YORKE, Charles Philip (1799-1873), of Sydney Lodge, nr. Southampton, Hants.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



13 July 1831 - 22 Oct. 1831
15 Dec. 1831 - 1832
1832 - 18 Nov. 1834

Family and Education

b. 2 Apr. 1799, 1st s. of Sir Joseph Sydney Yorke* and 1st w. Elizabeth Weake, da. of James Rattray of Atherston, Perth. educ. Harrow 1810; RN Coll. 1813. m. 14 Oct. 1833, Hon. Susan Liddell, da. of Thomas Henry Liddell†, 1st Bar. Ravensworth, 5s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da. suc. fa. 1831; uncle Philip Yorke† as 4th earl of Hardwicke 18 Nov. 1834. d. 17 Sept. 1873.

Offices Held

Midshipman RN 1815, lt. 1819, cdr. 1822, capt. 1825, r.-adm. (reserve) 1854, v.-adm. 1858, adm. 1863.

Ld. in waiting Sept. 1841-July 1846; councillor to duchy of Lancaster 1847; PC 27 Feb. 1852; postmaster-gen. Mar.-Dec. 1852; ld. privy seal Feb. 1858-June 1859.

Ld. lt. Cambs. 1834-d.; pres. R. Agricultural Soc. 1843.


Yorke, like his father, followed a naval career. His first posting was in the Mediterranean, where he was commended by his captain for his ‘active, spirited and highly meritorious’ conduct during the siege of Algiers in August 1817.1 After a tour of duty on the North American station at Halifax, from 1817 to 1822, he returned to a Mediterranean command, 1822-6 and 1829-31, in which he was chiefly engaged in policing the Turkish-Greek conflict; in the intervening period he made a tour of Scandinavia. His journals and letters home chart the development of his conservative political outlook and demonstrate much of the bluff asceticism of his father, with whom he shared an intense suspicion of France.2 While on an off-duty visit to that country in 1823, he observed: ‘there are parts of their form of government which ... must always be unpleasant to every Englishman’.3 He was broadly sympathetic to the Greeks’ struggle for independence, but disavowed all sentimentality in their cause, writing in March 1824:

English notions must be abolished, so must all romance of liberty and the children of the ancient Greeks struggling to shake off the yoke of the bloody Turk. Lord Byron knows all this, and is in fact the only man that has ever come out to them who understands the people.

With Byron, whom he met at this time, he enjoyed a useful rapport, and the poet sprang to his defence when his firm handling of a recalcitrant Greek leader brought accusations of bullying from Colonel Leicester Stanhope, envoy of the London Greek committee. Yorke generally regarded the committee’s efforts as misdirected, and Stanhope, he sourly noted, had ‘come out with Jeremy Bentham under his arm to give the Greeks a constitution’. By 1830 he had reached the conclusion that ‘though the Greeks love liberty, they love money better’.4 He was called away from this arena by the accidental death of his father in May 1831, which created a vacancy for Reigate that his uncle, Lord Hardwicke, invited him to fill. His reluctance to leave the navy and the ‘politically disagreeable’ intelligence which he had received from England meant that he contemplated a parliamentary career with no great relish:

What part in the play am I to act? I wish my mind were made up on this cursed reform question. It will be carried, but I should like to do what I think right and honourable towards myself, that is, act and vote as I really think. We must become republican England as well as republican France (damn France, she is the root of all evil and the branch of no good): it matters little how, whether by reform which will produce national bankruptcy, or by a starving population, which will produce rebellion and civil war.

He landed at Falmouth on 30 June 1831 and was returned for Reigate a fortnight later, after an expected opposition failed to materialize.5

In the House he followed his instincts, as well as the views of Hardwicke and his father, by opposing the Grey ministry’s reintroduced reform bill, which proposed to partially disfranchise Reigate. Either he or his colleague Joseph Yorke denied that it was a rotten borough, 20, 30 July 1831; the air of resignation about the bill’s passage, evident in the latter speech, was certainly redolent of this Member’s earlier ruminations. He voted against the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July, for the amendment to make borough voting rights conditional on the proven payment of rent, 25 Aug., and against the bill’s passage, 21 Sept. On 10 Oct. he was absent from the call of the House prior to the division on Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion. Shortly afterwards he resigned his seat in order to contest a vacancy for Cambridgeshire, where Hardwicke had a leading interest. In a bullish hustings speech he declared that the reform bill was ‘pregnant with ruin and destruction for the agricultural interest’ and warned that protection would not survive in a Parliament dominated, as he anticipated, by northern manufacturing interests. He therefore welcomed the adoption of the Chandos clause enfranchising £50 tenants-at-will in the counties. He compared the government’s record on retrenchment unfavourably with that of the duke of Wellington’s, and disclaimed the Tory label fixed on him by his opponents. One speaker approvingly observed that he ‘swore so that it would do their hearts good to hear him’, and another supporter claimed that such was the impression he created that he had ‘received numerous offers from ladies (not professional) soliciting his favours for one night’. Nevertheless, he was defeated by a reformer after a four-day poll, in what was widely seen as an important test of opinion.6 He was subsequently re-elected for Reigate. He divided against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and entering into committee, 20 Jan. 1832. He clashed with the Cambridgeshire Member Adeane when presenting a hostile petition from that county, 15 Feb., and warned that the £10 householder franchise in the boroughs would reduce Members to mere delegates. He voted against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., acted as a minority teller against the bill at the report stage, 14 Mar., and voted against the third reading, 22 Mar., and the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May. He divided against Hobhouse’s Vestry Act amendment bill, 23 Jan. He questioned the arrangement with France regarding the mutual right to search ships, 24 Jan. Taking up his father’s favourite subject of naval expenditure, he advised that the future allocation of resources should anticipate the triumph of steam over sail, 13 Feb., and spoke against the merger of the admiralty and navy boards, 14 Feb., 6 Apr. While professing himself friendly to the principle of economy in the service, 16 Mar., he set his face against substantial reductions, particularly in the marines. He voted against ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., and paired against them, 12 July 1832.

In October 1832 Yorke recorded in his briefly resumed journal that the state of the country was ‘tranquil (except as always Ireland)’ and that his return for Cambridgeshire at the forthcoming general election was ‘finally secure’. However, he took a gloomy view of the political prospect, observing that ‘in Ireland the return is fought between Catholic and Protestant, in England between high and low church, and in Scotland between aristocrat and democrat’; he predicted that the reformed House of Commons would ‘consist of 300 Whigs, 200 Tories and 150 Radicals’.7 He comfortably topped the poll in Cambridgeshire. Two years later he succeeded his uncle as 4th earl of Hardwicke. He served as a lord in waiting during Peel’s second ministry, before resigning over the repeal of the corn laws, and, after briefly returning to active service at Genoa in 1849, he held cabinet office in Lord Derby’s minority governments of the 1850s. In spirit, though, he never left the navy, and he was devastated that his services were not required in the Crimean conflict. He chaired a royal commission on manning in the navy in 1858, but his own preference for reviving the press gang found few supporters.8 He died in September 1873.9 His title and main estate at Wimpole, Cambridgeshire, passed to his eldest son Charles Philip Yorke (1836-97), Conservative Member for the county since 1865; his younger son Eliot Charles Yorke then filled the seat until his death in 1879.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Howard Spencer


  • 1. E.P. Biddulph, Mem. 4th earl of Hardwicke, 29-47.
  • 2. Ibid. 48-152, passim.
  • 3. Bodl. mss Eng. lett. c. 60, f. 115.
  • 4. Biddulph, 68, 73-74, 90, 146; Sir H. Nicholson, Byron: the Last Journey, 207.
  • 5. Surr. Hist. Cent. 171/5/1e; Biddulph, 150-2.
  • 6. The Times, 27-31 Oct., 1, 3 Nov. 1831; Norf. RO, Ketton-Cremer mss WKC 6/236.
  • 7. Add. 36261, ff. 294-5.
  • 8. Biddulph, 162-206, 220-91.
  • 9. Ibid. 300-2; The Times, 18 Sept. 1873.