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Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 1st Marquess of Dufferin and Ava

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Frederick Temple Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood

Lord Dufferin as a young man
Born 21 June 1826
Florence, Italy
Died February 12, 1902(1902-02-12) (aged 75)
Nationality British
Education Eton College, Christ Church, Oxford
Occupation Viceroy of India, Governor General of Canada, Politician
Title Marquess of Dufferin and Ava
Spouse(s) Hariot Georgina Rowan-Hamilton
Children Archibald; Helen; Terence; Hermione; Basil; Victoria; Frederick
Parents Price Blackwood, 4th Baron Dufferin and Claneboye, Helen Selina Sheridan

Frederick Temple Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 1st Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, KP, GCB, GCSI, GCMG, GCIE, PC ( 21 June 1826 12 February 1902) was a British public servant and prominent member of Victorian society. In his youth, he was a popular figure in the court of Queen Victoria, and became well known to the public after publishing a best-selling account of his travels in the North Atlantic.


He is now best known as one of the most successful diplomats of his time. His long career in public service began as a commissioner to Syria in 1860, where his skillful diplomacy maintained British interests while preventing France from instituting a client state in Lebanon. After his success in Syria, Lord Dufferin served in the Government of the United Kingdom as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Under- Secretary of State for War. In 1872 he became the third Governor General of Canada, bolstering imperial ties in the early years of the Dominion, and in 1884 he reached the pinnacle of his diplomatic career as eighth Viceroy of India.

Following his retirement from the diplomatic service in 1896, his final years were marred by personal tragedy and a misguided attempt to secure his family's financial position. His eldest son was killed in the Second Boer War, shortly before a mining company of which he had become chairman collapsed under scandalous circumstances. Although no personal blame attached to Dufferin, it was a blow to his failing health; he withdrew from public life and died in early 1902.

Early life

On his father's side, Lord Dufferin was descended from Scottish settlers who had moved to County Down in the early 17th century. The Blackwood family had become prominent landowners over the following two hundred years, and were created baronets in 1763, entering the Peerage of Ireland in 1800 as Baron Dufferin. The family had influence in parliament because they controlled the return for the borough of Killyleagh. Marriages in the Blackwood family were often advantageous to their landowning and high society ambitions, but Lord Dufferin's father, Captain Price Blackwood, did not marry into a landowning family. His wife, Helen Selina Sheridan, was the granddaughter of the playwright Richard Sheridan, and through her, the family became connected to English literary and political circles.

Lord Dufferin was thus born into considerable advantage as Frederick Temple Blackwood in Florence, Italy in 1826. He studied at Eton and the College of Christ Church at the University of Oxford, where he became president of the Oxford Union Society for debate, although he left the college after only two years without obtaining a degree. He succeeded his father in 1841 as 5th Baron Dufferin and Claneboye in the Peerage of Ireland, and was appointed a Lord-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria in 1849. In 1850 he was created Baron Claneboye, of Clandeboye in the County of Down, in the Peerage of the United Kingdom.

In 1856, Lord Dufferin commissioned the schooner Foam, and set off on a journey around the North Atlantic. He first visited Iceland, where he visited the then-minuscule Reykjavík, the plains of Þingvellir, and Geysir. Returning to Reykjavík, the Foam was towed north by Prince Napoleon, who was on an expedition to the region in the steamer La Reine Hortense. Dufferin sailed close to Jan Mayen Island, but was unable to land due to heavy ice, and caught only a very brief glimpse of the island through the fog. From Jan Mayen, the Foam sailed to northern Norway, stopping at Hammerfest, before sailing for Spitsbergen.

On his return, Lord Dufferin published a book about his travels, Letters From High Latitudes. With its irreverent style and lively pace, it was extremely successful, and can be regarded as the prototype of the comic travelogue. It remained in print for many years, and was translated into French and German. The letters were nominally written to his mother, with whom he had developed a very close relationship after the death of his father when he was 15.

A natural diplomat

Despite the great success of Letters From High Latitudes, Dufferin did not pursue a career as an author, although he was known for his skillful writing throughout his career. Instead he became a public servant, with his first major public appointment in 1860 as British representative on a commission to Syria to investigate the causes of a civil war earlier that year in which the Maronite Christian population had been subject to massacres by the Muslim and Druze populations. Working with French, Russian, Prussian and Turkish representatives on the commission, Lord Dufferin proved remarkably successful in achieving the objectives of British policy in the area. He upheld Turkish rule in the area, and prevented the French from establishing a client state in Lebanon, later securing the removal of a French occupying force in Syria. He also defended the interests of the Druze community, with whom Britain had a long association. The other parties on the commission were inclined to repress the Druze population, but Dufferin argued that had the Christians won the war they would have been just as bloodthirsty. The long-term plan agreed by the commission for the governance of the region was largely that proposed by Dufferin — that Lebanon should be governed separately from the rest of Syria, by a Christian Ottoman who was not a native of Syria.

Dufferin's achievements in Syria launched his long and successful career in public service. In 1864 he became Under- Secretary of State for India, moving to Under-Secretary of War in 1866, and from 1868 he held the position of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in Prime Minister Gladstone's government. In 1871 he was raised in the Peerage as Earl of Dufferin, in the County of Down, and Viscount Clandeboye, of Clandeboye in the County of Down.

Lord Dufferin took the name Hamilton by royal licence 9 September 1862, shortly before his marriage to Hariot Georgina Rowan-Hamilton on October 23, 1862. He was distantly related to the Hamilton family by previous marriages, and the union was partly designed to eliminate some long-standing hostilities between the families. Dufferin also took the name of Temple, on 13 November 1872. They had seven children; the two youngest, a son and a daughter, were born in Canada:

  • Archibald James Leofric Temple Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, Earl of Ava ( July 28 1863 January 11 1900) was a lieutenant in the 17th Lancers and a fellow of the Royal Colonial Institute. He was serving as a war correspondent in South Africa during the Second Boer War when he was wounded at Waggon Hill during the Siege of Ladysmith and died a week later. He was unmarried.
  • Lady Helen Hermione Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood (1865– April 9 1941) GBE (1918), LLD, JP for Fife was married on August 31 1889 to Ronald Munro-Ferguson (later 1st and last Viscount Novar), who later became the Governor General of Australia. They had no issue.
  • Terence Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 2nd Marquess of Dufferin and Ava ( March 16 1866 February 7 1918)
  • Lady Hermione Catherine Helen Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood (1869– October 19 1960) trained as a nurse and qualified in 1901, serving in France during the First World War. She was awarded the Medaille de Reconnaissance Française for her services. She died unmarried.
  • Lord (Ian) Basil Gawaine Temple Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood ( November 4 1870 July 3 1917) was a barrister-at-law by profession and was at Balliol College, Oxford in 1891 and became part of the 'kindergarten' of Lord Milner. He was appointed Deputy Judge Advocate in South Africa in 1900, secretary to the High Commissioner to South Africa in 1902, Assistant Colonial Secretary in the Orange River Colony in 1903, Colonial Secretary in Barbados from 1907 to 1909 and Assistant Secretary to the Land Development Commission of England from 1910 to 1914. He was attached to the 9th Lancers and Intelligence Corps from 1914 to 1916 and then appointed Private Secretary to Ivor Churchill Guest, 1st Viscount Wimborne, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in 1916. He returned to active service as a lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards and was killed in action in 1917. His most prominent legacy is the corpus of drawings he did for Hilaire Belloc's books (over the signature `BTB'). He was unmarried.
  • Lady Victoria Alexandrina Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood (1873–1938), whose chief sponsor at her christening was Queen Victoria, was married firstly in 1894 to William Lee Plunket, 5th Baron Plunket and had eight children by him, and secondly to Colonel Francis Powell Braithwaite CBE DSO. Her son Terence Conyngham Plunket, 6th Baron Plunket was married to Dorothé Mabel Lewis, the illegitimate daughter of Charles Stewart Henry Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry, and both were killed in an aircraft accident in 1938, while her younger son Flight Lieutenant the Honourable Brinsley Sheridan Bushe Plunket was married in 1927 to Aileen Guinness, the sister of Maureen Guinness, who was later to marry Basil Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 4th Marquess of Dufferin and Ava. Terence and Dorothé's eldest son Patrick Terence William Span Plunket, 7th Baron Plunket was an equerry to The Queen and Deputy Master of the Household, and their second son is Robin Rathmore Plunket, 8th Baron Plunket, the present baron.
  • Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 3rd Marquess of Dufferin and Ava ( February 26 1875 July 21 1930)

Shortly after his own marriage, he was deeply upset when his mother married his friend George Hay, styled Earl of Gifford, a man some 17 years her junior. The marriage scandalised society, but Lord Gifford died only weeks afterward. Despite his disapproval of his mother's second marriage, Lord Dufferin was devastated by her death in 1867, and built Helen's Tower, a memorial to her, on the estate at Clandeboye. A nearby bay was also named Helen's Bay, and a station of that name was built there by him, seeding the growth of the modern Belfast commuter town of Helen's Bay.

Governor General of Canada

Lord Dufferin while Governor General of Canada

After his mother's death Dufferin's diplomatic career advanced rapidly. He became Governor General of Canada in 1872, and his six-year tenure was a period of rapid change in Canadian history. During his term, Prince Edward Island was admitted to Confederation, and several well-known Canadian institutions, such as the Supreme Court of Canada, the Royal Military College of Canada, and the Intercolonial Railway, were established.

In Dufferin's opinion, his two predecessors in the post had not given the position the prominence it deserved. He consciously set out to assume a more active role, and to get to know ordinary Canadians as much as possible. He was at ease speaking with a wide variety of people, both in English and French, and became known for his charm and hospitality. At a time when a weak or uncharismatic Governor General might have loosened the ties to Empire, Dufferin felt that involving himself with the people of the Dominion would strengthen constitutional links to Britain. He visited every Canadian province, and was the first Governor General to visit Manitoba.

Lord Dufferin involved himself as much as was permissible in Canadian politics, even going so far as to advise ministers to abandon policies which he thought mistaken. He followed proceedings in the Parliament with interest, although as the Queen's representative he was barred from entering the House of Commons. He established an Office of the Governor General in a wing of the Parliament buildings, and Lady Dufferin attended many debates and reported back to him. In 1873, the Pacific scandal arose when the Conservative government of John A. Macdonald was accused by the Liberal opposition of financial impropriety in relation to the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Dufferin prorogued parliament, and established an enquiry which found against the Government, and MacDonald fell from power.

In 1873 Dufferin established the Governor General's Academic Medals for superior academic achievement by Canadian students. Today, these medals are the most prestigious that school students can be awarded, and more than 50,000 have been awarded in total. He also instituted several sporting prizes, including the Governor General's Match for shooting, and the Governor General's Curling Trophy.

Dufferin made several extensions and improvements to Rideau Hall, the official Governor General's residence. He added a ballroom in 1873, and in 1876 built the Tent Room to accommodate the increasing number of functions being held at the Hall. He also attracted ordinary Canadians to the Hall grounds by constructing an ice skating rink, to which he contributed $1,624.95 of his own money, which was later reimbursed by the government. Public use of the rink was on condition of being "properly dressed". These additions enhanced Rideau Hall's role as an important centre of social affairs.

Lord and Lady Dufferin on a visit to Manitoba

The Dufferins also used the Citadel of Quebec in Quebec City as a second vice-regal residence. When Quebec city officials began to demolish the old city walls, Dufferin was appalled, persuading them to stop the demolition, and to repair and restore what had already been damaged. Old Quebec was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in the 1980s. Dufferin's final public appearance as Governor General was in Quebec City, to lay the foundation stone for Dufferin Terrace, a walkway overlooking the St. Lawrence River built to his own design.

Lady Dufferin also maintained a high profile during her husband's term as Governor General, accompanying him on tours and frequently appearing in public. Visiting Manitoba in September 1877, Lord and Lady Dufferin each drove a spike in the line of the new Canadian Pacific Railway, and the first engine on the railway was christened Lady Dufferin. Throughout her time in Canada, Lady Dufferin wrote letters to her mother in Ireland, which were later collected and published as My Canadian Journal. She later said that of all her experiences, her happiest times had been spent in Canada.

The popularity and influence of the Dufferins in Canada is reflected by the large number of Canadian schools, streets and public buildings named after them. Lord Dufferin is particularly well remembered in Manitoba, being the first Governor-General to visit the province; a statue of him is situated outside the provincial legislature.

Russia and Turkey

After leaving Ottawa in 1878 at the end of his term, Lord Dufferin returned to Great Britain to continue his diplomatic career. He served as ambassador to Imperial Russia from 1879 to 1881 and to the Ottoman Empire from 1881 to 1884. Although he had previously served in Liberal governments, Dufferin had become increasingly alienated from William Gladstone over issues of home and Irish policy, particularly the Irish Land Acts of 1870 and 1881, both of which tried to resolve issues surrounding the property rights of tenants and landlords. He accepted the appointment as ambassador to Russia from the Conservative Benjamin Disraeli, further alienating the Liberal leader.

Dufferin's time in Russia was quiet from a political and diplomatic point of view, and his papers from this time are concerned mainly with his social life. While in Russia, he began to set his sights on the ultimate diplomatic prize, the Viceroyalty of India. However, Lord Ripon succeeded Lord Lytton in 1880, largely because as a convert to Roman Catholicism, Lord Ripon could not be accommodated in the Cabinet. Instead, Dufferin's next diplomatic posting was to Constantinople.

His posting there saw Britain invade and occupy Egypt, then technically part of the Ottoman Empire, under the pretext of "restoring law and order" following anti-foreign riots in Alexandria which had left nearly 50 foreigners dead, and Dufferin was heavily involved in the events surrounding the occupation. Dufferin managed to ensure that the Ottoman Empire did not attain a military foothold in Egypt, and placated the population of Egypt by preventing the execution of Urabi Pasha, who had seized control of the Egyptian army. Urabi had led the resistance to foreign influence in Egypt, and after the occupation many in the Cabinet were keen to see him hanged. Dufferin, believing this would only inspire further resistance, instead ensured that Urabi was exiled to Ceylon.

In 1882 Dufferin travelled to Egypt as British commissioner, to investigate the reorganization of the country. He wrote a report detailing how the occupation was to benefit Egypt, with plans for development which were to progressively re-involve Egyptians in running the country. Subsequent reforms proceeded largely along the lines he had proposed.

Viceroy of India

Lord Dufferin as Viceroy of India

His experiences in Russia and Turkey had further increased Dufferin's awareness of the British Empire's place in international affairs, and his time in Russia had provided great insight into the Russian threat to British rule in India. In 1884, he finally achieved his last great diplomatic ambition with his appointment as Viceroy of India.

Just as in Canada, he presided over some great changes in India. His predecessor as Viceroy, Lord Ripon, while popular with the Indians, was very unpopular with the Anglo-Indians, who objected to the rapid pace of his extensive reforms. To rule with any measure of success, Dufferin would need to gain the support of both communities. By all accounts he was highly successful in this regard, and gained substantial support from all communities in India. He advanced the cause of the Indian Nationalists greatly during his term, without antagonising the conservative whites. Among other things, the Indian National Congress was founded during his term in 1885, and he laid the foundations for the modern Indian Army by establishing the Imperial Service Corps, officered by Indians.

He was frequently occupied with external affairs during his tenure. He successfully dealt with the Panjdeh Incident of 1885 in Afghanistan, in which Russian forces encroached into Afghan territory around the Panjdeh oasis. Britain and Russia had for decades been engaged in a virtual cold war in Central and South Asia known as the Great Game, and the Panjdeh incident threatened to precipitate a full-blown conflict. Lord Dufferin negotiated a settlement in which Russia kept Panjdeh but relinquished the furthest territories it had taken in its advance. His tenure also saw the annexation of Upper Burma in 1886, after many years of simmering warfare and British interventions in Burmese politics.

In 1888, he published the Report on the Conditions of the Lower Classes of Population in Bengal (known as the Dufferin Report). The report highlighted the plight of the poor in Bengal, and was used by nationalists to counter the Anglo-Indian claim that British rule had been beneficial to the poorest members of Indian society. Following publication of the report, Dufferin recommended the establishment of provincial and central councils with Indian membership, a key demand of Congress at that time. The Indian Councils Act of 1892, which inaugurated electoral politics in the country, was the outcome of his recommendations.

Later life

Monument to Frederick Temple in the grounds of Belfast City Hall, Northern Ireland

Following his return from India, Dufferin resumed his ambassadorial career, serving as ambassador to Italy from 1888 to 1891. On November 17, 1888, he was advanced in the peerage as Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, in the County of Down and the Province of Burma, and Earl of Ava, in the Province of Burma. As ambassador to France from 1891 to 1896, he presided over some difficult times in Anglo-French relations, and was accused by some sections of the French press of trying to undermine Franco-Russian relations. During this time he helped establish the Anglo-French Guild which has since evolved into the University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP). After returning from France, Dufferin became President of the Royal Geographical Society, and Rector of the University of Edinburgh and the University of St Andrews.

Throughout his life, Dufferin was known for living beyond his means, and had heavily mortgaged his estates to fund his lifestyle and improvements to the estates. In 1875, with his debts approaching £300,000, he was facing insolvency and was forced to sell substantial amounts of land to pay off his creditors. After he retired from the diplomatic service in 1896, he received several offers from financial speculators hoping to use his high reputation to attract investors to their companies. In 1897, worried about the family financial situation, he was persuaded to become chairman of the London and Globe Finance Corporation, a mining promotion and holding company controlled by Whitaker Wright, but in November 1900, shares in the company crashed and led to its insolvency. It subsequently transpired that Wright was a consummate fraudster. Dufferin himself lost substantial money on his holdings in the company, but was not guilty of any deception and his moral standing remained unaffected.

Soon after this misfortune, Dufferin's eldest son was killed in the Boer War. He returned to his stately home at Clandeboye in poor health, and died on February 12, 1902. Lady Dufferin died on October 25, 1936.

Dufferin and the Ghost

Legend has it that Dufferin once saw a ghost which saved his life. Late one night, while staying in a house in Ireland, he saw a man walking across the lawn carrying a huge coffin on his back. Dufferin hurried out to confront the man but he vanished when they came face-to-face.

Some ten years later Dufferin, as British ambassador to France, was about to enter the lift at the Grand Hotel in Paris when he recognised the lift operator as the same man he had seen in the garden in Ireland. He refused to use the lift and a moment later it crashed, killing the occupants.

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