John Barnes, Historian

Charles Stuart-Wortley, 1st Baron Stuart of Wortley (1851 – 1926)

When Stuart-Wortley was elected MP for Sheffield in 1880 he was the first Conservative to have held the seat since its creation as a two Member constituency in 1832. When Sheffield was split under the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885. Stuart-Wortley became the Member for Sheffield Hallam. He twice served as Under Secretary of State for the Home Department in the Salisbury administrations of 1885-86 and 1886-92.

Charles Beilby Stuart-Wortley was born at Escrick Park, York on 15 September 1851. He was descended from the 3rd Earl of Bute, who had been George III’s Prime Minister. Bute’s second son, Colonel James Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie, was his great grandfather. His grandfather, James Stuart-Wortley, 1st Baron Wharncliffe, who had dropped the Mackenzie from his surname, had served as Lord President of the Council in Peel’s second administration. Charles’s father, the Right Hon. James Stuart-Wortley QC (1805-81), himself a Conservative MP, was the third and youngest son of Lord Wharncliffe and he had married the Hon. Jane Lawley (d.1900), daughter of 1st Baron Wenlock, on 6 May 1846. Charles was their second son.

Charles was educated at Rugby and at Balliol College, Oxford (BA 1875, MA 1878) and was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in 1876. He practised on the Northern Circuit from 1876 until 1885. He was secretary to the Royal Commission on the Sale of Benefices 1879-80. After contesting Sheffield unsuccessfully in 1879, he was elected as one of the two MPs for Sheffield in 1880. When the constituency was divided after the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885, he was elected for the new Sheffield Hallam constituency and he held it until he stood down from the Commons on 16 December 1916.

In June 1884 he voted in the minority to give the franchise to women householders.

He was briefly Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Home Department June 1885 to January 1886, serving under Cross, and served a further six years in that office in Salisbury’s second administration with Henry Matthews as his chief. He took Silk in 1892. In 1895 he was added to the Chairman’s panel for Standing Committees and the Speaker nominated him as deputy Chairman for Committees of the Whole House. In the same year Archbishop Benson appointed him to the office of Ecclesiastical Commissioner and Church Estates Commissioner. On 8 February 1896 he was made a member of the Privy Council.

Stuart-Wortley was the Government’s principal delegate at the International Conference on the Protection of Industrial Property and the Repression of False Trade Descriptions held in Madrid in 1890 and again at Brussels in December 1897 and December 1900,

He had married Beatrice Trollope, daughter to Thomas Adolphus Trollope and niece to the novelist, Anthony Trollope, on 16 August 1880, but she died on 26 July 1881 as result of giving birth to a daughter, Beatrice Susan Theodosia (1881-1973) on 15 July 1881.

Four and a half years later, on 6 January 1886, Stuart-Wortley married Alice Sophia Caroline (1882-1936), daughter of Sir John Millais. They shared a common love of music and are said to have played Piano Concertos by Grieg and Schumann on two Grand Pianos in their home. They had one daughter, Clare Euphemia (1889-1945). The Stuart-Wortleys were part of a circle of friends that included Frank Schuster, the art critic Claude Phillips, Lady Charles Beresford and the Elgars. His wife, Carrie, was one of Elgar’s principal muses and they conducted a correspondence which suggests that, in the guise of ‘Windflower', she was the inspiration for the Violin Concerto, the 2nd Symphony, the incomplete piano concerto and a number of other works. But she was a friend also of Alice Elgar and the two men were good friends; the couples dined together and talked politics as well as music.

Stuart-Wortley resigned from the Commons on 16 December 1916 and was raised to the peerage on 1 January 1917 as the 1st Baron Stuart of Wortley.

In addition to the Carlton, he was a member of the Travellers, the Beef Steak, the St Stephens and the Cosmopolitan clubs. He was a director of Underground Electric Railways Company Ltd.

He died on 24 April 1926. The title became extinct.