Charles Watkin Williams-Wynn

President of the Board of Control, 1822-28.

October 9, 1775 – September 2, 1850

Charles Watkin Williams-Wynn (1775-1850) President of the Board of Control, 1822-28. Williams-Wynn was from Welsh aristocracy with strong political connections in the principality and, on his mother’s side, was a nephew of Grenville and the Marquess of Buckingham and a cousin of the first Duke of Buckingham. Educated at Westminster and Christ Church, he was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 1798. He entered Parliament in 1797 as a Grenville protégé and went into opposition to Addington in 1801, before serving as Under Secretary for Home Affairs in the Ministry of All the Talents. He was a moderate and a firm supporter of Catholic emancipation, strongly opposed to corruption and constitutional impropriety and a keen collector of parliamentary procedural details. In 1812 he supported Stuart Wortley’s motion and hoped for a Wellesley/Canning coalition with the Whigs. From then on, he supported the Grenvillites, hoping for a ‘third party administration’, while really yearning to be elected Speaker – an odd ambition, since he was a poor speaker with a squeaky voice.

In the 1821-22 negotiation for fusion between the government and the Grenvillites Williams-Wynn hoped for a fusion with moderate Whigs, such as Lansdowne, but eventually he accepted the Board of Control with a Cabinet seat, even though he had no knowledge of India, remaining there under Canning and Goderich but being left out by Wellington. He was not especially successful, with a weak Governor General Lord Amherst drifting into the expensive Anglo-Burmese war, and he was badgered by his cousin Buckingham, who wanted to be Governor General. Williams-Wynn supported Canning’s foreign policy, and moderation generally, but they were not close – Canning appears to have despised him, as he did many people, and Williams-Wynn’s relations with the rest of the Cabinet were guarded.

Williams-Wynn later changed sides twice, being Secretary at War for five months under Grey in 1830-31 then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in Peel’s first short ministry of 1834-35. He ended up as Father of the House of Commons.

© 2020 Martin Hutchinson