When Craven Berkeley was unseated on petition in 1848, Berkeley Castle suddenly needed a new candidate to keep the seat warm. Step forward cousin Grenville Charles Lennox Berkeley, son of the late Admiral Sir George Cranfield Berkeley, a distinguished veteran of the Napoleonic war who had represented Cheltenham as one of the MPs for Gloucestershire before the Reform Act. Grenville narrowly won the by-election, confusing posterity by signing himself into the House of Commons with his forenames rearranged as Charles Lennox Grenville Berkeley. He then graciously stood aside for the returning Craven at the following General Election in 1852, despite having been appointed a ‘whip’ in the meantime.
He secured another seat as MP for Evesham at the same election and was appointed to a junior ministerial post as parliamentary secretary to the Poor Law Board in 1853. But when Craven died in Germany in 1855, Grenville yet again responded to the family’s call and resigned his Evesham seat to stand in Cheltenham. Whether in sympathy for the family, through his own talents or simply by outspending his bank manager opponent, he secured a whopping 81% of the vote at a second by-election.
Having caused a third by-election in Evesham by resigning there, he sat for Cheltenham for less than a year before forcing a fourth by-election in 1856 by accepting the post of Commissioner of Customs, a crown office that disqualified him as an MP.
Grenville, or Charles, had one of the oddest parliamentary careers of any Cheltenham MP but he did, however, achieve one singular distinction: having retained the junior ministerial post he obtained as MP for Evesham until his final resignation in 1856, he was – according to my research at least – the first sitting Cheltenham MP to hold a ministerial post of any kind and the only one until Alex Chalk’s appointment as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice in February 2020.
John Burke Esq, A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire, Sixth Edition, Henry Colburn, 1839, Grenville’s lineage and birth name p88.
W.R. Williams, The Parliamentary History of the County of Gloucester, privately printed, 1898.
Michael Stenton & Stephen Lees, Who’s Who of British Members of Parliament: A Biographical Dictionary of the House of Commons Based on Annual Volumes of Dod’s Parliamentary Companion and Other Sources, Volume 1. 1832-1885, Harvester Press, 1976.