Henry Herbert, 4th Earl of Carnarvon

Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert, 4th Earl of Carnarvon, KP, PC, DL, FRS, FSA (24 June 1831 – 29 June 1890), known as Lord Porchester from 1833 to 1849, was a British politician and a leading member of the Conservative Party. He was twice Secretary of State for the Colonies and also served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

The Earl of Carnarvon

Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire
In office
6 August 1887  29 June 1890
Preceded byThe Marquess of Winchester
Succeeded byThe Earl of Northbrook
Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
6 July 1866  8 March 1867
MonarchQueen Victoria
Prime MinisterThe Earl of Derby
Preceded byEdward Cardwell
Succeeded byThe Duke of Buckingham and Chandos
In office
21 February 1874  4 February 1878
MonarchQueen Victoria
Prime MinisterBenjamin Disraeli
Preceded byThe Earl of Kimberley
Succeeded bySir Michael Hicks Beach, Bt
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
In office
27 June 1885  28 January 1886
MonarchQueen Victoria
Prime MinisterThe Marquess of Salisbury
Preceded byThe Earl Spencer
Succeeded byThe Earl of Aberdeen
Personal details
Born(1831-06-24)24 June 1831
Grosvenor Square, London
Died29 June 1890(1890-06-29) (aged 59)
Portman Square, London
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)(1) Lady Evelyn Stanhope
(2) Elizabeth Howard
ParentsHenry Herbert, 3rd Earl of Carnarvon
Henrietta Anna Howard
Alma materChrist Church, Oxford


Born at Grosvenor Square, London, Carnarvon was the eldest son and heir of Henry Herbert, 3rd Earl of Carnarvon (d.1849), by his wife Henrietta Anna Howard, a daughter of Lord Henry Howard-Molyneux-Howard, younger brother of Bernard Howard, 12th Duke of Norfolk. The Hon. Auberon Herbert was his younger brother.


He was educated at Eton College. In 1849, aged 18, he succeeded his father in the earldom. He attended Christ Church, Oxford, where his nickname was "Twitters",[1] apparently on account of his nervous tics and twitchy behaviour, and where in 1852 he obtained a first in literae humaniores.

Early political career, 1854–66

Carnavon made his maiden speech on 31 January 1854, having been requested by Lord Aberdeen to move the address in reply to the Queen's Speech. He served under Lord Derby, as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1858 to 1859, aged twenty-six.

In 1863 he worked on penal reform. Under the influence of Joshua Jebb he saw the gaols,[lower-alpha 1] with a population including prisoners before any trial, as numerically more significant than the system of prisons for convicts. He was himself a magistrate, and campaigned for the conditions of confinement to be made less comfortable, with more severe regimes on labour and diet. He also wished to see a national system that was more uniform. In response, he was asked to run a House of Lords committee, which sat from February 1863. It drafted a report, and a Gaol Bill was brought in, during 1864; it was, however, lost amid opposition. The Prisons Act 1866, passed by parliament during 1865, saw Carnarvon's main ideas implemented, though with detailed amendments.[2]

Colonial Secretary and Canadian federation, 1866–7

In 1866 Carnarvon was sworn of the Privy Council and appointed Secretary of State for the Colonies by Derby. In 1867 he introduced the British North America Act, which conferred self-government on Canada, and created a federation. Later that year, he resigned (along with Lord Cranborne and Jonathan Peel) in protest against Benjamin Disraeli's Reform Bill to enfranchise the working classes.

Colonial Secretary, 1874–8

Returning to the office of the British colonial secretary in 1874, he submitted a set of proposals, the Carnarvon terms, to settle the dispute between British Columbia and Canada over the construction of the transcontinental railroad and the Vancouver Island railroad and train bridge. Vancouver Island had been promised a rail link as a condition for its entry into British North America confederation.

South Africa

In the same year, he set in motion plans to impose a system of confederation on the various states of Southern Africa. The situation in southern Africa was complicated, not least in that several of its states were still independent and so required military conquest before being confederated. The confederation plan was also highly unpopular among ordinary southern Africans. The Prime Minister of the Cape Colony (by far the largest and most influential state in southern Africa) firmly rejected confederation under Britain, saying that it was not a model that was applicable to the diverse region, and that conflict would result from outside involvement in southern Africa at a time when state relations were particularly sensitive.[3] The liberal Cape government also objected to the plan for ideological concerns; Its formal response, conveyed to London via Sir Henry Barkly, had been that any federation with the illiberal Boer republics would compromise the rights and franchise of the Cape's Black citizens, and was therefore unacceptable.[4] Other regional governments refused even to discuss the idea.[5] Overall, the opinion of the governments of the Cape and its neighbours was that "the proposals for confederation should emanate from the communities to be affected, and not be pressed upon them from outside."[6]

Lord Carnarvon believed that the continued existence of independent African states posed an ever-present threat of a "general and simultaneous rising of Kaffirdom against white civilization".[7] He thus decided to force the pace, "endeavouring to give South Africa not what it wanted, but what he considered it ought to want."[8]

He sent administrators, such as Theophilus Shepstone and Bartle Frere, to southern Africa to implement his system of confederation. Shepstone invaded and annexed the Transvaal in 1877, while Bartle Frere, as the new High Commissioner, led imperial troops against the last independent Xhosa in the 9th Frontier War. Carnarvon then used the rising unrest to suspend the Natal constitution, while Bartle Frere overthrew the elected Cape government, and then moved to invade the independent Zulu Kingdom.

However the confederation scheme collapsed as predicted, leaving a trail of wars across Southern Africa. Humiliating defeats also followed at Isandlwana and Majuba Hill. Of the resultant wars, the disastrous invasion of Zululand ended in annexation, but the first Anglo-Boer War of 1880 had even more far-reaching consequences for the subcontinent. Francis Reginald Statham, editor of The Natal Witness in the 1870s, famously summed up the local reaction to Carnarvon's plan for the region:

The confederation idea was dropped when Carnarvon resigned in 1878, in opposition to Disraeli's policy on the Eastern Question, but the bitter conflicts caused by Carnarvon's policy continued, culminating eventually in the Anglo-Boer War and the ongoing divisions in South African society.[10]

Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1885–6

On his party's return to power in 1885, Carnarvon became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. His short period of office, memorable only for a conflict on a question of personal veracity between himself and Charles Stewart Parnell, as to his negotiations with the latter in respect of Home Rule, was terminated by another premature resignation. He never returned to office.

Other public appointments

Carnarvon also held the honorary posts of Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire between 1887 and 1890 and Deputy Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire. He was regarded as a highly cultured man and was a president and a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (his time there noted for their campaign to save St Albans Cathedral from Lord Grimthorpe) and a Fellow of the Royal Society as well as was high steward of Oxford University. He was also a prominent freemason, having been initiated in the Westminster and Keystone Lodge. He served as Pro Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England from 1874 to 1890. With his permission a number of subsequently founded lodges bore his name in their titles.

Some buildings commissioned by, associated with or overseen by Lord Carnarvon

Carnarvon became a Freemason in 1856, joining the Westminster and Keystone Lodge, No. 10. In 1860 he was made the second Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons (created in 1856) and in 1870 he was appointed Deputy Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) by Lord Ripon, and was Pro Grand Master from 1874 to 1890. Furthermore, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1875, confirming, in addition to his work as a Statesman, his interest in innovation, geometry, the Enlightenment, science, the Scientific Revolution and the world.

  • 1855–1878: The Highclere mausoleum or chapel was built for Henrietta Anna, Countess of Carnarvon, in memory of his father and her husband, Henry Herbert, 3rd Earl of Carnarvon. Between 1839 and 1842, his father the third earl had employed Sir Charles Barry to turn the Georgian Highclere house into a Jacobethan castle. The interiors and west wing were carried out by Sir Charles Barry's assistant Thomas Allom who also provided the design of the funerary chapel-mausoleum. The entrance hallway-vestibule inside was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott. The work on the house was complete by 1878.
  • 1869–1870: Church of St Michael and All Angels, Highclere, by Sir Gilbert Scott.
  • 1870: Concrete Cottages, Long Piddle, Burghclere Bottom, Scouses Corner, Kingsclere or Sydmonton road, Old Burghclere. Rare and early concrete or mass concrete estate housing. The apparatus employed in the construction could have been that patented and manufactured by Messrs. Drake, Brothers, & Reid, of London, in 1868. Designed possibly by Thomas Robjohn Wonnacott or Charles Barry, Jr.[11][lower-alpha 3] Meanwhile, fellow quite nearby landowner Lord Ashburton,[lower-alpha 4] and his clerk of works Thomas Potter, who wrote Concrete: its use in building and the construction of concrete walls, floors, etc., 1877,[12][lower-alpha 5] built circa 1870 at least two pairs of concrete cottages in the Wiltshire villages of All Cannings and Steeple Langford. Carnarvon had long been thinking about labourers' cottages and accompanying allotments.[lower-alpha 6] The Reading Mercury however, reported this building project on Saturday, 30 October 1869.

    "BURGHCLERE – Considerable amount of interest has been excited in this locality on the subject of Cheap Dwellings for the Working Classes, owing to a report that the Earl of Carnarvon was about to start the new system of building houses in concrete. His Lordship has already commenced the erection of a block of three cottages at Burghclere Bottom, and no doubt the result will be anticipated with much interest both by landed proprietors and tenant farmers. This plan, if successful, will settle much controversy as to the predictability of building suitable farm cottages at a cheap rate, as up to this time cottages in brickwork do not afford interest on the capital expended. The work is to be done with Tall's Patent Concrete Machine, and is not expected to cost more than 6L. [£6] per rod standard thickness [a rod is 5 meters, or 5.5 yard, 16.5 feet]. Many buildings of various descriptions have already been erected on this principle throughout the country, and competent judges have pronounced them the exact kind of building that is wanted. They are said to have a neat appearance when completed, and are not only stronger and more durable than brickwork, but warmer and consequently more dry and healthy." Reading Mercury, Saturday, 30 October 1869.

  • 1874–1881: Villa Altachiara ("Highclere" in Italian) (Villa Carnarvon) in Portofino, Liguria. A massive villa overlooking Portofino. It was still owned by the Herberts when Evelyn Waugh visited in 1936.[lower-alpha 7]

Marriages and progeny

Lord Carnarvon married twice:

Death and burial

Lord Carnarvon died in June 1890, aged 59, at Portman Square in London. His second wife survived him by almost forty years and died in February 1929, aged 72.

Notes and references

  1. "Gaol" is an older British English version of the American English "jail", more usually found in official documents and names of prisons in the United Kingdom, and Ireland. For example, Kilmainham Gaol, Reading Gaol, etc..
  2. Long Piddle, Burghclere Bottom, Scouses Corner, on the north side of the Kingsclere and Sydmonton road, Old Burghclere.
  3. The Drake Patent Concrete Building Company was founded in 1868.
  4. A cousin of Carnarvon's successor as Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire Thomas Baring, 1st Earl of Northbrook.
  5. Potter's home at 22 Havelock Road, Croydon is still there
  6. His late September 1866 address to the Highclere Agricultural Association at Burghclere on the subject of Labourers' Cottages in Ireland was reported in at least the Dublin Evening Mail and the Glasgow Herald.
  7. Prince Frederick William of Prussia and Victoria, Princess Royal stayed there circa 1886. Elizabeth Chapin Patterson, daughter of Simeon B. Chapin, rented it for Avatar Meher Baba in July 1933. It is also associated with Norina Matchabelli, and Contessa Francesca Vacca Agusta, who died there. It is now owned by the footballer Samuel Eto.
  1. Charmley 2013.
  2. McConville 1995, p. 97, Ch. 3.
  3. Reader's Digest Association South Africa 1992, p. 182.
  4. Mostert 1992, p. 1247.
  5. Cana 1909, p. 89, Ch. VII.
  6. Theal 1902, p. 402-3.
  7. Meredith 2007.
  8. Michell 1910, p. 109.
  9. Statham 1881, p. 239.
  10. Parker 2013, p. 37, "Lord Carnarvon".
  11. Collins 1959.
  12. Potter 1908.
  13. "Obituary : Bridget Grant". The Telegraph. 23 July 2005. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  14. Monument to Lord Carnarvon (Memorial). Brushford Church, Somerset.
  15. Ref:DD\DRU: "HERBERT FAMILY OF PIXTON PARK, Dulverton, Somerset Heritage Centre, The Teversal estate in Nottinghamshire, formerly belonging to the Molyneux family, was brought into the Herbert family by Henrietta Howard, daughter of Lord Henry Howard-Molyneux-Howard of Greystoke, who married Henry Herbert, Lord Porchester, later 3rd Earl of Carnarvon, in 1830
  16. Mellors 1924, p. 265.

Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Chichester Fortescue
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by
Chichester Fortescue
Preceded by
Edward Cardwell
Secretary of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by
The Duke of Buckingham and Chandos
Preceded by
The Earl of Kimberley
Secretary of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by
Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, Bt
Preceded by
The Earl Spencer
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
Succeeded by
The Earl of Aberdeen
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Marquess of Winchester
Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire
Succeeded by
The Earl of Northbrook
Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by
Henry John Herbert
Earl of Carnarvon
Succeeded by
George Herbert
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