Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh

Robert Stewart, 2nd Marquess of Londonderry, KG, GCH, PC, PC (Ire) (18 June 1769 – 12 August 1822), usually known as Lord Castlereagh, derived from the courtesy title Viscount Castlereagh[lower-alpha 1] (UK: /ˈkɑːsəlr/ KAH-səl-ray) by which he was styled from 1796 to 1821, was an Anglo-Irish statesman. As British Foreign Secretary, from 1812 he was central to the management of the coalition that defeated Napoleon. He was the principal British diplomat at the Congress of Vienna. Castlereagh was also leader of the British House of Commons in the Liverpool government from 1812 until his suicide. Early in his career, as Chief Secretary for Ireland, he was involved in putting down the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and was instrumental in securing the passage of the Irish Act of Union of 1800.

The Marquess of Londonderry

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
In office
4 March 1812  12 August 1822
Prime Minister
Preceded byThe Marquess Wellesley
Succeeded byGeorge Canning
Leader of the House of Commons
In office
8 June 1812  12 August 1822
Prime MinisterThe Earl of Liverpool
Preceded bySpencer Perceval
Succeeded byGeorge Canning
Secretary of State for War and the Colonies
In office
25 March 1807  1 November 1809
Prime MinisterThe Duke of Portland
Preceded byWilliam Windham
Succeeded byThe Earl of Liverpool
In office
10 July 1805  5 February 1806
Prime MinisterWilliam Pitt the Younger
Preceded byThe Earl Camden
Succeeded byWilliam Windham
President of the Board of Control
In office
2 July 1802  11 February 1806
Prime Minister
Preceded byThe Earl of Dartmouth
Succeeded byThe Lord Minto
Chief Secretary for Ireland
In office
14 June 1798  27 April 1801
Prime MinisterWilliam Pitt the Younger
Lord LieutenantThe Marquess Cornwallis
Preceded byThomas Pelham
Succeeded byCharles Abbot
Personal details
Robert Stewart

(1769-06-18)18 June 1769
Dublin, Ireland
Died12 August 1822(1822-08-12) (aged 53)
Woollet Hall, Kent, England, UK
Cause of deathSuicide
Political party
Spouse(s)Lady Amelia Hobart
Alma materSt. John's College, Cambridge

Castlereagh's challenge at the foreign office was to organise and finance an alliance to destroy Napoleon. He successfully brought Napoleon's enemies together at the Treaty of Chaumont in 1814. Thereafter he worked with Europe's leaders at the Congress of Vienna to provide a peace consistent with the conservative mood of the day. At Vienna he was largely successful in his primary goal of creating a peace settlement that would endure for years. He saw that a harsh treaty based on vengeance and retaliation against France would fail, and anyway the conservative Bourbons were back in power. He employed his diplomatic skills to block harsh terms. He held the Chaumont allies together, most notably in their determination to finally end Napoleon's 100 Days in 1815. He had a vision of long-term peace in Europe that united efforts of the great powers. At the same time he was watchful of Britain's mercantile and imperial interests. He purchased the Cape Colony and Ceylon from the Netherlands. France's colonies were returned, but France had to give up all its gains in Europe after 1791. In 1820 he enunciated a policy that Britain would not intervene in European affairs – a policy that was largely adopted down to 1900.

As the Irish Secretary during the Rebellion of 1798, he took the lead in suppressing the rebellion and restoring order. Castlereagh encouraged lenient treatment of the rebels after they surrendered, but many Irish denounced him as a traitor. Criticism increased when he supported Pitt's Act of Union which abolished the Irish Parliament. Castlereagh was a consistent supporter of Catholic emancipation. In 1805 he became the Secretary of State for war and proved to be highly effective in reforming recruitment, and securing the appointment of Arthur Wellesley as commander in Spain. He resigned in 1809 after government splits and an unsuccessful war. He then fought a duel with George Canning, a fellow Tory; they both survived. With intense devotion to multiple duties from both the foreign office and as leader of Commons, he was badly overworked. He came under deep psychological distress in 1822, fearing exposure of homosexuality. Castlereagh committed suicide just before he was to represent Britain at an international Congress

After 1815 Castlereagh was the leader in imposing repressive measures at home. He was hated for his harsh attacks on liberty and reform. John Bew stresses the paradox:

No British statesman of the 19th century reached the same level of international influence....But very few have been so maligned by their own countrymen and so abused in history. This shy and handsome Ulsterman is perhaps the most hated domestic political figure in both modern British and Irish political history.[1]

Birth and origins

Robert was born on 18 June 1769 in Henry Street, Dublin, the only child of Robert Stewart (senior) and his wife Sarah Frances Seymour-Conway. His parents married in 1766.[2]

His father, the Robert Stewart senior, was an Irish politician and prominent Ulster landowner.[lower-alpha 2] He was created Baron Londonderry in 1789, Viscount Castlereagh in 1795, and Earl of Londonderry in 1796 by King George III. In 1771 he was elected in the Whig interest to the Irish House of Commons, where he was a supporter of Lord Charlemont and his allies who called for greater independence from Britain.[3] From the Act of Union of 1800, however, he sat in the British House of Lords as an Irish representative peer. In 1816 he was created Marquess of Londonderry by the Prince Regent.of Newtownards and Comber in County Down, with properties in Counties Donegal and Londonderry. The family seat was Mount Stewart, County Down.[3]

Stewart's mother, who died in childbirth when he was a year old, was Lady Sarah Frances Seymour-Conway, daughter of Francis Seymour-Conway, 1st Marquess of Hertford (a former British Ambassador to France (1764–65) and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1765–66)) and Isabella Fitzroy, daughter of Charles FitzRoy, 2nd Duke of Grafton.

His father remarried five years later to Lady Frances Pratt, daughter of Charles Pratt, 1st Earl Camden (1714–94), a leading English jurist and prominent political supporter of both the William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, and his son, William Pitt the Younger. The elder Stewart's marriages linked his family with the upper ranks of English nobility and political elites. The Camden connection was to be especially important for the political careers of both the elder Stewart and his elder son, subject of this article.[3] By Frances Pratt, Stewart's father had ten children who survived to adulthood, including Stewart's half-brother, Charles William Stewart (later Vane), Baron Stewart of Stewart's Court and Ballylawn in County Donegal (1814) and 3rd Marquess of Londonderry (1822).[4]

Early life and career

Stewart had recurring health problems throughout his childhood, and was sent to The Royal School, Armagh, rather than to England for his secondary education. At the encouragement of Charles Pratt, first Earl of Camden, who took a great interest in him and treated him as if he had been a grandson by blood, he later attended St. John's College, Cambridge (1786–87), where he applied himself with greater diligence than expected from an aristocrat and obtained first class in his last examinations. He left Cambridge due to an extended illness, and after returning to Ireland did not pursue further formal education.[3][5]

In 1790, Stewart was elected as a Member of the Irish Parliament for Down in one of the most expensive elections in Irish history.[lower-alpha 3] Though for a time he was associated with the Northern Whig Club, he entered the Irish House of Commons as an Independent. He ran on a platform supporting Whig principles of electoral reform and opposing the Irish policies of the British Government. But even from the outset of his career, he was a personal supporter of Prime Minister William Pitt. Stewart was a lifelong advocate of Catholic concessions, though his position on the specific issue of Catholic Emancipation varied depending on his assessment of the potential repercussions on other policy priorities.[3]

When war with France forced British Government attention on Ireland as a possible place of French invasion, the Irish Volunteers, seen as a potential source of disaffection, were disbanded by Dublin Castle, and a reorganised Militia was created in 1793.[6] Stewart enrolled as an officer, a matter of course for a young Protestant aristocrat, and served as Lieutenant Colonel under the command of his wife's uncle, Thomas Conolly. Between Stewart's attendance to his militia duties, his pursuit of cultural, family and political interests in London, two trips to the Continent (in 1791, when he visited revolutionary Paris, and 1792), and the courtship of his wife whom he married in 1794, his life during this period was not centred on the activities of the Irish House of Commons, where he was listened to with respect but where he was not yet an important player. He was also beginning to disappoint some of his more radical original supporters in his constituency. As the French Revolution grew more bloody and Ireland more rebellious, Stewart increasingly worried about Ireland's future if the threats from France succeeded in breaking Ireland's links to Britain. He became further inclined to support not only Pitt personally but the British Government, even when he did not approve of a specific line taken in Irish policy.[3]

In 1794, partly as a result of the promotion of Stewart's interests by his Camden connections, he was offered the Government-controlled seat of Tregony in Cornwall, where he was elected to the British House of Commons on a similar platform of reform principles and support for Pitt, on whose side he sat in Westminster. In 1796, he transferred to a seat for the Suffolk constituency of Orford, which was in the interest of his mother's family, the Seymour-Conways (Marquess of Hertford).[3]

Family tree
Robert Stewart (Castlereagh) with wife, parents, and other selected relatives. He had no children.


d. 1733

d. 1788

d. 1737



c. 1751 -



d. 1812





XXXRobert Stewart
XXXMarquesses of
His father's first wife on the left and second on the right.


In 1794, Stewart married Amelia (Emily) Hobart a daughter of John Hobart, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire,[7] a former British Ambassador to Russia (1762–65) and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1776–80). Her mother, Caroline Conolly, was the granddaughter of William Conolly, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons in the early 18th century and one of the wealthiest landowners in Ireland. Caroline's brother, Thomas Conolly, was married to Louisa Lennox, sister of Emily FitzGerald, Duchess of Leinster, whose son and Emily's cousin-by-marriage, the aristocratic rebel Lord Edward FitzGerald, was a leader of the United Irishmen and one of their martyrs in the early stages of the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

Emily Stewart was well known as a hostess for her husband in both Ireland and London and during some of his most important diplomatic missions. In later years she was a leader of Regency London high society as one of the Lady Patronesses of Almack's. She is noted in contemporary accounts for her attractiveness, volubility and eccentricities.[3] By all accounts, the two remained devoted to each other to the end, but they had no children.[lower-alpha 4] The couple did, however, care for the young Frederick Stewart, while his father, Stewart's half-brother, Charles, was serving in the army.[8]


Robert Stewart acquired the courtesy title Viscount Castlereagh in 1796 when his father was created Earl of Londonderry in the Irish peerage.[9][10] Upon his father's death in 1821, he succeeded as 2nd Marquess of Londonderry, a title to which his father had been raised in 1816. His younger half-brother, the soldier, politician and diplomat Charles Stewart (later Vane) succeeded him as 3rd Marquess of Londonderry in 1822.

He is usually called Lord Castlereagh rather than Lord Londonderry because he held the former title so long and the latter title so briefly; furthermore to avoid confusion with his father, who also was Robert Stewart, Lord Londonderry.

Chief Secretary for Ireland

In 1795, Pitt replaced the popular Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Fitzwilliam, with Stewart's uncle, the 2nd Earl Camden. Camden's arrival in Dublin was greeted with riots, and that year Stewart crossed the floor to join the supporters of the British Government.[lower-alpha 5] Stewart became an essential adviser to the inexperienced and unpopular Lord Lieutenant, who was Stewart's senior by only ten years.

In 1796, when the French invasion of Ireland failed at Bantry Bay due to bad weather and not to Ireland's military preparations or the British Navy, Castlereagh as a leader of the Militia saw at first hand how ripe Ireland was for breaking from Britain and becoming another French satellite. Despairing of obtaining timely military support from Britain if Ireland were again threatened with invasion, for the next several years he was increasingly involved in measures against those promoting a Rising, but his initial principles of reform and emancipation continued to hold a place in his political thought.[3]

In 1797, Castlereagh was at last appointed to office, as Keeper of the King's Signet for Ireland.[lower-alpha 6]}} As martial law was declared in the face of growing turmoil, he was made both a Lord of the Treasury and a Member of the Privy Council of Ireland (1797–1800).[lower-alpha 7] At the urging of Camden, Castlereagh assumed many of the onerous duties of the often-absent Chief Secretary for Ireland who was responsible for day-to-day administration and asserting the influence of Dublin Castle in the House of Commons.[lower-alpha 8] In this capacity, and after March 1798 as Acting Chief Secretary, Castlereagh played a key role in crushing the Irish Rebellion of 1798, offering clemency to commoners who had supported the rebellion, and focusing instead on pursuing rebel leaders.

In 1799, in furtherance of both his own political vision and Pitt's policies, Castlereagh began lobbying in the Irish and British Parliaments for an official union between the two, convinced that it was the best way to soothe the long-standing divides in Ireland, insulate Ireland from further radical disaffection, and protect Britain from French military threats via Ireland. His first attempt, at the opening of the Irish session of 1799, met with failure during long, heated debates. A year of further intense preparation followed, with an impressive display of Machiavellian tactics that included the common practice of bribery through peerages, honours and money, but bribery on a truly uncommon scale. In the summer of 1800, Castlereagh together with the Lord Lieutenant, Marquess Cornwallis, finally succeeded in steering the Irish Act of Union through both Parliaments.[3][6]

During the campaign for the Act of Union, both Castlereagh and Cornwallis had, in good faith, forwarded informal assurances they had received from Pitt's Cabinet to the Irish Catholics that they would be allowed to sit in Parliament. Both Castlereagh and Cornwallis knew Catholic emancipation would be critical if their objectives for Union were to be realised. Emancipation was, however, opposed by much of the British establishment, including George III, who was convinced that it would violate his royal oath as protector of the Protestant faith. Pitt tried to follow through on his commitment, but when it came to light that the King had approached Henry Addington, an opponent of Catholic emancipation, about becoming Prime Minister to replace the pro-emancipation Pitt, both Castlereagh and Pitt resigned in protest. Castlereagh would long be held personally responsible by many Catholics in Ireland for the breach of promise and the British Government's betrayal of their rights.[3][6]

In Dublin, he was a member of the Kildare Street Club.[11] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1802.[12]

At Westminster and in Government

When the newly united Parliament of the United Kingdom met in 1801, Castlereagh took his seat in the House of Commons from his Down constituency. By 1802, tensions between Tories supporting emancipation and those opposing had relaxed, and Addington had obtained his desired cessation of hostilities with France (the Peace of Amiens). At a shift in the composition of Addington's Government, Castlereagh accepted the offer to enter the Cabinet as President of the Board of Control, where he mediated bitter disputes between the Governor-General of India, Richard Wellesley, and the Directors of the East India Company, smoothing quarrels while generally supporting Lord Wellesley's policies.[13]

After the renewal of the war against Napoleon, at the urging of Castlereagh and other long-time supporters, in 1804 Pitt returned as Prime Minister, and Castlereagh was promoted to Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. As the only other member of Pitt's cabinet in the House of Commons, Castlereagh became Pitt's political deputy, taking on ever more burdens as Pitt's health continued to decline.[3] After Pitt's death in 1806, Castlereagh resigned amid the chaos of the Ministry of All the Talents. When that Government collapsed, Castlereagh again became Secretary of State for War and the Colonies in 1807, this time in the ministry of the Duke of Portland.[14]

Duel with Canning

As minister for War, Castlereagh became involved in disputes with Foreign Secretary George Canning over the Walcheren Expedition and its failure. Canning saw it as a diversion of troops from the Peninsular War based on a hopeless plan. However, Castlereagh had the support of Lord Wellesley's younger brother General Arthur Wellesley (future Duke of Wellington), and evidence later surfaced that Canning himself had interfered with the plan, selecting the Earl of Chatham to command the expedition.[15] The Portland government became increasingly paralysed by disputes between the two men. Portland was in deteriorating health and gave no lead, until Canning threatened resignation unless Castlereagh was removed and replaced by Lord Wellesley. Wellesley himself was neither complicit with nor even aware of the arrangement, but Portland secretly agreed to make this change when it became possible.

Castlereagh discovered the deal in September 1809 and demanded redress. He challenged Canning to a duel, which Canning accepted. Canning had never before fired a pistol. The duel was fought on 21 September 1809 on Putney Heath.[16] Canning missed but Castlereagh wounded his opponent in the thigh. There was much outrage that two cabinet ministers had resorted to such a method, and they both felt compelled to resign from the government. Six months later, Canning published a full account of his actions in the affair, and many who had initially rallied to him became convinced Castlereagh had been betrayed by his cabinet colleague.[17]

Diplomatic career

Three years later, in 1812, Castlereagh returned to the government, this time as Foreign Secretary, a role in which he served for the next ten years. He also became leader of the House of Commons in the wake of Spencer Perceval's assassination in 1812.

Treaty of Chaumont

In his role of Foreign Secretary he was instrumental in negotiating what has become known as the quadruple alliance between Britain, Austria, Russia, and Prussia at Chaumont in March 1814, in the negotiation of the Treaty of Paris[15] that brought peace with France, and at the Congress of Vienna. The Treaty of Chaumont was part of the final deal offered to Napoleon Bonaparte in 1814. Napoleon rejected it and it never took effect. However, the key terms reaffirmed decisions that had been made already. These decisions were again ratified and put into effect by the Congress of Vienna of 1814–1815. The terms were largely written by Lord Castlereagh, who offered cash subsidies to keep the other armies in the field against Napoleon.[18] Key terms included the establishment of a confederated Germany, the division into independent states, the restoration of the Bourbon kings of Spain, and the enlargement of the Netherlands to include what in 1830 became modern Belgium. The treaty of Chaumont became the cornerstone of the European Alliance which formed the balance of power for decades.[19]

Historian G. M. Trevelyan argues:

In 1813 and 1814 Castlereagh played the part that William III and Marlborough had played more than a hundred years before, in holding together an alliance of jealous, selfish, weak-kneed states and princes, by a vigour or character and singleness of purpose that held Metternich, the Czar and the King of Prussia on the common track until the goal was reached. It is quite possible that, but for the lead taken by Castlereagh in the allied counsels, France would never have been reduced to her ancient limits, nor Napoleon dethroned.[20]

Congress of Vienna

At the Congress of Vienna, Castlereagh designed and proposed a form of collective and collaborative security for Europe, then called a Congress system. In the Congress system, the main signatory powers met periodically (every two years or so) and collectively managed European affairs. This system was used in an attempt to address the Polish-Saxon crisis at Vienna and the question of Greek independence at Laibach. The following ten years saw five European Congresses where disputes were resolved with a diminishing degree of effectiveness. Finally, by 1822, the whole system had collapsed because of the irreconcilable differences of opinion among Britain, Austria, and Russia, and because of the lack of support for the Congress system in British public opinion. The Holy Alliance, which Castlereagh opposed, lingered a little longer. The order created by the Congress of Vienna was a mood that lasted much longer and worked to prevent major European wars until the First World War in 1914. Some scholars and historians have seen the Congress system as a forerunner of the modern collective security, international unity, and cooperative agreements of NATO, the EU, the League of Nations, and the United Nations.[21]

In the years 1812 to 1822, Castlereagh continued to manage Britain's foreign policy, generally pursuing a policy of continental engagement uncharacteristic of British foreign policy in the nineteenth century. Castlereagh was not an effective public speaker and his diplomatic presentation style was at times abstruse.[15] Henry Kissinger says he developed a reputation for integrity, consistency, and goodwill, which was perhaps unmatched by any diplomat of that era.[21]

Abolition of the slave trade

Abolitionist opinion in Britain was strong enough in 1807 to abolish the slave trade in all British possessions—although slavery itself persisted in the colonies until 1833.[22] Abolitionists after 1807 focused on international agreements to abolish the Atlantic slave trade. Castlereagh switched his position and became a strong supporter of the movement. Britain arranged treaties with Portugal, Sweden and Denmark, 1810-1814, whereby they agreed to restrict their trading. These were preliminary to the Congress of Vienna negotiations that Castlereagh dominated and which resulted in a general declaration condemning the slave trade.[23] The problem was that the treaties and declarations were hard to enforce, given the very high profits available to private interests. As Foreign Minister, Castlereagh cooperated with senior officials to use the Royal Navy to detect and capture slave ships; the freed slaves were sent to freedom in a new British colony of Sierra Leone. He used diplomacy to make search and seize agreements with all the government whose ships were trading. There was serious friction with the United States, where the southern slave interest was politically powerful. Washington recoiled at British policing of the high seas. Spain, France and Portugal also relied on the international slave trade to supply their colonial plantations. As more and more diplomatic arrangements were made by Castlereagh, the owners of slave ships started flying false flags of nations that had not agreed, especially the United States. It was illegal under American law for American ships to engage in the slave trade, but the idea of Britain enforcing American laws was unacceptable to Washington. Lord Palmerston continued the Castlereagh policies. Eventually, in 1842 in 1845, an arrangement was reached between London and Washington. With the arrival of a staunchly anti-slavery government in Washington in 1861, the Atlantic slave trade was doomed. In the long run, Castlereagh's strategy on how to stifle the trade proved successful.[24]

Nonintervention in European affairs

In May 1820 Castlereagh circulated to high officials a major state paper that set the main British policy for the rest of the century. Temperley and Penson call it, "the most famous State Paper in British history and the one of the widest ultimate consequences." [25] Castlereagh called for no British intervention in continental affairs. He argued that the purpose of the Quadruple Alliance was to contain France and put down revolutions. But the Spanish revolt did not threaten European peace nor any of the great powers. Castlereagh said that an actual practice the powers would seldom be able to agree on concerted action, and he pointed out that British public opinion would not support interventions. He admitted that individual states could indeed intervene in affairs in their recognized sphere of interest, such as Austria's intervention in Italy.

Decline and death

Despite his contributions to the defeat of Napoleon and restoration of peace, Castlereagh became extremely unpopular at home. He was attacked for his construction of a peace that gave a free hand to reactionary governments on the Continent to suppress dissent. He was also condemned for his association with repressive measures of the Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth (the former Prime Minister Addington).[15] As Leader of the House of Commons for the Liverpool Government, he was often called upon to defend government policy in the House. He had to support the widely reviled measures taken by Sidmouth and the others, including the infamous Six Acts, to remain in cabinet and continue his diplomatic work. For these reasons, Castlereagh appears with other members of Lord Liverpool's Cabinet in Shelley's poem The Masque of Anarchy, which was inspired by, and heavily critical of, the Peterloo Massacre:

I met Murder on the way –
He had a mask like Castlereagh –
Very smooth he looked, yet grim;
Seven bloodhounds followed him
All were fat; and well they might
Be in admirable plight,
For one by one, and two by two,
He tossed them human hearts to chew
Which from his wide cloak he drew.[26]

After the death of his father in 1821, Castlereagh became the 2nd Marquess of Londonderry. As a non-representative Irish peer, Londonderry was eligible to sit in the House of Commons though he had to leave his Irish seat and instead be elected to an English seat. In 1822, he began to suffer from a form of paranoia or a nervous breakdown. He was severely overworked with both his responsibilities in leading the government in the House and the never-ending diplomacy required to manage conflicts among the other major powers.[13] At the time, he said "My mind, is, as it were, gone." Londonderry returned to his country seat at Woollet Hall in Water Lane, North Cray, Kent on the advice of his doctor. Towards the end of his life there are increasing reports, both contemporaneous and in later memoirs, of exceptionally powerful rages and sudden bouts of uncharacteristic forgetfulness. He surprised his friends by admitting his belief in ghosts and other supernatural beings, in particular the "radiant boy", a figure which emerges from fire and is supposed to foretell death, which he claimed he had seen as a young man in Ireland.[27]

At a 9 August meeting with the King, Castlereagh was distracted, said he was being mysteriously watched by a servant, and remarked, "I am accused of the same crime as the Bishop of Clogher." Percy Jocelyn, who had been the Bishop of Clogher until the previous month, was prosecuted for homosexuality.[28] The King surmised that Castlereagh believed he was being blackmailed for the same reason. It remains unclear whether there was some sort of extortion attempt, and if so, whether such attempt represented a real threat of exposure, or whether the purported blackmail was a symptom of paranoia. His friends and family were alarmed and hid his razor.[29]

On 12 August, Castlereagh managed in the three to four minutes he was left alone to find a small knife with which he cut his own throat.[15][30]

A retrospective speculative diagnosis has linked various instances of (at the time) little explained illness to syphilis, possibly contracted at Cambridge. Stewart's undergraduate studies were interrupted by a mysterious illness first apparent during the closing months of 1787, and which kept him away from Cambridge through the summer of 1788. Later, there were unexplained illnesses in 1801 and 1807, the first described by a contemporary as "brain fever" which would be consistent with syphilitic meningitis.[31]

Reaction to his death

An inquest concluded that the act had been committed while insane, avoiding the harsh strictures of a felo de se verdict.[lower-alpha 9] The verdict allowed Lady Londonderry to see her husband buried with honour in Westminster Abbey near his mentor, William Pitt. The pallbearers included the Prime Minister Lord Liverpool, the former Prime Minister Lord Sidmouth and two future Prime Ministers, the Duke of Wellington and Frederick Robinson.[32] Some radicals, notably William Cobbett, claimed a "cover-up" within the government and viewed the verdict and Castlereagh's public funeral as a damning indictment of the elitism and privilege of the unreformed electoral system. His funeral on 20 August was greeted with jeering and insults along the processional route, although not to the level of unanimity projected in the radical press. A funeral monument was not erected until 1850 by his half-brother and successor, Charles Stewart Vane, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry.[33]

Some time after Castlereagh's death, Lord Byron wrote a savage quip about his grave:

Posterity will ne'er survey
A nobler grave than this:
Here lie the bones of Castlereagh:
Stop, traveller, and piss.[34]

And yet, some of Castlereagh's political opponents were gracious in their epigrams. Henry Brougham, a Whig politician and later the Lord Chancellor, who had battled frequently with Castlereagh, once almost to the point of calling him out, and had denigrated his skills as Leader,[35] wrote in the week following Castlereagh's death:[36]

Put all their other men together in one scale, and poor Castlereagh in the other – single he plainly weighed them down ... One can't help feeling a little for him, after being pitted against him for several years, pretty regularly. It is like losing a connection suddenly. Also he was a gentleman, and the only one amongst them.

Modern historians stress the success of Castlereagh's career in spite of the hatred and ignominy he suffered. Trevelyan contrasts his positive achievements and his pitiful failures.[37] His diplomacy was applauded by historians. For example, in 1919 diplomatic historians recommended his wise policies of 1814–1815 to the British delegation to the Paris peace conferences that ended the First World War. Historian Charles Webster underscores the paradox:

There probably never was a statesman whose ideas were so right and whose attitude to public opinion was so wrong. Such disparity between the grasp of ends and the understanding of means amounts to a failure in statesmanship.[38]


Robert Stewart was styled as follows:[3][39][40][41]

Memorials and tributes

See also

Notes and references

  1. The name Castlereagh derives from the baronies of Castlereagh (or Castellrioughe) and Ards, in which the manors of Newtownards and Comber were located. The estates included the demesne land of Mount Pleasant, later Mount Stewart, which became the family seat of the Londonderrys (see Leigh, Castlereagh, p. 15).
  2. His father was a nephew of Robert Cowan, a wealthy and successful Governor of Bombay for the British East India Company, whose heir was the elder Stewart's mother, Cowan's sister Mary. Much of the Stewart family wealth was based on the estates which came into the family through the Cowan inheritance, which put the family squarely in the landed gentry class of Ulster Presbyterians whose ancestors first arrived in Ireland during the Plantation of Ulster. (See "The Cowan Inheritance". Public Records Office of Northern Ireland. 7 September 2006. Archived from the original on 14 November 2007. Retrieved 6 July 2009.).
  3. The Down election of 1790 was fought against the elder Stewart's rival for influence in Ulster, Wills Hill, 1st Marquess of Downshire, who controlled both Down seats. The elder Stewart, who had been raised to the Irish peerage the previous year and was thereby ineligible, persuaded his son to stand for the seat. His son was backed, as he had been, by Whigs and Dissenters. The election expenses to the Stewarts reached the extraordinary sum of £60,000, financed by a mortgage of Mount Stewart, which Castlereagh's father spent much of the next decades paying off. (See Leigh, Castlereagh.)
  4. In a profile of Castlereagh published within months of his death, he was reported to have had, prior to his marriage, a son by a maidservant who lived near the Mount Stewart estate, and whom it was rumored he supported. (Dr. Felton Reede, Private Life of the Marquess of Londonderry, (1822), cited in Leigh, Castlereagh, pp 34 and 144.)
  5. The war with France absorbed much of the attention of Government and Parliament, and what attention was paid to an increasingly radicalised Ireland was confused and inconsistent. Pitt's dismissal of the popular Lord Fitzwilliam in 1795, over Fitzwilliam's aggressive support of Whig patronage and Catholic emancipation, produced outrage and rioting in Dublin. Castlereagh had watched the unravelling of Irish policy with deep concern and knew what sort of reaction to expect to Fitzwilliam's dismissal. But he was in no position to steer Irish policy nor could he object to the inevitable departure of Fitzwilliam, especially as the person appointed to replace Fitzwilliam was the brother of Stewart's step-mother, John Jeffreys Pratt, who had recently succeed as 2nd Earl Camden. (See Leigh, Castlereagh, Ch. 3.)
  6. Castlereagh had been re-elected without opposition from Down in 1797 and continued to hold this seat while in office in Ireland. He could not continue to hold both Irish office and the seat in Westminster for Orford, which he therefore resigned. (See Leigh, Castlereagh, Ch 4.) In the Irish election of 1798, he stood for Newtown Limavady as well as for Down. He was successful for both constituencies and chose to sit for the latter.
  7. In Council, though he was active in pursuing plots against the Government, he countered the influence of the more extreme members of the Protestant Ascendancy who, against especially the policies of the new Commander-in-Chief for Ireland, Sir Ralph Abercromby, called for indiscriminate violence to suppress all threat of rebellion. (See Leigh, Castlereagh, Ch 4).
  8. The Chief Secretary for Ireland from 1795–98 was Thomas Pelham, but he was continually absent from his duties due to illness. Camden pressed London to replace Pelham, recommending in his stead Castlereagh, whose performance in office was admired by those in London concerned with Irish policy. But as an example of the perverse prejudices of the era, Castlereagh, who might have been especially competent in this delicate and demanding office because he was an Irishman, was also ineligible to represent the Crown in Ireland because he was an Irishman, even though this Irishman was grandson of an English Marquess, great-grandson of an English Duke and son-in-law of an English Earl. After pressure by Pitt on George III who shared the prejudice against appointments of Irish as representatives of the Crown in Ireland, Castlereagh was appointed Acting Chief Secretary in March 1798. But it was only in November 1798, after the Rebellion had been put down that, in response to imperious demands from the next influential Lord Lieutenant, Marquess Cornwallis, Castlereagh was given the permanent office, and for the first time the Chief Secretary for Ireland was an Irishman. The next month, Castlereagh was admitted to the King's Privy Council. (See Leigh, Castlereagh Ch 4, and ""The London Gazette"". (112 KiB) 18 Dec 1798, p. 1 (1 page pdf).)
  9. Suicide was illegal in England until 1961. Prior to the Right to Burial Act of 1823, a suicide was denied a Christian burial and, until the Abolition of Forfeiture Act of 1870, his property was forfeited to the Crown. These cruel penalties were less and less frequently applied over the course of the 18th century, especially in the case of wealthier perpetrators. Inquests were likely to view suicide as itself evidence of the disturbed state of the perpetrator's mind. (See e.g., Clifton D. Bryant, Handbook of Death and Dying, Sage Publications (2003) pp. 316–17.)
  1. John Bew, "Castlereagh: enlightened conservative" History Today, (2011) 61#11
  2. Debrett, John (1828), Peerage of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, 2 (17th ed.), London: F. C. and J. Rivington, p. 635, The marquess m. 1st, 3 June 1766, Sarah-Frances Seymour, 2nd da. of Francis, 1st marquess of Hertford, K. G. ...
  3. Leigh, Ione (1952). "Castlereagh". Dublin Magazine. Collins. XXVII (January–March): 72–74.
  4. Lundy, Darryl. "Sir Robert Stewart, 1st Marquess of Londonderry". The Peerage., Retrieved 2009-07-09.
  5. "Stewart, Robert (STWT786R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  6. Politics and Administration in Ireland, 1750–1815 Archived 12 November 2009 at the Wayback Machine, James Kelley, University College Cork, Multitext Project in Irish History
  7. Debrett 1828, p. 635: "... m. 9 Jan. 1794 Amelia Hobart, youngest da. and co-h. of John, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire ... "
  8. "The Cowan Inheritance". Public Records Office of Northern Ireland. 7 September 2006. Archived from the original on 14 November 2007. Retrieved 6 July 2009.
  9. "Castlereagh". The Parliamentary gazetteer of Ireland. I: A-C. Dublin: A. Fullarton. 1846. p. 372.
  10. "No. 13922". The London Gazette. 16 August 1796. p. 781.
  11. Thomas Hay Sweet Escott, Club Makers and Club Members (1913), pp. 329–333
  12. "Library and Archive". Royal Society. Retrieved 3 August 2012.
  13. Bartlett, Christopher John (1966). "Castlereagh". London: Macmillan Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. "Spartacus Educational". Spartacus Educational. Archived from the original on 24 October 2008. Retrieved 29 May 2009.
  15. "Profile: Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh". NNDB. Retrieved 29 May 2009.
  16. The Spectator. "Pistols at dawn". Archived from the original on 5 February 2010. Retrieved 3 April 2010.
  17. Hunt, Giles, (2008), The Duel: Castlereagh, Canning and Deadly Cabinet Rivalry, London: B Tauris ISBN 978-1-84511-593-7
  18. Gregory Fremont-Barnes; Todd Fisher (2004). The Napoleonic Wars: The Rise and Fall of an Empire. Osprey Publishing. pp. 302–5.
  19. Frederick B. Artz, Reaction & Revolution: 1814–1832 (1934), p. 110
  20. George Macaulay Trevelyan (1923). British History in the Nineteenth Century. p. 133.
  21. Kissinger, Henry. A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace, 1812–22.
  22. Seymour Drescher, "Whose abolition? Popular pressure and the ending of the British slave trade." Past & Present 143 (1994): 136-166. Online
  23. Jerome Reich, "The Slave Trade at the Congress of Vienna--A Study in English Public Opinion--." Journal of Negro History 53.2 (1968): 129-143. Online
  24. James C. Duram, "A Study of Frustration: Britain, the USA, and the African Slave Trade, 1815-1870." Social Science (1965): 220-225. Online
  25. H.W.V. Temperley, and Lillian M. Penson, eds. Foundations of British Foreign Policy: 1792–1902 (1938) Quote page 47, the paper itself pp 48-63.
  26. David C. Hanrahan (2011). Assassination of the Prime Minister: John Bellingham and the Murder of Spencer Perceval. History Press. p. 24.
  27. Bew p.538
  28. See H. Montgomery Hyde, Trials of Oscar Wilde, Dover Publications, ISBN 0-486-20216-X.
  29. Bew p.543
  30. Bew, John (2011). Castlereagh: Enlightenment, War and Tyranny. Quercus. p. 544. ISBN 9780857381866.
  31. See Giles Hunt, The Duel: Castlereagh, Canning and Deadly Cabinet Rivalry (2008).
  32. Bew, John (2011). Castlereagh: Enlightenment, War and Tyranny (1st ed.). Quercus. p. 549. ISBN 9780857381866.
  33. "Chapter 1 of Victorian Suicide: Mad Crimes and Sad Histories, Barbara T. Gates". Victorian Web. 6 June 2001. Retrieved 29 May 2009.
  34. Sanftleben, Kurt A. "Epitaphs A–C". Last Words. Retrieved 29 May 2009.
  35. Henry Lord Brougham, "Lord Castlereagh", Historical Sketches of Statesmen in the Time of George III, London: Charles Knight & Co. (1845), Second Series, Vol I, pp. 149–61.
  36. Sir Herbert Maxwell, ed. (1904), "Henry Brougham M.P. to Thomas Creevey, August 19, 1822," The Creevey Papers, London: John Murray, 2nd edition, Vol II, p 44. Internet Archive retrieved on 9 July 2009.
  37. Trevelyan, British History in the 19th Century: 1782 - 1901 (1922) p 141
  38. Charles Webster, The Foreign Policy of Castlereagh (1931) P 231
  39. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Londonderry, Earls and Marquesses of" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 16 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 968.
  40. Lundy, Darryl. "Robert Stewart, 2nd Marquess of Londonderry". The Peerage., Retrieved 2009-07-09
  41. List of the Knights of the Garter (1348–present)
  42. "History of Sydney Streets" (MS Excel (for download)). Sydney Streets. City of Sydney. 4 December 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  43. Macquarie, Lachlan. "Thursday 6th. Decr.". Journal of a Tour of Governor Macquarie's first Inspection of the Interior of the Colony Commencing on Tuesday the 6th. Novr. 1810. Archived from the original on 10 March 2012 via Macquarie University.
  44. "Castlereagh River". Geographical Names Register (GNR) of NSW. Geographical Names Board of New South Wales. Retrieved 18 January 2013.

Further reading

  • Bew, John. Castlereagh: Enlightenment, War and Tyranny, London: Quercus (2011) ISBN 978-0-85738-186-6
    • review essay by Jack Gumpert Wasserman, in The Byron Journal (2013) Vol. 41, No. 1 online
  • Bew, John. Castlereagh: A Life, (Oxford UP, 2012) ISBN 978-0-19993-159-0 online review
  • Bartlett, Christopher John. Castlereagh, London: Macmillan (1966) — especially for diplomatic history
  • Charmley, John, "Castlereagh and France." Diplomacy and Statecraft 17.4 (2006): 665–673.
  • Coburn, Helen. A Gentleman Among Them: The Public and Private Life of Viscount Castlereagh (Cestus 2016). Available as e-book at
  • Derry, John W. Castlereagh, London: A. Lane (1976)
  • Goodlad, Graham. "From Castlereagh to Canning: Continuity and Change in British Foreign Policy," History Review (2008) Issue: 62. pp10+ online
  • Hayes, Paul. Modern British Foreign Policy: The nineteenth century, 1814–80 (1975).
  • Hinde, Wendy. Castlereagh, London: Collins (1981)
  • Hunt, Giles. The Duel: Castlereagh, Canning and deadly cabinet rivalry, B Tauris & Co Ltd, UK/Palgrave Macmillan (2008) ISBN 1-84511-593-7
  • Jarrett, Mark (2013). The Congress of Vienna and its Legacy: War and Great Power Diplomacy after Napoleon. London: I. B. Tauris & Company, Ltd. ISBN 978-1780761169.
  • Lawrence, Thomas, and C. J. Bartlett. The Foreign Policy of Castlereagh, 1812–1815, Britain and the European Alliance (1925) online
  • King, David. Vienna 1814; How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made Love, War, and Peace at the Congress of Vienna, (Random House, 2008) ISBN 978-0-307-33716-0
  • Kissinger, Henry. A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh, and the Problems of Peace, 1812–22 (1957)
  • Leigh, Ione. Castlereagh, London: Collins (1951) — especially for early years, access to family papers
  • Muir, Rory. Britain and the defeat of Napoleon, 1807–1815, New Haven: Yale University Press (1966) ISBN 978-0-300-06443-8
  • Harold Nicolson, The Congress of Vienna, Constable & Co Ltd, UK/Harcourt Brace and Company (1946)
  • Perkins, Bradford. Castlereagh and Adams: England and the United States, 1812–1823, Berkeley: University of California Press (1964)
  • Schroeder, Paul W. The Transformation of European Politics, 1763–1848 (1996), European diplomatic history online
  • Webster, Charles. The Foreign Policy of Castlereagh, in 2 volumes, 1812–1815 (1931) and 1815–1822 (1925; 2nd ed 1934) vol 1 online
  • Zamoyski, Adam. Rites of Peace; the Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna, HarperCollins Publishers (2007) ISBN 978-0-06-077518-6

Primary sources

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Londonderry, Robert Stewart, 2nd Marquess of". Encyclopædia Britannica. 16 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 969–972.

Parliament of Ireland
Preceded by
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Member of Parliament for Down
With: The Earl of Hillsborough 1790–1793
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Parliament of the United Kingdom
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Member of Parliament for Newtown Limavady
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Parliament of Great Britain
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The Earl of Yarmouth
Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Down
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John Meade
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JanuaryNovember 1806
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Hon. William Harbord 1807–1810
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Edward Bootle-Wilbraham
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Lord Arthur Hill 1817–1821
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Lord Arthur Hill
Mathew Forde
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Edmond Alexander MacNaghten
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Charles Ross
Political offices
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The Earl of Shannon
Sir John Parnell, Bt
Hon. Thomas Pelham
John Monck Mason
Lodge Morres
Commissioner of the Treasury for Ireland
With: The Earl of Shannon
Isaac Corry
Hon. Thomas Pelham
John Monck Mason
Lodge Morres
Succeeded by
The Earl of Shannon
Isaac Corry
Charles Abbot
The Lord Frankfort
Viscount Loftus
Maurice FitzGerald
Commissioner of the Treasury for Ireland
With: The Earl of Shannon
Isaac Corry
Lodge Morres
Viscount Loftus
William Wickham
Mourice FitzGerald
Preceded by
Hon. Thomas Pelham
Chief Secretary for Ireland
Succeeded by
Charles Abbot
Preceded by
The Earl of Dartmouth
President of the Board of Control
Succeeded by
The Lord Minto
Preceded by
The Earl Camden
Secretary of State for War and the Colonies
Succeeded by
William Windham
Preceded by
William Windham
Secretary of State for War and the Colonies
Succeeded by
The Earl of Liverpool
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The Marquess Wellesley
Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by
George Canning
Preceded by
Hon. Spencer Perceval
Leader of the House of Commons
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by
Robert Stewart
Marquess of Londonderry
Succeeded by
Charles (Stewart) Vane
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