the electors’ oath bill (which would have disfranchised a number of them) and the Hull dock bill (seen as a threat to Grimsby) and was thanked for it by the corporation, 20 Nov. 1819.4 He seems to have supported government’s alarmist measures in December, certainly voting with them on the 23rd.

Tennyson could ill afford the running expenses of Grimsby elections and, before the election of 1820, contemplated insisting on purity of election or joining forces with Yarborough, but finding the former course premature and the latter uncongenial, paid his supporters and won both seats: yet the borough was to prove too expensive in the long run and his increasingly Whig inclinations—as early as 22 Jan. 1820 he was reported to have ‘gone over to opposition’5—determined him to abandon it.

Tennyson, uncle of the poet, died 21 July 1861.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Lincoln AO, Tennyson d’Eyncourt mss H64/6, 14, 18-20.
  • 2. Ibid. H76/42; H78/2, 35; H79/9, 25; 4 T d’E H17.
  • 3. Grimsby Pub. Lib. Tennyson mss, Veal to Tennyson, 4 Feb., 2 Mar.; Morning Chron. 3 Apr. 1819.
  • 4. Tennyson mss, Veal to Tennyson, 8 Mar., 4 July, Lusby to same, 24 Apr., mayor of Grimsby to same, 20 Nov. 1819; Tennyson d’Eyncourt mss H83/58; 2 T d’E H4/44.
  • 5. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 22 Jan. 1820.