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HEDGES, Sir CHARLES (d. 1714), lawyer and politician, great-grandson of John Lacy of Wiltshire, was son of Henry Hedges of Wanborough in that county, who married Margaret, daughter of R. Pleydell of Childers, Berkshire; Sir William Hedges [q. v.] was his second cousin. He was educated at Oxford, taking the degrees of B.A. 29 Nov. 1670, when he was at Magdalen Hall; M.A. (of Magdalen College) on 31 May 1673, and D.C.L. on 26 June 1675. On 25 Oct. in the last year he was admitted to the Society of Advocates; he was created chancellor and vicar-general of the diocese of Rochester by patent for life in 1686, and master of the faculties and judge of the admiralty court, in place of Sir Richard Raines, on 1 June 1689, when he was also knighted. He was returned as M.P. for Orford in Suffolk in 1698, but counter-petitions for and against the return were presented. Hedges and his colleagues were unseated by an election committee (1 Feb. 1700), and the house confirmed the decision by a majority of one vote (10 Feb.). In the short-lived parliament of 1701 he sat for Dover, and at the election in November 1701 he was returned for Calne and Malmesbury. His opponents endeavoured to eject him from both places, and the election for Calne was declared void, but the petition against his return for Malmesbury failed. At the next election (August 1702) he was again returned for both Calne and Malmesbury, and in this instance elected to serve for the former borough. He contested the constituency of Calne again in 1705 and 1708, but was not successful. He nevertheless retained a seat in parliament, as he was thrice (1705, 1708, 1710) returned for West Looe, and once (1713) for East Looe. His political opinions were those of the tories, but he usually voted as his own individual interest prompted. Mainly through the influence of the Earl of Rochester he was sworn as secretary of state and a privy councillor on 5 Nov. 1700, when, according to Luttrell, he was allowed by special permission of the king to remain judge of the admiralty court, and he continued to be judge until 29 Dec. 1701. The Duchess of Marlborough said of him: ‘He has no capacity, no quality nor interest, nor ever could have been in that post [i.e. the secretaryship] but that everybody knows my Lord Rochester cares for nothing so much as a man that he thinks will depend upon him’ (Account of Conduct of Duchess of Marlborough, pp. 204–11). He attended the queen to Bath in August 1702, and for a short time (April to May 1704) he was declared the sole secretary, both home and foreign, until a successor was appointed to the Earl of Nottingham. During 1705 the whigs constantly endeavoured to eject him from office to make room for the Earl of Sunderland, and the queen at last submitted. The change was announced on 3 Dec. 1706, but it was stipulated that Hedges should be appointed to the judgeship of the prerogative court of Canterbury on its vacation by Sir Richard Raines, and in January 1711 he succeeded to that post. In November of the same year he was mentioned as the third plenipotentiary to negotiate the treaty of Utrecht, but it never passed beyond rumour. For some time his chief residence was at Richmond Green, in a house which afterwards passed to Sir Matthew Decker, but in 1700 he bought the estate of Compton Camberwell, in Compton Bassett, near Calne, and the family arms are still preserved around the parapet of the house. He owned much property in Wiltshire. Among the privately printed works of Sir Thomas Phillipps was one called ‘Land-holders of Wanborough; from a Map of Wanborough, the estate of the Right Hon. Sir Charles Hedges. Taken and drawn in 1709 by P. Assenton.’ Hedges died on 10 June 1714, and was buried at Wanborough on 15 June. His widow, Eleanor, daughter of George Smith, a proctor in London, died in 1733, and was also buried at Wanborough. They had issue one daughter and three sons, Henry, William, and Charles. William married as his first wife Elizabeth, sole heiress of the family of Gore, at Alderton in Wiltshire (cf. Gent. Mag. 1836, pt. i. p. 376, and Aubrey, Collections, ed. the Rev. J. E. Jackson, p. 46).

Hedges is said to have been the anonymous author of ‘Reasons for Setling [sic] Admiralty Jurisdiction and giving encouragement to Merchants, Owners, Masters of Ships, Material Men, and Marines,’ 1690, the main object of which was to improve the methods of pressing seamen. Henry Maundrell was his nephew, and the famous ‘Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem at Easter 1697’ is dedicated to him. Hearne records in his diary that Hedges gave this book to the university, but that the officials were guilty of some discourtesy which displeased the donor. At the sale of the library of the College of Advocates at Doctors' Commons there were purchased for the British Museum the Addit. MSS. 24102–07, all relating to Hedges. They contain notes of cases heard by him, accounts of his fees, with cases and precedents which he had collected. The most interesting is his letter-book (No. 24107), comprising copies of his letters, official and private, including many to Maundrell. Many other letters to and from him are at the British Museum and in the collections described in the Historical Manuscripts Commission. His grand-daughter was mother of Colonel Montagu, the ornithologist, after whose death upwards of three hundred letters written to Hedges by the first Duke of Marlborough, and three notes addressed to him by Queen Anne, were sold by auction in 1816 for 570 guineas. Some letters from Marlborough to him are printed in Murray's ‘Letters and Despatches of the Duke.’ Elkanah Settle issued in 1714 a funeral poem to the memory of Hedges.

[Luttrell's Hist. Relation, i. 557, iv. 608–12, 704–6, 710, v. 124, 151, 169, 207, 418, vi. 673; Coote's Civilians, p. 98; Aubrey's Collections, ed. Jackson, pp. 42–52; Le Neve's Knights (Harl. Soc. viii.), p. 415; Yule's Diary of W. Hedges (Hakluyt Soc.), ii. 32–6, 196–7; Wentworth Papers, p. 215; Nichols's Illustrations of Lit. vi. 718; Lysons's Environs of London, i. 453; Hearne's Collections, ed. Doble, iii. 117; Oldfield's Parl. Hist. iv. 563–4, v. 149–50, 169–170; Gent. Mag. 1816 pt. ii. pp. 23, 135, 231, 606, 1836 pt. i. pp. 376–7; Notes and Queries, 6th ser. vi. 476, vii. 278.]

W. P. C.