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Stuart, Charles, sixth duke of Lennox and third duke of Richmondlocked

  • John Callow

Stuart, Charles, sixth duke of Lennox and third duke of Richmond (1639–1672), courtier and ambassador, was born in London on 7 March 1639, the only son of George Stuart, seigneur d'Aubigny (1618–1642), and Lady Katherine Howard (d. 1650) [see Stuart, Katherine], daughter of Theophilus Howard, second earl of Suffolk. His early childhood and youthful development were both defined and seriously marred by the upheavals of the English civil wars. His father was mortally wounded at the battle of Edgehill on 23 October 1642, while his mother was subsequently imprisoned for smuggling royalist correspondence. On 10 December 1645, owing to the death in action of his father's younger brother, Lord Bernard Stuart (1622–1645), he was designated Baron Stuart of Newbury and earl of Lichfield, titles which had been intended for his uncle but were never officially recognized by the Long Parliament, or by the Commonwealth and the protectorate governments.

By late 1648 Lichfield's mother had married Sir James Livingston, created Viscount Newburgh that September, but following her premature death in exile at The Hague he became the ward of his second cousin, General Charles Fleetwood, who recommended him to John Thurloe, in September 1654, as 'a very hopefull young gentleman' (Cust, 111). However, he appears to have had little love for the republican form of government, and later attempts to incorporate him within the framework of a new Cromwellian, aristocratic élite failed dramatically. Consequently, at the first available opportunity, in January 1658 he sailed for France. Together with his governor and manservant, he took up residence in Paris at the house of his uncle Ludovic Stuart, tenth seigneur d'Aubigny, and was there acknowledged as 'a forward and witty' youth by one of Thurloe's informants operating in the city (Thurloe, State papers, 6.782). In August 1659 he took part in Sir George Booth's abortive royalist rising and was punished by the council of state, by the sequestration of his goods and estates.

The Restoration transformed Lichfield's fortunes and in May 1660 he returned to England with Charles II, attending the king upon his triumphant entry into London. The premature death of his cousin Esmé Stuart (1649–1660), on 10 August 1660, further strengthened his position at court, as he inherited the dukedoms of Richmond and Lennox, together with a whole swathe of Scottish offices and titles, which included the posts of hereditary great chamberlain and great admiral of Scotland, and keeper of Dumbarton Castle. His appointments as lord lieutenant of Dorset, in 1660, and as gentleman of the royal bedchamber and knight of the Order of the Garter, in 1661, only served further to underline his growing political importance. By the summer of 1660 he had contracted what was to be a brief first marriage to Elizabeth (1643/4–1661), widow of Charles Cavendish, styled Viscount Mansfield (d. 1659), and daughter of Richard Rogers of Bryanston, Dorset, who brought large estates in the county. She died in childbed on 21 April 1661. On 31 March 1662 Richmond married Margaret (d. 1666/7), widow of William Lewis of Bletchington, Oxfordshire, and daughter of Lawrence Banaster of Papenham, Buckinghamshire.

In 1662 Richmond set off to join the administration in Scotland of John Middleton, earl of Middleton, and was sworn of the newly expanded privy council in August, alongside his stepfather, who had been created earl of Newburgh in 1660. However, while he successfully reasserted his customary rights as the lord of Dumbarton Castle, combated encroachments on his jurisdiction of the Admiralty, and—during the Anglo-Dutch wars—licensed a significant number of privateers to raid against foreign merchantmen, he showed little interest in the workings of the Scottish privy council and only occasionally attended its meetings. It was the need to destroy the formidable power base of John Maitland, earl of Lauderdale, through a reform in the workings of the Edinburgh parliament and the institution of a secret ballot for its members, which had initially motivated Richmond's entry into Scottish politics. Unfortunately, in pushing for a dozen rival members to be expelled from the parliament, Richmond's party had seriously overreached themselves and he, in particular, earned himself the antipathy and mistrust of his king.

On his return to London, Richmond fought a duel with Colonel Russell over the honour of a lady of the court. As a result, on 30 March 1665 both gentlemen were arrested and sent to the Tower of London; Richmond was released from custody on 21 April. However, honours, sinecures, and titles continued to come his way, as he was created baron of Cobham on 28 May 1666, took command of a regiment of horse known as the ‘select militia’ in July 1666, and became de jure Lord Clifton of Leighton Bromswold on 4 July 1667. Following the death of his second wife in late December 1666 or the first few days of January 1667, he embarked upon a relationship with his kinswoman Frances Teresa Stuart (1647–1702), who had until that time been mistress to the king. According to Edmund Ludlow, Richmond was no more than an unwitting dupe in the plans of the lord chancellor, the earl of Clarendon, to prevent Charles II from divorcing the queen and marrying Frances, in order to ensure the succession. However, it would appear that this was a genuine love match and there is little reason to suppose that Richmond either rushed into marriage 'as the most certain way he could take to advance himself' with Clarendon, or as a favour to the king in order to lessen the scandal surrounding the fate of his former mistress (Memoirs of Edmund Ludlow, 3 vols., 1698–9, 2.407; Pepys, 8.120). Indeed, rather than forwarding his career, his marriage to Frances—which was concluded in a private ceremony, at the end of March 1667—threatened to ruin it. Charles II was furious at the couple's elopement to Kent, and forbade them to return to court. This order was rescinded only in August 1668, when Frances, her beauty tarnished by an attack of smallpox, was permitted to return to their home at the Bowling Green, in Whitehall Palace.

In the meantime, the continuing attrition brought about by the Second Anglo-Dutch War had seen Richmond going down to Dorset, in order to prepare the county to resist invasion. When, amid constant rumours of the sighting of a large Dutch fleet, on 6 July 1667 the alarm was given that forty hostile ships were sailing towards Weymouth, Richmond was quick to lead his troop of horse and the county militia in a reconnaissance mission along the coast. However, though the duke's soldiers 'were soon in posture, with a cheerful heart to engage the enemy, had there been occasion' (CSP dom., 1667, 271), it was to prove a false alarm. Arriving in Lyme on 13 July 1667 Richmond was 'handsomely received' by the mayor, who ordered two companies of musketeers to fire a salute in his honour (CSP dom., 1667, 291). In May 1668 he was commissioned as lord lieutenant of Kent and in August he reviewed the county militia outside the walls of Canterbury. Nevertheless, the threat of a Dutch invasion continued to trouble Richmond's mind and he took steps to protect his own private property, demanding—and evidently receiving—from the Ordnance office: '2 brass three-pounders, with carriages, shot and stones … for defence of his house at Cobham, Kent' (BL, Add. MS 21951, fol. 5; CSP dom., 1670, 634).

Although his uncle Ludovic Stuart had died on 3 November 1665, it was not until 31 December 1668 that Richmond was finally recognized by the French authorities as the eleventh seigneur d'Aubigny. In order to make good his claim, he visited his lands at Aubigny in spring 1669, and evidently took pleasure in his stay, ordering twenty horses to be shipped across the channel for his personal use. He returned to England in November 1669 and on 11 March 1670 was permitted to do homage to Louis XIV, by proxy, in return for the confirmation of his rights.

With his position at court effectively compromised, Richmond now began to look for a diplomatic appointment in order to restore his ebbing fortunes and lobbied, unsuccessfully, to be sent as an ambassador to the Italian princes. During his visit to France in 1669 he had left it to his friend Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper to press for him to be sent to Poland as an extraordinary ambassador, in order to monitor the forthcoming elections for king that were to be held there. Even though this appointment was similarly refused, Richmond immediately embarked upon another fruitless campaign to press his candidacy as lord chamberlain, even while the current incumbent, the earl of Manchester, was still sickening.

Once again scandal was to cling to Richmond's name, as after a formal reception at Lincoln's Inn Hall in late 1671 he headed off into the night with the dukes of Monmouth, Albemarle, and Rochester towards a rough and disreputable area of the city. All had been drinking and made such a clamour that, as they approached Whetstone Park, the parish constables were alerted and sent to quieten them down. Swords were drawn and a scuffle followed in which an unfortunate officer was killed in spite of his anguished pleas for mercy. Facing a trial for murder, Richmond, Monmouth, and Albemarle were saved from the justice of the courts only by the intervention of the king, who was forced to offer a general amnesty for felons in order to remove the capital charges laid against them.

Increasingly appearing to be a liability at court, in February 1672 Richmond had his desire for a diplomatic posting at last realized with his appointment as ambassador to Denmark. At the same time, he was created lord high admiral of Scotland and continued to issue letters of marque to privateer captains. After setting out for Denmark in late April 1672 aboard the frigate Portland, Richmond experienced extremely bad weather. Although the crossing was destined to take almost six weeks, with his ship being forced repeatedly to turn for home, the duke was still able to pursue a Dutch merchantman that had unwittingly strayed into his path. However, he refused to allow the commander of the frigate to take possession of the vessel and instead, at the last minute, invoking his powers as lord high admiral of Scotland, he commandeered an English fishing boat and commissioned its crew, together with his own servants, to act as privateers. Consequently, he ensured that the Dutch vessel and its valuable cargo of salt would be judged as his own prize before the Admiralty court and not as the property of the king of England, as would otherwise have been the case.

Determined to live in splendour, Richmond ordered furs to keep out the Scandinavian cold, as well as ample provisions and tobacco. However, despite the allowance of £2500 given to him 'for his equipage and transport' and his receipt of a grant of £100 a week 'for his entertainment' as ambassador to Denmark, he still managed to run up debts of over £1500 within a few months of his arrival (BL, Add. MS 21948, fol. 289, Add. MS 21950, fol. 423, Add. MS 21951, fol. 40; CSP dom., 1671–2, 25). Boredom was, no doubt, to blame for this. He constantly grumbled that Copenhagen was a damp city, that the Danes were a dull people, and that their women were singularly unprepossessing. Leaving the day-to-day business of the embassy to his deputy, Thomas Henshaw, he fell to self-pity and lamented that: 'Neaver man was so weary of a place as I am of this, it being I thinke the least diverteing of any that I ever came in' (Hartman, 197). Consequently, the arrival of an English frigate in the sound off the coast of Helsingør (Elsinore) in December 1672 offered him the possibility of both companionship and much needed entertainment. Despite thick snow and freezing temperatures, he left his lodgings on 12 December and rowed out to join the ship's captain on board. After a hearty dinner, during which he drank at least two bottles of wine, he took his leave of his host. However, being 'a little merry' he missed 'a step on the side of the ship … that should have eased him down, fell betwixt the ship and the boat, and sank straight' to the bottom like a stone. It would appear, despite Captain Taylor's later report, that the sailors did manage to locate his body and were able to resuscitate him. Unfortunately, by that time he had contracted a chill due to the icy waters and went into violent convulsions during his coach journey back to his lodgings. He died the same day in his rooms, on the outskirts of Helsingør.

Richmond's brains and bowels were removed and interred within the precincts of the Dutch church at Helsingør, but there was a long delay in transferring his body back for burial in England. His servants had great difficulty in finding a lead coffin to lay him in, and it soon transpired that King Christian V's offer of a ship to bear the corpse home had been made only as a kindly overture, and one which had never meant to be accepted by Charles II's government. As a result, almost a year passed before a new Danish ship, its sails and hull especially painted black as a sign of respect, was dispatched for this doleful mission. The body was landed at Gravesend in early September 1673 before being transferred by barge up the Thames and finally laid to rest in Henry VII's chapel in Westminster Abbey on 20 September 1673.

Even the elegists plying their trade in the streets of London failed to find any inspiration in the duke's life and could manage only a lacklustre tribute to 'Richmond's loss'. These doggerel verses are chiefly notable for their failure to make any solid claims for his possession of any virtues or abilities whatsoever. Rather, while 'Britain's Genius' shed icicle tears over his death, he was seen to have 'left … all his Services on score', ultimately: 'Unsum'd, Deny'd by Fate, to make them more' (An Elegie on his Grace the Illustrious Charles Stuart, 1). Although both Samuel Pepys and Captain Guy of the Portland remarked upon the 'good nature' he showed to his subordinates in the naval establishment, Count Grammont thoroughly castigated him as a brute and a debauchee, who managed to cut only an 'indifferent figure at court' (CSP dom., 1671–2, 369; Hamilton, 240; Pepys, 9.302). While Grammont should be considered to be a deeply biased source, Richmond would seem to have been a graceless and often quick-tempered individual, who had no understanding of the value of money and only limited political acumen. Having inherited estates already burdened by the debts of the civil war years, and despite frequent and very considerable grants from the crown, he continued to add to his financial difficulties through his penchant for gambling and horse-racing. His account books reveal not only the substantial costs incurred by his extensive refurbishment of Cobham House, but also that those bills that he did receive were usually left unpaid for a considerable length of time. His first two wives were considerable heiresses, but both died childless and his relations with Margaret were marked by a series of personal, financial, and legal disputes. Frances Teresa Stuart survived Richmond by almost thirty years, dying in relative obscurity on 15 October 1702.


  • corresp. and papers, 1644–72, BL, Add. MSS 21947–21951
  • An elegie on his grace the illustrious Charles Stuart, duke of Richmond and Lenox (1673)
  • Evelyn, Diary, vols. 3–4
  • J. Greenstreet, ‘Will of Frances, countess of Kildare … Frances Stuart … and Charles Stuart, last duke of Richmond and Lenox’, Genealogical tracts (1877)
  • Pepys, Diary, vols. 1, 6, 8–9
  • C. H. Hartmann, La Belle Stuart: memoirs of court and society in the times of Frances Theresa Stuart, duchess of Richmond and Lenox (1924)
  • Fifth report, HMC, 4 (1876)
  • E. Cust [Lady Brownlow], Some account of the Stuarts of Aubigny in France, 1422–1672 (1891)
  • J. N. P. Watson, Captain-general and rebel chief: the life of James, duke of Monmouth (1979)
  • R. Hutton, Charles the Second: king of England, Scotland and Ireland (1989)
  • A. Hamilton, Memoirs of the count de Grammont, ed. and trans. H. Walpole and Mrs Jameson (1911)
  • The memoirs of Edmund Ludlow, ed. C. H. Firth, 2 vols. (1894)
  • will, TNA: PRO, C108/53 [copy]


  • BL, bills and papers relating to debts, inventory, Egerton MS 2435
  • BL, corresp. and papers, Add. MSS 21947–21951
  • BL, Egerton MS 3382, fols. 160–80
  • BL, notice of birth and death, Sloane MS 1708, fol. 121
  • BL, swearing-in as gentleman of bedchamber, Sloane MS 856, fol. 30
  • TNA: PRO, estate papers, accounts, etc., C 108/9–10 53–55 161
  • U. Edin. L., financial papers
  • BL, petition to Charles II, Add. MS 23134, fol. 44
  • BL, corresp. with Henry Coventry, Add. MS 25117
  • BL, letters to Lauderdale, Add. MS 23127, fol. 74, Add. MS 351125, fol. 163
  • Bristol RO, letters to Sir Hugh Smyth


  • P. Lely, oils, 1663–1667, priv. coll.
  • E. Scriven, stipple, pubd 1810, NPG

Wealth at Death

estates in Donegal, Gravesend, Westcliffe, Watton in Yorkshire, Kirkby Moreside and Nunnington, Yorkshire; Ravensworth, Yorkshire; Brayles in Warwickshire; Witham in Essex; also tenements in the Duke's Yard, St Martin's in the Fields, London: BL Add. MS 21951, fols. 25–6 [inventories of Cobham and Whitehall properties], fol. 28 (other goods), fols. 29–31 [undated inventory], fol. 37 [estate records and deaths]. J. Greenstreet, ‘Will of Frances, countess of Kildare … Frances Stuart … and Charles Stuart, last duke of Richmond and Lenox’, Genealogical tracts (1877)

S. Pepys, ed. R. Latham & W. Matthews, 11 vols. (1970–83); repr. (1995); repr. (2000)
G. E. C. [G. E. Cokayne], , 8 vols. (1887–98); new edn, ed. V. Gibbs & others, 14 vols. in 15 (1910–98); microprint repr. (1982) and (1987)
National Archives of the United Kingdom, Public Record Office, London
Historical Manuscripts Commission
G. Burnett, ed. M. J. Routh, 2nd edn, 6 vols. (1833)
J. Evelyn, ed. E. S. De Beer, 6 vols. (1955); repr. (2000)