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FitzRoy [formerly Palmer], Charles, second duke of Cleveland and first duke of Southamptonlocked

  • J. M. Rigg
  • , revised by Matthew Kilburn

FitzRoy [formerly Palmer], Charles, second duke of Cleveland and first duke of Southampton (1662–1730), landowner, the first son of Charles II and Barbara Palmer, countess of Castlemaine (bap. 1640, d. 1709), was baptized on 18 June 1662 at St Margaret's, Westminster. Officially his father was Roger Palmer, earl of Castlemaine, his mother's husband; the entry in the baptismal register was 'Charles Palmer, Ld Limbricke, son to the Rt Hon Roger, Earl of Castle-Maine, by Barbara' (GEC, Peerage, 3.282), and he bore the courtesy title of Lord Limerick until 1670, when his mother was created countess of Southampton and duchess of Cleveland. As heir to the titles, Charles (who, with his brothers Henry and George, began to be called FitzRoy at about this time) was styled earl of Southampton.

The duchess of Cleveland intended that her sons should be established with means independent of future royal favour, appropriate to their quasi-royal status, and much of Southampton's early life was dominated by the need to engineer his future security while his mother retained the protection of Charles II. In 1671 a marriage was arranged between the boy and Mary Wood, the seven-year-old daughter of Sir Henry Wood, clerk of the green cloth, and heir to £4000 per annum. Following Wood's death on 25 May 1671, Mary was abducted on the duchess's orders and married to the nine-year-old Southampton. The ceremony was repeated when the couple were of full age in 1677.

Southampton was installed KG on 1 April 1673 and was created baron of Newbury, earl of Chichester, and duke of Southampton on 10 September 1675. He matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, in December 1675, but it was becoming clear that he was not intellectually equipped for a leading role in society: Humphrey Prideaux, dean of Christ Church, wrote that he would 'ever be very simple, and scarce, I believe, ever attain to the reputation of not being thought a fool' (GEC, Peerage, 3.283).

Following the death of his wife from smallpox on 15 November 1680, Southampton's inheritance of her estate was challenged by the Wood family. After a lengthy process of litigation the House of Lords decided in favour of Southampton in 1692. Southampton was politically inactive, but this did not stop the plot manufacturer William Fuller from naming him, alongside his brother George, duke of Northumberland, as a participant in a Jacobite conspiracy in 1691. Fuller's plot was exposed as a fabrication early in 1692.

In 1694 Southampton married Anne (1663–1746), the daughter of Sir William Pulteney of Misterton, Leicestershire; the couple had three sons and three daughters. In 1697 he was awarded a pension of £1000 per annum on the proceeds of the lotteries. Although he took little or no part in Lords debates, he joined the protest against the abandonment of the amendments to the Irish Forfeitures and Land Tax Bill in 1700. He was also the patron of a company of actors.

Southampton succeeded his mother as second duke of Cleveland in 1709, when he also inherited her estate at Nonsuch in Surrey. He voted for the guilt of Dr Henry Sacheverell in 1710; allegedly his wife had arranged that his brother the duke of Northumberland should escort him to the House of Lords to ensure that he voted against, but his half-brother the duke of Richmond smuggled him out of his house and easily persuaded Cleveland to vote for Sacheverell's guilt. He died at his home in St James's Square, Westminster, on 9 September 1730, and was buried in Westminster Abbey on 3 November. Within two years of his death his estates were believed to be worth 'more than 100,000l a year' (Egmont Diary, 26 Jan 1732, 1.217). His widow married the landscape gardener Philip Southcote on 3 February 1732 and died on 20 February 1746. He was succeeded by his only surviving son, William (1698–1774), on whose death the titles became extinct. His daughter Grace (1697–1763) married Henry Vane, first earl of Darlington, and was the mother of the botanist Lady Anne Monson and the grandmother of William Harry Vane, created duke of Cleveland in 1833.


  • A. Andrews, The royal whore (1971)
  • E. Hamilton, The illustrious lady (1980)
  • Seventh report, HMC, 6 (1879), 210b [Earl of Denbigh [pt 3]]
  • Seventh report, HMC, 6 (1879), 50b [Sir Harry Verney]
  • Manuscripts of the earl of Egmont: diary of Viscount Percival, afterwards first earl of Egmont, 3 vols., HMC, 63 (1920–23), vol. 1, p. 217
  • will, TNA: PRO, PROB 11/640, sig. 300
  • G. Holmes, The trial of Doctor Sacheverell (1973)


  • W. Faithorne the elder, miniature, gouache, Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire, National Trust
  • M. Dahl, portrait (in Garter robes), Raby Castle, co. Durham

Wealth at Death

see will, TNA: PRO, PROB 11/640, sig. 300

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