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24 September 2014

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The Intrepid Fox

Charles James Fox was a well-know historical figure to Londoners until just 50 years ago. But with the restoration of his statue in Bloomsbury and the closure of a pub which once bore his name supporters hope he'll be seen as a major figure again.

Charles James Fox

Charles James Fox (January 24, 1749 - September 13, 1806) was Britain's first foreign secretary, a champion of liberty and a perpetual thorn in the side of George III.

Fox was also a prominent Whig politician who, despite being acclaimed for his debating skills and unrivalled gift for overcoming political foes with charm, only held office for less then a year because of his feud with the monarch.

He was instrumental in steering through Parliament the resolution pledging to abolish the Slave Trade speedily and the 1792 Libel Act.

Fox hated anything that encouraged oppression and was against the exploitation of  the subjects of the British Empire.


He thought the power of the Crown was the source of the country's ills but also despised public opinion if he thought it prejudiced or intolerant.

He was born in 1749 to Henry Fox, later the 1st Baron Holland, and Lady Caroline Lennox who herself was descended to Charles II of England and Henry IV of France.

Fox was encouraged by his father to live extravagantly from a young age and by the time he reached 35 he'd built up gambling debts to the tune of £140,000 which his father promptly paid off before dying.

Twenty years later he abandoned racing and gambling forever after his political friends freed him from further debt and provided him with a comfortable income.


Fox first entered Parliament in 1778. He believed the Colonial Policy of the then Prime Minister, Lord North, was oppressive and opposed it vociferously.

After the British capitulation at Yorktown in 1781 brought about the end of North's government Fox was made Britain's first foreign secretary.

When Lord Rockingham, who was the leader of the Whigs and Prime Minister died suddenly in 1782, Fox and his friends opposed the King's right to choose a successor.

He was also an intimate friend of the Prince of Wales (later George IV) who was detested by the monarch, and supported his claim of right to the Regency over Parliament's right when the King was temporarily insane.


Fox welcomed the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 and opposed Britain's war against the revolutionaries until 1806 when it became clear that Napoleon was a threat to both this country and the whole of Europe.

In 1795 he secretly married Elizabeth Armitstead, who he had been living with for some time.

He made his last speech to Parliament on June 19, 1806, and following his death on September 13 of the same year he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

His views are said to have inspired the 1832 Reform Act which introduced wide-ranging changes to the electoral system in United Kingdom.

Foxborough in Massachusetts, USA, was named after him in gratitude of the support he gave the colonies.

last updated: 13/09/06
Have Your Say
Until 50 years ago Charles James Fox was a well-known historical figure. Were you taught about Charles James Fox? What does his legacy mean to you?
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Cynthia Nowak
I'm a Yank who's admired Fox since an old BBC costume piece on George IV sparked my interest. Wonderful man - both ahead of his time and very much of it - who possessed all the best traits of the enlightened aristo and what a contemporary called "a genius for friendship." Perhaps the movie THE DUCHESS will revive Fox's fortunes in the public's interest, though I hae m'doots.

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