The son of John Hanbury, a Welsh ironmaster, he assumed the name of Williams in 1720, under the terms of a bequest from his godfather, Charles Williams of Caerleon.
On 1 July 1732 at Saint James, Westminster, London, he married Lady Frances Coningsby (15 January 1707/1708 – buried at Westminster Abbey, 31 December 1781), daughter of Thomas Coningsby, 1st Earl Coningsby and Lady Frances Jones. They had two daughters: Frances married William Capel, 4th Earl of Essex and Charlotte Robert Boyle Walsingham, youngest son of the Earl of Shannon.
He entered Parliament in 1734 for the Monmouthshire constituency as a supporter of Robert Walpole, and held the seat until 1747. He then won the seat of Leominster in 1754 and held it until his death.
In 1739 Williams gave support for the establishment of the Foundling Hospital and served as one of its founding governors.
From 1747 till 1750, he was the British ambassador in Dresden. In 1748 he was in Poland and witnessed a Polish Sejm, where he met members of the influential Czartoryski family (August Aleksander Czartoryski). When the future King of Poland, Stanisław Poniatowski, was receiving medical treatment in Berlin, he met Sir Charles, who was sent there as ambassador (1750–1751). The Englishman became part of Polish and Russian history by introducing Stanisław to the Russian Grand Duchess Catherine Alexeyevna (Saint Petersburg 1755, the future Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia). From that moment began the famous romance between Catherine and Poniatowski.
Williams's father bought the Coldbrook Park estate near Abergavenny for him from his godfather's bequest. There in 1746 he added a nine-bay, two-storey Georgian façade in 1746. He died insane in 1759 and the Coldbrook estate passed to his brother George.
Seven Years' War
Williams played a major role as a British envoy at the court in Russia during the Seven Years' War. Although Russia was at war with Britain's ally Prussia, the two countries remained at peace.
Sir Charles is recorded as a brilliant wit with a great reputation for lively and biting satire.
Williams was the inspiration for the character Charles Edaston in the 1913 George Bernard Shaw play Great Catherine, which recounts the story of a British envoy to Catherine's court. It was made into a film starring Peter O'Toole in 1968. Williams also left poems which were said to be "witty but licentious". Williams also left behind reviews of several pornographic films. He rated at least fifty-one films from zero to sixty-nine, along with a brief synopsis of each film.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons – via Wikisource.
- Horn, David B., Sir Charles Hanbury Williams and European diplomacy, 1747–58, London et al. 1930: Harrap.
|Parliament of Great Britain|
| Member of Parliament for Monmouthshire
With: Thomas Morgan
Sir Robert de Cornwall
| Member of Parliament for Leominster
With: Richard Gorges
Hon. Thomas Villiers
| British Ambassador to Poland
| British Ambassador to Saxony|
| British Ambassador to Prussia
Next known title holder:Andrew Mitchell
The Earl of Hyndford
| British Ambassador to Russia
Robert Murray Keith the Elder
The Duke of Chandos
| Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire
The Viscount Bateman