Background and early life
Charles Mills was born at Popes, Hatfield, on 23 January 1792, the third son of William Mills and his wife Elizabeth Digby. His father was Member of Parliament for Coventry from 1805 to 1812, and was also a director of the East India Company. His mother was the third daughter of the Honourable Wriothesley Digby.
He was educated at Harrow School and Christ Church College, Oxford.
In 1813 Charles Mills joined his uncle and godfather (also named Charles Mills) as a partner in the banking firm of Glyn, Mills, Hallifax, Glyn, Mills & Glyn. The Mills family connection with this bank had begun in 1793, when the elder Charles’ uncle William Mills had bought into the partnership.
The bank expanded throughout Mills’ years as a partner, and he eventually became senior partner, although the dominant figure in the bank was his counterpart from the Glyn family, George Carr Glyn, first Baron Wolverton.
In 1864 he led negotiations with Bertram Wodehouse Currie for an amalgamation with Curries & Co. Following the merger, it was agreed that ownership and partnership rights would remain in the respective families, in the proportions two-fifths Glyn, two-fifths Mills and one-fifth Currie.
In 1865 a disagreement arose between the partners over whether the bank should consider some form of conversion to joint-stock status. Mills was fiercely opposed, wishing the bank to remain a private partnership. The following year the Mills family reached an agreement to sell their share of the bank to a consortium of Scottish banks made up of Union Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale Bank, Bank of Scotland and British Linen Bank. The sale was, however, cancelled amid the turmoil caused by the Overend, Gurney crisis in May that year.
Charles’ brother Edward Wheler Mills was also a partner in the bank from 1835 until 1864. As he grew older, Charles himself increasingly withdrew from active interest in the bank, although he remained a partner until his death in 1872.
Other roles and interests
Charles Mills became a director of the East India Company in 1822. After the Government of India Act of 1858 liquidated the company and transferred responsibility for British India to the Crown, he was elected a member of the Council of India. While serving on the Council he acted as the financial adviser to Queen Victoria’s Secretary of State for India.
He also served as Deputy Lieutenant and a Justice of the Peace for the County of Middlesex.
He was created a Baronet by Queen Victoria on 17 November 1868.
Mills was a member of White's Club from 1817. When Benjamin Disraeli depicted the club and its members in his novel Coningsby (1844), the figure of Canterton, who 'used to be the fellow for history at White's...always boring one with William the Conqueror, Julius Caesar, and all that sort of thing', was said to be a reference to Charles Mills.
Mills was an avid collector of works of art and French furniture. In particular, his fine collection of Louis XV and Louis XVI porcelain-mounted furniture was said to be the largest ever assembled.
On 14 February 1825 Charles Mills married Emily Cox, a daughter of Richard Henry Cox, one of the partners in Cox's Bank. Charles and Emily had one son and five daughters:
- Charles Henry (later 1st Baron Hillingdon), born 1830
- Emily Elizabeth
- Eleanor Jane
Between 1854 and 1858 Charles Mills built a new family residence at Hillingdon, Middlesex. The house was named Hillingdon Court.
In his later years Charles Mills divided his time between Hillingdon Court and Camelford House in Park Lane, London.
Charles Mills died on 4 October 1872.