Villiers served as, Whig/Liberal/Liberal Unionist MP for Wolverhampton 1835-85 and Wolverhampton South 1885-98. An early convert to free trade, Villiers initiated debates on the abolition of the Corn Laws before Richard Cobden and John Bright were elected to parliament. The Times observed in 1853 that ‘it was Mr Charles Villiers who practically originated the Free Trade Movement.’ Villiers achieved ministerial office under Lord Aberdeen and served in the cabinets of Palmerston and Russell as President of the Poor Law Board. He left the Liberal Party over Irish Home Rule and joined the Liberal Unionists. He was Father of the House from 1890 and, when he died aged 96 in 1898, he was still an MP and the last MP to have served during the reign of King William IV.