The British upper class with close connections to the establishment have produced plenty of pillars of society for centuries and continues to do so to the present day. They form a sizeable part of the parliament, banking, law, business and many other walks of life and have proved themselves to be extremely adept at making a name for themselves irrespective of their trades. In that regard Charles Pelham Villiers, the former British Member of Parliament certainly deserves a mention for being one of the most distinguished public figures in Great Britain in his lifetime and it is not a stretch to say that he continues to be revered as a sharp parliamentarian by those who are aware of his achievements. Other than being one of the most important parliamentarians of the time he also held many important posts during his long tenure as a Member of Parliament. However, it is also important to point out that he was a renowned barrister by occupation and was a well-known figure in British legal circles throughout his life. Last but not the least; it is also important to point out that he was one of the most authoritative liberal voices of his time.
Childhood & Early Life
Charles Pelham Villiers was born to Hon. George Villiers and Hon. Theresa Villiers on January 3, 1802 in London, United Kingdom. His father was a politician and statesman.
Dignitaries like Lord Canning were regular visitors at the sprawling house owned by the Villiers and the young Charles Pelham Villiers became interested in politics and statecraft after listening to the discussions his father used to have with political heavyweights of the day.
As a boy, Charles Pelham Villiers studied at the East India Company College also known as Haileybery College and was taught by some of the giants of the day including people like Thomas Malthus.
Villiers entered the famous halls at St. John’s College of Cambridge University at the age of 19 in 1821 and six years later he emerged with a graduate as well as a post graduate degree. The very same year he became a member of Lincoln’s Inn as a barrister.
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Villiers started working as a barrister in London in 1827 and quickly made a name for himself in the city. Five years later, he was appointed as the Commissioner of the Poor Law, one of the most important welfare policies of the British Government of the time.
In 1833, Charles Pelham Villiers entered the Court of Chancery as the Examiner of Witnesses. The Court of Chancery was one of the pillars of the British legal system and was often considered to be more powerful than common courts. He held the position for 19 years.
In 1834, Villiers received an invitation from the Liberal Party in the United Kingdom to contest for the seat at Wolverhampton and he promptly agreed. The next year he was elected as a Member of Parliament from Wolverhampton. He would go on to hold on to that seat for 63 years; making it the longest stint as an MP in British history.
Charles Pelham Villiers had extensively campaigned in favour of liberal trade laws that would encourage more business and launched a decade long campaign against the protectionist Corn Laws prevalent in England. The campaign reached its peak 1845 and the law was repealed the very next year.
He served in his capacity as a lawmaker in some of the most important institutions of British politics. In 1853, he was inducted into the Privy Council while a year earlier he had already been appointed as Judge Advocate General. He held the latter post for SIX years.
In 1859, Charles Pelham Villiers was made the President of the Poor Law Board, which was a cabinet post and needless to say, it was a position that allowed him the opportunity to wield more influence in the corridors of power. He held the post for 7 years.
In 1890, at the age of 88, Charles Pelham Villiers was bestowed with the title of Father of the House of Commons. It is a title meant for Members of Parliament who might either be the oldest in house or the longest serving.
Charles Pelham Villiers’ life’s work as a Member of Parliament was to free up trade and in that regard it must be said that his long struggle to repeal the Corn Laws has to be his biggest achievement in his career.
Personal Life & Legacy
Charles Pelham Villiers never married and there is no record for any romantic relationships either.
Charles Pelham Villiers died on January 16, 1898, at the age of 96, in his home in London.
Villiers managed to win an election at the ripe old age of 93, which remains the record for the oldest person to have ever won an election and in addition to that he holds the record for having been the longest serving member of Parliament in the Great Britain.
The British government did consider Villiers for a peerage in 1885 but he declined the offer.