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Charles Shaw-Lefevre

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Charles Shaw-Lefevre (1794-1888) Viscount Eversley

1842 Charles Shaw-Lefevre, Speaker of the House of Commons, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]


1889 Obituary [2]

THE Right Hon. CHARLES SHAW-LEFEVRE, VISCOUNT EVERSLEY, was born in London, on the 22nd of February, 1794. He was descended from one Pierre Lefevre, a French Huguenot who settled in England after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and whose descendants became the possessors of estates and dignities sufficient to secure their enrolment among the untitled aristocracy of England.

The larger part of Lord Eversley’s celebrity having been achieved in connection with a political career, abundantly recorded elsewhere, it is not necessary in these pages to do more than give an outline of a life remarkable alike for its success and for its long continuance. He was the eldest son of Mr. Charles Shaw, who subsequently took the additional surname of Lefevre, himself U considerable figure in the politics of a century ago, and whose imposing and somewhat pompous manner provoked the remark of Canning : “There are only two great men in the world-Shah Abbas and Shaw-Lefevre.” The younger Shaw-Lefevre, on leaving Cambridge, commenced life as a barrister of Lincoln’s Inn; but while pursuing his studies with all diligence and success, he proved himself so keen a sportsman that his serious mother, slow to discern the greater qualities of her firstborn son, sorrowfully observed: “As for Charles, he is only fit to be a gamekeeper.” But whatever her estimate of his intellect, she had reason to be proud of his person, for he grew to be one of the tallest and handsomest men of his generation. On the death of his father in 1823, he settled in Hampshire on the family estate, and soon acquired an important position in the county, as an able magistrate, an influential member of the Court of Quarter Sessions, and a zealous officer of Yeomanry.

In 1830 he entered the unreformed Parliament as Member for Downton, in Wiltshire, which, though one of the oldest boroughs in the United Kingdom, was, two years later, disfranchised by the passing of the Great Reform Bill. He was subsequently elected one of the representatives of North Hants, and retained his seat until he was made a Viscount in 1857. In less than ten years from his first entry into the House of Commons he was elected Speaker, and, when after eighteen years of service he retired with the usual title and pension, he left behind him the reputation of having been the best Speaker that ever ruled debate.

On resigning his dignified office, he was raised to the peerage as Viscount Eversley of Heckfield, in the county of Southampton, and there, on the 28th of December, 1888, he died at the patriarchal age of ninety-four. The thirty-two years of his life after retiring from the Speakership were mostly devoted to the avocations of a country gentleman; for though he was pretty constant in his attendance at the House of Lords, he took no great part in its affairs, the Upper Chamber being too cold and listless for one who had spent his best days in the exciting atmosphere of the popular assembly. In his own county Lord Eversley was an active and zealous public man, serving at different times as Chairman of Quarter Sessions, High Steward of Winchester, Hon. Lieut-Col. of the Hants Yeomanry, and Aide-de-Camp to the Queen ; Governor and Captain-General of the Isle of Wight, and Church-Estate Commissioner, which post he resigned on his acceptance of that of Ecclesiastical Commissioner. He was also a Trustee of the British Museum, and in 1885 was made a G.C.B. As a relief to his public duties he devoted himself to practical farming and gardening, and it was in connection with the former pursuit that he was, on the 20th of June 1842, elected an Honorary Member of this Institution; his qualification setting forth the “encouragement he has given to the application of mechanics to Agriculture, and his general attachment to Scientific pursuits.” Lord Eversley, alike by the gifts of fortune and by their limitations, was the type of what a modern English gentleman should be ; and, in the opinion of those who knew him best, he fulfilled that ideal in every relation of life.


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