Birth of Charles James Fox

Born in London in the heart of the establishment – his mother was a great grand-granddaughter of Charles II and his father was part of the Walpole ministry. First elected to parliament for Midhurst, Sussex in 1768 when he was only 21 Charles James Fox was initially a Tory, opposing the radical John Wilkes and calling for curbs on the press. In 1770 he joined Lord North’s government as a Lord of the Admiralty. However, opposition to the Royal Marriage Bill and the conduct of the American War of Independence led him to resign and join the opposition, working with the Rockingham Whigs and calling for greater powers for parliament in opposition to King George III. In the shifting alliances of the period, Fox returned to government in 1782 as Foreign Secretary in Rockingham’s second ministry but was back in opposition in a few months following Rockingham’s death where he teamed up with Lord North and was back at the Foreign Office the following year as part of the Fox/North Coalition. Out of office by the end of the year thanks to the opposition of King George and outmanoeuvred by William Pitt, Fox had to wait until Pitt’s death before he returned to government in 1806 for his third spell as Foreign Secretary in Lord Grenville’s ‘Ministry of All the Talents’, where he put in motion measures to abolish the slave trade. Sadly, he did not live to see abolition enacted as he died in September 1806 after little more than six months in office.