Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Mills, Charles (1825-1895)

MILLS, Sir CHARLES (1825–1895), first agent-general for the Cape Colony, was born in 1825 at Ischl, Hungary, and educated chiefly at Bonn. On 1 Feb. 1843 he enlisted as a private in the 98th regiment, and went to China, where he very soon attracted some notice, was made staff clerk in the adjutant-general's office, and excused ordinary duty. He seems to have readily mixed and become well known in the general society of the station, though nominally only 'Corporal Mills.' When his regiment was ordered to India in 1848, he was offered a clerkship in the consular service, but preferred to go into active military service. He was accordingly with his regiment through the Punjab campaign, and was present in 1849 at Chillianwallah, where he was wounded. He received the medal. On 6 June 1851 he received a commission as ensign in the 98th regiment, became adjutant on 17 June 1851, and on 22 Nov. 1854 was promoted lieutenant in the 50th foot.

Mills, having returned home with his regiment, became, in 1855, brigade-major under General Woolridge, who was charged with the formation of a camp of instruction for the German legion at the Crimea, and went to the seat of war with the legion under Sir Henry Storks [q. v.] During this war he gained special credit for his share in suppressing an attempt at mutiny among some of the Turkish troops. He received the order of the Medjidie.

At the close of the Crimean war, when the German legion was disbanded, it was proposed to make a military settlement of Germans on the eastern border of British Kaffraria. Mills, who now left the army, was selected as officer in charge of the settlement; he arrived at Cape Town in January 1858, and became successively sheriff of Kingwilliamstown and secretary to the government of Kaffraria. He had brought out three thousand men, who prospered almost without exception; he has himself stated that for seven years he was their guide, philosopher, and friend,' and looked upon this as the most successful work of his life. He had intended writing an account of the settlement, but never did so.

In 1865, when Kaffraria was incorporated with the Cape Colony, Mills retired on a pension. Subsequently, in 1866, he was elected to represent Kingwilliamstown in the parliament of the Cape, where he supported the government, opposing the party which at that time demanded responsible government. Sir Philip Wodehouse [q. v. Suppl.], who was then governor, eventually persuaded him to resign political life and enter the colonial service, and in 1867 appointed him chief clerk for finance in the colonial secretary's office. In 1872 he became permanent under-secretary in the same office when self-government was conferred on the colony; in this capacity he rendered considerable service in organising the Cape civil service. In 1880 he was sent to London to arrange as to the adjustment of expenditure on the Zulu war. When in 1882 the Cape government decided to have an agent-general of their own in London, Mills was at once selected for the position, which he took up in October 1882.

As agent-general Mills was a familiar and popular figure at all functions in which the colonies were interested. In 1886 he was executive commissioner for the Cape at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition. In 1887 he was delegate for the Cape at the colonial conference. In 1894 he was one of the delegates of the Cape at the intercolonial conference at Ottawa, and this was his last special service. He died at 110 Victoria Street, London, on 31 March 1895, and was buried at Highgate cemetery. He had been made C.M.G. in 1878, K.C.M.G. in 1885, and C.B. in 1886. He was a governor of the Imperial Institute.

Mills was in later years stoud and florid, very cheery in manner, and fond of society. He was always reckoned businesslike and capable; at times working exceedingly hard, as when he stayed almost continuously in the colonial secretary's office for over three months in 1872. There are portraits of him in the colonial secretary's office, and in the Civil Service Club, at Cape Town.

[Times, 1 April 1895; Capo Times, 2 April 1895; Cape (weekly) Argus, 3 April 1895, p. 5; Cape Illustrated Magazine, April 1895; Army Lists, 1850-8.]

C. A. H.