Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale GCVO
(24 February 1837
- 17 August 1916
), of Batsford
, and Birdhope Craig
, was a British
diplomat, collector and writer. Nicknamed "Barty", he was the paternal grandfather of the Mitford sisters
He was the son of Henry Reveley Mitford of Exbury House
and the great-grandson of the historian William Mitford
, and was educated at Eton
and Christ Church, Oxford
. While his paternal ancestors were landed gentry
, whose holdings had once included Mitford Castle in Northumberland
, his mother (Georgiana) Jemima was a daughter of the well-connected courtier the 3rd Earl of Ashburnham
, with a very noble ancestry through the Earl of Beverley
. His parents separated in 1840 when Redesdale was just three years old, and his mother remarried to a Mr. Molyneaux.
He entered the Foreign Office
in 1858, and was appointed Third Secretary of the British Embassy in St Petersburg
. After service in the Diplomatic Corps in Peking
, Mitford went to Japan
as second secretary to the British Legation at the time of the exciting but difficult Meiji Restoration
. There he met Ernest Satow
and wrote Tales of Old Japan
(1871) - a book credited with making such classical Japanese tales as the "Forty-seven Ronin
" first known to a wide Western public. He resigned from the diplomatic service in 1873.
Following the 1902 Anglo-Japanese Alliance, in 1906 he accompanied Prince Arthur on a visit to Japan to present the Emperor Meiji with the Order of the Garter. He was asked by courtiers there about Japanese ceremonies that had disappeared since 1868. He is one of the people credited with introducing Japanese knotweed to England, but perhaps not the first.
From 1874 to 1886 Mitford acted as secretary to HM Office of Works, involved in the lengthy restoration of the Tower of London
and in landscaping parts of Hyde Park
such as "The Dell". From 1887 he was a member of the Royal Commission on Civil Services. He also sat as Member of Parliament
between 1892 and 1895. In 1886 Mitford inherited the substantial estates of his first cousin twice removed, John Freeman-Mitford, 1st Earl of Redesdale
. In accordance with the will he assumed by Royal license the additional surname of Freeman.
He substantially rebuilt Batsford House beside Batsford in Gloucestershire in the Victorian Gothic manorial style, at such a cost that it had to be sold within a few years of his death. It was bought by Lord Dulverton and is still owned by his descendants.
In 1902 the Redesdale title was revived when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Redesdale
, of Redesdale in the County of Northumberland.
Pre- and extra-marital fatherhood
During his time in Japan he was said to have fathered two children with a geisha
lady. Later he was said to be the putative natural father of Clem Churchill
(1885-1977) in the course of an affair with his wife's sister Blanche.
In his closing years Lord Redesdale translated into English, edited, and wrote extensive effusive Introductions of two of Houston Stewart Chamberlain
's books: Foundations of the Nineteenth Century
and Immanuel Kant - A Study and Comparison with Goethe, Leonardo da Vinci, Bruno, Plato, and Descartes
, published by John Lane at the Bodley Head
, London, in 1910 and 1914.
Lord Redesdale married in 1874 Lady Clementina Gertrude Helen (d. 1932), the daughter of David Graham Drummond Ogilvy, 10th Earl of Airlie by his spouse Blanche, the daughter of Edward Stanley, 2nd Baron Stanley of Alderley. They had five sons and four daughters, of whom:
- Tales of Old Japan (1871)
- The Bamboo Garden (1896)
- The Attaché at Peking (1900)
- The Garter Mission to Japan (1906)
- Memoirs (1915; 2 vols)
- Further Memories (Hutchinson & Co., London, 1917)
Lord Redesdale also wrote an extensive Introduction to Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, and translated, with another Introduction for Immanuel Kant, both by Houston Stewart Chamberlain.