Charles Hanbury Williams

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This article is about the British diplomat and satirist. For other people called Charles or Charlie Williams, see Charles Williams.
Hanbury Williams in the National Portrait Gallery
Coldbrook House

Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, KB (8 December 1708 – 2 November 1759) was a Welsh diplomat, writer and satirist.


The son of John Hanbury, a Welsh ironmaster, he assumed the name of Williams in 1720, under the terms of a bequest from his godfather [Charles Williams of Caerleon].

On 1 July 1732 at Saint James, Westminster, London, he married Lady Frances Coningsby (15 January 1707/1708 – buried at Westminster Abbey, 31 December 1781), daughter of Thomas Coningsby, 1st Earl Coningsby and Lady Frances Jones. They had two daughters: Frances married William Capel, 4th Earl of Essex and Charlotte Robert Boyle Walsingham, youngest son of the Earl of Shannon.

He entered Parliament in 1734 for the Monmouthshire constituency as a supporter of Robert Walpole, and held the seat until 1747. He then won the seat of Leominster in 1754 and held it until his death.

In 1739 Williams gave support for the establishment of the Foundling Hospital and served as one of its founding governors.

From 1747 till 1750, he was the British ambassador in Dresden. In 1748 he was in Poland and witnessed a Polish Sejm, where he met members of the influential Czartoryski family (August Aleksander Czartoryski). When the future King of Poland, Stanisław Poniatowski, was receiving medical treatment in Berlin, he met Sir Charles, who was sent there as ambassador (1750–1751). The Englishman became part of Polish and Russian history by introducing Stanisław to the Russian Grand Duchess Catherine Alexeyevna (Saint Petersburg 1755, the future Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia). From that moment began the famous romance between Catherine and Czartoryski.

A letter to Sir Charles Williams, by Grand Duchess Catherine Alexeyevna

Williams's father bought the Coldbrook Park estate near Abergavenny for him from his godfather's bequest. There in 1746 he added a nine-bay, two-storey Georgian façade in 1746. He died insane in 1759 and the Coldbrook estate passed to his brother George.[1]

Seven Years' War[edit]

Williams played a major role as a British envoy at the court in Russia during the Seven Years' War. Although Russia was at war with Britain's ally Prussia, the two countries remained at peace.

Sir Charles is recorded as a brilliant wit with a great reputation for lively and biting satire.[citation needed]


Williams was the inspiration for the character Charles Edaston in the 1913 George Bernard Shaw play Great Catherine, which recounts the story of a British envoy to Catherine's court. It was made into a film starring Peter O'Toole in 1968. Williams also left poems which were said to be "witty but licentious".[2]


  1. ^ An Historical Tour in Monmouthshire, Volume 2. p. 279. 
  2. ^ Davenport, Richard Alfred (1831). A Dictionary of Biography p.571. Chiswick Press. 

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainCousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. Wikisource 

Further reading[edit]

  • Horn, David B., Sir Charles Hanbury Williams and European diplomacy, 1747–58, London et al. 1930: Harrap.

External links[edit]

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
John Hanbury
Thomas Morgan
Member of Parliament for Monmouthshire
With: Thomas Morgan
Succeeded by
William Morgan
Capel Hanbury
Preceded by
Sir Robert de Cornwall
James Peachey
Member of Parliament for Leominster
With: Richard Gorges
Succeeded by
Richard Gorges
Chase Price
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Hon. Thomas Villiers
British Ambassador to Poland
Succeeded by
Viscount Stormont
British Ambassador to Saxony
Preceded by
Henry Legge
British Ambassador to Prussia
Next known title holder:
Andrew Mitchell
Preceded by
The Earl of Hyndford
British Ambassador to Russia
Succeeded by
Robert Murray Keith the Elder
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Duke of Chandos
Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire
Succeeded by
The Viscount Bateman