Charles Pepys, 1st Earl of Cottenham

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The Earl of Cottenham

Charles Pepys, 1st Earl of Cottenham by Charles Robert Leslie cropped.jpg
Lord Cottenham wearing ceremonial robes when presiding in the House of Lords as Lord Chancellor. Detail of a painting by Charles Robert Leslie.
Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain
In office
16 January 1836 – 30 August 1841
MonarchWilliam IV
Prime MinisterThe Viscount Melbourne
Preceded byIn Commission
Succeeded byThe Lord Lyndhurst
In office
6 July 1846 – 19 June 1850
Prime MinisterLord John Russell
Preceded byThe Lord Lyndhurst
Succeeded byIn Commission
Member of Parliament
for Malton
In office
September 1831 – January 1836
Served alongside Henry Gally Knight, Viscount Milton and John Charles Ramsden
Preceded byLord Cavendish of Keighley
Henry Gally Knight
Succeeded byJohn Childers
John Charles Ramsden
Member of Parliament
for Higham Ferrers
In office
July 1831 – October 1831
Preceded byViscount Milton
Succeeded byJohn Ponsonby
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
January 1836 – April 1851
Hereditary Peerage
Succeeded byCharles Edward Pepys
Personal details
Born(1781-04-29)29 April 1781
Wimpole Street, London
Died29 April 1851(1851-04-29) (aged 70)
Pietra Santa, Lucca, Grand Duchy of Tuscany
Political partyWhig
Spouse(s)Caroline Wingfield-Baker (1801–1868)
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge

Charles Christopher Pepys, 1st Earl of Cottenham, PC, QC (/ˈpɛpɪs/;[1] 29 April 1781 – 29 April 1851[2]) was an English lawyer, judge and politician. He was twice Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain.

Background and education[edit]

Cottenham was born in London, the second son of Sir William Pepys, 1st Baronet, a master in chancery, who was descended from John Pepys, of Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, a great-uncle of Samuel Pepys the diarist. Educated at Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge, Pepys was called to the bar of Lincoln's Inn in 1804.[3][4]

Legal and political career[edit]

Cottenham's progress was slow practising at the Chancery Bar. Not until 22 years after his call was he made a King's Counsel. He sat in Parliament successively for Higham Ferrers and Malton, became Solicitor General in 1834 and Master of the Rolls in the same year.

On the formation of Lord Melbourne's second administration in April 1835, the great seal was in commission for at time, but eventually Cottenham, who had been a commissioner, was appointed Lord Chancellor in January 1836 and at the same time raised to the peerage as Baron Cottenham of Cottenham in the County of Cambridge. He held office until the ministry's defeat in August 1841.[3]


In February 1841, during the trial of Lord Cardigan for attempted murder, Cottenham claimed ill health, leaving the task of presiding as Lord High Steward to the Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench, Lord Denman.[5] In 1846 he again became Lord Chancellor in Lord John Russell's administration. His health, however, was failing and he resigned in 1850.

Shortly before retirement, he was created Viscount Crowhurst, of Crowhurst in the County of Surrey, and Earl of Cottenham,[3] of Cottenham in the County of Cambridge. He lived at Prospect Place, Wimbledon in 1831–1851. He had succeeded his elder brother as third Baronet in 1845, and in 1849 his cousin as fourth Baronet of Juniper Hill.


Lord Cottenham married Caroline Elizabeth, daughter of William Wingfield-Baker, in 1821 and had five sons and three daughters. He died at Pietra Santa, Lucca in the Italian Grand Duchy of Tuscany in April 1851,[3] aged 70, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Charles. Lady Cottenham died in April 1868, aged 66 at The Cedars in Sunninghill, Berkshire.[6]

Cottenham's niece Emily Pepys (1833–1887), daughter of Henry Pepys, Bishop of Worcester, was a child diarist. Her work was not rediscovered and published until 1984.[7]


  1. ^ This branch of the family pronounced the name "Peppis", not "Peeps", like the diarist. Gillian Avery: Introduction. In: The Journal of Emily Pepys (London: Prospect Books, 1984. ISBN 0-907325-24-6), p. 11.
  2. ^ Jones, Gareth H. "Pepys, Charles Christopher". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/21902. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ a b c d  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Cottenham, Charles Christopher Pepys". Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 252–253. This cites:
    • Campbell, Lives of the Lord Chancellors (1869)
    • E. Foss, The Judges of England (1848–1864)
    • E. Manson, Builders of our Law (1904)
    • J. B. Atlay, The Victorian Chancellors (1906)
  4. ^ "Pepys, Charles Christopher (PPS797CC)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  5. ^ Woodham-Smith, Cecil (1995) [1953]. The Reason Why. Smithmark. p. 77.
  6. ^ The Gentleman's Magazine. A. Dodd and A. Smith. 1868. p. 689.
  7. ^ Gillian Avery, ed., The Journal of Emily Pepys (London: Prospect Books, 1984. ISBN 0-907325-24-6).

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
In Commission
Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain
Succeeded by
The Lord Lyndhurst
Preceded by
The Lord Lyndhurst
Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain
In commission
Title next held by
The Lord Truro
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Earl of Cottenham
Succeeded by
Charles Edward Pepys
Baron Cottenham
Baronetage of Great Britain
Preceded by
Harry Leslie
(of Brook Street)
Succeeded by
Charles Edward Pepys
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Pepys
(of Wimpole Street)
Succeeded by
Charles Edward Pepys