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Liberal Hearts and Coronets

Liberal Hearts and Coronets: The Lives and Times of Ishbel Marjoribanks Gordon and John Campbell Gordon, the Aberdeens

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 384
  • Book Info
    Liberal Hearts and Coronets
    Book Description:

    Scottish aristocrats John Campbell Gordon (1847-1934) and Ishbel Marjoribanks Gordon (1857-1939), known as the Aberdeens, rejected both revolution and reaction in their political careers. The aristocratic progressivism and egalitarian marriage of these fervent liberals confounded both contemporaries and historians. John, as viceroy of Ireland and governor-general of Canada, was a notable ally of feminists, workers, and Irish Home Rulers. Ishbel, his viceregal companion and the long-time president of the International Council of Women, was a liberal feminist and Home Ruler whose commitments stirred up even more controversy.

    Superbly written and informed by decades of research,Liberal Hearts and Coronetsis the first biography to treat John Campbell Gordon as seriously as his better-known wife. Examining the Aberdeens' remarkable careers as landlords, philanthropists, and international progressives, Veronica Strong-Boag casts the twilight of the British aristocracy in an entirely new light.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-1649-3
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. Family Trees
    (pp. x-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    Ladies and lords are rarely in fashion for critical scholars or democratic activists. This is unfortunate. British aristocrats John Campbell (originally Hamilton-) Gordon (1847–1934) and Ishbel Maria Marjoribanks Gordon (1857–1939), colloquially known as the Aberdeens, constituted a force for both conservatism and improvement in the Atlantic world of their day. They merit our attention.¹ By setting out self-consciously as reformers, they suggested that Britain’s traditional rulers still had essential duties in a democratizing age and that greater equality was a common good. Ishbel Marjoribanks and John Gordon rejected both revolution and reaction for the embrace of a liberal...

  6. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  7. Chapter One The Making of a Responsible Man: John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon to 1877
    (pp. 17-43)

    John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 3 August 1847.¹ He was the fourth of six children and youngest of the three sons of George Hamilton-Gordon, fifth Earl of Aberdeen, and Mary Baillie Hamilton-Gordon (1814–1900). He was not expected to inherit the title. In his early twenties, however, his prospects changed dramatically. By 1872, he was legally acknowledged as the Earl of Aberdeen. Five years later, he married Ishbel Maria Hogg Marjoribanks. The years from birth to marriage set the course for the making of a man, whose claims for leadership rested on conciliation and inclusion. Not...

  8. Chapter Two The Dutiful Daughter: Ishbel Maria Hogg Marjoribanks to 1877
    (pp. 44-75)

    Ishbel Maria Marjoribanks was born in Mayfair, London, England, on 14 March 1857, fifth of the seven children and second daughter of Isabel Weir Hogg (1827–1908) and Sir Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks (1820–1894), later first Baron Tweedmouth (1881). She stood out in her own age and stands out today as someone whose prominence as a female reformer and public figure calls out for attention and explanation. Opinions of her have been deeply divided. Did she advance the feminist cause through pragmatic positioning or did she curtail its development, encouraging concession and limited action? Did she unnaturally rule the Aberdeen...

  9. Chapter Three Forging a Partnership, 1877–1886
    (pp. 76-115)

    The 1877 Marjoribanks-Gordon union presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury appeared no more than a conventional society wedding of the rich and well-born. Queen Victoria’s kiss for the new countess during her second court presentation in 1878 reiterated that message. Like the vast majority of their peers, the couple could have retreated into effective historical obscurity, marked only by the requisite public notices of births and deaths. Ishbel and John’s earlier forays into activism had, however, already signalled the possibility of an entirely different trajectory. Their first years together constructed in turn a further powerful foundation of emotional support...

  10. Chapter Four Extending the Field of Labour, 1886–1898
    (pp. 116-161)

    The loss of the 1886 election to Conservatives and Liberal Unionists devastated the Aberdeens. That December, encouraged by their friend Lord Rosebery, the future Liberal prime minister, they headed to Suez and beyond in search of edification and consolation. This therapeutic trip initiated explorations in imperialism, liberalism, and feminism that culminated with their Canadian 1893–98 viceroyalty. Entering his forties, the earl, while still nervous on many occasions, seemed to have grown into his title as a senior Scottish Liberal peer, and his consort, in her thirties, had survived the perils of child-bearing and early child-rearing to win recognition as...

  11. Chapter Five From Hope to Heartache, 1899–1915
    (pp. 162-198)

    In 1898, the Aberdeens looked forward to returning home. In 1915, they fled Britain for the United States. The intervening years occasioned great hope and ultimate despair. At the beginning, buoyed by Canada’s prospects as a home-ruling, multicultural nation under Liberal Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier and the success of the National Council of Women of Canada, Ishbel and John threw themselves again into the mobilization of Britain’s reform and Liberal forces. The London quinquennial meeting of the International Council of Women in 1899, Ishbel’s re-election as ICW president in 1904, and their reappointment to Ireland after the 1905 electoral victory...

  12. Chapter Six Faithful unto Death, 1915–1939
    (pp. 199-234)

    When they arrived in the United States in the fall of 1915, John and Ishbel Gordon were approaching their seventies and sixties, respectively. He lived until 1934 and she until 1939. John remained lord lieutenant of Aberdeenshire and attended the House of Lords until his death, but his career was in steep decline after the First World War. He became a symbol of earnest, well-meaning liberalism, his era’s faith that failed. The younger Ishbel had the advantage of executive office, albeit finally as honorary president, in the International Council of Women and survived as a high-profile proponent of progressive causes...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 235-238)

    How do we measure lives lived? This question supplies a central preoccupation ofLiberal Hearts and Coronets. John Campbell Gordon and Ishbel Maria Marjoribanks Gordon generated a multiplicity of judgments in their own time and they continue to divide opinion. Contemporaries’ discomfort at their performance of masculinity and femininity always complicated assessment. Their association with causes that faltered or failed – elite leadership, liberalism, imperialism, Irish Home Rule, and feminism – sometimes draped them in the garb of losers or eccentrics, categories that public memory rarely dignifies. Fortunately, Ishbel’s prominence in feminist organizations and John’s viceroyalties prevented them from entirely...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 239-320)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 321-360)
  16. Index
    (pp. 361-374)