Biography

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Charles Gordon Lennox, fifth Duke of Richmond (1791-1860)

This article was written by Lloyd Charles Sanders and was published in 1892


Charles Gordon Lennox, fifth Duke of Richmond, was the eldest son of Charles, fourth duke. He was born on 3 August 1791. He was educated at Westminster School, and was gazetted lieutenant in the 13th regiment of (light) dragoons on 21 June 1810. After serving as aide-de-camp to his father, then lord-lieutenant of Ireland, Lord March, as he was called by courtesy, joined the forces in Portugal as aide-de-camp and assistant military secretary to the Duke of Wellington (July 1810 to July 1814). On being made captain in the 52nd regiment of foot, he served with the first battalion of his regiment at the battle of Orthes on 27 February 1813, and was severely wounded in the chest. He was twice sent home with despatches. During the campaign in the Netherlands he was aide-de-camp to the Prince of Orange, and after the prince had been wounded at Waterloo, joined Wellington's staff as extra aide-de-camp. He was gazetted lieutenant-colonel, and placed on half-pay on 25 July 1816. He had received the silver war-medal and eight clasps, and it was owing to his speeches in the House of Lords, especially that of 21 July 1845, that the Peninsular war-medal was at last, on 1 June 1847, given to the veterans, who in gratitude presented him with a piece of plate, of the value of fifteen hundred guineas, on 21 June 1851.

From 5 October 1812 to 22 November 1819, when on his father's death he was called to the upper house, March was M.P. for Chichester in the tory interest. In the lords he confined himself at first to agricultural questions, and on 25 May 1825 obtained a committee of inquiry into the wool trade; but the details of his speech were, according to Greville, got up for him by Lord George Bentinck.

On the introduction of the Catholic Emancipation Bill he became one of the most vigorous of Wellington's opponents, and spoke frequently against the bill and its ‘wings.’ If the ultra-tories could have formed a government, the duke was to have been lord-lieutenant of Ireland or first lord of the treasury (Greville Memoirs, where Richmond is characterised as having ‘a certain measure of understanding,’ and as ‘prejudiced, narrow-minded, illiterate, and ignorant, good-looking, good-humoured and unaffected, tedious, prolix, unassuming, and a duke’). He continued to be reckoned among the ultra-tories, who were more anxious than the whigs to oust the ministry, and Grey had more hopes of him than of ‘Newcastle and such-like politicians’. On 18 May 1830 Richmond moved for a select committee on the internal state of the country, particularly with respect to the working classes, but, in spite of whig support, was defeated by 141 votes to 61.

On the formation of the reform ministry (November 1830) Richmond, though he did not bring much tory following, was offered and accepted the ordnance department. The appointment, however, was unpalatable to the army, and, after refusing the mastership of the horse, he became postmaster-general. He at first declined, but eventually consented to accept the salary. In the same month he was called upon, in consequence of the agricultural riots in Sussex, to do battle against a mob of two hundred labourers, whom he beat with fifty of his tenant-farmers. He afterwards harangued the rioters, and sent them away in a good humour.

As a cabinet minister he was, according to Lord Melbourne, ‘sharp, quick, the king liked him, he stood up to Durham more than any other man in the cabinet, and altogether he was not unimportant’, an opinion which Greville accepted with considerable qualifications. On 27 May 1834 Richmond, together with Ripon, Stanley, and Graham, resigned, on the ‘appropriation’ resolution moved by Mr. Ward, and explained his reasons on 10 June.

After his resignation Richmond sat on the cross-benches. He had already (19 September 1831) introduced a bill for the reform of the game laws, which was referred to a select committee, and he was subsequently a member of the prisons discipline committee of 1835, chairman of the committee of the House of Lords of 1836 which suggested the abolition of the hulks, and in 1842 was appointed one of the first commissioners for the government of Pentonville prison. He supported the Melbourne government, and, on the return of Lord Durham from Canada, warned the premier that he must be ‘very firm with his ex-governor, or there would be the devil to pay’. When Peel produced his free-trade measures, Richmond came forward as one of the leaders of the protectionist party, and in 1845 led the opposition to the Customs Bill in the upper house. In the same year he became president of the Agricultural Protection Society, which was founded to counteract the principles of the Anti-Corn Law League. The title was changed in the following year to the Society for the Protection of Agriculture and British Industries. When the abolition of the corn laws was proposed in 1846, he caused his brother, Lord Alexander Lennox, the clerk of the ordnance, to resign his seat at Chichester, and had him replaced by his son, Lord Henry Lennox. On 25 May he moved the rejection of the Corn Bill in an uncompromising speech, in which he prophesied that the measure would ‘shake the foundations of the throne, endanger the institutions of the country, and plunge a happy and contented people into misery, confusion, and anarchy,’ but his motion was defeated by 211 votes to 164. Richmond was offered, but declined, office under Lord Derby in 1852. He died of dropsy on 21 October 1860.

Richmond was created a K.G. in 1828, in 1816 the title of d'Aubigny was reconfirmed to him by Louis XVIII, and in 1836, on the death of his uncle, the fifth and last Duke of Gordon, he assumed by letters patent the additional surname of Gordon. Richmond was colonel of the Sussex militia from 1819, and besides other appointments held those of lord-lieutenant, custos rotulorum, and vice-admiral of Sussex from 1835, and was high steward of Chichester, chancellor of the Marischal College, Aberdeen, and hereditary constable of Inverness Castle. He was a liberal landlord, a zealous agriculturist, and improved the breed of Southdowns. In 1832 he was chosen vice-president of the Smithfield Club, which founded the Royal Agricultural Society in 1837; in 1845 he was elected president of the society, in succession to the fifth Earl Spencer, and held that office until his death. He was an owner of racehorses from 1818 to 1854, and twice won the Oaks, with Gulnare in 1827, and Refraction in 1845. In 1831 he was a steward of the Jockey Club, and helped to revise the rules. His exertions, aided by those of Lord George Bentinck, maintained the importance and success of the annual race-meeting at Goodwood.

Richmond married, on 10 April 1817, Lady Caroline Paget, eldest daughter of the first Marquis of Anglesey, and by her, who died on 12 March 1874, had ten children, of whom the eldest, Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox, born on 27 February 1818, became the sixth duke. His second daughter, Lady Auguststa Caroline Gordon-Lennox (born in 1827), was married in 1851 to General his Serene Highness Prince William Auguststus Edward of Saxe-Weimar, G.C.B., eldest son of Duke Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach. His second son, Lord Fitzroy George Gordon-Lennox, was lost in the steamer President in 1841.

The third son, Lord Henry Charles George Gordon-Lennox 1821-1886, was conservative member for Chichester from 1846 to 1885, a lord of the treasury in 1852, and again in 1858-9, secretary to the admiralty from July 1866 to December 1868, and first commissioner of public works under Mr. Disraeli from February 1874, when he was sworn of the privy council. In July 1876 he resigned his office, owing to certain disclosures in the case of Twycross v. Grant concerning the Lisbon Tramways Company, of which he was a director. He was entirely innocent of any dishonourable practices. Lord Henry died 29 August 1886.


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