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Marquess of Lansdowne

Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne

Henry Charles Keith Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, KG, GCSI, GCMG, GCIE, PC (London 14 January 18453 June 1927 Clonmel) was a British politician and Irish peer who served successively as Governor General of Canada, Viceroy of India, Secretary of State for War, and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He has the distinction of having held senior positions in both Liberal Party and Conservative Party governments.

Early Life and Career (1845–82)

The great grandson of the British Prime Minister Lord Shelburne (later 1st Marquess of Lansdowne), and the eldest son of the 4th Marquess of Lansdowne and his wife, Emily, Henry Charles Keith Petty-Fitzmaurice was born in London in 1845. He held the courtesy title Viscount Clanmaurice from birth until 1863 and then the courtesy title Earl of Kerry until he succeeded to the marquessate in 1866.

After studying at Eton and Oxford, he succeeded his father as 5th Marquess of Lansdowne (in the Peerage of the United Kingdom) and 6th Earl of Kerry (in the Peerage of Ireland) at the relatively young age of 21 on 5 June 1866. He inherited a vast estate, including Bowood House and great wealth. Three years later, he married Lady Maud Evelyn Hamilton (a daughter of the 1st Duke of Abercorn) and they had two sons and two daughters.

Lord Lansdowne entered the House of Lords as a member of the Liberal Party in 1866. He served in William Gladstone's government as a Lord of the Treasury from 1869 to 1872 and as Under-Secretary of State for War from 1872 to 1874. He was appointed Under-Secretary of State for India in 1880, and having gained experience in overseas administration, was appointed Governor General of Canada in 1883. The present-day town of Lansdowne, Garhwal in Uttarakhand, India, was established in 1887 and named after him.

Governor General of Canada (1883–88)

Lord Lansdowne was Governor General during turbulent times in Canada. Sir John A. Macdonald's government was in its second term and facing allegations of scandal over the building of the railway (the Pacific scandal), and the economy was once again sliding into recession. The North-West Rebellion of 1885 and the controversy of its leader, Louis Riel, posed a serious threat to the stability of Canada.

Yet Lord Lansdowne took the opportunity to travel extensively throughout western Canada in 1885, meeting many of Canada's First Nations peoples. While the railway to British Columbia was not completed, this did not stop the Governor General from travelling throughout the Rockies on horseback and by boat. On his second trip out west, Lord Lansdowne took the new Canadian Pacific Railway, and was the first Governor General to use the line all the way out west.

His experiences in western Canada gave Lansdowne a great love of the Canadian outdoors and the physical beauty of Canada. He was an avid salmon fisherman, and was also intently interested in winter sports. His love of the wilderness and Canadian countryside led him to purchase a second residence on the Cascapédia River in Quebec.

It was with the issue of fishing rights between the United States and Canada that Lansdowne proved himself as an adept statesman, helping to negotiate a peaceful settlement to a potentially serious dispute between both countries. He was also a supporter of scientific development, presiding over the inaugural session of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1884.

Lord Lansdowne departed Canada with a true appreciation of the beauty of the wilderness and an equal appreciation of the diversity of Canadian society. He was considered a very able Governor General, and gave his wife a great deal of the credit for his success in Canada. One of her happiest and most successful endeavours while at Rideau Hall was a party she threw for 400 Sunday school children. Lady Lansdowne was decorated with the Order of Victoria and Albert and the Imperial Order of the Crown of India.

Viceroy of India (1888–94)

Lord Lansdowne was appointed Viceroy of India in the same year he left Canada, finally returning to England in 1894.

England (from 1894)

Secretary of State for War

Upon his return, as a Liberal Unionist , he aligned with the Conservative Party. The Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, appointed Lord Lansdowne to the post of Secretary of State for War in June 1895. The unpreparedness of the British Army during the Second Boer War brought calls for Lansdowne's impeachment in 1899.

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

After the Conservative victory in the November 1900 general elections, Lord Salisbury reorganized the cabinet and appointed Lord Lansdowne Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He continued in that office under Salisbury's successor Arthur Balfour. As British foreign secretary (1900–05), he signed the 1902 Anglo-Japanese Alliance at his London home (now the Lansdowne Club) and negotiated the 1904 Anglo-French Entente Cordiale with the French foreign minister, Theophile Delcassé.

Subsequent career

Following the Liberal victory in the January 1906 general elections, Lord Lansdowne became the leader of the opposition Conservatives in the House of Lords. In this role, he was instrumental in Conservative leader Arthur Balfour's plans to obstruct Liberal policies through the Tory majority in the upper house. Although he and Balfour both had some misgivings, he led the Lords to reject the People's Budget of 1909. After the Liberals won two elections in 1910 on the pledge to reform the House of Lords and remove its veto power, and after a series of failed negotiations in which Lansdowne was of key importance, the Liberals moved forward to end the Lords veto, if necessary by recommending to the King that he created hundreds of new Liberal peers. Lansdowne and the other Conservative leaders were anxious to prevent such an action by allowing the bill, distasteful as it was, to pass, but soon Lansdowne found that he could not count on many of the more reactionary peers, who planned on a last ditch resistance. Ultimately, enough Conservative peers either (like Lansdowne himself) abstained from the vote ("hedgers") or even voted for the bill ("rats") to insure its passage.

In the following years, Lansdowne continued as Lords leader, his stature even somewhat improved by Balfour's resignation and replacement as Tory leader in the commons by the inexperienced Andrew Bonar Law, who had never held cabinet office. In 1915, Lansdowne joined the wartime coalition cabinet of Herbert Henry Asquith as a Minister without Portfolio, but was not given a post in the Lloyd George government formed the following year, despite Conservative preeminence in that government. In 1917, having discussed the idea to colleagues for some time with no response, he published the controversial "Lansdowne Letter," which called for a statement of postwar intentions from the Entente Powers. He was criticized as acting contrary to cabinet policy.

Lord Lansdowne's military secretary, Lord Melgund, benefited greatly from serving the Governor General. He later became Lord Minto and served as Governor General between 1898 and 1904.

When Lansdowne died his estate was probated at 1,044,613 pounds sterling of land, with another 233,888 pounds in other assets.

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