FITZROY, Charles Augustus (1796-1858), of Sholebrooke Lodge, Northants. and Stratton Street, Piccadilly, Midx.
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Family and Educationb. 10 June 1796, 1st s. of Lord Charles Fitzroy† (d. 1829) and 1st w. Frances, da. of Edward Miller Mundy*. educ. Harrow, 1805-10. m. (1) 11 Mar. 1820, Lady Mary Lennox (d. 7 Dec. 1847), da. of Charles Lennox†, 4th duke of Richmond, 3s. 1da.; (2) 11 Dec. 1855, Margaret Gordon (née Milligan), wid. of J.J. Hawkey, land agent, of Sydney, NSW, s.p. kntd. 1 June 1837; KCB 12 June 1854. d. 16 Feb. 1858.
Lt. Horse Gds. 1812, capt. 1820; maj. (half-pay) 1825; brevet lt.-col. 1825.
Mil. sec. Cape of Good Hope 1822, dep. adj. gen. 1825-31; lt.-gov. Prince Edward Island 1837; gov. Leeward Islands 1841-5, NSW 1846; gov.-gen. Australia 1850-5.
Fitzroy’s father, a brother of the 4th duke of Grafton, on whose interest he had represented Bury St. Edmunds, was a general in the army and commander of the Ipswich garrison. His mother had died when he was a year old and his stepmother (d. 1810), the mother of his half-brothers and sister, was a sister of the Liverpool ministry’s foreign secretary Lord Castlereagh*.1 Fitzroy joined the Horse Guards and served as an aide-de-camp to Sir Richard Hussey Vivian* at Waterloo. He remained with the army of occupation in France and it was there that he met his first wife, who, following her father’s traumatic death after being mauled by a bear near Ottawa in August 1819, had joined her brother, the 5th duke of Richmond, on his mission to Paris.2 In 1822 the Fitzroys and their infant son Augustus Charles left for the Cape, where, as military secretary to the governor Lord Charles Henry Somerset†, Fitzroy acted also as the wine taster, joint commissary of revenues and editor of the official Cape Town Gazette. His editorship terminated in 1824 amid allegations that he had deliberately exaggerated reports of rioting in Grahamstown in the 21 Feb. issue, two days after his controversial dismissal of the chaplain to the forces there, the Rev. William Geary, who duly instigated libel proceedings.3 Fitzroy remained at the Cape until 1831, when, allegedly impoverished by maintaining a substantial household there, he returned to England to review his situation and claim part of his late father’s estate. His wife was awarded an annual pension of £185 14s. in December 1830, after Richmond became the Grey ministry’s postmaster-general.4
Fitzroy occupied Sholebrooke Lodge, Northamptonshire, vacant through the posting to Armagh of his cousin Lord Charles Fitzroy*, and at the general election of 1831 he contested Bury St. Edmunds, where his cousin Lord Euston had retired after voting against the ministerial reform bill. Unlike his half-brother Robert, who failed to come in for Ipswich, he declared firmly for the bill, despite its threat to Bury St. Edmunds’s second seat, but made it clear that he would ‘not pledge to vote for every clause in the committee’.5 Assisted by his uncle Lord John Edward Fitzroy* and the borough recorder and putative candidate Robert Monsey Rolfe, he finished second in a four-cornered contest.6 Lord Charles Fitzroy wrote, ‘I am glad Charles Augustus is in Parliament and hope he may get something permanently useful to him through it’.7 Fitzroy, a ‘large burly man in robust health’ who would ‘never sit down to dinner without a fresh buttonhole’, made no known speeches in the House.8 He voted for the reintroduced reform bill at its second reading, 6 July 1831, consistently but sparingly for its details, and for its passage, 21 Sept. He voted for Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He divided for the revised reform bill (which restored the second seat to Bury St. Edmunds) at its second and third readings, 17 Dec. 1831, 22 Mar. 1832, and with government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12, 20 July 1832. He presented his constituents’ petition for the factories regulation bill, 26 Mar. 1832.
It had regularly been reported locally that Fitzroy was ‘too ill’ to attend reform meetings and dinners in Bury St. Edmunds, and he made way for Lord Charles Fitzroy at the 1832 dissolution.9 He retained the use of Sholebrooke Lodge pending negotiations concerning his future career, in which Grafton and Richmond assisted. His hopes of returning to the Cape were dashed, and the colonial secretary Lord Glenelg rejected him for St. Helena, Van Diemen’s Land and Prince Edward Island before he was appointed governor of the last in 1837. He turned down a posting to Jamaica in 1836 on health grounds.10 His subsequent career benefited through his ability to curry favour with the 3rd Earl Grey and Lord Aberdeen and from his social skills.11 He handled the dissolution of the legislative assembly in Prince Edward Island in 1838 with sensitivity, and his residence in Antigua was characterized by the speed with which he summoned and organized assistance following the earthquake of 1843.12 His first wife’s death in 1847 in a carriage accident in the driveway of Government House, Sydney, where he was governor of New South Wales, aroused much sympathy.13 According to the South Australian Register, as the first Australian governor-general, 1851-5, the ‘power he possessed, Sir Charles ... wisely allowed to slumber’, and he successfully implemented the contentious 1850 Australian Colonies Government Act which established federal government. He saw censuses introduced, hostility to the return of convict transportation contained, a mint established in Sydney to regularize the ‘gold rush’ and the ‘battle of the railway gauges’ between Victoria and New South Wales resolved. Queen Victoria invested him as a knight commander of the Bath during her 1854 visit to Australia.14 He died in London in February 1858, two years after returning with his second wife. Remarriage had put an end to his financial worries and speculation over his improper liaisons with women, but it posed problems in the execution of his will (proved on personalty of under £20, 30 Aug. 1858) as indentures to the settlement made on his first marriage, which favoured his three sons, had not been sworn. His property was subsequently sold and they each received about £1,000.15
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Margaret Escott
- 1. HP Commons, 1790-1820, iii. 765.
- 2. J.F.R. Browne, Life of Lady Mary Fitzroy, 5, 12.
- 3. Ibid. 23; Dict. of S. African Biog. ii. 238-9; Recs. of Cape Colony, xvii. 87, 267; xviii. 3, 9, 133, 143, 207, 214, 242; xix. 360; xx. 166; W. Suss. RO, Goodwood mss 1439, ff. 214, 331.
- 4. The Times, 31 Dec. 1829, 1 Jan. 1831.
- 5. Ipswich Jnl. 23 Apr. 7 May; Bury and Norwich Post, 27 Apr. 1831.
- 6. Bury and Norwich Post, 4 May; Bury and Suff. Herald, 4 May 1831.
- 7. Goodwood mss 1433, f. 269.
- 8. Suff. Chron. 7 May 1831; J.M. Ward, Australia’s First Governor General, 22.
- 9. Bury and Norwich Post, 19 Oct., 16 Nov. 14 Dec. 1831, 11, 25 July; Bury and Suff. Herald, 10 Oct. 1832.
- 10. Goodwood mss 1439, ff. 214, 231, 277, 281; 1466, ff. 223, 281; 1477, f. 396; 1508, f. 210; 1511, f. 147; 1575, f. 313; 1890, f. 267; Browne, 30-31.
- 11. Ward, 3-5; Oxford DNB.
- 12. Gent. Mag. (1858), i. 449.
- 13. The Times, 21 Apr. 1848.
- 14. S. Australian Reg. 5 Feb. 1855; Ward, 14-21.
- 15. Dict. of S. African Biog.; Goodwood mss 1822, f. 408; Illustrated London News, 13 Mar. 1858.