Charles Vane, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry

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The Most Honourable
The Marquess of Londonderry
oil painting of the Charles William Stewart 1812 standing in a hussar's uniform
Minister to Prussia
In office
Monarch George III
Preceded by No representation
Succeeded by George Henry Rose
Ambassador to Austria
In office
Monarch George III
George IV
Preceded by The Earl of Aberdeen
Succeeded by Hon. Sir Henry Wellesley
Personal details
Born (1778-05-18)18 May 1778
Dublin, Ireland
Died 6 March 1854(1854-03-06) (aged 75)
Londonderry House, Park Lane, London
Nationality Irish
Spouse(s) Lady Catherine Bligh
(d. 1812)
Lady Frances Vane-Tempest (d. 1865)
Children Frederick Stewart, 4th Marquess of Londonderry
George Vane-Tempest, 5th Marquess of Londonderry
Frances Anne Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough
Alexandrina Dawson-Damer, Countess of Portarlington
Lord Adolphus Vane-Tempest
Lady Adelaide Emelina Caroline Vane
Lord Ernest McDonnell Vane-Tempest
Parents Robert Stewart, 1st Marquess of Londonderry
Lady Frances Pratt

Charles William Vane, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry KG GCB GCH PC (1778 – 1854) was an Irish soldier in the British army, a politician, and a nobleman. As a soldier he fought in the French Revolutionary Wars, in the suppression of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, and in the Napoleonic wars. He excelled as a cavalry commander in the Iberic Peninsula under Wellington.

After the war his half-brother Lord Castlereagh helped him to launch a diplomatic career. He was posted to Berlin in 1810, and then as Ambassador to Austria, where he attended the Congress of Vienna with his half-brother, the British plenipotentiary.

He was born Charles William Stewart and raised to the peerage as Baron Stewart in 1814. He succeeded his half brother as 3rd Marquess of Londonderry in 1822. The following year he was created Earl Vane and Viscount Seaham. From 1823 he was Governor of County Londonderry, and was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Durham in 1842. He was made a Knight of the Garter in 1853, and died a year later in London. He was styled The Honourable Charles Stewart from 1789 until 1813 and The Honourable Sir Charles Stewart from 1813 to 1814, then The Lord Stewart from 1814 to 1822. In 1829 he took his wife's surname of Vane in lieu of that of Stewart by Royal licence.

Early life[edit]

Born in Dublin on 18 May 1778, Charles Stewart was the second son of Robert Stewart, an important landowner in Ireland but not yet a nobleman at the time. His father married twice. Charles's mother was his father's second wife, Frances, daughter of Charles Pratt, 1st Earl Camden and Chief Justice. His half-brother from his father's first marriage was Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, who made a brilliant diplomatic career. His half-brother's influence helped to ennoble his father and to advance Charles in his own diplomatic career.

drawing of the shield of arms
Shield of arms of Charles Vane, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, as displayed on his Order of the Garter stall plate in St. George's Chapel


'Fighting Charlie'[edit]

Charles Stewart was commissioned into the British Army at the age of 16, as a lieutenant. He saw service in 1794 in the Flanders Campaign of the French Revolutionary Wars. He was lieutenant colonel of the 5th Royal Irish Dragoons by the time he helped put down the Irish Rebellion of 1798. In 1803, Stewart was appointed aide-de-camp to King George III.

The remainder of his military career developed during the Peninsular War, which was part of the Napoleonic Wars. He fought under Sir John Moore and Sir Arthur Wellesley (who became the Duke of Wellington). The Peninsular War started with the Corunna Campaign (1808–1809), in which he commanded a brigade of cavalry, and played, together with Lord Paget, a prominent role in the cavalry clash of Benavente.[1] After the Corunna Campaign he was appointed, in April 1809, Adjutant General to Sir Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington). Under Wellesley he distinguished himself, particularly at the battles of Talavera and Bussaco. He received the thanks of Parliament in 1810, and on 20 November 1813 was made Colonel of the 25th Light Dragoons, becoming a Knight of the Bath that same year. He was also made Knight Grand Cross of the Guelphic Order (GCH) in 1816 and colonel of the 10th Hussars on 3 February 1820.

Political career[edit]

In 1796, he was elected to the Irish House of Commons as Tory representative for Thomastown, County Kilkenny, and after only two months exchanged this seat for that of Londonderry County. He sat for the latter constituency until the Act of Union in 1801, and then represented Londonderry in the British House of Commons until 1814. In 1807 he became Under-Secretary of State for War and the Colonies.

From 1813 until the end of the war he was Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Berlin, and was also Military Commissioner with the allied armies, being wounded at the Battle of Kulm.

The recipient of numerous foreign honours, Stewart was also ennobled as Baron Stewart, of Stewart's Court and Ballylawn in the County of Donegal, in 1814.[2] In the same year he received honorary degrees from Oxford and Cambridge, was admitted to the Privy Council, and was appointed a Lord of the Bedchamber to the King.

He was also appointed Ambassador to Austria, a post he held for nine years (1814-1823), and was at the Congress of Vienna with his half-brother Lord Castlereagh as one of the British plenipotentiaries, where, according to the renowned historian Adam Zamoyski in his book Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna, he made a spectacle of himself with his loutish behaviour, being apparently rather often inebriated, frequenting prostitutes quite openly, and once even starting a fist-fight in the middle of the street with a Viennese coach driver after he punched the coachman's horse. He quit the diplomatic service in 1823 after the death of his half-brother in 1822.

As Marquess[edit]

Back in England he befriended Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (later Napoleon III) while the latter was exiled in London between 1836 and 1840. After Napoleon had been elected president of France in 1851, Charles asked him to free Abd-el-Kader.[3]

By the time of the Great Irish Famine in the 1840s, Londonderry was one of the ten richest men in the United Kingdom. While many landlords made efforts to mitigate the worst effects of the famine on their tenants, Londonderry was criticised for meanness: he and his wife gave £30 to the local relief committee but spent £150,000 renovating Mount Stewart, their Irish home.[4] Nevertheless Debbbie Orme maintains that "the Marquis was held in high regard in the land for his attempts to alleviate suffering during the potato famine".[5]

The entry for the Scrabo Tower in the Historical Building List states that "rather than the object of tenant affection, the 3rd marquis had alienated many of his tenantry through his unbending attitude during the tenant right campaign of the early 1850s".[6] He was in diagreement over this question with his son and heir Frederick, who was more liberally inclined.

Marriages and family[edit]

picture of the Wynyard Park Manor House
Wynyard Park, c.1880

His first wife was Lady Catherine Bligh,[7] daughter of the 3rd Earl of Darnley, whom he married in 1804 at the church of St George's, Hanover Square; she was three years older than he. She died during the night of 10–11 February 1812, of fever following a minor operation, while her husband was on active service in the Peninsula.

Lord Stewart married his second wife Lady Frances Anne Vane-Tempest, daughter and heiress of Sir Henry Vane-Tempest, on 3 April 1819 at her mother's house in Bruton Street, Mayfair. He later took her surname of Vane in 1829, by royal licence, and used his new bride's immense wealth to acquire the Seaham Hall estate in County Durham with a view to developing the coalfields there. He also built the harbour at Seaham, to rival nearby Sunderland.

He commissioned Benjamin Wyatt to build a mansion at Wynyard Park. It was completed by Philip Wyatt in 1841 and cost £130,000 (equivalent to £10,772,000 in 2016) to build and furnish. Unfortunately, just as the mansion was being completed, a fire broke out and gutted the house; it was later restored and remodelled by Ignatius Bonomi.

The family also used their newfound wealth to redecorate their country seat in Ireland, Mount Stewart, and bought Holdernesse House on London's Park Lane, which they renamed Londonderry House.

Lord Stewart succeeded his half-brother as 3rd Marquess of Londonderry in 1822. The following year he was created Earl Vane and Viscount Seaham, of Seaham in the County Palatine of Durham, with remainder to the heirs male of the body of his second wife.[8]

Detail of the equestrian statue
Memorial Statue by Raffaelle Monti in Durham

Governor of County Londonderry from 1823, Londonderry was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Durham in 1842 and the following year became Colonel of the 2nd Regiment of Life Guards. Queen Victoria finally made him a Knight of the Garter in 1853, and he died a year later at Londonderry House. Scrabo Tower was erected in his memory and he was honoured by an equestrian statue in Durham.

He was succeeded as 4th Marquess of Londonderry by Frederick, the only child from his first marriage, and as 2nd Earl Vane by George, the eldest son from his second marriage.


Through his daughter Lady Frances, Lord Londonderry was a great-grandfather of Winston Churchill.


The 3rd Marquess has been a prolific writer and editor. He published books about his own military and diplomatic carreer and published many of his half-brother's papers. The following two books describe the Peninsular War as he saw it happen and the War of the Sixth Coalition, which forced Napoleon to abdicate:

The 3rd Marquess has also compiled, edited published many of the papers left by his half-brother and published them in the following twelve volumes:


  1. ^ Vane, Charles William (1828). Narrative of the Peninsular War. London: Henry Colburn. pp. 207–208. Retrieved 5 August 2018. ...Lord Paget and the writer of these pages arrived: when the former made haste to bring up the 10th hussars, whilst the latter put himself at the head of the detachments already in the field. 
  2. ^ "No. 16909". The London Gazette. 18 June 1814. p. 1255. 
  3. ^ "Miscellaneous". The Spectator. 12 April 1851. p. 8. Retrieved 19 July 2018. Pardon me, my Prince, if I take the liberty to write to you ... 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Orme, Debby. "The History of Scrabo Tower - Guardian of the North Down coast". Retrieved 7 April 2018. 
  6. ^ "Scrabo Tower - Historic Buildings Details". Department for Communities. 
  8. ^ "No. 17909". The London Gazette. 29 March 1823. p. 498. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of Ireland
Preceded by
George Dunbar
James Kearney
Member of Parliament for Thomastown
March–May 1800
With: James Kearney March–April 1800
William Gardiner April–May 1800
Succeeded by
William Gardiner
John Francis Cradock
Preceded by
Thomas Conolly
The Earl of Tyrone
Member of Parliament for Londonderry County
With: The Earl of Tyrone
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Londonderry
With: Sir George Hill, 2nd Bt 1801–1802
Lord George Thomas Beresford 1802–1812
Hon. William Ponsonby 1812–1814
Succeeded by
Hon. William Ponsonby
Alexander Stewart
Military offices
Preceded by
Richard Wilford
Colonel of the 25th Light Dragoons
Regiment disbanded
Preceded by
George, Prince of Wales
Colonel of the 10th (The Prince of Wales's Own)
Royal Regiment of (Light) Dragoons (Hussars)

Succeeded by
The Earl Beauchamp
Preceded by
The Earl Cathcart
Colonel of the 2nd Regiment of Life Guards
Succeeded by
The Lord Seaton
Political offices
Preceded by
Sir George Shee, Bt
Sir James Cockburn, Bt
Under-Secretary of State for War and the Colonies
With: E. Cooke
Succeeded by
Hon. F. J. Robinson
Hon. Charles Jenkinson
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
No representation due
to the Treaties of Tilsit
(previously John Frere)
British Minister to Prussia
Succeeded by
George Henry Rose
Preceded by
The Earl of Aberdeen
British Ambassador to Austria
Succeeded by
Hon. Sir Henry Wellesley
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Duke of Cleveland
Lord Lieutenant of Durham
Succeeded by
The Earl of Durham
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by
Robert Stewart
Marquess of Londonderry
Succeeded by
Frederick Stewart
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Earl Vane
Succeeded by
George Vane-Tempest
Baron Stewart