Francis Napier, 10th Lord Napier

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It was the fortune of the author to hold a diplomatic employment at the Court of Naples, during a period in which the appropriate pastimes of that pleasant city were discarded for the illusions and regrets of political change. These transactions, of which the melancholy issue is notorious, were of a nature to engross and often to darken the thoughts of one, who had an intimate knowledge and a foreboding view of the revolutionary drama; the resources of society were limited by the suspicions and passions which altered and envenomed the conversation even of cultivated men; and the author was induced, alike by necessity and taste, to expend his relaxation and recover his serenity in the study of the local Arts.

Notes on Modern Painting at Naples, 1850

Napier's handling of affairs as acting ambassador in Naples impressed the then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Lord Palmerston. He was posted to the British embassy at St Petersburg, where he became a close confidante of Tsar Alexander II. After serving short, satisfactory terms at the British embassies at St Petersburg and Constantinople, Napier was appointed envoy extraordinaire and minister plenipotentiary to the United States and served from 1857 to 1859. Napier's tenure in Washington was soon mired in controversy. The abolitionist Charles Sumner and elements of the Northern press accused the British minister of being a pro-slavery partisan. More damaging still in the eyes of the British government was the claim that he had taken upon himself to declare in conversations that Britain recognized the Monroe Doctrine, when all the British governments till then had repudiated it. Critics at the Foreign Office accused him of "giving up everything the United States can wish for, even before they ask it", which for them explained Napier's immense popularity with Washington's influential residents. He was recalled and given the less sensitive post of minister to the Netherlands. [2] Napier served there from 1859 to 1861 and in Prussia from 1864 to 1866. He was then appointed Governor of Madras in 1866 and served from 27 March 1866 to 19 February 1872.

Governor of Madras

Napier Bridge in Chennai Napier Bridge 02.jpg
Napier Bridge in Chennai
Napier Museum in Tiruvananthapuram Kanakakkunnu Kottaram.jpeg
Napier Museum in Tiruvananthapuram

As soon as Napier took office as the Governor of Madras, he was faced with a severe famine in Ganjam District. He took the services of Florence Nightingale whom he had known in Constantinople. Napier undertook many major irrigation schemes during his tenure. The Pennar Dam was completed during his tenure and two other irrigation works, the Rushikulya Dam in Ganjam and the Mullaperiyar Dam were conceived during his tenure.

Despite being at odds with different viceroys over financial issues throughout his tenure, Napier was able to resolve disputes in an amicable manner due to the friendly relations he had with Sir John Lawrence and well as his successor, Richard Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo. When the Earl of Mayo was assassinated in the Andamans on 8 February 1872, Napier was designated to act as the Viceroy of India and he served for a short time before being relieved by Lord Northbrook. For his creditable performance as Governor of Madras, Napier was created Baron Ettrick of Ettrick in the peerage of the United Kingdom. [3]

Lord Napier by Lowes Dickinson Lowes dickinson, ritratto di lord napier, governatore del forte di san giorgio nel 1866-72.jpg
Lord Napier by Lowes Dickinson

In 1869, Napier constructed the Napier Bridge across the Coovum River in Chennai. [4] The Napier Park in Chennai [5] and the Napier Museum in Trivandrum, Travancore were set up in his memory. Between 1866 and 1872, [6] he had partially restored the Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal as well, which was earlier demolished considerably by Grandson of King Thirumalai Nayak.

In addition there is a surgical ward in Stanley Medical College Hospital in Chennai, named in his honor. The ward was originally built with the help of donations by the Governor Napier.

Later life and death

At the end of his term as acting Viceroy of India, Napier returned to the United Kingdom and acted as the President of the Social Science Association during its meetings at Plymouth and Glasgow in October 1874. [7] During this time, Napier also served in the London School Board. [7]

Lord Napier was the chairman of the Napier Commission [7] (the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Condition of Crofters and Cottars in the Highlands and Islands) which was appointed in 1883 and reported in 1884.

Napier died in Florence, Italy on 19 December 1898 at the age of 79. [7]


Napier was appointed to Privy Council in 1861 and made a Knight of the Thistle in 1864.


Napier married Anne Jane Charlotte (1824–1911) on 2 September 1845. The couple had four sons. [8]


The New York Times gives a short physical description of Napier on his appointment as Viceroy of India.

Lord Napier is sixty-two years old, considerably above middle size, strong, healthy, with calm, handsome face, gray hair and whiskers, an early riser, very often a late goer to bed, gifted with inexhaustible energy, tact common sense and acuteness of judgement. [9]

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  1. Napier, Lord Francis (1855). Notes on Modern Painting at Naples.. West Strand, London: John W. Parker and Son. pp. I.
  2. Brian Jenkins, Lord Lyons, A Diplomat in An Age of Nationalism and War, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2014, pp. 85–89.
  3. "GREAT BRITAIN.; The American Squadron Protest of English Catholics Against Italy's Coorse to the Pope-Governor-General of India" (PDF). The New York Times . London. 17 July 1872.
  4. "Special lighting on Napier Bridge". The Hindu . Chennai. 29 July 2010.
  5. Illustrated guide to the South Indian Railway: including the Mayavaram-Mutupet, and Peralam-Karaikkal railways. Higginbotham's. 1900. pp.  18.
  6. "Welcome to Madurai - Tourism". Archived from the original on 22 April 2012. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  7. 1 2 3 4 "BARON NAPIER IS DEAD.; He Was at One Time British Minister to This Country" (PDF). The New York Times. 19 December 1898.
  8. "The Royal Household in Scotland". Burke's Landed Gentry of Scotland. Burke's Peerage. p. 1104.
  9. "LORD NAPIER.; The Next Ruler for the Eastern Empire of Britain His Record What May be Expected of Him" (PDF). The New York Times. 17 February 1872.
The Lord Napier
George Frederic Watts (1817-1904) - Francis Napier (1819-1898), 10th Baron Napier and 1st Baron Ettrick, Diplomat and Governor of Madras - PG 811 - National Galleries of Scotland.jpg
Portrait of Francis Napier, 10th Lord Napier in 1866
Acting Viceroy of India
In office
24 February 1872 3 May 1872
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by British Minister to the United States
Succeeded by
Preceded by British Minister to the Netherlands
Succeeded by
Preceded by British Ambassador to Russia
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Andrew Buchanan
(as Minister)
British Ambassador to Prussia
Succeeded by
Government offices
Preceded by Governor of Madras
Succeeded by
Preceded by Viceroy of India, acting
Succeeded by
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by Lord Napier
Succeeded by
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Ettrick
Succeeded by