Charles James Fox: 1749-1806

    Lady Caroline Lamb| Lord Granville | Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire | Earl of Barrymore | Duke of Queensberry |
    E-mail me | Join the Regency Ring | Back to the Regency collection

    The Duchess of Devonshire, who was one of his closest friends, wrote of him. "He seems to have the particular talent of knowing more about what he is saying and with less pains than anyone else. His converstaion is like a brilliant player at billiards, the strokes follow one another piff puff...."

    The Duchess met him in 1777 when Fox was 28 years old but he already had an enormous reputation and had led a very full life. He had been in parliament from the age of 19, at 21 he was first lord of the Admiralty. He could speak 5 languages fluently was renowned as the best orator of his day and had frittered away a fortune of a quarter of million pounds (a good income for a lord's son at this time was around five thousand pounds).

    He received an eclectic upbringing for while he had only the best in education his father also believed that 'nothing should be done to break his spirit' so he was fully indulged. While still a child he had been promised that he might watch a wall being demolished on the family estate. However, when his rather found out that it had been demolished with Charles being there to see this happen, he insisted that the wall be rebuilt and demolished again so Charles might have the promised treat.

    At the age of 14 his father took him away from Eton to Spa where for four months he was introduced to gambling. The habit caught with him and on his return he turned Eton into a small gambling den and his name became associated with dissapation. Comments from parents of his comtemporary's at Eton at the time seem to reflect that his vice was well known and not universally approved of.

    Yet his reputation for good nature and oratory also held him in good stead there, and he was a remarkable scholar, holding a life long fascination with the classics. He was known to always have a copy of Horace in his coat pocket. While being vastly intelligent he commented at school that, "I am afraid that my natural idleness will in the end get the better of what little ambition I have."

    Charles Fox was also a leader of fashion early on and after a tour of Europe brought back to London the extravagant male fashions then popular at the French court - frilly lace, brocade, cosmetics, red heels etc. This was the costume of the 'Macaroni's' and at nineteen Fox was the acknowledged leader of this group.

    The Duchess of Devonshire and her clique nicknamed him "The Eyebrow" for he had large shaggy brows. In fact physically he was not much of a specimen to be parading in such - he was corpulent, graceless, clumsy and rather unaestehtic. But he was jovial, charming, intelligent easy going and ebullient which made him much sought after company.

    His campaign for Westminster in 1784 was a famous occassion, it was the first time that a woman had been active in electioneering, for Fox recruited The Duchess and her sister and friends to assist him to catch votes. Nathaniel Wraxall in his book Postumous memoirs recalls the times. "These ladies, being previously furnished with lists of outlying woters drove to their respective dwellings. Neither entreaties nor promises were spared." The duchess and her friends conveyed voters to the polls and as caricatures and cartoons of the day show, she even traded kisses for votes. The opposition MP's for the seat also tried to enlist female assistance from the women such as the Countess of Salisbury, but without the same succeess. The easy going nature for which the duchess was renowned, and her 'common touch' made her popular with the voters. She had a number of other tactics including what can only be thought of as buying votes. She would enter a shop and pay 10 times the price offered for goods on display.

    The tactics worked and fox was re-elected.

    Fox died shortly after his friend the duchess of Devonshire in 1806

    Just as a side note, Charles Fox's grand-parents had a most romantic story to tell too. His grandmother, Sarah Cadogan (His mother's mother) was 13 when she was married to the 18 year old Charles, later the second Duke of Richmond to settle a gaming debt between their fathers. The pair had disliked each other on sight and after the wedding she was packed off to school and he was packed off to the continent for the Grand Tour. Charles returned three years later and on his first night back hoping to delay or just plain avoid theinevitable meeting with his loathed wife he went to the opera. In the a box opposite he spied a most beautiful woman, whom he fell in love with. It turned out this was his wife and he wooed her properly this time and successfully. Their marriage was universally regarded as happy and they were known to kiss, coo and cuddle constantly. She fell pregnant to him 28 times during their long marriage, and had 12 children.

    Potted Biography
    Leader of the Whigs - MP: Midhurst (1768-74); Malmesbury (1774-80); Westminster (1780-84 and 1785-1806); and Tain burghs (1784-85). Foreign Secretary 1782, 1783, 1806. Leader of the House of Commons 1782, 1783. George III hated him and refused to consider allowing him to lead a ministry (see Whigs and Tories. He was a son of Henry Fox, the 1st Lord Holland and nephew of the 1st Earl of Ilchester. His mother was Lady Caroline Lennox, daughter of 2nd Duke of Richmond, and great- granddaughter of Charles II.
    Thanks to Laura Wallace for this information - for more information on titles and etc I highly recommend you look at her web page,

    Back to top

    Return to Regency Collection