William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland

William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland, PC (Ire), FRS (3 April 1745  28 May 1814) was a British diplomat and politician who sat in the British House of Commons from 1774 to 1793. The subantarctic Auckland Islands group to the south of New Zealand, discovered in 1806, were named after him.

The Lord Auckland

Portrait of Lord Auckland by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1797
President of the Board of Trade
In office
5 February 1806  31 March 1807
MonarchGeorge III
Prime MinisterThe Lord Grenville
Preceded byThe Duke of Montrose
Succeeded byThe Earl Bathurst
Personal details
Born(1745-04-03)3 April 1745
Died28 May 1814(1814-05-28) (aged 69)
Beckenham, Kent
Political partyTory (Pittite)
Whig (Grenvillite)
Eleanor Elliot
(m. 1776; his death 1814)
RelationsGeorge Osborne, 8th Duke of Leeds (grandson)
EducationDurham School
Eton College
Alma materChrist Church, Oxford

Early life

A member of the influential Eden family, Auckland was a younger son of Sir Robert Eden, 3rd Baronet, of Windlestone Hall, County Durham, and Mary, daughter of William Davison. His brothers included Sir Robert Eden, 1st Baronet, of Maryland, Governor of Maryland, and Morton Eden, 1st Baron Henley.

He was educated at Durham School, Eton and Christ Church, Oxford,[1] and was called to the bar, Middle Temple, in 1768.


In 1771 Auckland published Principles of Penal Law, and soon became a recognized authority on commercial and economic questions. In 1772 he took up an appointment as Under-Secretary of State for the North, a post he held until 1778. He was Member of Parliament for Woodstock from 1774 to 1784 and served as a Lord of Trade from 1776 to 1782. In 1778 he carried an Act for the improvement of the treatment of prisoners, and accompanied the Earl of Carlisle as a commissioner to North America on an unsuccessful mission to bring an end to the American War of Independence. During the War, he was head of the British spies in Europe, his budget reaching £200,000 by 1778. He probably oversaw a small group of intelligence collectors for Lord Suffolk. On his return in 1779 he published his widely-read Four Letters to the Earl of Carlisle. In 1780 Auckland became Chief Secretary for Ireland, which he remained until 1782, and was admitted to the Irish Privy Council in 1780. He represented Dungannon in the Irish House of Commons between 1781 and 1783 and was Joint Vice-Treasurer of Ireland between 1783 and 1784. While in Ireland he established the National Bank.[2]

Between 1784 and 1793 Auckland was Member of Parliament for Heytesbury. He was sworn of the British Privy Council in 1784 and served as Envoy to France from 1785 to 1787 (on a mission dealing with commerce); he was Ambassador to Spain between 1787 and 1789 and Ambassador to the Netherlands between 1789 and 1793. In 1789 he was raised to the Peerage of Ireland as Baron Auckland and in 1793 he retired from public service, receiving a pension of £2300, and was further honoured when he was made Baron Auckland, of West Auckland in the County of Durham, in the Peerage of Great Britain.

During his retirement in the country at Beckenham, he continued his friendship with William Pitt the Younger, his nearest neighbour at Holwood House, who at one time had thoughts of marrying his daughter (see below). With Pitt's sanction he published his Remarks on the Apparent Circumstances of the War in 1795, to prepare public opinion for a peace.[2]

He was later included in Pitt's government as Joint Postmaster General in 1798. He severely criticized Pitt's resignation in 1801, from which he had endeavoured to dissuade him, and retained office under Henry Addington. This terminated his friendship with Pitt, who excluded him from his administration in 1804 though he increased his pension. Auckland later served under Lord Grenville as President of the Board of Trade in the Ministry of All the Talents between 1806 and 1807.[2]

His Journal and Correspondence, published in 1861–1862, throws much light on the political history of the time.[2]

Personal life

In 1776, Lord Auckland married Eleanor Elliot, daughter of Sir Gilbert Elliot, 3rd Baronet and Agnes Dalrymple-Murray-Kynynmound (daughter and heiress of Hugh Dalrymple-Murray-Kynynmound). Eleanor was a sister of Gilbert Eliott, 1st Earl of Minto. They had six sons and eight daughters, including:[3]

Lord Auckland died in May 1814 and was succeeded by his second but eldest surviving son, George, who was created Earl of Auckland in 1839. Lady Auckland died in May 1818.[9]


  1. A description of the Godolphin life at their family seat, Gog Magog House (now destroyed), was captured in a letter by one of her younger sisters: "I invited myself of course, but [Lady] Charlotte bore it very well. I was there fifteen years ago in the capacity of a child: I therefore did not see much of her, or know anything of her and except that, have not seen her but for two or three morning visits per annum; so it was a voyage of discovery, in the style of a North Pole expedition. The Frost intense--and a good deal of hummocky ice to sail through. However, I really liked it better than expected. Lord Francis [Osborne] is particularly pleasant in his own house, and young Charlotte [the youngest child and only daughter] very civil and good-natured."[6] Sons of the house included George, the eldest, who became 8th Duke of Leeds in 1859, and Sydney, later known for his letters to The Times on various political and social causes. He wrote about the workhouses in Ireland during the Great Famine and was with Florence Nightingale in Scutari during the Crimean War.
  1. Lee, Stephen M.; rev. Sinéad Agnew. "Eden, William, first Baron Auckland (1744–1814)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Sept 2004, online edn, May 2009). Retrieved 8 November 2009. Eden was educated at Durham School (1755–8) and Eton College (1758–62) before going up to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1762.
  2.  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Auckland, William Eden". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 893–894.
  3. "Auckland, Baron (GB, 1793)". www.cracroftspeerage.co.uk. Heraldic Media Limited. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  4. Hague, William William Pitt the Younger Harper Collins 2004
  5. "Buckinghamshire, Earl of (GB, 1746)". www.cracroftspeerage.co.uk. Heraldic Media Limited. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  6. (Emily Eden. "Miss Eden's Letters." Violet Dickinson, ed. London: Macmillan, 1919, p. 93).
  7. Foster, Joseph. textsThe peerage, baronetage, and knightage of the British Empire : for 1882 (1883 ed.). Nicols & Sons. p. 646.
  8. The Nautical Magazine and Naval Chronicle for 1849. Cambridge University Press. 2013. p. 61. ISBN 978-1-108-05436-2. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  9. Ranieval, The Marquis of Ruvigny and (2013). The Plantagenet Roll of the Blood Royal: The Mortimer-Percy Volume. Heritage Books. pp. 274–275. ISBN 978-0-7884-1872-3. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Hon. William Gordon
John Skynner
Member of Parliament for Woodstock
With: John Skynner 1774–1777
Viscount Parker 1777–1784
Succeeded by
Sir Henry Dashwood, Bt
Francis Burton
Preceded by
Francis Burton
William à Court
Member of Parliament for Heytesbury
With: William à Court 1784–1790
Michael Angelo Taylor 1790–1791
The Earl of Barrymore 1791–1793
Charles Ellis 1793
Succeeded by
The Viscount Clifden
Charles Rose Ellis
Parliament of Ireland
Preceded by
Charles O'Hara
Thomas Knox
Member of Parliament for Dungannon
With: Charles O'Hara
Succeeded by
Edmund Sexton Pery
Hon. Thomas Knox
Political offices
Preceded by
Sir Richard Heron, Bt
Chief Secretary for Ireland
Succeeded by
Richard FitzPatrick
Preceded by
The Earl of Chesterfield
The Earl of Leicester
Postmaster General
With: The Earl of Leicester 1798–1799
The Baron Gower 1799–1801
Lord Charles Spencer 1801–1804
Succeeded by
The Duke of Montrose
Lord Charles Spencer
Preceded by
The Duke of Montrose
President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by
The Earl Bathurst
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
The Earl of Chesterfield
British Ambassador to Spain
Succeeded by
Alleyne FitzHerbert
Preceded by
Alleyne FitzHerbert
British Ambassador to the Netherlands
Succeeded by
Lord Henry Spencer
Peerage of Ireland
New creation Baron Auckland
Succeeded by
George Eden
Peerage of Great Britain
New creation Baron Auckland
Succeeded by
George Eden
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