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Colonel Francis Charteris

Colonel Francis Charteris (baptised April 4, 1675 – February 24, 1732), nicknamed "The Rape-Master General", was a Scottish aristocrat who had earned a substantial amount of money through gambling and the South Sea Bubble. He was convicted for raping a servant in 1730. He was subsequently pardoned, but died of natural causes shortly afterwards.

Charteris was born into a well-connected family and baptised in Edinburgh. However, even before his conviction for rape, he was notorious and despised by many in London as an archetypal rake. He had a serial military career, but was dismissed from service four times; the third by the Duke of Marlborough in Belgium for cheating at cards, and the fourth by Parliament for accepting bribes. Despite his military dismissal, he amassed a considerable fortune.

Charteris married Helen Swinton, the daughter of Alexander Swinton Lord Mersington; their daughter Janet, married James Wemyss, 5th Earl of Wemyss in 1720 (indeed, his grandson, Francis Wemyss Charteris, 7th Earl of Wemyss, adopted his mother's maiden name in 1732 when he inherited his grandfather's estates).

Charteris was the inspiration for the characters in William Hogarths paintings, A Rake's Progress and A Harlot's Progress (where he is represented as the fat lecher in the first plate), and in Fanny Hill. He was condemned by Alexander Pope in his Moral Essay III, written in 1733. Parallels were drawn between Charteris' sexual excesses, and the greed of politicians such as Robert Walpole. Some sources say that he was a founding member of the Hellfire Club, although the famous club founded by Sir Francis Dashwood did not start to meet until 1743. He may have been a member of the original "Hell-Fire Club" founded by Philip Wharton, 1st Duke of Wharton in 1720. Leslie Charteris, creator of Simon Templar, The Saint, was a later admirer, and legally changed his name from Leslie Charles Bowyer-Yin.


Rape of Anne Bond

William Hogarth's A Harlot's Progress, plate 1, where the newly arrived Moll is enticed by a procuress, Elizabeth Needham. The two men leering from the doorway are Francis Charteris (left), shown manipulating himself, and his servant "Handy Jack" (right).

Charteris' reputation preceded his trial for raping his servant, Anne Bond. In fact, when Anne Bond was hired, on 24 October 1729, she was informed that her employer was "Colonel Harvey" for fear that his reputation would put off his prospective new employee. Charteris had a number of contacts who engaged in this pursuit, regularly hiring women to work as servants who would then be trapped and then "urged" to have sex with him. When Bond began to work, she was immediately besieged by "Harvey's" advances, along with offers of money, but she refused. On her third day of employment, Anne realised that Harvey was in fact Colonel Francis Charteris, and requested to leave. This request was refused and staff were positioned so as not to allow her to escape.

The next morning, 10 November, Charteris attacked and raped Bond. There were no witnesses, Charteris' servants in the next room later testified that they heard nothing. Bond then told Charteris that she was going to the authorities over the crime, so he ordered servants to whip her and take her belongings and throw her out of doors, telling them that she had stolen money from him. With assistance from Mary Parsons, perhaps a former employer, Bond brought a complaint for the misdemeanour of "assault with intent to commit rape." The Middlesex grand jury originally found grounds to proceed with this charge, but later upgraded the charge to the capital felony of rape.

Charteris was tried for rape at the Old Bailey on 27 February 1730. The trial was a media sensation. The defence attacked the virtue and motives of the complainant, accusing her of compliance, prostitution, theft, and extortion. However, many of his witnesses and documents were shown to be false, and the jury quickly found him guilty. He was sentenced to death on 2 March, and held in Newgate Prison.

After a substantial campaign to clear Charteris' name, joined, remarkably, by Anne Bond (who was possibly prompted by the promise of an annuity), King George II granted him a pardon on 10 April 1730. As a convicted felon, his property should have been forfeit under the doctrine of attainder, but he petitioned the King for its return. In composition for his offence, he paid substantial sums to the sheriffs of London and Middlesex. He was also suspected of having given substantial gifts to various important individuals. Jonathan Swift commented on Charteris in several poems. In Lines on the Death of Dr. Swift (1731), he explains "Chartres" as, "a most infamous, vile scoundrel, grown from a foot-boy, or worse, to a prodigious fortune both in England and Scotland: he had a way of insinuating himself into all Ministers under every change, either as pimp, flatterer, or informer. He was tried at seventy for a rape, and came off by sacrificing a great part of his fortune" (note to l. 189).

He died from natural causes in Edinburgh in 1732, possibly from a condition caused by his stay in Newgate Prison. He was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard; his coffin was attacked on its way to the graveyard, and it is said that dead cats were thrown into his grave. Upon his death, John Arbuthnot published Epitaph on Don Francisco in The London Magazine (April 1732). In it, he wrote that Charteris was a man,

"...who, having done, every Day of his Life,
Something worthy of a Gibbet,
Was once condemned to one
For what he had not done."

Further reading

  • Hunt, William R. A Dictionary of Rogues. New York: Philosophical Library, 1970.
  • Mitchell, Edwin Valentine (ed.) The Newgate Calendar. Garden City, New York: Garden City, 1926.
  • Chancellor, E. Beresford, Col. Charteris and the Duke of Wharton, Vol. 3 of The Lives of the Rakes, London: Philip Allan & Co., 1925


External links



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