Fitzroy, Charles (1683–1757), 2nd duke of Grafton , lord lieutenant of Ireland, was born 25 October 1683 at Arlington House, Middlesex, the only son of Henry Fitzroy and his wife, Isabella Fitzroy (née Bennet) (d. 1723), daughter of the earl of Arlington. His father, one of Charles II's natural sons, was created duke of Grafton in 1675 when aged twelve years. A courtier and soldier, the 1st duke was prominent in the cause of William, prince of Orange (qv), and died 9 October 1690 of wounds received on 28 September at the siege of Cork. Grafton's Alley in that city is named after the 1st duke, as is Grafton Street in Dublin, where he owned property. His widow (from 1685 countess of Arlington in her own right) was married a second time in 1698 to Sir Thomas Hanmer (d. 1746), speaker of the English house of commons (1714–15) and a leader of the Hanoverian tories.
Charles Fitzroy was styled earl of Euston until his father's death in 1690, when he succeeded as 2nd duke of Grafton, taking his seat in the house of lords in 1704. He entered the army in 1703 and served in Flanders. He was appointed to the English privy council in August 1715, and the following month was made, jointly with the earl of Galway (qv), one of the lords justices of Ireland. Their authority was quickly undermined by the unpopular appointment, despite their protests to London, of the Englishman John Evans (d. 1724) as bishop of Meath. Grafton, though relatively young and inexperienced and very much the junior partner to Galway, lobbied in 1716 to be appointed lord lieutenant of Ireland. He was unsuccessful at this time and he and Galway were replaced in February 1717, but he was subsequently made lord lieutenant in June 1720.
He undertook the rehabilitation of the Irish tories, who had been excluded from power since the accession of George I in 1714, appointing to office figures such as Sir Richard Levinge (qv). However, some members of the ‘English interest’ among the Church of Ireland bishops, such as Timothy Godwin (d. 1729), were passed over and believed that they were unfairly ignored in Grafton's promotions. William Conolly (qv), who had forged links with Grafton in 1715, now came into the ascendant as the government's parliamentary manager or ‘undertaker’. Grafton supported the proposal of the earl of Abercorn (qv) and others in 1720 for a chartered Bank of Ireland but the project, opposed by Archbishop William King (qv) among others, was abandoned in 1721.
Grafton's viceroyalty was dominated above all by the ‘Wood's halfpence’ affair. He had early warning from Archbishop King and others that the coinage patent – granted by the king to his mistress, the duchess of Kendal, and sold by her to William Wood – might arouse opposition in Ireland. Grafton, however, was slow to grasp the scale of the ensuing political crisis, and inept in his handling of it. The dominant figures in Irish politics were Conolly, who enjoyed Grafton's favour, and his bitter rival, the lord chancellor, Viscount Midleton (qv), whose relations with Grafton were very strained. Both men, aware of the inflamed state of Irish public opinion and of the lord lieutenant's weakness, abandoned Grafton, whose inability to enforce his authority incurred the wrath of the head of the British government, Robert Walpole. Walpole, his patience eventually exhausted, replaced Grafton with Lord Carteret (qv) in 1724.
Grafton served eleven times between 1720 and 1755 as one of the lords justices of England. He enjoyed various local and household appointments in that kingdom, including the office of lord chamberlain, 1724–57. He married Henrietta (1690–1726), daughter of Charles Somerset, styled marquess of Worcester, and his wife, Rebecca Somerset, daughter of Sir Josiah Child, chairman of the East India Company. The couple had two sons, both of whom predeceased their father. He died 6 May 1757 at Euston, after a long confinement arising from injuries received in a hunting fall. He was succeeded as 3rd duke by his grandson, Augustus, who was a leading English minister in the reign of George III.