Charles Williams-Wynn (1775–1850)

Charles Watkin Williams-Wynn PC (9 October 1775 – 2 September 1850) was a British politician of the early- to mid-19th century. He held office in both Tory and Whig administrations and was Father of the House of Commons between 1847 and 1850.

Charles Williams-Wynn
Charles Watkin Williams-Wynn.JPG
President of the Board of Control
In office
MonarchGeorge IV
Prime MinisterThe Earl of Liverpool
George Canning
The Viscount Goderich
Preceded byCharles Bathurst
Succeeded byThe Viscount Melville
Secretary at War
In office
30 November 1830 – 4 April 1831
MonarchWilliam IV
Prime MinisterThe Earl Grey
Preceded byLord Francis Leveson-Gower
Succeeded bySir Henry Parnell, Bt
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
26 December 1834 – 8 April 1835
MonarchWilliam IV
Prime MinisterSir Robert Peel, Bt
Preceded byThe Lord Holland
Succeeded byThe Lord Holland
Personal details
Born9 October 1775 (1775-10-09)
Died2 September 1850 (1850-09-03) (aged 74)
SpouseMary Cunliffe
Alma materChrist Church, Oxford

Background and educationEdit

Born into an ancient and grand Welsh family, Williams-Wynn was the second son of Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, 4th Baronet, by his second wife Charlotte Grenville, daughter of Prime Minister George Grenville. His great-great-grandfather Sir William Williams, 1st Baronet, served as Speaker of the House of Commons from 1680 to 1685. On his mother's side he was the nephew of William Wyndham Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville and George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham and the first cousin of Richard Temple-Grenville, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos. Williams-Wynn was educated privately, at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford. He was called to the Bar, Lincoln's Inn, in 1798. At Westminster School Williams-Wynn became acquainted with the poet Robert Southey, whom he later supported financially.

Political careerEdit

In 1797 he was elected to parliament for the notorious rotten borough of Old Sarum, where he succeeded Richard Wellesley, 2nd Earl of Mornington. He resigned this seat in 1799, when he was elected for Montgomeryshire, which constituency he would represent for the next 51 years. In 1806 he was appointed Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department in the Ministry of All the Talents led by his uncle Lord Grenville. He remained in this post until the government fell the following year. Williams-Wynn was an active member of parliament and considered an authority on the procedure of the House of Commons. This led him to be nominated for the post of Speaker of the House of Commons in 1817. However, he was defeated by Charles Manners-Sutton. During the late 1810s Williams-Wynn was leader of a group of MPs that tried to establish a third party in the House of Commons, acting on behalf of his cousin Lord Buckingham. However, the third party never materialised and the group instead joined the Tories.

In January 1822 Williams-Wynn was admitted to the Privy Council and appointed President of the Board of Control, with a seat in the cabinet, in the Tory government of the Earl of Liverpool. He remained in this post also in the administrations of George Canning and Lord Goderich. However, when the Duke of Wellington became Prime Minister in 1828, Williams-Wynn was not offered a position in the government.

This drove him into opposition, and when the Whigs came to power in November 1830 under Lord Grey, Williams-Wynn was appointed Secretary at War, although without a seat in the cabinet. He only remained in this post until April the following year, and held no other position during the three remaining years of the Whig government. In 1834 the Tories returned to office under Sir Robert Peel, and Wynn was appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, but again was not a member of the cabinet. The Peel government fell already in April 1835 and Wynn never held office again. However, he was said to have thrice rejected the post of Governor-General of India. Wynn remained Member of Parliament for Montgomeryshire until his death, and from 1847 to 1850 he was Father of the House of Commons; at the time of his death, he was the final MP from the 18th century still in Parliament.

He was elected as the first president, from 1823 to 1841, of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland and as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1827.


Wynn married Mary Cunliffe, daughter of Sir Foster Cunliffe, 3rd Baronet and Harriet Kinloch, in 1806. They had seven children, two sons and five daughters. His eldest daughter Charlotte Williams-Wynn was a well-known diarist; his son, also named Charles, followed him into Parliament. Williams-Wynn died in September 1850, aged 74.


  • Lee, Sidney, ed. (1900). "Wynn, Charles Watkin Williams" . Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 63. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Old Sarum
With: George Hardinge
Succeeded by
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Montgomeryshire
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Parliament of Great Britain
Member of Parliament for Montgomeryshire
Succeeded by
Preceded by Father of the House
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
J. H. Smyth
Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the Board of Control
Succeeded by
Preceded by Secretary at War
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Succeeded by