George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon

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The Earl of Clarendon

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
31 October 1840 23 June 1841
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister The Viscount Melbourne
Preceded by The Lord Holland
Succeeded by Sir George Grey
President of the Board of Trade
In office
6 July 1846 22 July 1847
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister Lord John Russell
Preceded by The Marquess of Dalhousie
Succeeded by Henry Labouchere
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
In office
1847 1 March 1852
Monarch Queen Victoria
Prime Minister Lord John Russell
Preceded by The Earl of Bessborough
Succeeded by The Earl of Eglinton
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
In office
21 February 1853 26 February 1858
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister The Earl of Aberdeen
The Viscount Palmerston
Preceded by Lord John Russell
Succeeded by The Earl of Malmesbury
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
7 April 1864 3 November 1865
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister The Viscount Palmerston
The Earl Russell
Preceded by Edward Cardwell
Succeeded by George Goschen
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
In office
3 November 1865 6 July 1866
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister The Earl Russell
Preceded by The Earl Russell
Succeeded by Lord Stanley
In office
9 December 1868 27 June 1870
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone
Preceded by Lord Stanley
Succeeded by The Earl Granville
Personal details
Born12 January 1800 (1800-01-12)
London, England
Died27 June 1870 (1870-06-28) (aged 70)
London, England
Political party Liberal
Lady Katherine Grimston(m. 1839)
Alma mater St John's College, Cambridge

George William Frederick Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon, KG , KP , GCB , PC (12 January 1800 27 June 1870) was an English diplomat and statesman from the Villiers family.

Privy Council of the United Kingdom Formal body of advisers to the sovereign in the United Kingdom

Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council of the United Kingdom or just the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. Its membership mainly comprises senior politicians who are current or former members of either the House of Commons or the House of Lords.

Villiers family English aristocratic family

The Villiers family is one of England's preeminent aristocratic families. Over time, various members of the Villiers family were made knights, baronets and peers. Peerages held by the Villiers family include the dukedoms of Buckingham (1623-1687) and Cleveland (1670-1709), as well as the earldoms of Anglesey (1623-1661), Jersey and Clarendon. Perhaps the most prominent members of the family were those who received the two dukedoms: George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (1592–1628) rose to fame and influence as favourite of King James I of England, while Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland (1640–1709) became a mistress of King Charles II of England, by whom she had five children.


Background and education

Villiers was born in London, the son of George Villiers and Theresa Parker. He went up to Cambridge at the early age of sixteen and entered St John's College on 29 June 1816. [1] In 1820, as the eldest son of an earl's brother with royal descent, he was able to take his MA degree under the statutes of the university then in force. [2]

George Villiers (1759–1827) British courtier and politician, 1759-1827

George Villiers, styled The Honourable, was a British courtier and politician from the Villiers family. The youngest son of the diplomat Lord Hyde, he was an intimate of Princess Amelia and personal supporter of her father, George III. His favour within the Royal Family and his father's influence brought him a number of sinecures to support him. However, Villiers was more interested in the operation of the royal farms at Windsor Castle than in politics or the duties of his offices. When his bookkeeping as Paymaster of the Marines was carefully examined in 1810, Villiers' carelessness and the speculation of his clerk had left him in debt to the Crown by more than £250,000. This exposure touched off a public scandal; Villiers promptly surrendered all his property to the Crown and threw himself on the king's mercy. The misconduct of Joseph Hunt as Treasurer of the Ordnance to some extent obscured Villiers' own misconduct, and he was able to retain other sinecures and a stable, if reduced, income from them until his death in 1827.

Cambridge City and non-metropolitan district in England

Cambridge is a university city and the county town of Cambridgeshire, England, on the River Cam approximately 50 miles (80 km) north of London. At the United Kingdom Census 2011, its population was 123,867 including 24,506 students. Cambridge became an important trading centre during the Roman and Viking ages, and there is archaeological evidence of settlement in the area as early as the Bronze Age. The first town charters were granted in the 12th century, although modern city status was not officially conferred until 1951.

St Johns College, Cambridge college of the University of Cambridge

St John's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge founded by the Tudor matriarch Lady Margaret Beaufort. In constitutional terms, the college is a charitable corporation established by a charter dated 9 April 1511. The aims of the college, as specified by its statutes, are the promotion of education, religion, learning and research. It is one of the larger Oxbridge colleges in terms of student numbers.


In the same year, he was appointed attaché to the British embassy at Saint Petersburg. There he remained three years, and gained that practical knowledge of diplomacy which was of so much use to him in later life. He had "received from nature a singularly handsome person, a polished and engaging address, a ready command of languages, and a remarkable power of composition". [2]

Saint Petersburg Federal city in Northwestern Federal Okrug, Russia

Saint Petersburg is Russia's second-largest city after Moscow, with 5 million inhabitants in 2012, part of the Saint Petersburg agglomeration with a population of 6.2 million (2015). An important Russian port on the Baltic Sea, it has a status of a federal subject.

Upon his return to England in 1823, he was appointed to a commissionership of customs, an office which he retained for about ten years. In 1831, he was despatched to France to negotiate a commercial treaty, which however was fruitless. On 16 August 1833, he was appointed minister at the court of Spain. Ferdinand VII died within a month of his arrival at Madrid, and the infant queen Isabella, then in the third year of her age, was placed on her contested throne, based on the old Spanish custom of female inheritance. Don Carlos, the late king's brother, claimed the crown by virtue of the Salic law of the House of Bourbon which Ferdinand had renounced before the birth of his daughter. Isabella II and her mother Christina, the queen regent, became the representatives of constitutional monarchy, Don Carlos of Catholic absolutism. The conflict which had divided the despotic and the constitutional powers of Europe since the French Revolution of 1830 broke out into civil war in Spain, and by the Quadruple Treaty, signed on 22 April 1834, France and England pledged themselves to the defence of the constitutional thrones of Spain and Portugal. For six years Villiers continued to give the most active and intelligent support to the Liberal government of Spain. He was accused, though unjustly, of having favoured the revolution of La Granja, which drove Christina, the queen mother, out of the kingdom, and raised Espartero to the regency. He undoubtedly supported the chiefs of the Liberal party, such as Espartero, against the intrigues of the French court; but the object of the British government was to establish the throne of Isabella on a truly national and liberal basis and to avert those complications, dictated by foreign influence, which eventually proved so fatal to that princess. [2]

Ferdinand VII of Spain King of Spain

Ferdinand VII was twice King of Spain: in 1808 and again from 1813 to his death. He was known to his supporters as the Desired and to his detractors as the Felon King. After being overthrown by Napoleon in 1808 he linked his monarchy to counter-revolution and reactionary policies that produced a deep rift in Spain between his forces on the right and liberals on the left. Back in power in 1814, he reestablished the absolutist monarchy and rejected the liberal constitution of 1812. A revolt in 1820 led by Rafael de Riego forced him to restore the constitution thus beginning the Liberal Triennium: a three year period of liberal rule. In 1823 the Congress of Verona authorized a successful French intervention restoring him to absolute power for the second time. He suppressed the liberal press from 1814 to 1833 and jailed many of its editors and writers. Under his rule, Spain lost nearly all of its American possessions, and the country entered into civil war on his death.

Madrid Capital of Spain

Madrid is the capital of Spain and the largest municipality in both the Community of Madrid and Spain as a whole. The city has almost 3.3 million inhabitants and a metropolitan area population of approximately 6.5 million. It is the third-largest city in the European Union (EU), smaller than only London and Berlin, and its monocentric metropolitan area is the third-largest in the EU, smaller only than those of London and Paris. The municipality covers 604.3 km2 (233.3 sq mi).

Isabella II of Spain Spanish queen regnant

Isabella II was Queen of Spain from 1833 until 1868. She came to the throne as an infant, but her succession was disputed by the Carlists, whose refusal to recognize a female sovereign led to the Carlist Wars. After a troubled reign, she was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1868, and formally abdicated in 1870. Her son, Alfonso XII, became king in 1874.

Slavery was intended to be illegal in Spanish colonies from 1820, but this was not working. Villiers worked with the help of the Times correspondent David Turnbull to get slavery removed from Spanish colonies. In 1835 the Spanish reaffirmed their commitments. [3]

David Turnbull (abolitionist) British abolitionist

David Turnbull was a leading 19th-century abolitionist and a British consul to Cuba. Turnbull, a Scotsman, was a key participant at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention of the Anti-Slavery Society. Turnbull was blamed for creating a revolt in Cuba that resulted in 1844 being known as the Year of the Lash.

Villiers received the Grand Cross of the Bath in 1838 in acknowledgment of his services, and succeeded, on the death of his uncle, to the title of Earl of Clarendon; in the following year, having left Madrid, he married a young widow, Lady Katharine Foster-Barham (née Grimston), eldest daughter of James Grimston, 1st Earl of Verulam. [2]

Order of the Bath Series of awards of an order of chivalry of the United Kingdom

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate medieval ceremony for appointing a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as "Knights of the Bath". George I "erected the Knights of the Bath into a regular Military Order". He did not revive the Order of the Bath, since it had never previously existed as an Order, in the sense of a body of knights who were governed by a set of statutes and whose numbers were replenished when vacancies occurred.

James Grimston, 1st Earl of Verulam British peer and Member of Parliament

James Walter Grimston, 1st Earl of Verulam, styled Lord Dunboyne from 1775 until 1808 and known as Viscount Grimston from 1808 to 1815, was a British peer and Member of Parliament.

In January 1840 he entered Lord Melbourne's administration as Lord Privy Seal, and from the death of Lord Holland in the autumn of that year Lord Clarendon also held the office of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster until the dissolution of the ministry in 1841. Deeply convinced that the maintenance of a cordial understanding with France was the most essential condition of peace and of a liberal policy in Europe, he reluctantly concurred in the measures proposed by Lord Palmerston for the expulsion of the Mohammed Ali of Egypt from Syria; he strenuously advocated, with Lord Holland, a more conciliatory policy towards France; and he was only restrained from sending in his resignation by the dislike he felt to break up a cabinet he had so recently joined. [2]

Clarendon with Lord Cowley (left) Lords Cowley and Clarendon.JPG
Clarendon with Lord Cowley (left)

The interval of Sir Robert Peel's administration (1841–1846) was to the leaders of the Whig party a period of repose; but Lord Clarendon took a strong interest in the triumph of the principles of free trade and in the repeal of the Corn Laws, of which his brother, Charles Pelham Villiers, had been one of the earliest champions. For this reason, upon the formation of Lord John Russell's first administration, Lord Clarendon accepted the office of President of the Board of Trade. Twice in his career the governor-generalship of India was offered him, and once the governor-generalship of Canada; these he refused from reluctance to withdraw from the politics of Europe. But in 1847 a sense of duty compelled him to take a far more laborious and uncongenial appointment. The desire of the cabinet was to abolish the lord-lieutenancy of Ireland, and Lord Clarendon was prevailed upon to accept that office, with a view to transform it into an Irish secretaryship of state. He arrived during the second year of the Great Famine, and had not been many months in Dublin before he acknowledged that the difficulties then existing in Ireland could only be met by the most vigilant and energetic authority, exercised on the spot. The crisis was one of extraordinary peril. Agrarian crimes of horrible atrocity had increased threefold. The Catholic clergy were openly disaffected. Extraordinary measures were required to regulate the bounty of the government and the nation. The French Revolution of 1848 let loose fresh elements of discord, which culminated in an abortive insurrection, and for a lengthened period Ireland was a prey to more than her wonted symptoms of disaffection and disorder. Lord Clarendon remained viceroy of Ireland till 1852. His services were expressly acknowledged in the queen's speech to both Houses of Parliament in September 1848—this being the first time that any civil services obtained that honour; and he was made a Knight of the Garter (retaining also the grand cross of the Bath by special order) on 23 March 1849. [2]

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

Signed Clarendon Military Passport 1857 Military passport 1857 signed by George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon.jpg
Signed Clarendon Military Passport 1857
Shield of arms of George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon, as displayed on his Order of the Garter stall plate in St. George's Chapel. Shield of arms of George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon, KG, GCB, PC.png
Shield of arms of George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon, as displayed on his Order of the Garter stall plate in St. George's Chapel.

Upon the formation of the coalition ministry between the Whigs and the Peelites, in 1853, under Lord Aberdeen, Lord Clarendon became Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The country was already "drifting" into the Crimean War, an expression of his own which was never forgotten. Clarendon was not responsible for the policy which brought war about; but when it occurred he employed every means in his power to stimulate and assist the war departments, and above all he maintained the closest relations with the French. The tsar Nicholas had speculated on the impossibility of the sustained joint action of France and England in council and in the field. It was mainly by Lord Clarendon at Whitehall and by Lord Raglan before the Siege of Sevastopol that such a combination was rendered practicable, and did eventually triumph over the enemy. The diplomatic conduct of such an alliance for three years between two great nations jealous of their military honour and fighting for no separate political advantage, tried by excessive hardships and at moments on the verge of defeat, was certainly one of the most arduous duties ever performed by a minister. The result was due in the main to the confidence with which Lord Clarendon had inspired the emperor of the French, and to the affection and regard of the empress, whom he had known in Spain from her childhood. [2]

In 1856 Lord Clarendon took his seat at the congress of Paris convoked for the restoration of peace, as first British plenipotentiary. It was the first time since the appearance of Lord Castlereagh at Vienna that a secretary of state for foreign affairs had been present in person at a congress on the continent. Lord Clarendon's first care was to obtain the admission of Piedmont-Sardinia to the council chamber as a belligerent power, and to raise the barrier which still excluded Prussia as a neutral one. But in the general anxiety of all the powers to terminate the war there was no small danger that the objects for which it had been undertaken would be abandoned or forgotten. It is due entirely to the firmness of Lord Clarendon that the principle of the neutralization of the Black Sea was preserved, that the Russian attempt to trick the allies out of the cession in Bessarabia was defeated, and that the results of the war were for a time secured. The congress was eager to turn to other subjects, and perhaps the most important result of its deliberations was the celebrated Declaration of the Maritime Powers, which abolished privateering, defined the right of blockade, and limited the right of capture to enemy's property in enemy's ships. Lord Clarendon has been accused of an abandonment of what are termed the belligerent rights of Great Britain, which were undoubtedly based on the old maritime laws of Europe. But he acted in strict conformity with the views of the British cabinet, and the British cabinet adopted those views because it was satisfied that it was not for the benefit of the country to adhere to practices which exposed the vast mercantile interests of Britain to depredation, even by the cruisers of a secondary maritime power, and which, if vigorously enforced against neutrals, could not fail to embroil her with every maritime state in the world. [2]

Upon the reconstitution of the Whig administration in 1859, Lord John Russell made it a condition of his acceptance of office under Lord Palmerston that the foreign department should be placed in his own hands, which implied that Lord Clarendon should be excluded from office, as it would have been inconsistent alike with his dignity and his tastes to fill any other post in the government. The consequence was that from 1859 till 1864 Lord Clarendon remained out of office, and the critical relations arising out of the Civil War in the United States were left to the guidance of Earl Russell. But he re-entered the cabinet in May 1864 as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; and upon the death of Lord Palmerston in 1865, Lord Russell again became prime minister, when Lord Clarendon returned to the foreign office, which was again confided to him for the third time upon the formation of Gladstone's administration in 1868. To the last moment of his existence, Lord Clarendon continued to devote every faculty of his mind and every instant of his life to the public service; and he died surrounded by the boxes and papers of his office on 27 June 1870. [2]


George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon by Carlo Pellegrini, 1869. 4th Earl of Clarendon.png
George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon by Carlo Pellegrini, 1869.

On 4 June 1839, Villiers married the widowed Lady Katherine Foster-Barham (a daughter of James Grimston, 1st Earl of Verulam) and they had eight children:

Styles of address


  1. "Villers, George William Frederick (VLRS816GW)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Clarendon, George William Frederick Villiers, 4th Earl of". Encyclopædia Britannica . 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 434–435.
  3. Manuel Llorca-Jaña, ‘Turnbull, David (1793?–1851)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oct 2009 accessed 1 Aug 2014
  4. "Emily Theresa (née Villiers), Lady Ampthill". National Portrait Gallery, London.
  5. Lundy, Darryl. "p. 6041 § 60410 , Colonel Hon. George Patrick Hyde Villiers". The Peerage.[ unreliable source ]
  6. Lundy, Darryl. "p. 3329 § 33283 , Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Hyde Villiers". The Peerage.[ unreliable source ]

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Political offices
Preceded by
Viscount Duncannon
Lord Privy Seal
Succeeded by
The Duke of Buckingham and Chandos
Preceded by
The Lord Holland
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Succeeded by
Sir George Grey
President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by
Henry Labouchere
Preceded by
The Earl of Bessborough
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
Succeeded by
The Earl of Eglinton
Preceded by
Lord John Russell
Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by
The Earl of Malmesbury
Preceded by
Edward Cardwell
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Succeeded by
George Joachim Goschen
Preceded by
The Earl Russell
Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by
Lord Stanley
Preceded by
Lord Stanley
Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by
The Earl Granville
Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by
John Villiers
Earl of Clarendon
2nd creation
Succeeded by
Edward Villiers
Baron Hyde
2nd creation