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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.

James Watson (Radical)
21 September 1799 – 29 November 1874

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James Watson

James Watson was born at Malton, North Yorkshire. His father died when he was only a year old. His mother, who was a Sunday school teacher, taught him to read and write. Around the year of 1811, she returned to domestic service in the household of a clergyman, who had paid for James’s schooling and tuitions for a brief period. He had worked there as under-gardener, in the stables and as house-servant, and he read widely. From about 1817 Watson was with his mother in Leeds, where he became a warehouseman.

Watson was converted to freethought and radicalism by public readings from William Cobbett and Richard Carlile. He spread literature and helped with a subscription on behalf of Carlile. Carlile was sentenced in 1821 to three years’ imprisonment for blasphemy, and Watson went up to London in September 1822 to serve as a volunteer assistant in his Water Lane bookshop. In January 1823 Carlile’s wife, having completed her own term of imprisonment, took a new shop at 201 Strand, and Watson moved there as a salesman; salesman after salesman was arrested. In February 1823 Watson was charged with selling a copy of Elihu Palmer’s Principles of Nature to a police agent, spoke in his own defence, and was sent to Coldbath Fields Prison for a year.

In prison he read David Hume, Edward Gibbon, and Johann Lorenz von Mosheim’s Ecclesiastical History, and developed his anti-Christian and republican opinions. In 1825 he trained as a compositor, and was employed in printing Carlile’s The Republican; and went into business on his own. He was in poverty at times, and in 1826 caught cholera. Recovering, he became an Owenite, and in 1828 he was storekeeper of the “First Co-operative Trading Association” in London, in Red Lion Square.

In 1831 Watson set up as a printer and publisher. He became a champion of the right to free expression of opinion. Julian Hibbert, an admirer, died in January 1834 and left him a legacy, with which Watson enlarged his printing plant. He started by printing the life and works of Tom Paine, and these volumes were followed by Mirabaud’s System of Nature and Volney’s Ruins. Later he printed Lord Byron’s Cain and The Vision of Judgment, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Queen Mab and The Masque of Anarchy, and Clark on the Miracles of Christ. These book were printed, corrected, folded, and sewed by Watson himself, and issued at one shilling or less per volume. He cared for the appearance of his books, on which he lost money.

In 1832 Watson was arrested, but escaped imprisonment, for organising a procession and a feast on the day the government had ordained a “general fast” on account of the cholera epidemic. In February 1833 he was summoned at Bow Street for selling Henry Hetherington’s Poor Man’s Guardian, and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment at Clerkenwell. His shop was near Bunhill Fields; he then moved first to City Road, and in 1843 to 5 Paul’s Alley.

He married Eleanor Byerley, on 3 June 1834, and two months later was arrested and imprisoned for six months for having circulated Hetherington’s unstamped paper, ironically entitled The Conservative. He had come under the observation of the government as a leader of the meeting of trade unions in April of that, in favour of the action of the Dorchester labourers. This was his last imprisonment, though he continued to issue books banned by the government.

In June 1837 Watson was on the committee appointed to draw up the bills embodying the Chartist demands. He was opposed to the violence of some of the agitators, and, on the other hand, to the overtures made to Whig partisans, whom he denounced. He was averse to “peddling away the people’s birthright for any mess of cornlaw pottage”.

Watson corresponded with Giuseppe Mazzini, and in 1847 joined his Peoples’ International League. In 1848 he was one of the conveners of the first public meeting to congratulate the French Revolution of 1848.

An untaxed and absolutely free press became his main object in later years. He died at Burns College, Hamilton Road, Lower Norwood, on 29 November 1874, and was buried in Norwood cemetery. A grey granite obelisk erected by friends commemorated his “brave efforts to secure the rights of free speech”. A photographic portrait was in the Memoir by William James Linton.

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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 James Bland Lamb 1st Baronet
8 June 1752 – 13 October 1824

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James Bland Lamb

Sir James Lamb 1st Baronet was born James Burges and known as Sir James Burges and born at Gibraltar. He was the only son of George Burges and Anne Whichnour Somerville. His mother was the daughter of James Somerville, 13th Lord Somerville. His father had distinguished himself at the Battle of Culloden by capturing the standard of Charles Edward Stewart and was later deputy paymaster in Gibraltar.

He went to Westminster School and then entered University College, Oxford in 1770 before studying law at Lincoln’s Inn in 1773.

Burges first served in Parliament as Member of Parliament for Helston from 1787 to 1790). He then served as Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs between 1789 and 1795 before becoming a Baronet and Knight Marshal of his majesty’s household (1795) where he played an important role in the coronation of George IV.

Burges was an ambitious and productive writer. He was well established; being a friend of William Cumberland and John Graves Simcoe; and a patron of Thomas Dermody. He was connected by marriage to Lord Byron. He wrote music for Ode to the Passions by William Collins and wrote the prologue to Vortigern and Rowena (1796).

He exchanged poetry with royalty and wrote long poems. The Birth and Triumph of Love was published in 1796 and the 16,000 line poem was very poorly received. It was quoted as a project that was known for its lack of success. Despite the ignominy Burges still had a prestige and funds available where he could indulge his literary interests. He wrote an introduction for William Henry Ireland Shakespearian forgery and Thomas Dermody stole money from him. Burges continued to publish poetry and he had a play in Drury Lane. Despite being championed by Lord Byron, no other plays followed.

He wrote an introduction to a later edition of the Pilgrim’s Progress sequel, Progress of the Pilgrim Good-Intent in Jacobinical Times. In this introduction he revealed that the true author of the work was his gifted sister Mary Ann Burges.

Lamb married three times; his first marriage to Elizabeth Noel, second daughter of Edward Noel, 1st Viscount Wentworth in 1777 produced no children. His second marriage to Anne, third daughter of Lieutenant-colonel Montolieu, Baron of St. Hypolite produced the following children.

  • Charles Montolieu (1785–1864), 2nd Baronet.
  • Wentworth-Noel (b. 30 December 1792), an ensign in the Coldstream Guards, he was killed at the 1812 Siege of Burgos during the Peninsular War.
  • Somerville-Waldemar (b. 7 March 1794), an ensign in the 1st Foot Guards, lost a leg at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. In 1821 he married Mademoiselle Melanie-Marianne Meray, daughter of Capt. Meray, of the French Army.
  • Clara-Maria (d. 4 February 1821).
  • Emilia-Charlotte, who married Major-General Sir Hugh Halkett on 25 May 1810.
  • Caroline-Eliza-Anne (d. 20 November l863).
  • Sophia-Anne (d.11 October 1858), who married Warburton Davies on 21 December 1821.
  • Julia-Octavia (d. 28 October 1826).

In 1812, Lamb married for the third time to Lady Margaret Fordyce, widow of Alexander Fordyce and daughter of James Lindsay, 5th Earl of Balcarres. The couple had no children.

  • Heroic epistle from Serjeant Bradshaw to John Dunning. 1780.
  • Considerations on the law of insolvency. 1783.
  • A letter to the Earl of Effingham. 1783.
  • Address to the country gentlemen of England. 1789.
  • Letters on the Spanish aggression at Nootka. 1790.
  • Narrative of the negotiation between France and Spain in 1790. 1790.
  • Alfred’s letters: a review of the political state of Europe. 1792.
  • The birth and triumph of love. 1796.
  • Richard the first: a poem in eighteen books. 2 vols, 1801.
  • The exodiad [with Richard Cumberland]. 1807, 1808.
  • Riches, or the wife and brother: a play. 1810.
  • Songs, duets, etc. in Tricks upon travellers, a comic opera. 1810.
  • Dramas. 2 vols, 1817.
  • The dragon knight: a poem in twelve cantos. 1818.
  • Reasons in favour of a new translation of the holy scriptures. 1819.
  • An inquiry into the procrastination attributed to the House of Lords. 1824.
  • Selections from the letters and correspondence, ed. Hutton. 1885.

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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.

Watier’s Club
1807-1819

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Watier’s Club, 81 Piccadilly

Watier’s Club prior to its occupation as a gaming hall and restaurant, was a private residence, and the headquarters of a small singing club. The Prince of Wales suggested the creation of a club using his new chef, Jean-Baptiste Watier, (who, of course, was the club’s namesake). Amongst the members in the early days were Henry Mildmay, Baron Alvanley, Beau Brummell and Henry Pierrepont.

At the opposite corner of Bolton Street stood, from 1807 to 1819, Watier’s Gambling Club. Concerning the origin of this club—or rather, gaming house, for it was nothing more—the following anecdote is told by Captain Gronow:—”Upon one occasion, some gentlemen of both ‘White’s’ and ‘Brooks’s’ had the honour to dine with the Prince Regent, and during the conversation the Prince inquired what sort of dinners they got at their clubs; upon which Sir Thomas Stepney, one of the guests, observed that their dinners were always the same, the eternal joints or beef-steaks, the boiled fowl with oyster sauce, and an apple tart. ‘That is what we have at our clubs, and very monotonous fare it is.’ The Prince, without further remark, rang the bell for his cook, Watier, and in the presence of those who dined at the royal table, asked him whether he would take a house and organise a dinner-club. Watier assented, and named the Prince’s page, Madison, as manager, and Labourie, from the royal kitchen, as cook. The club flourished only a few years, owing to the night-play that was carried on there. The favourite game played there was ‘Macao.'” The Duke of York patronised it, and was a member. Tom Moore also tells us that he belonged to it. The dinners were exquisite; the best Parisian cooks could not beat Labourie.

Mr. John Timbs, in his account of this club, remarks, with sly humour, “In the old days, when gaming was in fashion, at Watier’s Club both princes and nobles lost or gained fortunes between themselves;’ and by all accounts “Macao” seems to have been a far more effective instrument in the losing of fortunes than either “Whist” or “Loo.”

Mr. Raikes, in his “Journal,” says that Watier’s Club, which had originally been established for harmonic meetings, became, in the time of “Beau” Brummell, the resort of nearly all the fine gentlemen of the day. “The dinners,” he adds, “were superlative, and high play at ‘Macao’ was generally introduced. It was this game, or rather losses which arose out of it, that first led the ‘Beau’ into difficulties.” Mr. Raikes further remarks, with reference to this club, that its pace was “too quick to last,” and that its records show that none of its members at his death had reached the average age of man. The club was closed in 1819, when the house was taken by a set of “black-legs” who instituted a common bank for gambling. This caused the ruin of several fortunes, and it was suppressed in its turn, or died a natural death.

It was at the behest of the Prince Regent, (later King George IV), that Brummell was named the club’s president.

The club carried the affectionate nickname, “The Dandies Club,” which was bestowed by Lord Byron who remarked, “I like the dandies, they were always very civil to me.”

The club had a very short life eventually fading out in 1819, it had become the haven for ‘blackguards’ and fortunes were being lost to a ‘common bank’ that had been set up by a group of members and guaranteed ruin for others.

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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.

William Clarkson Stanfield-Clarkson Frederick Stanfield
3 December 1793 – 18 May 1867

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William Clarkson Stanfield-Clarkson Frederick Stanfield

William Clarkson Stanfield-Clarkson Frederick Stanfield was born at Sunderland, the son of James Field Stanfield (1749–1824) an Irish-born author, actor and former seaman. Clarkson was named after Thomas Clarkson, the slave trade abolitionist, whom his father knew, and this was the only forename he used, although there is reason to believe Frederick was a second one.

Stanfield probably inherited artistic talent from his mother, who is said to have been an artist but died in 1801. He was briefly apprenticed to a coach decorator in 1806, but left owing to the drunkenness of his master’s wife and joined a South Shields collier to become a sailor. In 1808 he was pressed into the Royal Navy, serving in the guardship HMS Namur at Sheerness. Discharged on health grounds in 1814, he then made a voyage to China in 1815 on the East Indiaman Warley and returned with many sketches.

In August 1816 Stanfield was engaged as a decorator and scene-painter at the Royalty Theatre in Wellclose Square, London. Along with David Roberts he was afterwards employed at the Coburg theatre, Lambeth, and in 1823 he became a resident scene-painter at the Drury Lane theatre, where he rose rapidly to fame through the huge quantity of spectacular scenery which he produced for that house until 1834.

Stanfield abandoned scenery painting after Christmas 1834 — though he made exceptions for two personal friends. He designed scenery for the stage productions of William Charles Macready, and for the amateur theatricals of Charles Dickens.

Stanfield partnered with David Roberts in several large-scale diorama and panorama projects in the 1820s and 1830s. The newest development in these popular entertainments was the “moving diorama” or “moving panorama.” These consisted of huge paintings that unfolded upon rollers like giant scrolls; they were supplemented with sound and lighting effects to create a nineteenth-century anticipation of cinema. Stanfield and Roberts produced eight of these entertainments; in light of their later accomplishments as marine painters, their panoramas of two important naval engagements, the Bombardment of Algiers and The Battle of Navarino, are worth noting.

An 1830 tour through Germany and Italy furnished Stanfield with material for two more moving panoramas, The Military Pass of the Simplon (1830) and Venice and Its Adjacent Islands (1831). Stanfield executed the first in only eleven days; it earned him a fee of £300. The Venetian panorama of the next year was 300 feet long and 20 high; gas lit, it unrolled through 15 or 20 minutes. The show included stage props and even singing gondoliers. After the show closed, portions of the work were re-used in productions of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and Otway’s Venice Preserved.

The moving panoramas of Stanfield and other artists became highlights of the traditional Christmas pantomimes.

Meanwhile, Stanfield developed his skills as an easel painter, especially of marine subjects; he first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1820 and continued, with only a few early interruptions, to his death. He was also a founder member of the Society of British Artists (from 1824) and its president for 1829, and exhibited there and at the British Institution, where in 1828 his picture Wreckers off Fort Rouge gained a premium of 50 guineas. He was elected Associate Member of the Royal Academy in 1832, and became a full Academician in February 1835. His elevation was in part a result of the interest of William IV who, having admired his St. Michael’s Mount at the Academy in 1831 (now in the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia), commissioned two works from him of the Opening of New London Bridge (1832) and The Entrance to Portsmouth Harbour. Both remain in the Royal Collection.

Until his death he contributed a long series of powerful and highly popular works to the Academy, both of marine subjects and landscapes from his travels at home and in France, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Ireland. Notable works include:

  • The Battle of Trafalgar (1836), executed for the United Service Club
  • the Castle of Ischia (1841), now in Sunderland Museum and Art Gallery
  • Isola Bella (1841), among the results of a visit to Italy in 1839
  • French troops Fording the Magra (1847)
  • HMS The Victory Bearing the Body of Nelson Towed into Gibraltar after the Battle of Trafalgar (1853), painted for Sir Samuel Morton Peto at Somerleyton Hall, Suffolk (which is today open to the public)
  • The Abandoned (1856; untraced since 1930)

He also executed two notable series of Venetian subjects, one for the former dining room at Bowood House, Wiltshire, for the 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne, the other for the Duchess of Sutherland at Trentham Park, Staffordshire. Neither house survives but some of Stanfield’s work for Bowood can still be seen there (the present Bowood House and park, open to the public, is a conversion of the old stable block). He illustrated Heath’s Picturesque Annuals for the years 1832–34, and in 1838 published a collection of lithographic views on the Rhine, Moselle and Meuse; forty subjects from both sides of the English Channel were also steel-engraved under the title of Stanfield’s Coast Scenery (1836). Among literary works for which he provided illustrations were Captain Marryat’s The Pirate and the Three Cutters (1836), Poor Jack (1840) and the lives and works of Lord Byron, George Crabbe, and Samuel Johnson, mainly in editions by John Murray.

Stanfield’s art was powerfully influenced by his early practice as a scene-painter. But, though there is always a touch of the spectacular and the scenic in his works, and though their colour is apt to be rather dry and hard, they are large and effective in handling, powerful in their treatment of broad atmospheric effects and telling in composition, and they evince the most complete knowledge of the artistic materials with which their painter deals. John Ruskin considered his treatment of the sea and clouds of a very high order and called him the “leader of our English Realists.” Wishing him to be sometimes “less wonderful and more terrible,” Ruskin also pointed out the superior merits of his sketched work, especially in watercolour, to the often contrived picturesque qualities of many of his exhibited oils and the watercolours on which published engravings were based.

Stanfield was admired not only for his art but his personal simplicity and a modesty. He was born a Catholic and became increasingly devout in middle life, after the loss in 1838 of his eldest son by his second marriage (to Rebecca Adcock) and then, in the 1850s, both the children of his first marriage (to Mary Hutchinson, who had died in childbirth).

His eldest surviving son, George Clarkson Stanfield (1828–78) was also a painter of similar subjects, largely trained by his father. His grandson by his daughter Harriet, Joseph Richard Bagshawe was also a marine painter.

Stanfield died at Hampstead, London, and was buried in Kensal Green Catholic Cemetery.

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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.

John Scott (Editor)
24 October 1784 – 27 February 1821

John Scott edited several liberal newspapers: The Statesman, which Leigh Hunt founded; the Stamford News, published by John Drakard; Drakard’s Paper (a London edition of this), which he renamed The Champion; and the most notable, the London Magazine, which he revived, as a monthly, in January 1820.

Under his direction, the magazine included works by such luminaries as Wordsworth, Charles Lamb, de Quincey, John Clare, Thomas Hood, Carlyle, Keats, Leigh Hunt, and Hazlitt. He also agreed to write a third of the magazine himself, which he did mostly under pseudonyms.

He attended Aberdeen Grammar School, as did Lord Byron, who was some years younger; he spent 1795-8 at Marischal College, but left without graduating. When Byron published an account of his marriage in 1816, Scott called this publication indelicacy; Leigh Hunt quarreled with him over this.

He died as the result of a duel, one of the side effects of the Cockney School controversy. John Gibson Lockhart had been abusing many of Scott’s contributors in Blackwood’s Magazine (under a pseudonym (Z), as was then common). In May 1820, Scott began a series of counter-articles, which provoked Lockhart into calling him “a liar and a scoundrel”. In February 1820, Lockhart’s London agent, Jonathan Henry Christie, made a provocative statement, and Scott challenged him.

They met on 16 February 1821, at a farm between Camden Town and Hampstead. Christie did not fire in the first round, but there was a misunderstanding between the seconds, resulting in a second round. Scott was hit in the abdomen, and died 11 days later. Christie and his second were tried for wilful murder and acquitted; the collection for Scott’s family was a notable radical cause.

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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.

William Arden 2nd Baron Alvanley
8 January 1789 – 16 November 1849

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William Arden

William Arden 2nd Baron Alvanley was the son of Richard Arden, 1st Baron Alvanley and Anne Wilbraham-Bootle. Initially pursuing a career as an officer in the British Army, purchased an ensigncy in the Coldstream Guards. He was promoted to captain in March 1809. He later transferred to the 50th (Queen’s Own) Regiment of Foot, and exchanged to the half-pay of the 100th Regiment of Foot on 1 September 1812. Due to his subsequent debts, he was forced to dispose of his half-pay on 10 June 1826. He later served in the Forest Troop, King’s Regiment of Cheshire Yeomanry Cavalry, as a cornet, but resigned on 17 January 1840.

Lord Alvanley was a prominent Regency buck and member of the Prince Regent’s circle, and was friends with Beau Brummell. He was popular in society and regarded as wittiest man of his day. He, Brummell, Henry Mildmay, and Henry Pierrepoint were considered the prime movers of Watier’s club, dubbed “the Dandy Club” by Lord Byron. They were also the four hosts of the July 1813 masquerade ball at which the Prince Regent greeted Alvanley and Pierrepoint, but then “cut” Brummell and Mildmay by snubbing them, staring them in the face but not speaking to them. Brummell then said to Alvanley, “Alvanley, who’s your fat friend?”. The Prince Regent was not amused; this incident was the final and most public sign that Brummell was no longer favored by “Prinny”.

Alvanley continued to support Brummell, sending money to his friend during Brummell’s exile in France. In 1835, Alvanley fought a duel with Morgan O’Connell. According to a near contemporary report, “[Alvanley] went through the business with the most perfect sang froid, but on his way to the field he whimsically intimated a singular alarm. Having descended a hollow, ‘My Lord’, said he to his second, ‘you get me down well enough, but’, alluding to his full size, ‘should I fall, I do not know how the devil you will ever get me up again.'”

He had an extremely lavish lifestyle, funded by income generated by the estates that his father had bought. His prominent position in society also allowed him to float a line of credit. However, his debts became untenable and eventually his family estates had to be sold to pay them off. Underbank Hall in Stockport was sold by auction in 1823, most of the Bredbury estate was sold in lots in 1825, the Arden Hall mansion in 1833. He eventually resigned his membership of White’s. The death of George IV in 1830 saw Alvanley’s society position deteriorate, which was furthered hampered by his limited income. He occasionally contributed to debates in the House of Lords. He did not marry and had no children. On his death, the title went to his only brother, the Hon. Colonel Richard Arden.

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