Christopher Sykes (politician)

Christopher Sykes (1831 – 15 December 1898) was an English Conservative politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1865 to 1892.[2] He enjoyed the "intimate friendship" of Edward VII when Prince of Wales and Alexandra of Denmark when Princess of Wales.[2]

Sykes was the second son of Sir Tatton Sykes, 4th Baronet, and his wife Mary Ann Foulis, daughter of Sir William Foulis, 7th Baronet.[2][3] His father was a popular horse breeder who bred bloodstock; however, he was an authoritarian father who bullied his children.[4] Sykes was educated at Rugby School and Trinity College, Cambridge.[2][5] He began mixing with London's great and good and became a connoisseur of books, china and furniture. He was a Deputy Lieutenant and J.P. for the East Riding of Yorkshire.[2][3]

At the 1865 general election Sykes was elected Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Beverley.[2] At the 1868 general election he was elected MP for the East Riding of Yorkshire, which he held until 1885, when it was divided under the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885.[2] He was then elected for Buckrose, one of the constituencies into which his previous constituency had been divided, which he held until 1892, when he retired. [2] Between 1868 and 1892, he made only six speeches, and did little except introduce the bill which became the Sea Birds Preservation Act 1869.[2] This led to him being caricatured in Vanity Fair as "The Gull's friend".[6] He was "widely recognised" as "Mr Brancepath" in Lothair the novel by Benjamin Disraeli.[2] He was honoured with the Order of St Lazarus of Belgium in 1879.[5]

Sykes became a close friend of Edward VII as Prince of Wales, who - because of his great height - called him the "great Xtopher", (pronounced "Christopher").[7] Sykes entertained the prince and princess in great splendour at Brantingham Thorpe, his country house in Yorkshire, the Doncaster Races, and his London home in Berkeley Square.[8] The Prince exploited his friend and subjected him to humiliations, for example, on one occasion, pouring a glass of brandy over his head.[9]

However, Sykes's lavish entertainment of the Marlborough House Set - and the Prince of Wales - "dissipated much of his fortune".[8] Nearly bankrupted in 1890, Sykes was forced to sell both Brantingham Thorpe and his London home. Despite this, the Prince of Wales never forgot his devoted friend, and after Sykes' death in 1898, he installed a tablet to his memory at Westminster Abbey.

References and sources

  1. "Personal". Illustrated London News. 24 December 1898. p. 945.
  2. The Times (1898), p. 8.
  3. Debretts House of Commons and the Judicial Bench 1886
  4. Dictionary of National Biography
  5. "Sykes, Christopher (SKS848C)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  6. Pellegrini, Carlo (14 November 1874). "The Gull's friend". Vanity Fair (UK magazine). Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  7. Ridley (2012), pp. 117, 280 & 333.
  8. Ridley (2012), p. 280.
  9. Ridley (2012), p. 117.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Henry Edwards and
James Walker
Member of Parliament for Beverley
With: Harry Edwards
Succeeded by
Sir Henry Edwards and
Edmund Hegan Kennard
Preceded by
Lord Hotham and
Arthur Duncombe
Member of Parliament for East Riding of Yorkshire
With: William Harrison-Broadley
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Buckrose
Succeeded by
William Alexander McArthur
Preceded by
William Alexander McArthur
Member of Parliament for Buckrose
Succeeded by
Sir Angus Holden
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