Biography

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Charles Arbuthnot (1767-1850)

This article was written by William Prideaux Courtney and was published in 1885


Charles Arbuthnot, a diplomatist and politician, was one of the sons of J. Arbuthnot, by the daughter of J. Stone, a London banker, whose brother was Archbishop Stone, the primate of Ireland. Arbuthnot was born in 1767. He began his apprenticeship in public life in 1793, when he accepted the position of précis writer in the Foreign Office, and entered upon his political career with his election in March 1795 as member for East Looe. He served in important diplomatic positions in Sweden and Portugal, and, after holding for a few months (November 1803 to June 1804) the post of under-secretary for foreign affairs, was appointed ambassador extraordinary at Constantinople.

When holding this appointment he was instructed by the cabinet to demand from the Porte the dismissal (amongst other things) of the French envoy, General Sebastiani, the rejection of which led to the forcing of the Dardanelles by by the British fleet. Mr. Arbuthnot, during this operation, was on board the admiral's ship, and it was mainly owing to his firmness that whatever success attended the operation was achieved. The late Sir Henry Blackwood, in a letter to Lord Castlereagh, described him as having been ‘not only minister, but admiral.’ On receiving his appointment at Constantinople he was sworn of the privy council, and on his return to England in 1807 a pension of £2,000 per annum was conferred upon him. At the same time Mr. Arbuthnot abandoned foreign for home service.

From 1809 to 1823 he was one of the joint-secretaries of the treasury; from the latter year until 1827, and again for a few months in 1828, he presided over the board of woods and forests; and for two years (1828-30) he held the chancellorship of the duchy of Lancaster.

In April 1809, when he was returned for Eye in Suffolk, he re-entered parliamentary life. At the dissolution in 1812 he became member for Orford in the same county; from 1818 to 1827 he sat for St. Germans, in Cornwall; from 1828 to 1830 for St. Ives, and in 1830-1 for Ashburton. His first wife was a daughter of William Clapcott Lisle, and a granddaughter of the Marquis of Cholmondeley. After her death Mr. Arbuthnot married Harriett, the third daughter of the Hon. Henry Fane. She died in 1834, and he died at Apsley House 18 August 1850. The Duke of Wellington was much attached to Mr. Arbuthnot, who during the latter years of his life lived in the duke's house as his confidential friend.


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