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Posts Tagged ‘Henry Dundas 1st Viscount Melville’

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.

Thomas Erskine 1st Baron Erskine
10 January 1750 – 17 November 1823

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Thomas Erskine

Thomas Erskine 1st Baron Erskine was the third and youngest surviving son of Henry Erskine, 10th Earl of Buchan, and was born in a tenement at the head of South Grays Close on the High Street in Edinburgh. His older brothers were David (Lord Cardross and later the 11th Earl of Buchan) and Henry (later Lord Advocate of Scotland). His mother, Agnes Steuart, was the daughter of a solicitor general for Scotland and undertook much of her children’s education as the family, though noble, were not rich. The family moved to St Andrews, where they could live more cheaply, and Erskine attended the grammar school there. The family’s money having been spent on the education of his older brothers, Erskine, aged fourteen, reluctantly abandoned his formal education for the time being and went to sea as a midshipman. His family meanwhile moved to Bath to become members of the Methodist community headed by Selina, Countess of Huntingdon. One of Erskine’s sisters, Anne Agnes, was to become treasurer of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon’s charities.

Erskine went to sea as a midshipman in the Tartar, under captain Sir David Lindsay, who was a nephew of Lord Mansfield and a friend of the Erskine family. The Tartar set sail for the Caribbean, where Erskine was to spend the next four years, rising to the rank of acting lieutenant. When Erskine was eighteen he resigned from the Navy. His ship had been paid off, there were no commissions available, and he didn’t want to return to sea as a midshipman after having been an acting lieutenant. The 10th Earl of Buchan had recently died, and Erskine now had just enough money to buy a commission in the army, becoming an ensign in the 1st (Royal) Regiment of Foot. He was stationed first at Berwick and then on Jersey. On 29 March 1770 Erskine married Frances Moore at Gretna Green, against the wishes of her father, Daniel Moore who was member of parliament for Great Marlowe. Frances was the granddaughter of John Moore, who had been attorney general of Pennsylvania. Erskine’s regiment was then posted to Minorca, and Frances went with him. Before meeting Frances, Erskine had written about the qualities he was looking for in a bride: “Let then my ornament be far from the tinsel glare, let it be fair yet modest, let it rather delight than dazzle, rather shine like the mild beams of the morning than the blaze of the noon. I seek in my fair one a winning female softness both in person and mind”. Erskine appears to have found these qualities in Frances: she is described on her memorial in Hampstead Church as “the most faithful and affectionate of women”. The couple had four sons and four daughters.

While he was stationed in Jersey and Minorca, Erskine had on occasion preached sermons to his men, prompting one biographer to say that “a taste for oratory that ultimately would lead on to his true career originated in those soldier sermons”.

He also demonstrated his future skills as an advocate in a pamphlet entitled “Observations on the Prevailing Abuses in the British Army Arising from the Corruption of Civil Government with a Proposal toward Obtaining an Addition to Their Pay“.

Whilst on leave in London in 1772, the charming and well-connected young officer was able to mix in literary circles and met Dr Johnson. James Boswell, in his Life of Johnson, recalled meeting “a young officer in the regimentals of the Scots royal, who talked with a vivacity, fluency and precision so uncommon, that he attracted particular attention. He proved to be the Honorable Thomas Erskine, youngest brother to the Earl of Buchan, who has since risen into such brilliant reputation at the Bar in Westminster-hall”. Although Erskine was appointed a lieutenant in April 1773, he decided to leave the army and, with the encouragement of his family and Lord Mansfield, study for the Bar.

Erskine was admitted as a student of Lincoln’s Inn on 26 April 1775. He discovered that the period of study required before being called to the Bar could be reduced from five years to three for holders of a degree from Oxford or Cambridge universities. He therefore on 13 January 1776 entered himself as a gentleman commoner on the books of Trinity College, Cambridge where, as the son of an earl, he was entitled to gain a degree without sitting any examinations. He did however win the English declamation prize for an oration on the “glorious revolution” of 1688. At the same time, he was a pupil in the chambers of first Francis Buller and then George Wood. These were years of poverty for Erskine and his growing family: he installed Frances and the children in cheap lodgings in Kentish Town and survived on a gift of £300 from a relative, and the sale of his army commission. Jeremy Bentham, who knew Erskine at this time, described him as “so shabbily dressed as to be quite remarkable”.

In the summer of 1778 Erskine was awarded a degree and was called to the Bar on 3 July. While many newly qualified barristers, especially those without contacts to put briefs their way, took years to establish themselves, Erskine’s success was immediate and brilliant. His first case, that of Thomas Baillie, came to him by chance. The case involved the Greenwich Hospital for Seamen, of which Captain Baillie was lieutenant-governor. Baillie had uncovered abuses in the management of the hospital and, having failed to interest the directors and governors of the hospital or the lords of the Admiralty, he published a pamphlet and was then sued by the agents of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich who was first lord of the Admiralty and had been placing his agents in positions of authority in the hospital. Hearing of a newly qualified barrister who had himself been a seaman and was sympathetic to his cause, Baillie appointed Erskine to his team although he already had four counsel. Erskine was the most junior, but it was his brilliant speech that won the case and exonerated Baillie. Despite a warning from the judge, Erskine attacked Lord Sandwich calling him “the dark mover behind the scene of iniquity”. After his success in the Baillie case, Erskine had no shortage of work and a few months later was retained by Admiral Augustus Keppel in his court martial at Portsmouth. Keppel was acquitted and gave Erskine £1,000 in gratitude. For the first time in his life Erskine was financially secure.

In 1781 Erskine had his first opportunity to address a jury when he defended Lord George Gordon who had been charged with high treason for instigating the anti-Catholic riots of 1780. Erskine’s defence not only achieved Gordon’s acquittal but also dealt a blow to the English legal doctrine of constructive treason. The case established Erskine as the country’s most successful barrister. By 1783, when he received a patent of precedence, he had earnt enough to pay off all his debts and accumulate £8–9,000. He could afford a country house, Evergreen Villa, in Hampstead as well as a house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

In 1783, when the Fox-North Coalition came into power, Erskine entered parliament as Whig member for Portsmouth. Erskine’s friend Charles James Fox had been eager to have such a brilliant lawyer join the ranks of Whig members, but Erskine’s speeches failed to make the impact in parliament that they did in court. Erskine lost his seat the following year in the general election, becoming one of “Fox’s martyrs” when Pitt’s party made large gains, although he would regain the seat in 1790.

The loss of his parliamentary seat enabled Erskine to concentrate on his legal practice. In 1786, when he was thirty-six years old and had been practising at the Bar for only eight years, he was able to write: “I continue highly successful in my profession, being now, I may say, as high as I can go at the Bar. The rest depends on politics, which at present are adverse.” Amongst his notable cases in 1780s was his successful defence of William Davies Shipley, dean of St Asaph (and son of Jonathan Shipley) who was tried in 1784 at Shrewsbury for seditious libel for publishing Principles of Government, in a Dialogue between a Gentleman and a Farmer, a tract by his brother-in-law Sir William Jones advancing radical views on the relationship between subjects and the state. Erskine’s defence anticipated the Libel Act 1792, which laid down the principle that it is for the jury (who previously had only decided the question of publication) and not the judge to decide whether or not a publication is a libel.

In 1789 he was counsel for John Stockdale, a bookseller, who was charged with seditious libel in publishing John Logan’s pamphlet in support of Warren Hastings, whose impeachment was then proceeding. Erskine’s speech, which resulted in the Stockdale’s acquittal, argued that a defendant should not be convicted if his composition, taken as a whole, did not go beyond a free and fair discussion, even if selected passages might be libellous. Henry Brougham considered this to be one of Erskine’s finest speeches: “It is justly regarded, by all English lawyers, as a consummate specimen of the art of addressing a jury”.

Three years later he would, against the advice of his friends, take on the defence of Thomas Paine who had been charged with seditious libel after the publication of the second part of his Rights of Man. Paine was tried in his absence; he was in France. Erskine argued for the right of a people to criticise, reform and change its government; he made the point that a free press produces security in the government. But in this case his arguments failed to convince the special jury, who returned a verdict of guilty without even retiring.

Erskine’s speech is also remembered for a passage on the duty of barristers to take on even unpopular cases:

“I will for ever, at all hazards, assert the dignity, independence, and integrity of the English Bar, without which impartial justice, the most valuable part of the English constitution, can have no existence. From the moment that any advocate can be permitted to say that he will or will not stand between the Crown and the subject arraigned in the court where he daily sits to practise, from that moment the liberties of England are at an end.”

Erskine’s decision to defend Paine cost him his position as attorney-general (legal advisor) to the Prince of Wales, to which he had been appointed in 1786.

In 1794 William Pitt’s government, fearful of a revolution, decided to take action against people who were campaigning for parliamentary reform. Habeas corpus was suspended and twelve members of radical societies were imprisoned and charged with a variety of offences amounting to high treason. Erskine and Vicary Gibbs were assigned as counsel to seven of them. They were not paid for their services, as it was considered unprofessional to take fees for defending people charged with high treason. The treason trials began on 28 October before Lord Chief Justice Eyre at the Old Bailey with the trial of Thomas Hardy, a shoemaker and secretary of the London Corresponding Society. After eight days of evidence and speeches, including Erskine’s seven-hour speech on the final day, and several hours deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. Erskine was hailed as a hero by the crowds outside who unharnessed his horses (which he never saw again ) and pulled his carriage through the streets. Although it was usual in cases where several people were jointly charged with high treason to discharge the rest if the first was acquitted, the government persisted with the trials of John Horne Tooke and John Thelwall. They too, defended by Erskine and Vicary Gibbs, were acquitted and it was only then that the prosecution was halted. A disappointed government had to scrap a further 800 warrants of arrest.

Notable amongst the later cases of Erskine’s career was that of James Hadfield, a former soldier who had fired a shot at the king in Drury Lane Theatre. The shot missed and Hadfield was charged with treason. Erskine called a large number of witnesses who testified to Hadfield’s sometimes bizarre behaviour, a surgeon who testified to the nature of the head injuries that Hadfield had sustained in battle, and a doctor, Alexander Crichton, who gave evidence that Hadfield was insane. Erskine argued that, although Hadfield could appear rational, he was in the grip of a delusion and could not control his actions. He summed up: “I must convince you, not only that the unhappy prisoner was a lunatic, within my own definition of lunacy, but that the act in question was the immediate unqualified offspring of the disease”. The judge, Lord Kenyon, was convinced by Erskine’s evidence and argument and stopped the trial, acquitted Hadfield and ordered him to be detained. The trial led to two acts of parliament: the Criminal Lunatics Act 1800 which provided for the detention of people who were acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity, and the Treason Act 1800.

In 1806 Erskine was offered the Lord Chancellorship in the Ministry of All the Talents formed by Lord Grenville and Charles Fox on the death of William Pitt. Fox’s original plan had been to offer Erskine the chief judgeship of the Common Pleas or the King’s Bench when one of the holders was elevated to Lord Chancellor. But both Lord Ellenborough, chief justice of the King’s Bench and Sir James Mansfield, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, declined the chancellorship. Erskine was therefore appointed although he had no experience in Chancery. He was created a peer to become Lord Chancellor. The Prince of Wales, who had inherited the Duchy of Cornwall, chose Erskine’s title, Baron Erskine of Restormel Castle, while the motto, “trial by jury” was Erskine’s own. Frances Erskine did not live to enjoy the title of Lady Erskine; she died a few weeks before her husband took the seals of office.

Although Erskine lacked experience in equity, only one of the judgements he made during his brief tenure as Lord Chancellor was appealed against and that, concerning Peter Thellusson’s will, was upheld. His handling of the impeachment of Lord Melville was generally admired. Along with Lords Grenville, Spencer and Ellenborough, Erskine was commissioned by the king to enquire into the morals of his daughter-in-law Caroline of Brunswick in what became known as the “delicate investigation”.

Erskine was Lord Chancellor for only fourteen months, having to give up the seals of office when the ministry of all the talents resigned over a disagreement with the king concerning the question of Catholic Emancipation. The king gave Erskine a week to finish pending cases, and Erskine took advantage of this to appoint one of his sons-in-law, Edward Morris, as master of Chancery.

As ex-chancellor, Erskine was not permitted to return to the Bar. He was awarded a pension of £4000 a year and remained a member of the House of Lords. He was only 57 when the ministry of all the talents fell, and hoped that he might return to office when the Prince of Wales became regent. In the event, however, the regent retained the ministry of Spencer Perceval and the Whigs would not be in power again until 1830, seven years after Erskine’s death. Erskine largely retired from public life, rarely speaking in the House of Lords. In 1818 he married for the second time. His bride was a former apprentice bonnet-maker, Sarah Buck, with whom he had already had two children. The couple travelled to Gretna Green for the marriage, with an angry adult son in hot pursuit. It was a tempestuous relationship, and the marriage ended in separation a few years later. In spite of his generous pension and the enormous sums he had earnt at the Bar, Erskine experienced financial difficulties in his later years, having to sell his villa in Hampstead and move to a house in Pimlico. He also bought an estate in Sussex, but his agricultural efforts were not a great success. He wrote a political romance, Armata, which ran to several editions.

Causes which Erskine took up in his retirement were animal rights, Greek independence, and the defence of Queen Caroline. He had always been an animal lover; amongst his favourite animals were a Newfoundland dog called Toss who used to accompany him to chambers, a macaw, a goose and two leeches. He introduced a bill in the House of Lords for the prevention of cruelty to animals, arguing that humanity’s dominion over them was given by God as a moral trust. It was the first time he had proposed a change in the law. The bill was accepted in the Lords but opposed in the Commons; William Windham arguing that a law against cruelty to animals was incompatible with fox-hunting and horse racing. Eventually the bill was introduced in the Commons and passed as statute 3 Geo 4 c71. When Caroline was being prosecuted for divorce Erskine spoke against the Bill of Pains and Penalties and, when the government dropped the bill, expressed his approval: “My Lords, I am an old man, and my life, whether it has been for good or evil, has been passed under the sacred rule of Law. In this moment I feel my strength renovated by that rule being restored”. He was invited to a public dinner in Edinburgh in February 1820, and made his first trip to Scotland since he had left it on the Tartar over fifty years before.

In 1823 Erskine set out by sea on another visit to Scotland with one of his sons, hoping to see his brother the Earl of Buchan. But he became ill with a chest infection on the journey and was put ashore at Scarborough. He managed to travel to the home of his brother Henry’s widow in Almondell in West Lothian, where they were joined by the earl. He died at Almondell on 17 November 1823 and was buried in the family burial-place at Uphall in Linlithgowshire. His widow survived him by over thirty years. She, as reports in the Times revealed, was reduced to poverty and had to rely on a small charitable allowance to survive. Even these meagre payments were withheld by Erskine’s executors when she tried to prevent them sending her son Hampden away to school, and she had to appeal to the lord mayor of London. She died in 1856.

Erskine’s first marriage produced four sons and four daughters:

  • David Montagu Erskine (1776–1855) was a member of parliament and diplomat;
  • Henry David (1786–1859) was Dean of Ripon;
  • Thomas (1788–1864) became a judge of the Court of Common Pleas;
  • Esmé Steuart (1789–1817) fought at the Battle of Waterloo where he lost an arm (his widow Eliza married Admiral James Norton, who also lost an arm in action).
  • Frances (d. 1859) married Samuel Holland, Precentor of Chichester and Rector of Poynings, Sussex (a grandson of Frances and Samuel was Thomas Erskine Holland the jurist);
  • Elizabeth (d, 1800) married her cousin Captain (later Sir) David Erskine, the illegitimate son of the 11th Earl of Buchan;
  • Mary (d. 1804) married lawyer Edward Morris.

With his second wife Erskine had one legitimate son, Hampden (b. 1821) and two children, Agnes and Erskine, born before the marriage.

Erskine’s eldest brother the 11th Earl of Buchan had no legitimate sons and was succeeded by a nephew, the son of Erskine’s brother Henry. When all Henry’s descendants in the direct male line died out in 1960 the seventh Baron Erskine (Donald Cardross Flower Erskine, Erskine’s great-great-greatgrandson) became the sixteenth Earl of Buchan.

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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.

Admiral of the Fleet James Gambier 1st Baron Gambier
13 October 1756 – 19 April 1833

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James Gambier

James Gambier 1st Baron Gambier was born the second son of John Gambier, the Lieutenant Governor of the Bahamas and Deborah Stiles, a Bermudian, Gambier was brought up in England by an aunt. He was a nephew of Vice-Admiral James Gambier and of Admiral Lord Barham and became an uncle of the novelist and travel writer Georgiana Chatterton.

Gambier entered the Navy in 1767 as a midshipman on board the third-rate HMS Yarmouth, commanded by his uncle, which was serving as a guardship in the Medway, and followed him to serve on board the 60-gun fourth-rate HMS Salisbury in 1769 where he served on the North American Station. He transferred to the 50-gun fourth-rate HMS Chatham under Rear Admiral Parry, in 1772, in the Leeward Islands. Gambier was placed on the sloop HMS Spy and was then posted to England to serve on the 74-gun third-rate HMS Royal Oak, a guardship at Spithead.

He was commissioned as a lieutenant on 12 February 1777, in which rank he served in a successively in the sloop Shark, the 24-gun frigate HMS Hind, the third-rate HMS Sultan under Vice-Admiral Lord Shuldham, and then in HMS Ardent under his uncle’s flag. Lord Howe promoted Gambier to commander on 9 March 1778 and gave him command of the bomb ship HMS Thunder, which was promptly dismasted and surrendered to the French. He was taken prisoner for a short period and, after having been exchanged, he was made a post captain on 9 October 1778 and appointed to the 32-gun fifth-rate HMS Raleigh and saw action at the capture of Charleston in May 1780 during the American Revolutionary War. He was appointed commander of fifth-rate HMS Endymion, cruising in British waters, later in the year. In 1783, at the end of the War, he was placed on half-pay.

In February 1793 following the start of the French Revolutionary Wars, Gambier was appointed to command the 74-gun third-rate HMS Defence under Lord Howe. By faith an evangelical, he was regarded as an intensely religious man, nicknamed Dismal Jimmy, by the men under his command. As captain of the Defence Gambier saw action at the battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794, gaining the distinction of commanding the first ship to break through the enemy line and subsequently receiving the Naval Gold Medal.

Gambier became a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty on the Admiralty Board led by Earl Spencer in March 1795. Promoted to rear-admiral on 1 June 1795 and to vice-admiral on 14 February 1799, Gambier left the Admiralty after the fall of the First Pitt the Younger Ministry in February 1801 and became third-in-command of the Channel Fleet under Admiral William Cornwallis, with his flag in the 98-gun second-rate HMS Neptune. He went on to be governor and commander-in-chief of Newfoundland in March 1802. In that capacity he gave property rights over arable land to local people allowing them to graze sheep and cattle there and also ensured that vacant properties along the shore could be leased to local people. It was around that time that he also bought Iver Grove in Buckinghamshire.

Gambier then returned to the Admiralty as a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty on the Admiralty Board led by Viscount Melville when the Second Pitt the Younger Ministry was formed in May 1804. Promoted to full admiral on 9 November 1805, Gambier left the Admiralty in February 1806. He returned briefly for a third tour on the Admiralty Board led by Lord Mulgrave when the Second Portland Ministry was formed in April 1807.

In May 1807 Gambier volunteered to command the naval forces, with his flag in the second-rate HMS Prince of Wales, sent as part of the campaign against Copenhagen during the Napoleonic Wars. Together with General Lord Cathcart, he oversaw the bombardment of Copenhagen from 2 September until the Danes capitulated after three days (an incident that brought Gambier some notoriety in that the assault included a bombardment of the civilian quarter). Prizes included eighteen ships of the line, twenty-one frigates and brigs and twenty-five gunboats together with a large quantity of naval stores for which he received official thanks from Parliament, and on 3 November 1807 a peerage, becoming Baron Gambier, of Iver in the County of Buckingham.

In 1808 Gambier was appointed to command the Channel Fleet. In April 1809 he chased a squadron of French ships that had escaped from Brest into the Basque Roads. He called a council of war in which Lord Cochrane was given command of the inshore squadron, and who subsequently led the attack. Gambier refused to commit the Channel Fleet after Cochrane’s attack, using explosion vessels that encouraged the French squadron to warp further into the shallows of the estuary. This action resulted in the majority of the French fleet running aground at Rochefort.

Gambier was content with the blockading role played by the offshore squadron. Admiral Sir Eliab Harvey, who had commanded “Fighting Temeraire” at the Battle of Trafalgar, believed they had missed an opportunity to inflict further damage upon the French fleet. He told Gambier “I never saw a man so unfit for the command of a fleet as Your Lordship.” Cochrane threatened to use his parliamentary vote against Gambier in retaliation for not committing the fleet to action. Gambier called for a court martial to examine his conduct. The court martial, on 26 July 1809 on Gladiator in Portsmouth, exonerated Gambier. Consequently, neither Harvey nor Cochrane were appointed by the Admiralty to command for the remainder of the war. The episode had political and personal overtones. Gambier was connected by family and politics to the Tory prime minister William Pitt. In Parliament, Cochrane represented the riding of Westminster, which tended to vote Radical. In the aftermath of Basque Roads, Cochrane and Gambier quarreled and Gambier resentfully excluded Cochrane from the battle dispatches. There is little wonder that Cochrane took the unusual move of standing in opposition to parliament’s pro forma vote of thanks to Gambier.

In 1813 Gambier was part of the team negotiating the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States. He was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath on 7 June 1815. Promoted to Admiral of the Fleet on 22 July 1830, he died at his home, Ivor House in Iver, on 19 April 1833 and was buried at St. Peter’s churchyard in Iver.

Gambier was a founding benefactor of Kenyon College in the United States, and the town that was founded with it. Gambier, Ohio is named after him, as is Mount Gambier, the extinct volcano in South Australia, and Gambier Island in British Columbia.

In July 1788 Gambier married Louisa Matthew; they had no 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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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 Thomas Plumer
10 October 1753 – 5 April 1824

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Thomas Plumer

Sir Thomas Plumer was educated at Eton College and University College, Oxford, where he was Vinerian Scholar in 1777, also entering Lincoln’s Inn and being called to the bar in 1778. He was elected a fellow of University College in 1780 and was awarded the Bachelor of Civil Law degree in 1783.

In 1781, Plumer was appointed a Commissioner in bankruptcy. He acted for the defence in a number of high-profile cases: he defended Sir Thomas Rumbold in 1783, was one of the three counsel for the defence in the Impeachment of Warren Hastings, successfully defended Viscount Melville in his impeachment in 1806, and assisted in the defence of the Princess of Wales in the same year. It was there he later met Stephanie Stephanie Jean.

In 1807, Plumer was appointed Solicitor General in the Duke of Portland’s government, and knighted; a House of Commons seat was found for him in the Wiltshire pocket borough of Downton. He was subsequently promoted to Attorney General in 1812 then, in the legal reorganisation that took place the following year, was elevated to the bench to take up the new post of Vice Chancellor of England. On 6 January 1818 he was appointed Master of the Rolls, and served in that post until his death on 5 April 1824.

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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.

Alexander Monro of Craiglockhart and Cockburn
22 May 1733 – 2 October 1817

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Alexander Monro

Alexander Monro was the third and youngest son of Alexander Monro primus and Isabella Macdonald of Sleat, was born at Edinburgh on 20 May 1733. He was sent with his brothers to Mr Mundell’s school, where he learned the rudiments of Latin and Greek, and showed early evidences of great ability. Among his school-fellows were Ilay Campbell who was afterwards Lord President of the Court of Session and William Ramsay of Barnton, the banker

Alexander’s father decided to make him his successor and sent him to Edinburgh University when he was twelve years old, to attend the ordinary course of philosophy before beginning his professional training. He studied mathematics under the great Colin Maclaurin and ethics under Sir John Pringle. Alexander was also a great favourite of Dr Matthew Stewart, Professor of Experimental Philosophy.

Alexander showed a taste for anatomy and after entering on his medical course in his eighteenth year became a useful assistant to his father in the dissecting room. He attended the lectures of Drs. Rutherford, Andrew Plummer, Alston and Sinclair. He possessed an insatiable thirst for medical knowledge, an uncommon share of perseverance, and a very good memory.

In the session of 1753–54, his father (Alexander Monro primus) found his class too large for the lecture room and had to divide the class, repeating his lecture in the evening. This he found difficult, and he experimented with his son (Alexander Monro secundus taking the evening class. The results were satisfactory and so he presented a petition to the Town Council at the close of the session asking them to appoint his son formally as his successor. This petition was granted on 10 June and Alexander Monro secondus was admitted as conjunct professor on 11 July.

Alexander Monro secundus took his degree as Doctor of Medicine on 20 October 1755. He then proceeded to his studies abroad. He spent a short time in London, where he attended the lectures of Dr William Hunter. He next visited Paris and on 17 September 1757 entered Leyden University where he formed a friendship with two famous anatomists, Bernhard Siegfried Albinus and Petrus Camper. However his foreign studies were prosecuted principally at Berlin, where he worked under the celebrated Professor Meckel, in whose house he lived. Alexander spent some time in Edinburgh during early 1757 in order to fill the place of his father, who was confined to the house by illness. He finally was admitted a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh on 2 May 1758 and as a Fellow on 1 May 1759. He was to be elected President of the College in 1779.

His father delivered the opening lectures of the 1758–59 course and then handed the work to Alexander Monro tertius.

In 1771, he wrote a paper on the effect of drugs on the nervous system. He published two controversial ‘observations’ on the lymphatics in 1758, maintaining that he, in a short essay printed at Berlin in 1758, and reprinted in 1761 and 1770, ‘De Venis Lymphaticis Valvulosis,’ and not William Hunter, had first correctly described the general communications of the lymphatic system. Frederick Hoffman had, however, preceded both Monro and Hunter in the description.

In 1783, he published in Edinburgh ‘Observations on the Structure and Functions of the Nervous System,’ dedicated to the Right Hon. Henry Dundas, and it is in consequence of the description in this book of the communication between the lateral ventricles of the brain that his name is known to every student of medicine at the present day. The opening now always spoken of as the ‘foramen of Monro’ is very small in the healthy brain, but when abnormal accumulation of CSF on the brain is present (known as hydrocephalus) may be as large as a sixpence. It was this morbid condition that drew Monro’s attention to the foramen, and he first described it in a paper read before the Philosophical Society of Edinburgh in 1764, but gives a fuller account in this work on the nervous system.

He had always paid much attention to comparative anatomy, and published in 1785 ‘The Structure and Physiology of Fishes explained and compared with those of Man and other Animals.’ In 1788, he published an account of seventy pairs of bursae under the title, ‘Description of all the Bursae Mucosse of the Human Body, their Structure, Accidents, and Diseases, and Operations for their Cure,’ which is stated by several anatomical writers to be the first full description of the bursae.

In 1793, he published ‘Experiments on the Nervous System with Opium and Metalline Substances, to determine the Nature and Effects of Animal Electricity.’ These experiments led him to the conclusion that nerve force was not identical with electricity. His last book, ‘Three Treatises on the Brain, the Eye, and the Ear,’ was published at Edinburgh in 1797.

Manuscript copies of notes of his lectures on anatomy delivered in 1774 and 1775 are preserved in the library of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society of London,’ and some ‘Essays and Heads of Lectures on Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, Surgery,’ very imperfectly arranged, were printed by his son Alexander in 1840. Monro, who in 1777 successfully resisted the appointment of a separate professor of surgery, gave a full course of lectures every year from 1759 to 1800. From 1800 to 1807, he delivered part of the course, his son Alexander completing it, and in 1808 gave the introductory lecture only.

This was his last lecture, and after it his faculties gradually decayed. He became drowsy after dinner, and his nose used to bleed from time to time. In 1813, he had an apoplectic attack.

In later life he was living at 30 St Andrew Square in the New Town.

He died 2 October 1817. He is buried with his parents and wife, Katherine Inglis (d.1803) in Greyfriars Kirkyard in central Edinburgh. The grave lies west of the church and north of the Adam mausoleum.

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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.

Henry Thomas Cockburn of Bonaly Lord Cockburn
26 October 1779 – 18 July 1854

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Henry Thomas Cockburn

Henry Thomas Cockburn of Bonaly Lord Cockburn’s father Archibald Cockburn, a keen Tory, was Sheriff of Midlothian and Baron of the Court of Exchequer, and his mother Janet Rannie was connected by marriage with the influential Lord Melville. He was educated at the Royal High School and the University of Edinburgh.

Cockburn contributed regularly to the Edinburgh Review. In this popular magazine of its day he is described as: “rather below the middle height, firm, wiry and muscular, inured to active exercise of all kinds, a good swimmer, an accomplished skater, an intense lover of the fresh breezes of heaven. He was the model of a high-bred Scotch gentleman. He spoke with a Doric breadth of accent. Cockburn was one of the most popular men north of the Tweed.” He was a member of the famous Speculative Society, to which Sir Walter Scott, Henry Brougham and Francis Jeffrey belonged.

The extent of Cockburn’s literary ability only became known after he had passed his seventieth year, on the publication of his biography of lifelong friend Lord Jeffrey in 1852, and from his chief literary work, the Memorials of his Time, which appeared posthumously in 1856. His published work continued with his Journal, published in 1874. These constitute an autobiography of the writer interspersed with notices of manners, public events, and sketches of his contemporaries, of great interest and value.

Cockburn entered the Faculty of Advocates in 1800, and attached himself, not to the party of his relatives, who could have afforded him most valuable patronage, but to the Whig party, and that at a time when it held out few inducements to men ambitious of success in life. He became a distinguished advocate, and ultimately a judge. He was one of the leaders of the Whig party in Scotland in its days of darkness prior to the Reform Act of 1832, and was a close friend of Sir Thomas Dick Lauder.

On the accession of Earl Grey’s ministry in 1830 he became Solicitor General for Scotland. During his time here he drafted the First Scottish Reform Bill. In 1834 he was raised to the bench, and on taking his seat as a Judge in the Court of Session he adopted the title of Lord Cockburn as a Scottish Law Lord of Session.

Cockburn married Elizabeth Macdowall (Glasgow, Lanarkshire, 1 March 1786 – 1857), daughter of James Macdowall and second wife Margaret Jamieson, in Edinburgh, Midlothian, on 12 March 1811. As was common in the period he had both a town house and country house. The country house was at Bonaly, on the south-west edge of Edinburgh. His town house was a hugely impressive house at 14 Charlotte Square, designed by Robert Adam and lying at the heart of the fashionable west end of the city. They had five sons and five daughters:

  • Margaret Day Cockburn (Edinburgh, Midlothian, 24 January 1812, bap. Edinburgh, Midlothian, 25 February 1812 – 1818)
  • Jane Cockburn (Edinburgh, Midlothian, 1813, bap. Edinburgh, Midlothian, 22 July 1813 – )
  • Dr. Archibald William Cockburn, FRCSE (Edinburgh, Midlothian, 5 December 1814, bap. Edinburgh, Midlothian, 23 December 1814 – Murrayfield, Midlothian, 13 January 1862), Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, married Mary Ann Balfour (2 November 1816 – ?)
  • James Macdowell Cockburn (bap. Edinburgh, Midlothian, 7 March 1816 – ?)
  • Graham Cockburn, a daughter (bap. Edinburgh, Midlothian, 7 March 1817 – ?), married Rev. Robert Walter Stewart
  • George Ferguson Cockburn (Edinburgh, Midlothian, 31 January 1818 – 1866), married to Sarah Charlotte Bishop
  • Henry Day Cockburn (Edinburgh, Midlothian, 21 April 1820 – ?), married at South Yarra, Victoria, in 1857 to Mary Ann Matherley
  • Lawrence Cockburn (Edinburgh, Midlothian, 25 February 1822 – Brighton, Victoria, 2 September 1871), a squatter, married at Brighton, Victoria, in 1859 to Annie Maria Smith, and had one son:
  • Francis Jeffrey Cockburn (Edinburgh, Midlothian, 8 January 1825 – Brentford, London, 10 July 1893), a Judge in India and with the Bengal Civil Service, and wife (Calcutta or Westbury, Tasmania, 25 January 1855) Elizabeth Anne (Eliza Ann) Pitcairn (Hobart, Tasmania, 23 September 1831, bap. Hobart, Tasmania, 7 November 1831 – Wycombe, Oxfordshire, 1923), daughter of Robert Pitcairn (Edinburgh, Midlothian, 17 July 1802 – Hobart, Tasmania, 1868) (son of David Pitcairn and Mary Henderson) and wife (m. Hobart, Tasmania, 30 September 1830) Dorothy/Dorothea Jessy Dumas
  • Elizabeth Cockburn (Edinburgh, Midlothian, 30 June 1826 – 6 April 1908), married in Edinburgh, Midlothian, on 27 December 1848 Thomas Cleghorn (Edinburgh, Midlothian, 3 March 1818 – 18 June 1874), a practising Advocate
  • Johanna Richardson Cockburn (Edinburgh, Midlothian, 14 January 1831 – 1888), married in Edinburgh, Midlothian, on 21 October 1856 to her cousin Archibald David Cockburn (Edinburgh, Midlothian, 6 September 1826 – 1886), son of John Cockburn and wife Eliza Dewar, and had issue

The authors Alec Waugh and Evelyn Waugh, the journalist Claud Cockburn, Claudia Cockburn (wife of actor Michael Flanders) and author Sarah Caudwell were all descended from Cockburn, as are journalists Laura Flanders, Stephanie Flanders, Alexander Cockburn (husband of author Emma Tennant), Andrew Cockburn (husband of journalist Leslie Cockburn) and Patrick Cockburn (son-in-law of Bishop Hugh Montefiore) and actress Olivia Wilde (former wife of Tao Ruspoli).

Cockburn died on 26 April 1854, at his mansion of Bonaly, near Edinburgh and is buried in the city’s Dean Cemetery. A statue of Cockburn by local sculptor William Brodie stands in the north-east corner of Parliament Hall.

Cockburn Street, built in the 1850s to connect the High Street with the North British Railway’s ‘Waverley’ station, is also named after him, and the building at its foot (formerly the “Cockburn Hotel”) bears his image in profile in a stone above the entrance.

Cockburn had a strong interest in architectural conservation, particularly in Edinburgh, where several important historic buildings such as “John Knox’s House” and Tailors’ Hall in the Cowgate owe their continued existence to the change in attitude towards conservation which he helped bring about. The Cockburn Association (Edinburgh Civic Trust), founded in 1875, was named in his honour.

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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.

Jane Gordon Duchess of Gordon
1748 or 1749 – 14 April 1812

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Jane Gordon

Jane Gordon Duchess of Gordon was the fourth child of Sir William Maxwell, 3rd Baronet of Monreith, and his wife Magdalene Blair. She was born at Myrton Castle the now ruined castle a short distance from the present seat of the family, Monreith House, which was not built until fifty years later.

Her father has been depicted as a drunk who allowed his family to exist in poverty in Edinburgh while he sold most of his 30,000-acre (12,000 ha) estate to make ends meet. In Edinburgh Jane lived together with her mother and her two sisters in a rented second-floor flat in Hyndford’s Close near Royal Mile. As for the family living in an Edinburgh apartment, that would have been normal at that time. Titled Scottish land owning families often rented apartments in Edinburgh so their girls could receive further education, be launched on Edinburgh Society, and attend the balls. This is exactly what happened when Lady Maxwell moved there in 1760 with her three daughters: Catherine, 13; Jane, 11; and Eglantine, 9, the future Lady Wallace of Craigie.

The Monreith Maxwells would have been considered a respectable family in that era. They were closely related to the Maxwells at Caerlaverock, Earls of Nithsdale who in the 17th Century had been considered one of the most powerful families in Scotland. And their grandmother was the daughter of the 9th Earl of Eglinton, head of the great Ayrshire land owning family and distinguished Member of Parliament.

Jane had a nasty accident as a 14 year-old when playing in the High Street in Edinburgh. She somehow got a finger of her right hand jammed in the wheel of a cart which moved away and tore her finger off. There is at Monreith House a letter written, left handed, by her after the accident explaining how it happened. After this, whenever possible, she wore gloves in which a wooden finger replaced the one missing. One of these wooden fingers is still at Monreith House. In later life she used to explain the loss of the finger by saying it was a coaching accident.

When Jane reached 16, she was so strikingly beautiful that a song was written about her: “Bonnie Jennie of Monreith, the Flower of Galloway”. That was also when she fell in love for the first and probably only time. The object of her affections was a young officer who was probably a Fraser, a relative of Lord Lovat. Soon after they met, he left with his regiment, probably to go to America, and word later reached her that he had died.

On 28 October 1767 Jane married the 24-year-old Alexander Gordon, 4th Duke of Gordon. The young Duke lived in the Gordon townhouse almost opposite the Maxwells, and he had inherited a considerable fortune and the title at the age of nine.

It was while they were on honeymoon at the Fordyce’s country seat, Ayton in Berwickshire, that she received a note from her former love, the young Fraser, very much alive, asking her to marry him. She is said to have read the note and fainted. However, she kept in touch with the young Fraser.

For the next 20 years, the Duke and Duchess lived at Gordon Castle in Morayshire which Jane’s husband enlarged to be one of the largest homes in Scotland—with a facade 600 feet long and an 84 foot high central tower. Part of the town of Fochabers had to be demolished and rebuilt elsewhere tomake room for the extensions. However, years later most of the enlargements were dismantled again.

At Gordon Castle, Jane organised parties, planted trees, and took a keen interest in farming. She was a great enthusiast for local dancing and fiddle and pipe music. She is credited with establishing the Strathspey as a dance form.

The couple had seven children. Her first son, George, Marquess of Huntly, the later George Gordon, 5th Duke of Gordon was born in 1770. The Duke also had an illegitimate son at about the same time, also called George, by a Mrs. Christie. Jane used to refer to “my George and the Duke’s George”.

Jane entertained on an increasingly lavish scale, with as many as 100 sitting down to dinner and guests staying for three months in the Castle. And in the 1780s, the Duchess started entertaining in Edinburgh, quickly becoming the leading hostess. Jane was the sole arbitress of fashion in Edinburgh. Horace Walpole called her the “Empress of fashion”. She regularly gave soirée evenings where up and coming artists were asked to entertain. It was in her drawing room that Robert Burns first read his poetry to Edinburgh society, and she became his chief sponsor, purchasing all his early published works.

In 1787 the Duke and the Duchess of Gordon moved to London. They first rented a house on Downing Street from Lord Sheffield, then one in Pall Mall from the Marquess of Buckingham, and finally one in St. James’s Square. And Jane continued her party-giving habit, but with a distinctly Scottish flavour. She made everyone dance Scottish dances. King George III adored her, and she supported the King, so she was allowed to promote her Scottish heritage more than others would have dared. She gave a ball at which she and the Duchess of York dressed in tartan when it was officially banned, and she arranged for the King to inspect troops dressed in tartan in Hyde Park.

It was in the Pall Mall house that she held her greatest parties. Close to Parliament in Westminster, she kept open house for the Tories. Pitt, the Prime Minister, and Dundas, the Lord Advocate were frequent visitors. And it was during this time that she arranged a truce between the King and his eldest son, the Prince Regent, whose had run up enormous debts. She arranged for his debts to be met, and this enabled the construction of the Royal Pavilion at Brighton to be continued.

In 1793, the French Revolutionary Government declared war on Great Britain. At that time the British army was short of recruits, since the military service was not very popular among the young men. As a consequence the Government asked Jane’s husband, the Duke of Gordon, to raise another regiment. The outcome of this was a bet between Jane and the Prince Regent, the future King George IV. Jane bet with the Prince Regent that she could raise more men than he, meaning the Government. Although 45 by then, she was still extremely attractive. Her recruiting technique was, to say the least, unusual. She wore a military uniform and a large black feathered hat (highland bonnet), touring Scotland to organise reels. Anyone who joined the reel joined the army and received the King’s shilling, the recruiting payment, from between the Duchess’ lips by kissing her. This was how the Gordon Highlanders were founded. Her total was 940 men. On 24 June 1794, the newly embodied regiment paraded for the first time at Aberdeen. The regiment existed until 1994.

In 1799, Jane became depressed and ill. Her eldest son, George, the later George Gordon, 5th Duke of Gordon, had gone off to the wars, and she wrote in a letter to a friend: “Oh where and oh where has my highland laddie gone?” Her second son, Alexander (1785–1808), died at 23, and her husband had moved his mistress, Jane Christie, into Gordon Castle and built a small house on the Spey, called Kinrara, for his estranged wife. Jane lived there for the next six years, continuing her entertaining and partying.

Having enjoyed life as a Duchess, Jane was determined to get her daughters well married, and she set out securing suitable husbands for them. In 1802, after the Peace of Amiens, she took her younger daughter, Georgiana (1781–1853), to Paris with a view to marrying her to the son of the Empress Joséphine, Eugène de Beauharnais. This would not have been popular so soon after hostilities, but nothing came of it. A short time later, Georgiana was reputed to be friendly, if not engaged, to Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford, but he died before they could marry. Jane then arranged a meeting with the Duke’s younger brother John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford who had inherited the title and recently been widowed with several children. All went as planned, and he soon married his late brother’s fiancée on 23 June 1803 in London. Georgiana had ten children by the Duke, and she followed in her mother’s partying footsteps, entertaining frequently in her Bedford home, Woburn Abbey. The Duchess of Bedford was a great patroness of the arts, and had a long standing relationship with the painter Sir Edwin Henry Landseer.

Jane then turned to finding a husband for Charlotte (1768–1842), the eldest daughter. She plotted to have her marry William Pitt, the Prime Minister, but her plan failed when Pitt’s close friend, Lord Henry Dundas, took an interest in Charlotte. Neither potential husband worked out, and Charlotte later married on 9 September 1789 at Gordon Castle Colonel Charles Lennox, the future 4th Duke of Richmond.

General Cornwallis had returned to England from his disastrous command of the British troops during the American Revolution to be, rather surprisingly, treated as a hero and created a Marquess. Having fought with Jane’s brother at Plessey in India as well as in the American war, he would have been a friend of Jane’s. So his eldest son, Lord Brome, was therefore considered suitable for Louisa (1776–1850), the fourth daughter. Cornwallis refused to approve the marriage, however, citing madness in the Gordon family. The Duchess allayed his fears by swearing that there was “not one drop of Gordon blood” in this particular daughter. The marriage then proceeded on 17 April 1795 in London. History does not relate who Louisa’s natural father was, but it is thought to have been Captain Fraser, her early love from Edinburgh.

Susan (1774–1828), the third daughter, married on 7 October 1793 in Edinburgh to William Montagu, 5th Duke of Manchester, and Madeleine (1772–1847), the second daughter, married firstly on 2 April 1789 in London to Sir Robert Sinclair, 7th Baronet. On 25 November 1805 she married secondly at Kimbolton Castle to Charles Fysche Palmer.

Jane’s own marriage had been more of less an arrangement from the beginning. The return from the dead of her lover during the honeymoon was an inauspicious start. The Duke having an illegitimate son by Jane Christie at the same time as his heir was born was an unfortunate sequence, to be followed by the birth of her illegitimate daughter a few years later. The Duke openly kept his mistress at Gordon Castle while the Duchess seems to have preferred assignations with her lover on the windswept moors.

By 1805, the marriage was officially over, and the couple reached a financial agreement whereby the Duchess would be given a new house, capital payments, and generous annual supplements. The Duke was by then in financial difficulties, however; he acknowledged his liability to the Duchess, but he did not pay all the monies legally due her.

Jane was reduced to living in hotels, and she became increasingly eccentric. She was involved in an acrimonious dispute with her estranged husband over money, and she died in 1812 at Poultney’s Hotel, Piccadilly, London, surrounded by her four daughters and surviving son. Her body was taken north to be buried at the old Celtic Chapel by the banks of the Spey at Kinrara. There her husband carried out her final wish and erected a monument to her on which were recorded the marriages of her children.

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