SPENCER CHURCHILL, Lord Charles (1794-1840), of Blenheim, Oxon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1818 - 1820
1830 - 1832
1835 - 1837

Family and Education

b. 3 Dec. 1794, 2nd s. of George Spencer* (afterwards Spencer Churchill), 5th Duke of Marlborough, by Lady Susan Stewart, da. of John Stewart, 7th Earl of Galloway [S]; bro. of George Spencer Churchill*, Mq. of Blandford. educ. Eton 1805-8. m. 24 Aug. 1827, Ethelred Catherine, da. of John Benett of Pyt House, Wilts., 2s. 3da.

Offices Held

Ensign, 68 Ft. 1811; 2nd lt. 95 Ft. and a.d.c. to Gen. Hon. William Stewart* 1812; 1st lt. 95 Ft. 1813, capt. 60 Ft. 1815, 85 Ft. 1815, half-pay 1823; maj. 75 Ft. 1825, lt.-col. 1827, ret. 1832.


Lord Charles entered the army in 1811 and saw service in the Peninsular war. The soldier adventurer Costello remarked that he ‘suffered dreadfully from the hunger and fatigue’ of the retreat to Rodrigo (October 1812)

anxiously watching a few acorns, which to stay the pangs of hunger he had placed in the embers to roast ... Nor will he ... forget how willingly the rough soldiers flew to offer him biscuits, which their own sufferings could not withhold from one so tenderly and delicately reared: but his lordship was very much liked amongst us.1

A less flattering opinion of him was entertained by Lavinia, Countess Spencer in a letter of 26 Jan. 1818, reporting that he had canvassed St. Albans, which her husband’s family had given up and where his father had a modest property interest. She called him ‘Lord Charles Spencer alias Churchill alias gander alias gaolbird’, and alleged that he had not one ‘farthing to rub against another’, but was relying on the assistance of James Preedy in the borough to bring him in ‘without expense, by his own personal influence’. The initial canvass being unfavourable, Lord Charles (who had applied for government support) addressed the electors to the effect that ‘it was upon the Spencer interest and with the most eager support of the Spencer family that he claimed their votes’. This allegation was repudiated by the latter and Lady Spencer described Lord Charles as ‘a considerable liar’.2 He was defeated at the ensuing by-election by William Tierney Robarts, who had more money to spend, but was returned with him at the general election in June, after another contest.

In his first Parliament Lord Charles was six times in the minority lists in the opening month: on 2 Feb. 1819 for Tierney’s motion for a committee on Bank restriction; 22 and 28 Feb. on the Windsor establishment; on 2 Mar. for Mackintosh’s motion for a committee on the criminal laws; on 9 Mar. for Harvey’s motion on excise informations and on 18 Mar. for Ridley’s motion on the junior lords of Admiralty. Thereafter, as he was absent in Paris, no further minority vote occurred until 6 and 8 Dec. 1819, when he supported Buxton’s and Althorp’s motions to limit the duration and scope of the seditious meetings prevention bill. Two speeches, one in defence of his brother’s conduct in the Oxford election of 1818 (29 Jan. 1819), and the other on procedure in the case of Wyndham Quin* (12 Mar.) were reported.3

Lord Charles did not contest St. Albans in 1820. He was out of Parliament for ten years, coming in then for the family borough and acting with the Tories. He was one of the ‘Paris lions’, and although the widow of Charles Trelawney Brereton*, who hoped to snatch him for one of her daughters, heard only good reports of his character, his being always in debt (he appeared in King’s bench in 1823) was a fatal obstacle.4 He died 28 Apr. 1840.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Edward Costello ed. Brett-James, 114.
  • 2. Spencer mss, Lady to Ld. Spencer, 19, 26, 27 Jan. 1818; Add. 40279, f. 62.
  • 3. Parl. Deb. xxxix. 147-8, 981.
  • 4. Gent. Mag. (1840), ii. 205; A Hill, Trelawny’s Strange Relations, 17.