He was born at Buckhurst in Berkshire, the only surviving son of a minister, and graduated from Christ Church College, Oxford, in 1851, and 21 November of that year was called to the bar at the Inner Temple. He married Alice Eden, daughter of a bishop, in 1857, and finally entered Parliament as a Conservative, at the end of the year, having made several unsuccessful attempts previously.
Although he was considered competent at finance, his turn at the Admiralty was not much admired. A very heavy-set person, he is said to have been responsible for the semicircle that is cut out from the end of the table in the Admiralty Board Room.
His residence was Wadenhoe House in Northamptonshire.