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Palmerston: A Biography

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 544
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    A grand and fascinating figure in Victorian politics, the charismatic Lord Palmerston (1784-1865) served as foreign secretary for fifteen years and prime minister for nine, engaged in struggles with everyone from the Duke of Wellington to Lord John Russell to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, engineered the defeat of the Russians in the Crimean War, and played a major role in the development of liberalism and the Liberal Party. This comprehensive biography, informed by unprecedented research in the statesman's personal archives, gives full weight not only to Palmerston's foreign policy achievements, but also to his domestic political activity, political thought, life as a landlord, and private life and affairs. Through the lens of the milieu of his times, the book pinpoints for the first time the nature and extent of Palmerston's contributions to the making of modern Britain.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16844-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. A Note on Quotations
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Maps
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    On 18 October 1865 Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, died, two days short of his eighty-first birthday. He had just completed his ninth year as Prime Minister and as he lay dying at Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire he could, had he been in a nostalgic frame of mind, have looked back on a career spanning almost six decades and one that included, in addition to two terms as Prime Minister, almost nineteen years as Secretary at War, fifteen years as Foreign Secretary and two more as Home Secretary. It had been a good innings by any standard. As William...

  8. CHAPTER 1 About Harry, 1784–1800
    (pp. 7-18)

    Henry John Temple was not obviously born to greatness. His early life would follow the well-worn path of a late eighteenth-century eldest son of the aristocracy, but in so far as that path had a final destination, it was probably thought to be entry into the diplomatic service, a route his younger brother William would follow, rather than to the highest offices of state. Unlike many of those among whom he would live his later life – the Russells, the Stanleys, the Cecils – the future third Viscount Palmerston’s pedigree did not provide him with an automatic entrée into the elite ranks...

  9. CHAPTER 2 North and South, 1800–1806
    (pp. 19-39)

    Given his father’s fondness for travel, and the common expectations of the age that a young man be personally acquainted with Britain’s neighbours, it was not surprising that a Grand Tour was considered an appropriate next step for Harry on leaving Harrow. Having evaded the worst excesses of revolutionary France in the 1790s, not even Napoleonic threats in 1800 were enough to crush the suggestion that Harry join his father’s friend, Lord Minto, who was at that time in Vienna on a special mission. Minto had reassured the Palmerstons that there was ‘no safer or better place for young men’,...

  10. CHAPTER 3 War and Peace, 1806–1828
    (pp. 40-76)

    The year 1805 closed amid disturbing portents for Europe. News of the allied victory at Trafalgar in October was tempered by the almost simultaneous surrender of the Austrian army to French forces at Ulm in Bavaria. Napoleon Bonaparte’s victory over the armies of Austria and Russia in the ‘Battle of the Three Emperors’ at Austerlitz (Slavkov) in Moravia at the beginning of December therefore marked a worrying turn of events from the point of view of British influence and the coherence and unity of the allied powers. As Palmerston himself later described it: ‘Europe saw with astonishment the ancient and...

  11. CHAPTER 4 The Making of Palmerston I: Lord Cupid, Irish Landlord
    (pp. 77-103)

    On 28 May 1829, Palmerston enjoyed a ‘fine day’ with ‘La K’ which included a visit to a ‘Spanish bazaar’ and, later on, it may be assumed, much more besides. ‘K’, however, was not Palmerston’s only, or most frequent, lover that year. Inside the back cover of his diary for 1829, Palmerston noted the number and frequency of his liaisons:

    E. 40 to 26 Aug

    K. 1 to 28 May²

    ‘E’, or Emily Cowper, had been Palmerston’s mistress for some time by this point. So had, at different times, ‘K’, ‘Whalley’, a ‘Mrs Brown’ and potentially many other unidentified women...

  12. CHAPTER 5 The Making of Palmerston II: The Politician
    (pp. 104-142)

    A week after Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo in June 1815, Palmerston wrote to his friend, Lord Fitzharris, son of Lord Malmesbury, to express his hope that ‘the Allies will not be duped by this second rehearsal of the farce of abdication, but will move on straight to Paris and putle Désiréto bed in the Tuileries and hang Buonaparte on one of his own triumphal arches’.² Swept up, like so many of his contemporaries, in the patriotic fervour of allied victory, Palmerston took an early opportunity to visit France in the late summer of 1815 where he had...

  13. CHAPTER 6 The Whig Foreign Secretary, 1830–1834
    (pp. 143-188)

    In the closing months of Wellington’s government Palmerston and his political allies had become increasingly troubled about the course of foreign affairs. Revolution, radicalism and the threat of renewed European conflict haunted Europe and Palmerston was not sanguine about the outlook for Britain. Crisis in Belgium, he told his brother in October, had brought matters to a head: ‘I believe the fact to be that Russia, Austria and Prussia want England to join in a new alliance to put down revolutions & curb France, that France on the other hand wants England to come to a fair understanding with her...

  14. CHAPTER 7 Palmerston, Rex and Autocrat, 1835–1841
    (pp. 189-242)

    If Palmerston had entered the Foreign Office in 1830 with high hopes of working towards, and quickly celebrating, a rapid change in international politics with the rise of liberalism, his second term, beginning in April 1835, seemed to offer altogether more prosaic duties. As Herbert Bell observed, beyond western Europe there seemed little prospect of achieving any meaningful advance for liberalism (at least not that would justify the effort) and so Palmerston was left simply to tie up the loose ends of earlier projects: to ensure that Holland would finally accept the settlement of November 1831, to see that the...

  15. CHAPTER 8 The Absentee, 1841–1846
    (pp. 243-278)

    It was not only Palmerston who felt he had been working like a galley slave throughout the 1830s. Stories circulated in society that Palmerston should never be expected to quit his desk in time for the soup course at dinner and he was said to keep guests waiting at home while he got through business (and that included his evening constitutional horse ride after work).² His brother-in-law, Beauvale, and his wife, Emily, worried about the ‘life of a galley slave’ that he led (the phrase crops up frequently), but as Beauvale observed, ‘He don’t like help so he must work.’³...

  16. CHAPTER 9 The Gunpowder Minister, 1846–1851
    (pp. 279-333)

    On 6 July 1846 Russell had finally formed his government and on that day Palmerston went, with the other new ministers, to Osborne where he was once again entrusted by the Queen with the seals of the Foreign Office. There were many who looked on this administration as condemned to a brief and fractious life. Only a week after formally inaugurating her new government, the Queen wrote to her uncle, King Leopold, that the ‘present government is weak, and I think Lord J. does not possess the talent of keeping his people together’.² Prince Albert, who had been closer to...

  17. CHAPTER 10 The People’s Minister, 1852–1855
    (pp. 334-379)

    To some at Westminster it appeared, as Lord Dufferin put it, that Palmerston had been ‘completely floored’ in December 1851 and, he observed a little over a month afterwards, ‘people seem to think he is not likely to rise again’.² Those close to the government reassured themselves that the loss of Palmerston was not too serious a blow; indeed, that it might shore up an ageing administration. Lord Truro thought Palmerston had become ‘too fond of popularity hunting to fit the Foreign Office & when he makes the good men of Tiverton his confidants, he incapacitates himself for that important...

  18. CHAPTER 11 The Mortal Minister, 1855–1859
    (pp. 380-429)

    Lord Broughton (formerly John Cam Hobhouse) viewed Palmerston’s accession to the premiership in 1855 as the culmination of a steady progression to that station. His flattering account of Palmerston’s triumph resonated with a significant body of opinion that had for some time regarded the minister, despite his advancing years, as ‘the coming man’. As Broughton put it: ‘Gibbon said of Charles Fox that he rose by slow degrees to be the most accomplished debater that the world ever saw. And in like manner, it may be said of Lord Palmerston that, step by step, sometimes ascending quickly, at other times,...

  19. CHAPTER 12 The Prime Minister, 1859–1865
    (pp. 430-480)

    That the Queen turned to Granville before appointing Palmerston, ahead of Russell, to form a government in the summer of 1859 is itself sufficient evidence of the fact that Palmerston’s return to the premiership was far from inevitable. The negotiations between Palmerston and Russell during the earlier part of the year had been important in so far as they had facilitated some sort of Liberal rapprochement in June, but Palmerston’s own position was much less certain than his conduct indicated. He had been forced from office in 1858, in part, because the public thought he was unduly compliant in his...

  20. Legacy
    (pp. 481-489)

    Sir John Trelawny observed in 1862, not altogether approvingly: ‘Lord Palmerston has the happy gift of saying tonight what no one expects, but a great majority will agree to tomorrow morning. He has a manner, too, which conciliates his bitterest opponents. While his geniality cannot fail to please, it is not quite satisfactory to those who have been in the habit of attaching great importance to laws, customs, Institutions or policy, in affecting the current of a Nation’s History, to reflect that the personal qualities of one man carry every one captive.’¹ This sense of political ease has sometimes led...

    (pp. 490-491)
  22. Notes
    (pp. 492-555)
  23. Index
    (pp. 556-574)