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Wolseley, Charles (1630?-1714) (DNB00)

WOLSELEY, Sir CHARLES (1630?–1714), politician, son of Sir Robert Wolseley of Wolseley, Staffordshire (created a baronet 24 Nov. 1628), by Mary, daughter of Sir George Wroughton, knight, of Walcot, Wiltshire, was born about 1630. William Wolseley (1640?–1697) [q. v.] was his younger brother. Sir Robert Wolseley took the side of the king during the civil war, and died on 21 Sept. 1646, while his estate was under sequestration. In October 1647 Sir Charles Wolseley on payment of 2,500l. obtained the discharge of the estate from sequestration. He is described in the petition presented on his behalf as then sixteen years of age (Calendar of Committee for Compounding, p. 1771; Commons' Journals, v. 328; Lords' Journals, ix. 492). On 12 May 1648 Wolseley married, at Hanworth, Middlesex, Anne, the youngest daughter of William Fiennes, first viscount Saye and Sele [q. v.], a connection which helps to account for his religious opinions and his political career. In July 1653 he was one of the representatives of Oxfordshire in the so-called ‘Little parliament’ summoned by Cromwell, and was chosen a member of both the councils of state which that body appointed (Old Parl. Hist. xx. 178; Commons' Journals, vii. 285, 344). In December 1653 Wolseley was one of the spokesmen of the party which wished to put an end to the Little parliament, and carried a motion that its members should resign their authority back to the general from whom they had received it (Ludlow, Memoirs, 1894, i. 366; Somers Tracts, vi. 274). To this he owed his appointment as a member of the council which the instrument of government established to advise the Protector. In relating the foundation of the protectorate to his friend Bulstrode Whitelocke, Wolseley wrote: ‘The present Protector is my lord-general, whose personal worth, I may say without vanity, qualifies him for the greatest monarch in the world’ (Addit. MS. 32093, f. 317). Wolseley remained a staunch Cromwellian throughout the protectorate, represented Staffordshire in the two parliaments called by Cromwell, and was one of the spokesmen of the committee which in April 1657 pressed the Protector to take the title of king (Old Parl. Hist. xxi. 81). In parliament he was not a frequent speaker, but showed his tolerance by advocating leniency in dealing with James Nayler [q. v.], and his good sense by deprecating the proposal to impose a new oath of fidelity on the nation when the second protectorate was established (Burton, Diary, i. 89, ii. 275). Whitelocke, with whom he was intimate, describes him as one of the counsellors whom Cromwell familiarly consulted, and in whose society he ‘would lay aside his greatness’ (Memorials, iv. 221, 289; cf. Whitelocke, Swedish Embassy, i. 65, ii. 37, 57).

In December 1657 Wolseley was appointed one of Cromwell's House of Lords. Republican pamphleteers found little to say against the appointment, except that ‘although he hath done nothing for the cause whereby to merit, yet he is counted of that worth as to be every way fit to be taken out of the parliament, to have a negative voice in the other house over such as have done most and merited highest in the cause’ (‘A Second Narrative of the Late Parliament,’ Harleian Miscellany, iii. 477).

Wolseley signed the order for proclaiming Richard Cromwell, was one of his council, and was consulted by him on the question of dissolving his unruly parliament (Whitelocke, Memorials, iv. 336, 343). During the troubles which followed Richard Cromwell's fall he took no part in public affairs, but succeeded in getting returned to the Convention parliament of 1660 as member for Stafford. At the Restoration Lord Mordaunt and Sir Robert Howard intervened with Charles II to procure Wolseley a free pardon, alleging services done to Howard and other distressed royalists in the late times. Mordaunt praised his abilities, and said that the king would find him a useful servant if he chose to employ him (Clarendon MSS. lxxii. 284, 9 May 1660). He obtained pardon but not employment. During the reign of Charles II Wolseley lived retired, occupying himself with gardening, of which he was very fond, and writing pamphlets. His house and gardens are described in the diary of his wife's niece, Celia Fiennes (Griffiths, Through England on a Side-Saddle, 1888, pp. 89, 136, 146). His pamphlets were on ecclesiastical subjects, and the only prominent politician with whom he seems to have kept up any intimacy was the like-minded Arthur Annesley, earl of Anglesey (cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 13th Rep. p. 262). But the Duke of Buckingham stayed at his house in 1667 when in disgrace with the court (Clarendon, Continuation of Life, § 1123).

When Monmouth's rebellion took place Wolseley was arrested on suspicion, but released on 4 July 1685. James II's policy of repealing the penal laws attracted his support, and the king's electioneering agents reported in February 1688 that Wolseley had ‘declared himself right, and ready to serve his majesty in any capacity.’ He was willing to stand for the county as one of the government candidates, but doubted if his own interest was sufficient to secure his return (Duckett, Penal Laws and Test Act, 1883, p. 251). Wolseley died on 9 Oct. 1714 in the eighty-fifth year of his age, according to his epitaph, and was buried in Colwich church, Staffordshire. Two portraits of Wolseley are in the possession of the present baronet.

Wolseley was the author of the following works: 1. ‘Speech,’ urging the Protector to accept the crown (printed in ‘Monarchy Asserted,’ 1660, and reprinted in the ‘Somers Tracts,’ ed. Scott, vi. 360). 2. ‘Liberty of Conscience upon its True and Proper Grounds, asserted and vindicated,’ 1668, 4to. 3. ‘Liberty of Conscience the Magistrate's Interest,’ 1668, 4to (these two pamphlets, both anonymous, were combined in the second edition, published in 1669). 4. ‘The Unreasonableness of Atheism made manifest,’ 1669, 8vo. 5. Preface to Henry Newcome's ‘Faithful Narration of the Life of John Machin,’ 1671, 12mo. 6. ‘The Reasonableness of Scripture Belief,’ 1672, 8vo (dedicated to the Earl of Anglesey). 7. ‘The Case of Divorce and Remarriage thereupon discussed, occasioned by the late Act for the Divorce of the Lord Ross,’ 1673, 12mo. 8. ‘Justification Evangelical, or a Plain Impartial Scripture Account of God's Method in justifying a Sinner,’ 1677 (the Bodleian copy contains a letter from the Earl of Anglesey criticising the work as unorthodox, and saying that he warned the author to be more cautious).

Of Wolseley's family of seven sons and ten daughters,

Robert Wolseley (1649–1697), the eldest, matriculated at Trinity College, Oxford, on 26 July 1666, entered Gray's Inn in 1667, and was sent envoy to the elector of Bavaria at Brussels by William III in March 1692. He died unmarried in 1697. About 1690 he was engaged in a duel in consequence of a ‘poetical quarrel’ with a younger brother of Thomas Wharton (afterwards first Marquis of Wharton) [q. v.], and Wharton died of the effects of the encounter. This champion of poesy was doubtless the ‘Mr. Wolseley’ whose name is on the title-page of the ‘Examen Miscellaneum’ of 1702, to which he contributed two morsels of verse; Robert Wolseley was a friend of John Wilmot, second earl of Rochester [q. v.], to whose ‘Valentinian’ (1685) he contributed the ‘preface concerning the author … by one of his friends’ (Simms, Bibl. Staff. p. 521; Life of Thomas, Marquis of Wharton, 1715).

Charles and Fiennes, the second and third sons, died young. William and Henry, the fourth and fifth sons, became successively third and fourth baronets; while Richard, the sixth son, was a captain in King William's army in Ireland, and represented Carlow in the Irish parliament (Foster, Baronetage, 1883; Alumni Oxon. i. 1668). From him the present baronet and Field-marshal Viscount Wolseley are descended.

[Noble's House of Cromwell, 1787, i. 397; Foster's Baronetage, 1883; Erdeswick's Staffordshire, ed. Harwood; notes kindly supplied by G. W. Campbell, esq.; other authorities given in the article.]

C. H. F.