Charles Arbuthnot

Joint Secretary to the Treasury, 1809-1823

March 14, 1767 - August 18, 1850

Charles Arbuthnot (1767-1850) Joint Secretary to the Treasury, 1809-1823. First Commissioner of Woods and Forests, 1823-27, 1828. Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, 1828-30. Arbuthnot was brought up by his great-uncle Andrew Stone, the former confidant of the Duke of Newcastle, and educated at Westminster and Christ Church, where he was three years senior to Liverpool and Canning. He began his career as a precis writer at the Foreign Office, then became an MP and secretary to the Stockholm Legation. This was followed by postings to Stuttgart and Lisbon, after which, in 1803, Liverpool made him Under Secretary at the Foreign Office. He was then sent as Ambassador to Constantinople and made a Privy Councillor. His mission to Constantinople lasted three years and ended badly; his first wife died while he was there.

As Joint Secretary to the Treasury, he handled patronage, parliamentary whipping and election management, first for Perceval and then for Liverpool. He also managed the era’s primitive public relations, both for the government and for the Prince Regent (later George IV) inserting favourable articles in the press where desirable and providing subsidies to potentially friendly editors to keep their papers in line.1 When he left the Treasury in 1823, George IV awarded pensions to him and to his wife Harriet.

Arbuthnot was among Liverpool’s closest and most trusted colleagues, politically towards the right of the party; although he favoured Catholic Emancipation he did not trust Canning. In 1814 he married Harriet Fane (1793-1834) and enjoyed a very happy marriage. He was disappointed in 1828 not to achieve Cabinet rank under Wellington but, after his wife’s death in 1834, he lived with Wellington for the remainder of his life.

[1] See, for example, Aspinall, The Letters of George IV, 1812-30, Vol. 1, pp. 194-96.

© 2021 Martin Hutchinson