Charles Hedges

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Sir Charles Hedges (1649/50 – 10 June 1714), of Compton Bassett, Wiltshire, an English lawyer and politician, was a judge in Admiralty Court who later served as one of Queen Anne's Secretaries of State.[1]

Life[edit]

He was the son of Henry Hedges of Wanborough, Wiltshire, and his wife Margaret, daughter of Richard Pleydell of Childrey, Berkshire; he was educated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford (matriculated 1666, B.A. 1670, M.A. of Magdalen College 1673, and DCL with support of the Duke of Ormonde, Chancellor of the University[2] 1675). By patent for life he was created chancellor and vicar-general of the diocese of Rochester in 1686, where he was an advocate of moderation in a feverish time,[3] and master of the faculties and judge of the Admiralty Court under William III, succeeding Sir Richard Raines, 1 June 1689, in which post he remained until his death, his expertise serving Parliament on numerous occasions. He was knighted shortly after his accession, on 4 June 1689.[4]

He was returned as MP for Orford in 1698, under the aegis of Ormonde as Chancellor of Oxford,[5] but after counter-petitions were presented, Hedges and his colleagues were unseated by an election committee (1 February 1700), confirmed in the House by a majority of one vote (10 February)

In the brief parliament of February 1701 he sat for Dover, and at the election in November 1701 he was returned for Malmesbury and for Calne. His opponents endeavoured to eject him from both places, and the election for Calne was voided, but the petition against his return for Malmesbury failed. At the next election (August 1703) he was again returned for both Calne and Malmesbury and elected to serve for Calne. He unsuccessfully contested the constituency of Calne again in 1705 and 1708, but nevertheless retained a seat in parliament, as he was thrice (1705, 1708, 1710) returned for West Looe, and once (1713) for East Looe.

He was a Tory supporter of Court policy, a client of Lord Rochester in contemporary eyes, but with manifest talent as a civilian lawyer,[6] who usually voted his own individual interest. Mainly through the influence of the Earl of Rochester he was sworn as secretary of state and privy councillor (5 November 1700), when he was allowed by special permission of the king to remain judge of the Admiralty Court, and he continued to be judge until 29 December 1701. The Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, supporting the Whig interest, said of him, "He has no capacity, no quality nor interest, nor ever could have been in that post but that everybody knows my Lord Rochester cares for nothing, so much as a man that he thinks will depend upon him'"[7] He attended Queen Anne to Bath in August 1702, and for a short time (April to May 1704) he was declared the sole secretary, both home and foreign, until a successor was appointed to the Earl of Nottingham.

During 1706 the Whigs constantly endeavoured to eject him from office to make room for the Earl of Sunderland, and the queen at last submitted. The change was announced on 8 December 1706, but Hedges was mollified by promise of an appointment to the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, which came about in January 1711 on its vacation by Sir Richard Raines.

He sat in the commission for the rebuilding of St. Paul's Cathedral.[8] In November 1711 he was rumoured to be considered for the third plenipotentiary to negotiate the treaty of Utrecht, but it never came to pass.

His chief residence was from 1696 at Richmond Green, Surrey,[9] but in 1700 he bought the estate of Compton Camberwell, in Compton Bassett, Wiltshire, near his constituency of Calne; the Hedges arms are still preserved around the parapet of the house. He owned much property in Wiltshire and was buried at Wanborough.

Family[edit]

His widow, Eleanor, daughter of George Smith, a proctor in London, died in 1733, and was also buried at Wanborough. They had one daughter Anne and three sons, Henry, William, and Charles.

His second cousin Sir William Hedges, a director of the Bank of England, had directed the Levant Company's "factory" at Constantinople.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Excerpts from Edward Gregg, Queen Anne (1980) Routledge & Kegen Paul; The peerage
  2. ^ Ormonde waived some requirements, according to Eveline Cruickshanks, David Hayton and Stuart Handley, The House of Commons, 1690–1715, (2002:317–26), p. 217
  3. ^ Pleading for Bishop Henry Compton in 1686.
  4. ^ Cruickshanks, Hayton and Handley 2002.
  5. ^ His parliamentary career is summarised in Cruickshanks, Hayton and Handley 2002:317-26.
  6. ^ Cruickshanks, Hayton, Handley 2002:325
  7. ^ Her ms Account of Conduct quoted in Cruickshanks, Hayton, Handley 2002:
  8. ^ Cruickshanks, Hayton, Handley 2002.
  9. ^ A Crown lease, according to Cruickshanks, Hayton, Handley 2002:318.
Parliament of England
Preceded by
Sir Thomas Felton, Bt
Sir John Duke, Bt
Member of Parliament for Orford
1698–1700
With: Sir Thomas Felton, Bt
Succeeded by
Sir Edmund Bacon, Bt
William Johnson
Preceded by
Sir Basil Dixwell, Bt
Matthew Aylmer
Member of Parliament for Dover
1701
With: Matthew Aylmer
Succeeded by
Matthew Aylmer
Philip Papillon
Preceded by
Edward Pauncefort
Samuel Shepheard
Member of Parliament for Malmesbury
1701–1702
With: Edward Pauncefort
Succeeded by
Edward Pauncefort
Thomas Boucher
Preceded by
Henry Blaake
Henry Chivers
Member of Parliament for Calne
1702–1705
With: Henry Chivers
Succeeded by
Edward Bayntun
George Duckett
Preceded by
Charles Seymour
Henry Poley
Member of Parliament for West Looe
1705–1707
With: John Mountstephen 1705–1707
Francis Palmes 1707
Succeeded by
Parliament of Great Britain
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Parliament of England
Member of Parliament for West Looe
1707–1713
With: Francis Palmes 1707–1708
John Conyers 1708–1710
Arthur Maynwaring 1710–1713
Sir John Trelawny, Bt 1713
Succeeded by
Sir John Trelawny, Bt
Sir Charles Wager
Preceded by
Sir Henry Seymour, Bt
Thomas Smith
Member of Parliament for East Looe
1713–1714
With: Edward Jennings
Succeeded by
John Smith
Sir James Bateman
Political offices
Preceded by
James Vernon
Secretary of State for the Northern Department
1700–1701
Succeeded by
James Vernon
Preceded by
James Vernon
Secretary of State for the Northern Department
1702–1704
Succeeded by
Robert Harley
Preceded by
The Earl of Nottingham
Secretary of State for the Southern Department
1704–1706
Succeeded by
The Earl of Sunderland