Charles James Fox, 1749 – 1806, seems to have been a larger than life character. His father, who eloped with Lady Caroline Lennox, daughter of the Duke of Richmond was addicted to gambling but in spite of this amassed a large fortune as Paymaster General to the forces. He spoilt his son, Charles, and actively encouraged him in gambling and debauchery.
Young Charles became a ‘figure’ in society. It was said of him that he had three interests, gambling, women and politics in that order. Aged nineteen he was bought the parliamentary seat of Midhurst and within two years he was a junior Lord of the Admiralty. At the same age he also became High Steward for Malmesbury. This may be because his family owned Foxley Manor.
His political career was erratic and varied. He supported the American Declaration of Independence, wanted to reform the governance of India, supported the French Revolution and catholic emancipation, was violently against the slave trade and hated King George III. His last post was Secretary of State for Foriegn Affairs in Grenville’s ‘Ministry of all the talents’.
His politics were sufficiently vehement to be the cause of a duel he fought with William Adam, another politician, in which he was wounded.
In 1774 while still High Steward he became M.P. for Malmesbury. Malmesbury was a ‘rotten borough’. Two M.P.s and thirteen electors and £30 each was enough to secure their votes. He was only M.P. for Malmesbury until 1780 but remained in parliament being M.P. for the Orkney and Shetland Islands and then, after much scrutiny of the votes, he represented Westminster from 1784.
Athelstan Museum has a bust and several medals and plaques commemorating him.
For more information read our booklet available from the Museum Shop.