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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency (I include those who were born before 1811 and who died after 1795), today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Anthony Ashley-Cooper 7th Earl of Shaftesbury
28 April 1801 – 1 October 1885

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Anthony Ashley-Cooper

Anthony Ashley-Cooper 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, Lord Ashley, as he was styled until his father’s death in 1851, was educated at Manor House school in Chiswick (1812–1813), Harrow School (1813–1816) and Christ Church, Oxford, where he gained first class honours in classics in 1822, took his MA in 1832 and was appointed DCL in 1841.

Ashley’s early family life was loveless, a circumstance common among the British upper classes, and resembled in that respect the fictional childhood of Esther Summerson vividly narrated in the early chapters of Charles Dickens’s novel Bleak House. G.F.A Best in his biography Shaftesbury writes that: “Ashley grew up without any experience of parental love. He saw little of his parents, and when duty or necessity compelled them to take notice of him they were formal and frightening.”

This difficult childhood was softened by the affection he received from his housekeeper Maria Millis, and his sisters. Millis provided for Ashley a model of Christian love that would form the basis for much of his later social activism and philanthropic work, as Best explains: “What did touch him was the reality, and the homely practicality, of the love which her Christianity made her feel towards the unhappy child. She told him bible stories, she taught him a prayer.” Despite this powerful reprieve, school became another source of misery for the young Ashley, whose education at Manor House from 1808 to 1813 introduced a “more disgusting range of horrors”. Shaftesbury himself shuddered to recall those years, “The place was bad, wicked, filthy; and the treatment was starvation and cruelty.”

Ashley was elected as the Tory Member of Parliament for Woodstock (a pocket borough controlled by the Duke of Marlborough) in June 1826 and was a strong supporter of the Duke of Wellington. After George Canning replaced Lord Liverpool as Prime Minister, he offered Ashley a place in the new government, despite Ashley having been in the Commons for only five months. Ashley politely declined, writing in his diary that he believed that serving under Canning would be a betrayal of his allegiance to the Duke of Wellington and that he was not qualified for office. Before he had completed one year in the Commons, he had been appointed to three parliamentary committees and he received his fourth such appointment in June 1827, when he was appointed to the Select Committee On Pauper Lunatics in the County of Middlesex and on Lunatic Asylums.

In Lord Shaftesbury’s lifetime 1827, when Ashley was appointed to the Select Committee On Pauper Lunatics in the County of Middlesex and on Lunatic Asylums, the majority of lunatics in London were kept in madhouses owned by Dr Warburton. The Committee examined many witnesses concerning one of his madhouses in Bethnal Green, called the White House. Ashley visited this on the Committee’s behalf. The patients were chained up, slept naked on straw, and went to toilet in their beds. They were left chained from Saturday afternoon until Monday morning when they were cleared of the accumulated excrement. They were then washed down in freezing cold water and one towel was allotted to 160 people, with no soap. It was overcrowded and the meat provided was “that nasty thick hard muscle a dog could not eat”. The White House had been described as “a mere place for dying” rather than curing the insane and when the Committee asked Dr MacMichael whether he believed that “in the lunatic asylums in the neighbourhood of London any curative process is going on with regard to pauper patients”, he replied: “None at all”.

The Committee recommended that “legislative measures of a remedial character should be introduced at the earliest period at the next session”, and the establishment of a Board of Commissioners appointed by the Home Secretary possessing extensive powers of licensing, inspection and control. When in February 1828 Robert Gordon, Liberal MP for Cricklade, introduced a bill to put these recommendations into law, Ashley seconded this and delivered his maiden speech in support of the Bill. He wrote in his diary: “So, by God’s blessing, my first effort has been for the advance of human happiness. May I improve hourly! Fright almost deprived me of recollection but again thank Heaven, I did not sit down quite a presumptuous idiot”. Ashley was also involved in framing the County Lunatic Asylums (England) Act 1828 and the Madhouses Act 1828. Through these Acts fifteen commissioners were appointed for the London area and given extensive powers of licensing and inspection, one of the commissioners being Ashley.

In July 1845 Ashley sponsored two Lunacy Acts, ‘For the Regulation of lunatic Asylums’ and ‘For the better Care and Treatment of Lunatics in England and Wales’. They originated in the Report of the Commissioners in Lunacy which he had commended to Parliament the year before. These Acts consolidated and amended previous lunacy laws, providing better record keeping and more strict certification regulations to ensure patients against unwarranted detention. They also ordered, instead of merely permitting, the construction of country lunatic asylums with and establishing an ongoing Lunacy Commission with Ashley as its chairman. In support of these measures, Ashley gave a speech in which he claimed that although since 1828 there had been an improvement, more still needed to be done. He cited the case of a Welsh lunatic girl, Mary Jones, who had for more than a decade been locked in a tiny loft with one boarded-up window with little air and no light. The room was extremely filthy and was filled with an intolerable smell. She could only squat in a bent position in the room and this had caused her to become deformed.

In early 1858 a Select Committee was appointed over concerns that sane persons were detained in lunatic asylums. Lord Shaftesbury (as Ashley had become upon his father’s death in 1851) was the chief witness and opposed the suggestion that the certification of insanity be made more difficult and that early treatment of insanity was essential if there was to be any prospect of a cure. He claimed that only one or two people in his time dealing with lunacy had been detained in an asylum without sufficient grounds and that commissioners should be granted more not fewer powers. The Committee’s Report endorsed all of Shaftesbury’s recommendations except for one: that a magistrate’s signature on a certificate of lunacy be made compulsory. This was not put into law chiefly due to Shaftesbury’s opposition to it. The Report also agreed with Shaftesbury that unwarranted detentions were “extremely rare”.

In July 1877 Shaftesbury gave evidence before the Select Committee on the Lunacy Laws, which had been appointed in February over concerns that it was too easy for sane persons to be detained in asylums. Shaftesbury feared that because of his advanced age he would be taken over by forgetfulness whilst given evidence and was greatly stressed in the months leading up to his giving evidence: “Shall fifty years of toil, anxiety and prayer, crowned by marvellous and unlooked-for success, bring me in the end only sorrow and disgrace?” When “the hour of trial” arrived Shaftesbury defended the Lunacy Commission and claimed he was now the only person alive who could speak with personal knowledge of the state of care of lunatics before the Lunacy Commission was established in 1828. It had been “a state of things such as would pass all belief”. In the Committee’s Report, the members of the Committee agreed with Shaftesbury’s evidence on all points.

In 1884 the husband of Mrs Georgina Weldon tried to have her detained in a lunatic asylum because she believed that her pug dog had a soul and that the spirit of her dead mother had entered into her pet rabbit. She commenced legal action against Shaftesbury and other lunacy commissioners although they failed. In May Shaftesbury spoke in the Lords against a motion declaring the lunacy laws unsatisfactory but the motion passed Parliament. The Lord Chancellor Selborne supported a Lunacy Law Amendment Bill and Shaftesbury wanted to resign from the Lunacy Commission as he believed he was honour bound not to oppose a Bill supported by the Lord Chancellor. However Selborne implored him not to resign so Shaftesbury refrained. However, when the Bill was introduced and it contained the provision which made it compulsory for a certificate of lunacy to be signed by a magistrate or a judge, he resigned. The government fell, however, and the Bill was withdrawn and Shaftesbury resumed his chairmanship of the Lunacy Commission.

Shaftesbury’s work in improving the care of the insane remains one of his most important, though less well known, of his achievements. He wrote: “Beyond the circle of my own Commissioners and the lunatics that I visit, not a soul, in great or small life, not even my associates in my works of philanthropy, has any notion of the years of toil and care that, under God, I have bestowed on this melancholy and awful question”.

In March 1833 Ashley introduced the Ten Hours Act 1833 into the Commons, which provided that children working in the cotton and woollen industries must be aged nine or above; no person under the age of eighteen was to work more than ten hours a day or eight hours on a Saturday; and no one under twenty-five was to work nights. However the Whig government, by a majority of 145, amended this to substitute “thirteen” in place of “eighteen” and the Act as it passed ensured that no child under thirteen worked more than nine hours, insisted they should go to school, and appointed inspectors to enforce the law.

In June 1836 another Ten Hours act was introduced into the Commons and although Ashley considered this Bill ill-timed, he supported it. In July one member of the Lancashire committees set up to support the Bill wrote that: “If there was one man in England more devoted to the interests of the factory people than another, it was Lord Ashley. They might always rely on him as a ready, steadfast and willing friend”. In July 1837 he accused the government of ignoring the breaches of the 1833 Act and moved the resolution that the House regretted the regulation of the working hours of children had. been found to be unsatisfactory. It was lost by fifteen votes.

The text of A Narrative of the Experience and Sufferings of William Dodd a Factory Cripple was sent to Lord Astley and with his support was published in 1840. Astley employed William Dodd at 45 shillings a week and he wrote “The Factory System: Illustrated” to describe the conditions of working children in textile manufacture. This was published in 1842. These books were attacked by John Bright in parliament who said that he had evidence that the books described Dodd’s mistreatment but were in fact driven by Dodd’s ingratitude as a disgruntled employee. Ashley sacked Dodd who emigrated to America.

In 1842 Ashley wrote twice to the Prime Minister, Robert Peel, to urge the government to support a new Factory Act. Peel wrote in reply that he would not support one and Ashley wrote to the Short Time Committees of Chesire, Lancashire and Yorkshire who desired a Ten Hours Act:
Though painfully disappointed, I am not disheartened, nor am I at a loss either what course to take, or what advice to give. I shall persevere unto my last hour, and so must you; we must exhaust every legitimate means that the Constitution afford, in petitions to Parliament, in public meetings, and in friendly conferences with your employers; but you must infringe no law, and offend no proprieties; we must all work together as sensible men, who will one day give an account of their motives and actions; if this course is approved, no consideration shall detach me from your cause; if not, you must elect another advocate. I know that, in resolving on this step, I exclude myself altogether from the tenure of office; I rejoice in the sacrifice, happy to devote the remainder of my days, be they many or be they few, as God in His wisdom shall determine, to an effort, however laborious, to ameliorate your moral and social condition.

In March 1844 Ashley moved an amendment to a Factory Bill limiting the working hours of adolescents to ten hours after Sir James Graham had introduced a Bill aiming to limit their working hours to twelve hours. Ashley’s amendment was passed by eight votes, the first time the Commons had approved of the Ten Hour principle. However, in a later vote his amendment was defeated by seven votes and the Bill was withdrawn. Later that month Graham introduced another Bill which again would limit the employment of adolescents to twelve hours. Ashley supported this Bill except that he wanted ten hours not twelve as the limit. In May he moved an amendment to limit the hours worked to ten hours but this was lost by 138 votes.

In 1846, whilst he was out of Parliament, Ashley strongly supported John Fielden’s Ten Hours Bill, which was lost by ten votes. In January 1847 Fielden reintroduced his Bill and it finally passed through Parliament to become the Ten Hours Act.

Ashley introduced the Mines and Collieries Act 1842 in Parliament to outlaw the employment of women and children underground in coal mines. He made a speech in support of the Act and the Prince Consort wrote to him afterwards, sending him the “best wishes for your total success”. At the end of his speech, his opponent on the Ten Hours issue, Cobden, walked over to Ashley and said: “You know how opposed I have been to your views; but I don’t think I have ever been put into such a frame of mind in the whole course of my life as I have been by your speech”.

Ashley was a strong supporter of prohibiting the employment of boys as chimney sweeps. Many climbing boys were illegitimate who had been sold by their parents. They suffered from scorched and lacerated skin, their eyes and throats filled with soot, with the danger of suffocation and their occupational disease—cancer of the scrotum. In 1840 a Bill was introduced into the Commons outlawing the employment of boys as chimney sweeps, and strongly supported by Ashley. Despite being enforced in London, elsewhere the Act did not stop the employment of child chimney sweeps and this led to the foundation of the Climbing-Boys’ Society with Ashley as its chairman. In 1851, 1853 and 1855 Shaftesbury introduced Bills into Parliament to deal with the ongoing use of boy chimney sweeps but these were all defeated. He succeeded in passing the Chimney Sweepers Regulation Act 1864 but like its predecessors it remained ineffectual. Shaftesbury finally persuaded Parliament to pass the Chimney Sweepers Act 1875 which ensured the annual licensing of chimney sweeps and the enforcement of the law by the police. This finally eradicated the employment of boys as chimney sweeps.

After Shaftesbury discovered that a boy chimney sweep was living behind his house in Brock Street, London, he rescued the child and sent him to “the Union School at Norwood Hill, where, under God’s blessing and special merciful grace, he will be trained in the knowledge and love and faith of our common Saviour”.

In 1844 Ashley became president of the Ragged School Union that promoted ragged schools. These schools were for poor children and sprang up from volunteers. Ashley wrote that “If the Ragged School system were to fail I should not die in the course of nature, I should die of a broken heart”.

Shaftesbury was a leading figure within 19th-century evangelical Anglicanism. Shaftesbury was President of the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) from 1851 until his death in 1885. He wrote, of the Bible Society, “Of all Societies this is nearest to my heart… Bible Society has always been a watchword in our house.” He was also president of the Evangelical Alliance for some time.

Shaftesbury was also a student of Edward Bickersteth and together they became prominent advocates of Christian Zionism in Britain. Shaftesbury was an early proponent of the Restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land, providing the first proposal by a major politician to resettle Jews in Palestine. The conquest of Greater Syria in 1831 by Muhammad Ali of Egypt changed the conditions under which European power politics operated in the Near East. As a consequence of that shift, Shaftesbury was able to help persuade Foreign Minister Palmerston to send a British consul to Jerusalem in 1838. A committed Christian and a loyal Englishman, Shaftesbury argued for a Jewish return because of what he saw as the political and economic advantages to England and because he believed that it was God’s will. In January 1839, Shaftesbury published an article in the Quarterly Review, which although initially commenting on the 1838 Letters on Egypt, Edom and the Holy Land (1838) by Lord Lindsay, provided the first proposal by a major politician to resettle Jews in Palestine:

The soil and climate of Palestine are singularly adapted to the growth of produce required for the exigencies of Great Britain; the finest cotton may be obtained in almost unlimited abundance; silk and madder are the staple of the country, and olive oil is now, as it ever was, the very fatness of the land. Capital and skill are alone required: the presence of a British officer, and the increased security of property which his presence will confer, may invite them from these islands to the cultivation of Palestine; and the Jews’, who will betake themselves to agriculture in no other land, having found, in the English consul, a mediator between their people and the Pacha, will probably return in yet greater numbers, and become once more the husbandmen of Judaea and Galilee.

The lead-up to the Crimean War (1854), like the military expansionism of Muhammad Ali two decades earlier, signalled an opening for realignments in the Near East. In July 1853, Shaftesbury wrote to Prime Minister Aberdeen that Greater Syria was “a country without a nation” in need of “a nation without a country… Is there such a thing? To be sure there is, the ancient and rightful lords of the soil, the Jews!” In his diary that year he wrote “these vast and fertile regions will soon be without a ruler, without a known and acknowledged power to claim dominion. The territory must be assigned to some one or other… There is a country without a nation; and God now in his wisdom and mercy, directs us to a nation without a country.” This is commonly cited as an early use of the phrase, “A land without a people for a people without a land” by which Shaftesbury was echoing another British proponent of the restoration of the Jews to Israel, (Dr Alexander Keith.)

Shaftesbury served as the first president of the Society for the Suppression of the Opium Trade – a lobbying group opposed to the Anglo-Asian opium trade. The Society was formed by Quaker businessmen in 1874, and Shaftesbury was president from 1880 until his death. The Society’s efforts eventually led to the creation of the investigative Royal Commission on Opium.

The Shaftesbury Memorial in Piccadilly Circus, London, erected in 1893, was designed to commemorate his philanthropic works. The Memorial is crowned by Alfred Gilbert’s aluminium statue of Anteros as a nude, butterfly-winged archer. This is officially titled The Angel of Christian Charity, but has become popularly, if mistakenly, known as Eros. It appears on the masthead of the Evening Standard.

Lord Shaftesbury is honoured together with William Wilberforce on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church on 30 July. Lord Shaftesbury was a member of the Canterbury Association, as were two of Wilberforce’s sons, Samuel and Robert. Lord Ashley joined on 27 March 1848.

Lord Shaftesbury, then Lord Ashley, married Lady Emily Caroline Catherine Frances Cowper (died 15 October 1872), daughter of Peter Cowper, 5th Earl Cowper and Emily Lamb, Countess Cowper; Emily is likely in fact to have been the natural daughter of Lord Palmerston (later her official stepfather), on 10 June 1830. This marriage, which proved a happy and fruitful one, produced ten children, as cited in “The Seventh Earl” by Grace Irwin. It also provided invaluable political connections for Ashley; his wife’s maternal uncle was Lord Melbourne and her stepfather (and supposed biological father) Lord Palmerston, both Prime Ministers.

The children, who mostly suffered various degrees of ill-health, were:

  1. Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 8th Earl of Shaftesbury (27 June 1831 – 13 April 1886), ancestor of all subsequent earls. He proved to be a disappointing heir apparent, constantly running up debts with his extravagant wife Harriet, born Lady Harriet Chichester.
  2. Hon. (Anthony) Francis Henry Ashley-Cooper, second son (b. 13 March 1833 – 13 May 1849
  3. Hon. (Anthony) Maurice William Ashley-Cooper, third son (22 July 1835 – 19 August 1855), died aged 20, after several years of illness.
  4. Rt. Hon. Evelyn Melbourne Ashley (24 July 1836 – 15 November 1907), married 1stly 28 July 1866 Sybella Charlotte Farquhar (ca. 1846 – 31 August 1886), daughter of Sir Walter Rockcliffe Farquhar, 3rd Bt. by his wife Lady Mary Octavia Somerset, a daughter of the Duke of Beaufort and had one son Wilfred William Ashley, and one daughter. His granddaughter was Hon. Edwina Ashley, later Lady Mountbatten (1901–1960), whose two daughters Patricia, Countess Mountbatten of Burma (b. 1924) and Lady Pamela Hicks (b. 1929) are still living as of 2013. Evelyn Ashley left several other descendants via his daughter and Edwina’s younger sister. Evelyn Ashley married 2ndly 30 June 1891 Lady Alice Elizabeth Cole (4 February 1853 – 25 August 1931), daughter of William Willoughby Cole, 3rd Earl of Enniskillen by his 1st wife Jane Casamajor, no issue. The Rt Hon Evelyn Melbourne Ashley died 15 November 1907.
  5. Lady Victoria Elizabeth Ashley, later Lady Templemore (23 September 1837 – 15 February 1927), married 8 January 1873 (aged 35) St George’s, Hanover Square, London Harry Chichester, 2nd Baron Templemore (4 June 1821 – 10 June 1906), son of Arthur Chichester, 1st Baron Templemore and Lady Augusta Paget, and had issue.
  6. Hon (Anthony) Lionel George Ashley-Cooper (b. 7 September 1838 – 1914). He md 12 December 1868 Frances Elizabeth Leigh “Fanny (d. 12 August 1875), daughter of Capel Hanbury Leigh; apparently had no issue.
  7. Lady Mary Charlotte Ashley-Cooper, second daughter (25 July 1842 – 3 September 1861.
  8. Lady Constance Emily Ashley-Cooper, third daughter, or “Conty” (29 November 1845 – 16 December 1872 or 1871 of lung disease)
  9. Lady Edith Florence Ashley-Cooper, fourth daughter (1 February 1847 – 25 November 1913)
  10. Hon. (Anthony) Cecil Ashley-Cooper, sixth son and tenth and youngest child (8 August 1849 – 23 September 1932); apparently died unmarried.
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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Edward Strutt 1st Baron Belper
26 October 1801 – 30 June 1880

Edward Strutt 1st Baron Belper was born at St Helen’s House Derby, Strutt was the only son of William Strutt, of St Helen’s House, Derbyshire, and the grandson of Jedediah Strutt. His mother was Barbara, daughter of Thomas Evans. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was President of the Cambridge Union in 1821. Strutt graduated as a Bachelor of Arts in 1823, promoted to Master of Arts three years later.

Strutt entered the British House of Commons in 1830, sitting as Member of Parliament for Derby until 1848, when he was unseated on petition. He represented Arundel from 1851 to 1852 and Nottingham from 1852 to 1856.He was Chief Commissioner of Railways between 1846 and 1848 and served as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster from 1853 to 1854 in Lord Aberdeen’s coalition government. He was sworn of the Privy Council in 1846 and in 1856 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Belper, of Belper, in the County of Derby.

Strutt also held the honorary posts of High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire in 1850 and Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire between 1864 and 1880, having been previously a Deputy Lieutenant. In 1860 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and between 1871 and 1879, he was President of University College, London.

Lord Belper married Amelia Harriet Otter, daughter of the Right Reverend William Otter, Bishop of Chichester, on 28 March 1837. They had several children. They were the parents of Henry Strutt, 2nd Baron Belper.

Children from the marriage were:

  • Hon. Caroline Strutt (d. 23 Jul 1926) married Sir Kenelm Edward Digby, son of Rev. Hon. Kenelm Henry Digby and Caroline Sheppard, on 30 August 1870.
  • Hon. Ellen Strutt (d. 31 Dec 1940) married George Murray Smith the Younger on 22 October 1885.
  • Hon. Sophia Strutt (d. 2 Dec 1928) married Sir Henry Denis Le Marchant, 2nd Baronet., son of Sir Denis Le Marchant, 1st Baronet, on 7 September 1869.
  • William Strutt (7 May 1838 – 19 Jan 1856) died in Bonn, Germany.
  • Henry Strutt, 2nd Baron Belper (20 May 1840 – 26 Jul 1914)
  • Hon. Arthur Strutt (3 Mar 1842 – 6 Feb 1877) married Alice Mary Elizabeth March Phillipps de Lisle, daughter of Ambrose Lisle March Phillipps De Lisle and Laura Maria Clifford, on 22 April 1873.

He built his family seat, Kingston Hall, Nottinghamshire and moved in 1846.

Lord Belper died at Eaton Square, Belgravia, London, in June 1880, aged 78, and was succeeded in the barony by his second but eldest surviving son, Henry. A stained glass window was erected in the north side of the chancel in St. Mary’s Church, Nottingham in his memory. Lady Belper died in December 1890.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Sir Charles Elliot
15 August 1801 – 9 September 1875

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Charles Elliot

Sir Charles Elliot was born in Dresden, Saxony, on 15 August 1801 to Margaret and Hugh Elliot. He was one of nine children. His uncle was Scottish diplomat Gilbert Elliott, 1st Earl of Minto, and Gilbert Elliott, 2nd Earl of Minto and George Eden were cousins. He was educated in Reading, Berkshire, England. On 26 March 1815, Elliot joined the Royal Navy as a first-class volunteer on board HMS Leviathan, which served in the Mediterranean Station. In July 1816, he became a midshipman on board HMS Minden, in which he served in the bombardment of Algiers against Barbary pirates in August 1816. He then served in the East Indies Station for four years under Sir Richard King. In 1820, he joined the cutter Starling under Lieutenant-Commander John Reeve in the Home Station, and HMS Queen Charlotte under James Whitshed.

In 1821, Elliot joined HMS Iphigenia under Sir Robert Mends in the West Africa Squadron. On 11 June 1822, he became a lieutenant while serving in HMS Myrmidon under Captain Henry John Leeke. He again served in the Iphigenia on 19 June, and in HMS Hussar under Captain George Harris in the West Indies Station. There, he was appointed to the schooners Union on 19 June 1825 and Renegade on 30 August. On 1 January 1826, he was nominated acting-commander of the convalescentship Serapis in Port Royal, Jamaica, where on 14 April, he served in the hospital ship Magnificent. After further employment on board HMS Bustard and HMS Harlequin, he was promoted to captain on 28 August 1828.

After retiring from active military service, Elliot followed a career in the Foreign Office. In 1830, the Colonial Office sent Elliot to Demerara in British Guiana to be Protector of Slaves and a member of the Court of Policy from 1830 to 1833. He was brought home to advise the government of administrative problems relating to the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. In a letter to the Treasury in 1833, Prime Minister Lord Howick wrote:
Lord Goderich [Secretary of State for the Colonies] feels himself bound to acknowledge that His Majesty’s Government are indebted to him [Elliot], not only for a zealous and efficient execution of the duties of his office, but for communications of peculiar value and importance sent from the Colony during the last twelve months, and for essential services rendered at a critical period since his arrival in this country … Elliot has contributed far beyond what the functions of his particular office required of him.

In late 1833, Elliot was appointed as Master Attendant to the staff of Lord Napier, Chief Superintendent of British Trade. His position was involved with British ships and crews operating between Macao and Canton. He was appointed Secretary in October 1834, Third Superintendent in January 1835, and Second Superintendent in April 1835. In 1836, he became Plenipotentiary and replaced Sir George Robinson as Chief Superintendent of British Trade. Elliot wrote to Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston in December 1839, “No man entertains a deeper detestation of the disgrace and sin of this forced traffic on the coast of China. I have steadily discountenanced it by all the lawful means in my power, and at the total sacrifice of my private comfort in the society in which I have lived for some years past.”

During the First Anglo-Chinese War, he was on board the Nemesis during most of the battles. In January 1841, he negotiated terms with Chinese Imperial Commissioner Qishan in the Convention of Chuenpi. Elliot declared, among other terms, the cession of Hong Kong Island to the United Kingdom. However, Palmerston recalled Elliot and, accusing him of disobedience and treating his instructions as “waste paper”, dismissed him. Henry Pottinger was appointed to replace him as plenipotentiary in May 1841. On 29 July, HMS Phlegeton arrived in Hong Kong with dispatches informing Elliot of the news. His administration ended on 10 August. On 24 August, he left Macao, with his family for England. As he embarked on the Atlanta, a Portuguese fort fired a thirteen gun salute.

Historian George Endacott wrote, “Elliot’s policy of conciliation, leniency, and moderate war aims was unpopular all round, and aroused some resentment among the naval and military officers of the expedition.” Responding to the accusation that “It has been particularly objected to me that I have cared too much for the Chinese”, Elliot wrote to Foreign Secretary Lord Aberdeen on 25 June 1842:
But I submit that it has been caring more for lasting British honour and substantial British interests, to protect friendly and helpful people, and to return the confidence of the great trading population of the Southern Provinces, with which it is our chief purpose to cultivate more intimate, social and commercial relations.

On 23 August 1842, Elliot arrived in the Republic of Texas, where he was chargé d’affaires and consul general until 1846. He served as Governor of Bermuda (1846–54), Governor of Trinidad (1854–56), and Governor of Saint Helena (1863–69). In the retired list, he was promoted to rear-admiral on 2 May 1855, vice-admiral on 15 January 1862, and admiral on 12 September 1865.

In Sir Henry Taylor’s play, Edwin the Fair (1842), the character Earl Athulf was based on Elliot. Taylor also mentioned Elliot in his poem, “Heroism in the Shade” (1845). Elliot was made Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath in 1856. He died in retirement at Withycombe Raleigh, Exmouth, Devon, England, on 9 September 1875. He is buried in the churchyard of St John-in-the-Wilderness, Exmouth. The weathered headstone inscription to his grave reads in worn lead lettering “To the memory of/Adm Sir Charles Elliot KCB/Born 15th August 1801/Died 9th September 1875/The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God”. This is the only known memorial to him anywhere in the world.

During Elliot’s naval service in the West Indies, he met Clara Genevieve Windsor (1806–1885) in Haiti, where she was born and raised. After marrying in 1828, they had two daughters and three sons:

  • Harriet Agnes Elliot (1829–1896); married Edward Russell, 23rd Baron de Clifford, in 1853; four children.
  • Hugh Hislop Elliot (1831–1861); Captain 1st Bombay Light Cavalry; married Louise Sidonie Perrin on 15 March 1860 in Byculla, Bombay; no known children; died at sea and memorialised in St James Cathedral, St Helena.
  • Gilbert Wray Elliot (1833–1910); Bombay Civil Service; married three times, one child to each marriage; studied at Haileybury; weightlifter Launceston Elliot was his son by his third marriage.
  • Frederick Eden Elliot (1837–1916); Bengal Civil Service; married in 1861; four children.
  • Emma Clara Elliot (1842–1865); married George Barrow Pennell in 1864 in St Helena, where her father was governor; one child. She died in St Helena where she is memorialised in St James Cathedral.

Elliot’s wife accompanied him to Guiana from 1830 to 1833, and to China from 1834 to 1841 as well as to all of his subsequent postings around the world. After ten years of widowhood, she died on 17 October 1885 aged 80 years at the home of her husband’s nephew Capt (RN retired) Hugh Maximilian Elliot, The Bury, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. She is buried at the Heath Lane Cemetery, Hemel Hempstead where a stone cross bears a worn inscription to her memory.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

James Hamilton Viscount Hamilton
7 October 1786 – 27 May 1814

James Hamilton Viscount Hamilton was a British nobleman and politician, the eldest son of John Hamilton, 1st Marquess of Abercorn.

He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford and matriculated on 24 October 1805.

On 25 November 1809 he married Harriet Douglas, granddaughter of James Douglas, 14th Earl of Morton, by whom he had three children:

  • James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Abercorn (1811–1885)
  • Harriet Hamilton (1812–1884), married Admiral William Alexander Baillie-Hamilton and had issue
  • Lord Claud Hamilton (1813–1884)

He died in his house in London at the age of 27, leaving three young children; James, the eldest son, would succeed his grandfather as Marquess of Abercorn four years later. His widow Harriet would in 1815 remarry her brother-in-law, the 4th Earl of Aberdeen, with whom she had another 5 children.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

George Hamilton-Gordon 4th Earl of Aberdeen
28 January 1784 – 14 December 1860

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George Hamilton-Gordon

George Hamilton-Gordon 4th Earl of Aberdeen was born in Edinburgh on 28 January 1784, he was the eldest son of George Gordon, Lord Haddo, son of George Gordon, 3rd Earl of Aberdeen. His mother was Charlotte, youngest daughter of William Baird of Newbyth. He lost his father in 1791 and his mother in 1795 and was brought up by Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville and William Pitt the Younger. He was educated at Harrow, and St John’s College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a Master of Arts in 1804. Before this, however, he had become Earl of Aberdeen on his grandfather’s death in 1801, and had travelled all over Europe. On his return to England, he founded the Athenian Society. In 1805, he married Lady Catherine Elizabeth, daughter of John Hamilton, 1st Marquess of Abercorn.

In December 1805 Lord Aberdeen took his seat as a Tory Scottish representative peer in the House of Lords. In 1808, he was created a Knight of the Thistle. Following the death of his wife from tuberculosis in 1812 he joined the Foreign Service. He was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Austria, and signed the Treaty of Töplitz between Britain and Austria in Vienna in October 1813. In the company of the Austrian Emperor, Francis II he was an observer at the decisive Coalition victory of the Battle of Leipzig in October 1813; he had met Napoleon in his earlier travels. He became one of the central diplomatic figures in European diplomacy at this time, and he was one of the British representatives at the Congress of Châtillon in February 1814, and at the negotiations which led to the Treaty of Paris in May of that year. Returning home he was created a peer of the United Kingdom as Viscount Gordon, of Aberdeen in the County of Aberdeen (1814), and made a member of the Privy Council. In July 1815 he married his former sister-in-law Harriet, daughter of John Douglas, and widow of James Hamilton, Viscount Hamilton; the marriage was much less happy than his first. During the ensuing thirteen years Aberdeen took a less prominent part in public affairs.

Aberdeen’s biographer Muriel Chamberlain summarises “Religion never came easy to him”. In his Scots landowning capacity “North of the border, he considered himself ex officio a Presbyterian”; in England “he privately considered himself an Anglican”, as early as 1840 told Gladstone he preferred what Aberdeen called “the sister church [of England]” and when in London worshipped at St James’s Piccadilly. He was ultimately buried in the Anglican parish church at Stanmore, Middlesex.

He was a member of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland from 1818 to 1828 and exercised his existing rights to present ministers to parishes on his Scottish estates through a time when the right of churches to veto the appointment or ‘call’ of a minister became so contentious as to lead in 1843 to the schism known as “the Disruption” when a third of ministers broke away to form the Free Church of Scotland. In the House of Lords, in 1840 and 1843, he raised two Compromise Bills to allow presbyteries but not congregations the right of veto. The first failed to pass (and was voted against by the General Assembly) but the latter, raised post-schism, became law for Scotland and remained in force until patronage of Scots livings was abolished in 1874.

Lord Aberdeen served as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster between January and June 1828 and subsequently as Foreign Secretary until 1830 under the Duke of Wellington. He resigned with Wellington over the Reform Bill of 1832.

He was Secretary of State for War and the Colonies between 1834 and 1835, and again Foreign Secretary between 1841 and 1846 under Sir Robert Peel. It was during his second stint as Foreign Secretary, that he had the harbor settlement of ‘Little Hong Kong’, on the south side of Hong Kong Island named after him. It was probably the most productive period of his career, that he settled two disagreements with the US – the Northeast Boundary dispute by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty (1842), and the Oregon dispute by the Oregon Treaty of 1846. He also worked successfully to improve relationships with France, where Guizot had become a personal friend. He enjoyed the trust of Queen Victoria, which was still important for a Foreign Secretary. He again followed his leader and resigned with Peel over the issue of the Corn Laws.

After Peel’s death in 1850 he became the recognised leader of the Peelites. In July 1852, a general election of Parliament was held which resulted in the election of 325 Tory/Conservative party members to Parliament. This represented 42.7% seats in Parliament. The main opposition to the Tory/Conservative Party was the Whig Party, which elected 292 members of the party to the Parliament in July 1852. Although occupying fewer seats than the Tory/Conservatives, the Whigs had a chance to draw support from the minor parties and independents who were also elected in July 1852. Lord Aberdeen as the leader of the Peelites was one of 38 Peelites elected to members of Parliament independently of the Tory/Conservative Party.

While the Peelites agreed with the Whigs on issues dealing with the international trade, there were other issues which the Peelites disagreed with the Whigs. Indeed, Lord Aberdeen’s own dislike of the Ecclesiastical Titles Assumption Bill, the rejection of which he failed to secure in 1851, prevented him from joining the government of Whig government of Lord John Russell in 1851. Additionally, 113 of the members of Parliament elected in July 1852 were Free Traders. These members agreed with the Peelites on the repeal of the “Corn Laws,” but they felt that the tariffs on all consumer products should be removed.

Furthermore, 63 members of Parliament elected in 1852, were members of the “Irish Brigade,” who voted with the Peelites and the Whigs for the repeal of the Corn Laws because they sought an end the Great Irish Famine by means of cheaper wheat and bread prices for the poor and middle classes in Ireland. Currently, however, neither the Free Traders and the Irish Brigade had disagreements with the Whigs that prevented them from joining with the Whigs form a government. Accordingly, the Tory/Conservative Party leader the Earl of Derby was asked to form a “minority government”. However, the Earl of Derby appointed Benjamin Disraeli as the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the minority government.

When in December 1852, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer submitted his budget to Parliament on behalf of the minority government, the Peelites, the Free Traders and the Irish Brigade were all alienated by the proposed budget. Accordingly, each of these groups suddenly forgot their differences with the Whig Party and voted with the Whigs against the proposed budget. The vote was 286 in favour of the budget and 305 votes against the budget. Because the leadership of the minority government had made the vote on the budget vote a “vote of confidence” in the minority government, the defeat of the Disraeli budget was a “vote of no confidence” in the minority government and meant the downfall of the minority government. Accordingly, Lord Aberdeen was asked to form a new government.

Following the downfall of the Tory/Conservative minority government under Lord Derby in December 1852, Lord Aberdeen formed a new government from the coalition of Free Traders, Peelites and Whigs that had voted no confidence in the minority government. Lord Aberdeen was able to put together a coalition government of these groups that held 53.8% of the seats of Parliament. Thus Lord Aberdeen, a Peelite, became Prime Minister and headed a coalition ministry of Whigs and Peelites.

Although united on international trade issues and on questions of domestic reform, his cabinet which also contained Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell, who were certain to differ on questions of foreign policy. Charles Greville says in his Memoirs, “In the present cabinet are five or six first-rate men of equal, or nearly equal, pretensions, none of them likely to acknowledge the superiority or defer to the opinions of any other, and every one of these five or six considering himself abler and more important than their premier”; and Sir James Graham wrote, “It is a powerful team, but it will require good driving”; this Aberdeen was unable to provide. During the administration, much trouble was caused by the rivalry between these two, and over the course of it Palmerston managed to out-manoeuvre Russell to emerge as the Whig heir-apparent. The cabinet also included a single Radical Sir William Molesworth, but much later, when justifying to the Queen his own new appointments, Gladstone told her: “For instance, even in Ld Aberdeen’s Govt, in 52, Sir William Molesworth had been selected, at that time, a very advanced Radical, but who was perfectly harmless, & took little, or no part … He said these people generally became very moderate, when they were in office”, which she admitted had been the case.

One of the foreign policy issues on which Palmerston and Russell disagreed was the type of relationship that Britain should have with France and especially France’s ruler, Louis Bonaparte. Louis Bonaparte was the nephew of the famous Napoleon Bonaparte, who had become dictator and then Emperor of France from 1804 until 1814. Louis Bonaparte had been elected to a three-year term as President of the Second Republic of France on 20 December 1848. The Constitution of the Second Republic limited the President to a single term in office. Thus, Louis Bonaparte would be unable to succeed himself and after 20 December 1851 would no longer be President. Thus, on 2 December 1851, shortly before the end of his single three-year term in office was to expire, Louis Bonaparte staged a coup against the Second Republic in France, disbanded the elected Constituent Assembly, arrested some of the Republican leaders and declared himself Emperor Napoleon III of France.

This coup upset many democrats in England as well as in France. Some British government officials felt that Louis Bonaparte was seeking foreign adventure in the spirit of his uncle—Napoleon I. Consequently, these officials felt that any close association with Louis Bonaparte would eventually lead Britain into another series of wars, like the wars with France and Napoleon dating from 1793 until 1815. British relations with France had scarcely improved since 1815. As prime minister, the Earl of Aberdeen was one of these officials, who feared France and Louis Bonaparte. However, other British government officials were beginning to worry more about the rising political dominance of the Russian Empire in eastern Europe and the corresponding decline of the Ottoman Empire. Lord Palmerston, who at the time of Louis Bonaparte’s 2 December 1851 coup was serving as the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the Whig government of Prime Minister Lord John Russell. Without informing the rest of the cabinet or Queen Victoria, Palmerston had sent a private note to the French ambassador endorsing Louis Bonaparte’s coup and congratulating Louis Bonaparte, himself, on the coup. Queen Victoria and members of the Russell government demanded that Palmerston be dismissed as Foreign Minister. John Russell requested Palmerston’s resignation and Palmerston reluctantly provided it.

However, in February 1852, Palmerston took revenge on Russell by voting with the Conservatives in a “no confidence” vote against the Russell government. This brought an end to the Russell Whig government and set the stage for a general election in July 1852 which eventually brought the Conservatives to power in a minority government under the Earl of Derby. Another problem facing the Earl of Aberdeen in the formation of his new government in December 1852, was Lord Russell himself. Lord Russell was the leader of the Whig Party, the largest group in the coalition government. Consequently, Lord Aberdeen, was required to appoint Lord Russell as the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, which he had done on 29 December 1852.

However, Lord Russell sometimes liked to use this position to speak for the whole government, as if he were the prime minister. In 1832, John Russell had been nicknamed “Finality John” because of his statement that the 1832 Reform Act had just been approved by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords would be the “final” expansion of the vote in Britain. There would be no further extension of the ballot to the common people of Britain. However, as political pressure in favour of further reform had risen over the twenty years since 1832, John Russell had changed his mind. While the Whigs were still part of the Opposition under the minority government of the Earl of Derby, John Russell had said, in January 1852, that he intended to introduce a new reform bill into the House of Commons which would equalise the populations of the districts from which members of Parliament were elected.

Probably as a result of their continuing feud, Palmerston declared himself against this Reform Bill of 1852. As a result, support for the Reform Bill of 1852 dwindled Russell was forced to change his mind again and not introduce the any Reform Bill in 1852. In order to form the coalition government, the Earl of Aberdeen had been required to appoint both Palmerston and Russell to his cabinet. Because of the controversy surrounding Palmerston’s removal as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs because of his letter to the French ambassador endorsing Louis Bonaparte’s 2 December 1851 coup, Palmerston could not now be appointed Foreign Minister again so soon after his removal from the same position. Thus on 28 December 1852, the Earl of Aberdeen appointed Palmerston as Home Secretary and appointed John Russell as Foreign Minister.

Given the differences of opinion within the Lord Aberdeen cabinet over the direction of foreign policy with regard to relations between Britain and the French under Napoleon III, it is not surprising that debate raged within the government as Louis Bonaparte, now assuming the title of Emperor Napoleon III of France. As Prime Minister of the Peelite/Whig coalition government, the Earl of Aberdeen eventually led Britain into war on the side of the French/Ottomans against the Russian Empire. This war would eventually be called Crimean War, but the entire foreign policy negotiations surrounding the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, which would continue throughout the middle and end of nineteenth century the problem would be referred to as the “Eastern Question”. Aberdeen was ordinarily a sympathiser with Russian interests against French/Napoleonic interests. Thus, he was really not in favour of the entrance of into the Crimean War.

However, he was following the pressure that was being exerted on him from some members of his cabinet, including Palmerston, who in this rare instance was actually being supported by John Russell, both of whom were in favour of a more aggressive policy against perceived Russian expansion. Aberdeen, unable to control Palmerston, acquiesced. However the Eastern Question and the resulting Crimean War proved to be the downfall of his government.

The Eastern Question began as early as the 2 December 1852 with the Napoleonic coup against the Second Republic of France. As he was forming his new imperial government, Napoleon III sent an ambassador to the Ottoman Empire with instructions to assert France’s right to protect Christian sites in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The Ottoman Empire agreed to this condition to avoid conflict or potential war with France.

Aberdeen, as Foreign Secretary, had himself tacitly authorised the construction of the first Anglican church in Jerusalem in 1845, following his predecessor’s commission in 1838 of the first European Consul in Jerusalem on Britain’s behalf, which lead to series of successive appointments by other nations. Both resulted from Lord Shaftesbury’s canvassing with substantial public support. Nevertheless Britain became increasingly worried about the situation in Turkey and Prime Minister Aberdeen sent Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, a diplomat with vast experience in Turkey, as a special envoy to the Ottoman Empire to guard British interests. Russia protested the Turkish agreement with the French as a violation of the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca of 1778—the treaty which ended the Russo-Turkish War (1768–74). Under this treaty, the Russians had been granted the exclusive right to protect the Christian sites in the Holy Land. Accordingly on 7 May 1853, the Russians sent Prince Alexander Sergeyevich Menshikov, one their premier statesmen to negotiate a settlement of the issue. Prince Menshikov called the attention of the Turks to the fact that during the Russo-Turkish War, the Russians had occupied the Turkish controlled provinces of Wallachia and Moldavia on the north bank of the Danube River, but he reminded them that pursuant to the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca, however, the Russians had returned these “Danubian provinces” to Ottoman control in exchange for the right to protect the Christian sites in the Holy Land. Accordingly, the Turks reversed themselves and agreed with the Russians.

The French sent one of their premier ships-of-the-line, the Charlemagne to the Black Sea as a show of force. In light of the French show of force, the Turks, again, reversed themselves and recognised the French right to protect the Christian sites. Lord Stratford de Redcliffe was advising the Ottomans during this time and later, it was alleged, that he had been instrumental in persuading the Turks to reject the Russian arguments.

In response this latest change of mind by the Ottomans/Turks, the Russians, on 2 July 1853 occupied the Turkish-satellite states of Wallachia and Moldavia, as they had during the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774. Almost immediately, the Russian troops deployed along the northern banks of the Danube River, implying that they may cross the river. Aberdeen ordered the British Fleet to Constantinople and later into the Black Sea. On 23 October 1853, the Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia. A Russian naval raid on Sinope, on 30 November 1853, resulted in the destruction of the Turkish fleet in the battle of Sinope. When Russia ignored an Anglo-French ultimatum to abandon the Danubian provinces, Britain and France declared war on Russia on 28 March 1854. In September 1854, British and French troops landed on the Crimean peninsula at Eupatoria north of Sevastopol. The Allied troops then moved across the Alma River on 20 September 1854 at the battle of Alma and set siege to the fort of Sevastopol.

A Russian attack on the allied supply base at Balaclava on 25 October 1854 was rebuffed. The Battle of Balaclava is noted for its famous (or rather infamous) Charge of the Light Brigade. On 5 November 1854, Russian forces tried to relieve the siege at Sevastopol and tried to defeat the Allied armies in the field in the Battle of Inkerman. However, this attempt failed and the Russians were rebuffed. Dissatisfaction as to the course of the war arose in England. As reports returned detailing the mismanagement of the conflict arose Parliament began to investigate. On 29 January 1855, John Arthur Roebuck introduced a motion for the appointment of a select committee to enquire into the conduct of the war. This motion was carried by the large majority of 305 in favour and 148 against.

Treating this as a vote of no confidence in his government, Aberdeen resigned, and retired from active politics, speaking for the last time in the House of Lords in 1858. In visiting Windsor Castle to resign, he told the Queen: “Nothing could have been better, he said than the feeling of the members towards each other. Had it not been for the incessant attempts of Ld John Russell to keep up party differences, it must be acknowledged that the experiment of a coalition had succeeded admirably. We discussed future possibilities & agreed that nothing remained to be done, but to offer the Govt to Ld Derby,…”. The Queen continued to criticise Lord John Russell, for his behaviour for the rest of his life, on his death in 1878 her journal records that he was: “A man of much talent, who leaves a name behind him, kind, & good, with a great knowledge of the constitution, who behaved very well, on many trying occasions; but he was impulsive, very selfish (as shown on many occasions, especially during Ld Aberdeen’s administration) vain, & often reckless & imprudent”.

Lord Aberdeen married Lady Catherine Elizabeth Hamilton, daughter of Lord Abercorn, in 1805. They had one son and three daughters, all of whom predeceased their father. In July 1815 he married Harriet, daughter of John Douglas, and widow of James Hamilton, Viscount Hamilton, his first wife’s sister-in-law. They had four sons and one daughter. His eldest son, George, succeeded as fifth Earl, and was the father of John, the seventh Earl, who was created Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair in 1916. Aberdeen’s second son was General Sir Alexander Hamilton-Gordon; his third son was the Reverend Douglas Hamilton-Gordon; and his youngest son Arthur Gordon was created Baron Stanmore in 1893. The Countess of Aberdeen died in August 1833. Lord Aberdeen died at Argyll House, St. James’s, London, on 14 December 1860, and was buried in the family vault at Stanmore. In 1994 the novelist, columnist and politician Ferdinand Mount used George Gordon’s life as the basis for a historical novel, Umbrella.

Apart from his political career Aberdeen was also a scholar of the classical civilisations, who published An Inquiry into the Principles of Beauty in Grecian Architecture (London, 1822) and was referred to by Lord Byron in his English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809) as “the travell’d thane, Athenian Aberdeen.” He was appointed Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen in 1827 and was President of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

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