The fourth Earl of Carnarvon (1831-1890): towards a reconsideration

This essay argues the case for a scholarly study of Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert, fourth Earl of Carnarvon (1831-1890), and suggests some themes and interpretations that a biographer might wish to examine.

Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert, fourth Earl of Carnarvon, was an intermittently, even unpredictably, prominent but rarely a central figure in mid-Victorian public life. Born in 1831, he succeeded to the family earldom at the age of 18.[1] His inheritance made him very wealthy – at least until the agricultural depression hit his rental income in the eighteen-eighties. It also made him the owner of Highclere, a large estate on the borders of Hampshire and Berkshire. Highclere Castle was in the process of being rebuilt by the architect Sir Charles Barry as a huge 'Jacobethan' mansion, a project launched by Carnarvon's father, the third earl.[2] Carnarvon came of age in 1852, graduating from Oxford that year with First Class Honours in Classics. Two years later, he began to speak in the House of Lords. Later, he served as a cabinet minister for three periods, as colonial secretary in 1866-67 and 1874-78, and as lord lieutenant of Ireland in 1885-86. He would hold office in all four Conservative governments between 1858 and 1886, although in a junior position in the first and with a semi-detached role (mainly in Dublin), in the last. Carnarvon is noteworthy for having twice resigned over policy issues, on parliamentary reform in 1867 and foreign policy in 1878. He was driven by a combination of personal and policy issues to the verge of quitting his Irish post in 1885-6, but his desire to resign was overtaken by the fall of Salisbury's minority government.[3] He was also offered, but declined, the massively responsible post of governor-general of India.[4]

Had Carnarvon simply been a minor figure, the absence of satisfactory biographical analysis of his life would perhaps not greatly matter. However, he is discussed as a prominent participant in studies of crucial episodes such as the Second Reform Act controversy of 1866-7 and the Irish Home Rule crisis of 1885-6. He also appears in biographies of politicians as varied as Disraeli, Parnell and Salisbury. Worse still, from the point of his historical standing, Carnarvon is often portrayed as a one-man awkward squad, not least because there exists no scholarly framework within which his ideas might be assimilated and understood. In my own research, I had encountered him as the colonial secretary who – somewhat accidentally – intersected with Canadian Confederation in 1866-7.[5] Of more significance was the work of C.F. Goodfellow on Carnarvon's attempts during his second spell at the Colonial Office to promote a South African federation in the eighteen-seventies. Goodfellow was one of the few scholars to attempt an integration of Carnarvon's personality and beliefs with the problems that he confronted.[6]

Carnarvon's career is outlined in Section A. I return to the major episodes in Section C to examine the consistency of his belief in ideal (but frequently undefined) solutions to complex issues.

Section B reviews the published biographical material on his career. A massive biography of Carnarvon, constructed in the Victorian life-and-letters tradition, appeared in 1925, more than a third of a century after his death: Sir Arthur Hardinge, The Life of Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert Fourth Earl of Carnarvon, 1831-1890 (3 volumes, Oxford 1925). Its impressive authorship only partly disguised the extensive control over the project exercised by Carnarvon's widow, his much younger second wife Elisabeth (known as Elsie), a dual influence that made the three-volume work sometimes insightful, sometimes unhelpful, with the difference in quality never entirely clear. For lack of much alternative – the Dictionary of National Biography in 1891 had been essentially noncommittal – "Hardinge" remained the primary authority for Carnarvon's career for the next eighty years, although major repositories assembled archival material at intervals during that long period. In 2004, a biographical essay on Carnarvon by Dr Gordon appeared in the Oxford Dictionary of Biography [ODNB].[7] In 2009, Dr Gordon also published The Political Diaries of the Fourth Earl of Carnarvon, 1857-1890: Colonial Secretary and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in the Royal Historical Society's Camden Fifth Series. An extended Introduction to this edition, referred to here as Carnarvon Diaries, amplified Dr Gordon's ODNB article.[8] Jointly, these represented the first biographical study of Carnarvon in eighty years.[9] Dr Gordon's contribution to the Camden Series followed half a century after the Champlain Society had produced an edition of Carnarvon's correspondence with the governor-general of Canada, Lord Dufferin: in that extensive collection he appeared as a cabinet minister who was too busy to engage in much reflective letter-writing.[10] Section B established the deficiencies of Carnarvon biography.[11]

Section C suggests how ways in which a new study might be structured, and identifies in outline themes that suggest themselves for discussion. I have also ventured to sketch two possible approaches for understanding Carnarvon as a public figure. The first is that, as a member of the House of Lords and as an intellectual, he saw himself as qualified by caste and brainpower to act as something like an autonomous power within the national polity, endowed with a specific right and overriding responsibility to intervene in and, if possible, resolve the outcome of major political issues. The second is that he was incurably wedded to the search for ideal solutions to complex problems, and all-too confident that he alone could conjure some magic structure that would satisfy the discontented without unduly upsetting defenders of the status quo. Since we now live in an era that no longer respects the inherited wisdom of the aristocracy, I have termed this strange predilection 'Goldilocks politics', the fantasy that 'just right' answers could somehow be discerned as the way out of the most divisive of confrontations. Of course, there are dangers in attempting to distil common themes from a politician's response to disparate challenges, and it may be going too far to identify them as personality traits.

A: The fourth Earl of Carnarvon: an outline of his career

Carnarvon first held office as parliamentary under-secretary for the colonies in 1858-9. It was also a first ministerial appointment for his superior, the politician and novelist Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton. As Lytton was increasingly weighed down by poor health, Carnarvon assumed greater responsibility and thus acquired more experience than would usually have been the case in a junior ministerial appointment: by the summer of 1859, he claimed to have been largely running the department, undertaking "the absolute disposal and management of the affairs of the Office".[12] This was a retrospective slight exaggeration. In April 1859, when Lytton was taking the waters at Malvern, Carnarvon was working under the supervision of the prime minister, Lord Derby, himself a former Colonial Secretary: "in any case of real doubt or difficulty I will take his or Disraeli's opinion."[13] The young Carnarvon made a good impression both upon his seniors and his contemporaries. Lytton praised his energetic junior. "Very accomplished, very honourable, very hardworking, very ambitious, very sensitive to praise or censure," was his recollection a decade later.[14] In 1862, Carnarvon was even spoken of as "the future leader of the 'Tories'", although the context may suggest an allusion to an internal faction and not the Conservative party as a whole.[15] By 1864, Lord Derby had decided to include him in any future Conservative cabinet, intending at that point to appoint him Lord Privy Seal "and manage Indian affairs in the Lords".[16]

Carnarvon was unusual among contemporary political figures in taking a serious interest in the colonial empire, making him a personality of some interest in Canadian history, and of more controversial import as a result of his proactive (or meddling) policies in South Africa. His first two terms at the Colonial Office coincided with the initial Canadian attempt to raise the issue of British North American Union in 1858-9, and with the final legislative achievement of Confederation in 1866-7. In reality, as a junior minister in the first period, he had been little more than an informed observer of an initiative that his minister, Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, was determined to discourage.[17] His brief initial term as a cabinet minister in 1866-7 happened to coincide with the final stages of the union of the provinces, but was not a particularly happy episode. It is possible to feel some sympathy for Carnarvon: lacking experience, he was a member of a minority government not over-burdened with talent – his own parliamentary under-secretary, C.B. Adderley, was a walking catastrophe.[18] Moreover, when he took office early in July 1866, the Confederation settlement had been substantially worked out among the provinces themselves. Carnarvon found himself facing the imminent arrival of the British North American delegates, who would expect him to carry complicated legislation through Parliament before the Westminster session ended in August. His solution, which more than bears out Disraeli's nickname, was to badger his predecessor, the Liberal Edward Cardwell, with demands for a legislative blank cheque.[19]

Cardwell, like Gladstone, was the son of a Liverpool merchant, admitted to the ruling elite by education at public school and Oxford. A bloodlessly efficient disciple of Robert Peel, with a "cold, artificial manner", he had first held office when Carnarvon was still at school, and had extensive experience of carrying detailed legislation through parliament. He lacked the aristocratic bonhomie that might encourage cross-party fraternisation, and had in fact proposed a motion of censure that had briefly seemed to threaten Derby's earlier ministry in 1858. He had run the Colonial Office with predictable competence throughout the formative period in which Confederation had taken shape.[20] Carnarvon did not show much sensitivity in dealing with his predecessor. He began by demanding that the Liberal opposition endorse an outline enabling bill, leaving many details to be settled by Order in Council, in other words, by Carnarvon himself. This would have allowed the entire constitution to be promulgated by administrative edict, a solution that would have suited Carnarvon's authoritarian temperament but was politically almost impossible on either side of the Atlantic. Cardwell replied that the Liberals wished to support Confederation, but needed to know more about the areas to be determined by executive decision – and to be assured that the delegates from British North America would not object. On 16 July, Carnarvon decided that he could not proceed with legislation: there was simply not enough time left in the session.

However, three days later, he changed his mind, and announced that he would go ahead anyway. Cardwell was conciliatory, but still saw problems in asking his Liberal colleagues to accept an outline scheme with so many its details unresolved. Carnarvon's reply, to a more experienced public figure whose support he vitally needed, was tactlessly blunt: "if you are prepared to trust me at all I am afraid you must trust me generally." The two held an unsatisfactory face-to-face meeting, at which Carnarvon sought Liberal support for a draft bill which he could only read aloud. Realising that the proposed measure had not been discussed by the Conservative cabinet, Cardwell described the demand as "putting the cart before the horse", an objection that Carnarvon dismissed as "one of form". Cardwell recalled the young colonial secretary insisting that "he could not ask his colleagues to get into a scrape & unless he was assured of our support he could not reasonably be expected to go on."

At this stage, delegates from the province of Canada – the largest unit in the proposed union – had not yet appeared in London, although it was hoped that they would arrive by the end of July. Carnarvon's timetable envisaged allowing them twenty-four hours to agree to submit his draft legislation to parliament.[21] He did not respond to Cardwell's mild suggestion that the government should extend the parliamentary session beyond the usual mid-August prorogation in order to pass the necessary legislation in a more considered manner. Then, on 27 July, an issue arose which derailed the already fraught interparty discussions. Somebody on the Liberal front bench – the identity of the spanner-thrower was not disclosed – realised that there was a massive booby-trap in Carnarvon's desire to determine the franchise qualifications for elections to the new central legislature. Their own ministry had resigned only weeks before, in disarray over parliamentary reform. To agree to any set of voting regulations for Canada could only create embarrassing policy hostages at home.[22] It is curious that Carnarvon, himself wary on the subject of parliamentary reform, did not foresee the potential domestic implications of his breakneck approach. In the event, his headlong rush towards August legislation came to an end that same day, with news that the Canadians had decided to postpone their arrival until later in the year.[23]

The episode was an early indication of characteristic Carnarvon shortcomings: an excess of nervous energy, a tendency to rely upon executive intervention, and an inability to appreciate how his responses appeared to others. The idea of embodying an outline federal structure in enabling legislation would recur for South Africa in 1876. The assumption that local autonomy could be combined with a considerable degree of metropolitan management coloured his assumption from 1885 that Ireland might be granted something that looked like Home Rule while remaining subject to control from London.

It is in keeping with Carnarvon's later reputation for administrative efficiency that he competently handled the resolution of a number of associated issues with the colonial delegates in January 1867, and steered the required legislation through the House of Lords the following month.[24] However, his resignation over the Reform issue occurred before the British North America Act could receive the royal assent.[25]

The treatment of Carnarvon's 1867 resignation is an example of the need for a dedicated study of his career and attitudes. His decision to leave the cabinet has been presented as incidental to that of Lord Cranborne, the future Marquess of Salisbury. Cowling, for instance, describes him as essentially a "follower" – although this leaves unexplained how this "an earnest, doctrinaire, illiberal young man" switched from his initial anxiety to follow Lord Derby to resignation in solidarity with Cranborne.[26] Carnarvon had his own analysis of the political landscape. In April 1866, Stanley had found him "anxious about affairs, thinks England in a state of transition, dreads the growing power of the U[nited] S[tates] ... all is well while are quiet, but in the event of a foreign war or domestic agitation what would be the resisting power of our institutions?"[27] The well-established focus upon Salisbury obscures the fact that he accepted Carnarvon's counsel on cabinet strategy, and plays down his friend's active role in lobbying other potential defectors.[28] Also generally overlooked is the fact that Carnarvon had a seat in the House of Lords while Cranborne, known by a courtesy title, was relatively easily isolated in the Commons. In July 1867, Carnarvon decided that his "silence – if it were possible, which it is not – would not conciliate" his fellow Conservatives, and he delivered a speech totally rejecting the compromise measure that had emerged from the Commons. He was out-manoeuvred by Derby, who appealed to party unity, and undermined by the Duke of Marlborough, who pointed out that Carnarvon had sat in a cabinet that intended to pass some scheme of parliamentary reform, probably including several of the features that he now deplored: "I cannot admire either his logical accuracy or his consistency."[29]

Overall, Carnarvon's decision to quit the cabinet proved to be a negative step.[30] He failed to prevent a sweeping measure of parliamentary reform and found himself personally and politically isolated. Perhaps worst of all, his position in any future government was weakened: as Salisbury put it to him in 1874, "our last card of resignation is played out".[31] It would become all too easy to portray Carnarvon's maladroit second departure in 1878 as the result of pique rather than principle.

Carnarvon's passing association with Canadian Confederation would give him something of a political stock-in-trade as an authority on colonial federations, which would be used to defend his reputation after his death. "It was his privilege ... to conduct to a successful issue, in 1867, the negotiations by which the Canadian Provinces, then disunited and comparatively feeble, were consolidated into a powerful and loyal unit of the Empire."[32] But, in the medium term, he may have drawn comfort from his association with the founding of the Dominion of Canada because he regarded his ministerial career as effectively terminated. Entertaining a visiting Canadian judge, J.R. Gowan, in 1871, Carnarvon "spoke of what he had done touching confederation in Canada as the great political act of his life".[33] As he had feared, the enlarged Second Reform Act electorate seemed likely to keep Gladstone in power indefinitely.[34] Leading Conservatives were divided, mutually suspicious, especially distrustful of Disraeli, and conscious of their lack of administrative and leadership talent, while Carnarvon himself was still working his passage back into favour after his 1867 resignation. A rumour at the time of Gowan's visit that the Liberal government might break up filled him with horror at the thought of his own party attempting to unite and take office.[35]

Although Judge Gowan heard "in many quarters that L[or]d Carnarvon is regarded as a coming man", his former boss Bulwer Lytton offered a more qualified endorsement in 1868. He recognised that Carnarvon possessed "the qualities that ensure no mean success in public life." Even should he manage to come to the fore, "it will be in spite of a certain want of vigour in his style of speaking, and of virile grasp of thought in difficult occasions, as compared with one or two of his contemporaries." Nonetheless, overall, "he is a safer man than any of them that has yet appeared in tranquil times."[36] A decade later, the implication that Carnarvon was indecisive but trustworthy would have seemed to many a massive misreading of his personality.

In the early eighteen-seventies, Carnarvon began to inch towards reconciliation with his fellow Conservatives: each needed the other. Although it is highly possible that his relations with Disraeli never fully recovered after his resignation over parliamentary reform, by 1873 Carnarvon was keen to mend his fences.[37] In May, finding himself seated close to the ex-premier at a formal dinner, he broke through Disraeli's sphinx-like disdain by engaging him in conversation on a literary topic. In July, Disraeli accepted an invitation to dine at Carnarvon's London house – a symbolic gesture in Victorian political society – and the two were by now working together on political tactics. Nonetheless, it was by no means certain that Carnarvon would join the Conservative cabinet that was formed – following the unexpectedly rapidly disintegration of the Gladstone government – in February 1874. "I am at times in many minds," he wrote, with typical indecision. In the end, he followed the even-more reluctant decision of his ally Salisbury (as Cranborne had now become) to accept office, reinforced by the urging of his former guardian and long-time mentor Sir William Heathcote that "public duty" required the sacrifice of personal inclinations.[38]

Although he returned to the Colonial Office with "an uncomfortable feeling ... of some coming trouble",[39] Carnarvon was determined to act as a strategic policy maker. In particular, he decided to extend the colonial federation model to South Africa. From a positive angle, he can be credited with attempting to anticipate and thereby (so he hoped) to eliminate future problems, notably in race relations, through the forward-looking creation of a regional structure. However, a perhaps more realistic view would stress the unwelcome degree of imperial intervention, in the face of an absence of enthusiasm among the white minority, let alone any role or involvement for African communities.[40] A further complication was that Carnarvon's projected federation aimed to incorporate territories that were not even under formal British rule. His cabinet colleague, the fifteenth Earl of Derby, tried to warn that he was taking on too much. Carnarvon's plans, Derby thought, were "large and well-meant, but he hardly allows enough ... for the strength of colonial opposition."[41] Before long, Carnarvon found himself facing the choice between confrontation and retreat. "The Dutch have behaved as badly as possible in the Transvaal & tho' I do not wish to quarrel with them I shall be I think obliged to intervene," he wrote in December 1876. "The great native King of Zululand, who can put into the field some 30,000 or 40,000 men, is showing signs of breaking bounds & the situation is growing critical."[42] The signs of interlocking crises were already apparent.

Of necessity, he was also compelled to operate through two locally-based proconsuls, Theophilus Shepstone and Bartle Frere. Their on-the-spot judgement could not always be trusted, while his choice of J.A. Froude as his personal emissary to the Cape suggested to some contemporaries that historians should confine themselves to the observation of public affairs.[43] Carnarvon approved the Shepstone's decision to annex the ramshackle Transvaal Republic ("I think it is right and it will anyhow mark my tenure of office").[44] He had left office before his other agent, Frere, attacked the most formidable African power in the region, the Zulu, but it was a war that had its origins in Carnarvon's assertive policy. The 1879 campaign began with the humiliating massacre of British soldiers at Isandlwana. Even so, its conclusion – the destruction of Zulu power – was predictable, nor was it surprising that it was soon followed by the revolt of the Transvaal Boers, who no longer saw any need to accept the protection of British rule. A further military humiliation, at Majuba Hill, prompted the recently installed Liberal government led by Gladstone to rescind the annexation in 1881.[45]

The sudden collapse of Carnarvon's reputation makes it difficult to grasp that, only a short period before, his standing had been remarkably high. On November 1875, Disraeli had offered him the position of governor-general of India in November 1875, in what the gratified recipient called "extremely handsome terms". The nature of Disraeli's flattery was significant. "India requires a statesman, and one of high calibre. The critical state of affairs in Central Asia demands a master mind."[46] The abandonment the previous month of Carnarvon's first attempt to create a South African federation evidently had not diminished his reputation for decisive strategic thinking. However, the recent death of his first wife had left Carnarvon with young children to rear, and he declined the appointment. Nonetheless, he would have a brief, distant but intense experience of the Raj soon afterwards.

While Salisbury was on an international diplomatic mission in 1876-7, it was Carnarvon who was entrusted with the management of the India Office, in addition to his Colonial Office work. Breezily assured by Salisbury that it was a caretaker role, which would simply involve signing despatches once a week, Carnarvon in fact found himself dealing with a famine on the sub-continent. The British authorities in Calcutta seemed "curiously ignorant" of the situation and, in his opinion, unforthcoming with such information as they did have. "I am contending with these great difficulties, not being quite my own master and not having the absolute control of the office". The London-based India Council, which advised the secretary of state, he found "an unwieldy body". Carnarvon persuaded the Council to appoint a committee – in modern terminology, a working party – and demanded that it report within twenty-four hours. He would call his two-month dual role "as heavy a task as I ever remember at any time of my official life".[47]

Carnarvon's activism was not welcomed by the parliamentary under-secretary, Lord George Hamilton, who seems to have felt – like Carnarvon himself in 1858-9 – that the India Office could be run just as effectively by its junior minister. Hamilton claimed that his temporary boss was "a constant worry" when confronted with "questions that required prompt decision". In contrast to Salisbury's "virile" despatch of business, "we were driven distracted by the endless queries, alterations and alternatives that beset every important proposition put before him." It would seem that Carnarvon was to some extent a victim of double standards. He would later be censured for his determination to force his own grand solution upon South Africa in defiance of local obstacles. His cautious handling of his temporary assignment was hardly unreasonable, given that he was entrusted with a major imperial responsibility at a time of sudden and massive crisis. He was certainly entitled to information on matters which he might have to defend in parliament. Querying proposals put before him was a classic and sensible way of ensuring that colleagues and subordinates were kept on their toes. The problem (apart from the under-secretary's bruised ego) was Carnarvon's manner, what Hamilton called his "microbe of incurable fidgetiness", that made dealing with him a stressful experience.[48] Indeed, Carnarvon's nervous excitability seems to have been at its peak in the mid-eighteen seventies, when Disraeli called him "a very clever fellow, but the greatest fidget in the world".[49] The explanation lies in the human emotion of bereavement. Carnarvon's first wife, the former Lady Evelyn Stanhope, died in January 1875.[50] Salisbury thought grief made him "very irritable and unmanageable",[51] while Derby noted that he "talked incessantly, in a rapid excited way which is new with him", even in the solemnity of cabinet meetings, and that "he had thrown himself into work with a feverish activity, not quite healthy and active."[52]

While Carnarvon's four-year term presiding over the colonies would later be generally regarded as a failure, it did not appear so at the time. From Canada, the Liberal Lord Dufferin congratulated him in November 1877 "upon the success of your own administration", noting that the Colonial Office was "the only Department which our side seems to acknowledge from first to last an unmistakable success".[53] Even on the verge of the final breach over foreign policy in 1878, Disraeli assured the Queen that "we appreciated a colleague, whose administration of his office had added to the reputation of Her Majesty's Government".[54]

It was not simply Carnarvon's January 1878 resignation that caused enduring damage to his reputation, but the remarkable breach of cabinet solidarity that preceded it. It would have required an upright and dignified course of action to have survived a second rupture with ministerial colleagues in eleven years. By contrast, with the cabinet tensely divided over the Disraeli's wish to support Turkey against Russia, Carnarvon chose to announce to a deputation from South Africa that war with Russia would be "insane", in remarks that the prime minister cuttingly dismissed as "worthy of Gladstone".[55] The occasion itself hardly merited the statement: in the pecking order of Victorian pressure groups, a group of merchants from South Africa ranked very low. Carnarvon privately acknowledged that his move was designed to counter the risk of an accidental – or manipulated – casus belli: "the tinder was prepared and only needed a spark." Initially, the episode was frozen in a political limbo, with Carnarvon neither resigning nor dismissed – with the result that, when he was forced out three weeks later, his actual departure damaged only himself. In court and society circles, his conduct was bitterly censured.[56] The foreign secretary, Lord Derby (son of the prime minister) was anxious to prevent Carnarvon's resignation on policy grounds, but felt "little sympathy with the man, for he is weak, vain, and fussy in his personal relations".[57] Worse still, hostility turned into savage derision. It was whispered that, although he had determined in advance to make the South African deputation the vehicle for his dissent, the hapless colonials insisted on talking about frontier wars against recalcitrant tribes, giving him no handle for his wider declaration. Fortunately, so it was claimed, one of them happened to mention that Cape Town was a major port on the route to India, a thin connection which gave Carnarvon a pretext to disgorge his diatribe on the Eastern Question.[58]

Indeed, it may be argued that Carnarvon's public protest and subsequent resignation were counterproductive. Carnarvon was no enthusiast for Ottoman institutions, but he had travelled in the Middle East and knew that its peoples were intermingled and mutually hostile. Russian occupation of Constantinople might well have caused the collapse of the ramshackle Turkish empire. His recent caretaker role at the India Office should have brought home to him that chaos across such a wide region was hardly in Britain's interests. Deployment of the Royal Navy was the only way to deter the Tsar from seizing the Straits. For that move to be effective, it had to be believed to be seriously intended. The former foreign secretary, Lord Granville, concluded that the notorious speech to the South African delegation "appears incompatible with an announcement to Parliament of precautionary warlike measures."[59] If that was the interpretation of a gossipy grandee with his finger on the pulse of British public life, one can only wonder how Carnarvon's remarks were decoded in St Petersburg. Perversely, Carnarvon's actions made more likely the danger claimed to fear, the outbreak of war by accident. Three years later, Granville remonstrated with the Duke of Argyll, who quit Gladstone's ministry in protest against his Irish land legislation: "Are you not playing the game like Carnarvon did with regard to the Eastern Question ... leaving the field more open for those who have the most extreme objects in view?"[60] Carnarvon's 1878 resignation had become a textbook example of wilful self-destruction.

Reviewing the crisis two years later, Salisbury concluded that Lord Derby had quit because he was exhausted and demoralised by the experience of holding office. "Why Lord Carnarvon resigned is more difficult to say." He told his nephew, Arthur Balfour, that "he never could get and [sic] reasonable account of his action out of Lord C[arnarvon]", and darkly suspected that his conduct "was largely due to personal motives."[61]

The admiration previously felt for Carnarvon's energy turned to derision: Disraeli in particular relished his Oxford nickname, "Twitters".[62] While recognising his own "restlessness", Carnarvon saw it not as a weakness, but rather "to a great degree at least, the secret of whatever little success I have won."[63] That piece of introspection dates from September 1878. Very soon afterwards, his assumption of success would be undermined by the two disastrous wars in South Africa, both widely seen as resulting from his energetic colonial policies. A political career built on a claimed triumph in Canada was permanently damaged by condemnation of the disasters it was alleged to have engendered in South Africa. 

Disraeli had been amused by Carnarvon's 1874 annexation of Fiji: "He seems very busy annexing provinces to the Empire."[64] But, by the end of 1878, the forward policy he had pursued in South Africa was threatening the prime minister with an expensive war in an unstable region. Shepstone, specially chosen by Carnarvon "as heaven-born for the object in view", had quarrelled with Cape colonists, Afrikaners and Zulu: "every day brings forward a new blunder of Twitters".[65] The articulate Cape politician John X. Merriman was hardly a neutral observer, since he had been a member of the local ministry ousted in 1878 for alleged failure to co-operate with his frontier war against the Xhosa. In the aftermath of the massacre of British troops at Isandlwana, he too attributed "all our present complications" to the fallen minister, condemning "the insane desire of Lord Carnarvon to add to his reputation by founding what he is pleased to call a 'Dominion' out here, utterly regardless of the minor details comprised in the condition of the country, the feeling of the inhabitants, or anything else."[66] Gladstone in 1881 invoked Carnarvon's failings to cover the humiliating retreat from the Transvaal, blaming his "cacoethes [evil demon] of action or stir ... which has been at the root I am sorry to say of all these mischiefs in South Africa." "The plain English of the matter is that Carnarvon's original annexation of the Transvaal was a mistake," Derby concluded in 1883.[67] It would become an enduring refrain. The outbreak of the South African War – the Second Boer War – in 1899 prompted Salisbury to attribute the core blame to his former colleague's delusion that he was "a great colonial statesman and Empire builder. ... If any one man may be said to be responsible for this war, it is Carnarvon."[68] No doubt Gladstone needed a scapegoat, and there was perhaps an element of denial in Salisbury's outburst: Carnarvon had been dead for nine years, while his own colonial secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, had not been shy of interventionist impulses himself.

Following his 1878 resignation, Carnarvon found himself treated with "extreme bitterness" by his former colleagues. At the close of December 1879, with a general election approaching, he noted that he was "considerably in advance" of Disraeli's government on most issues, although he declined to follow Lord Derby, who had resigned with him, in breaking all ties with the Conservatives. Nonetheless, he was hedging his bets: "politically, I believe there is a road open to me in either direction."[69] In this assumption, he massively overestimated his market value: whatever political capital he had acquired from Canada had been squandered in South Africa. Gladstone's private secretary later recorded a report that Carnarvon had been "disappointed" not to be offered a place in the Liberal government formed in 1880, but commented that "his support would never certainly have been any real gain."[70] Prominent figures on the party's radical wing, Joseph Chamberlain, Jesse Collings, Charles Dilke and John Morley, all had "a very low opinion of Lord Carnarvon."[71]

In the early eighteen-eighties, as he had done a decade earlier, Carnarvon worked his way back into the Conservative leadership.[72] "He has done right in his own interests," Derby concluded, for the whole turn of his mind makes it impossible for him to adopt Liberal ideas as they exist in England."[73] Carnarvon was active throughout the debates on the Third Reform Act in 1884, but even then took two independent initiatives, with ostensibly clashing aims, one seeking to mobilise popular opposition, the other to pave the way for elite accommodation.[74] In July, he urged Salisbury to create a united front with the wayward Randolph Churchill, to "counter organise and agitate in the great towns", thus undermining government claims of an irresistible demand for Reform. When Salisbury rejected the idea, Carnarvon embarked on a short campaign of his own – his health scarcely permitted a nationwide effort – in which he addressed working men, even seeking to rouse quarrymen in Caernarvonshire by proclaiming "God Save the Queen" in Welsh.[75] Then, in October, he accidentally became the proponent of a possible mechanism to resolve the deadlock. Speaking at a banquet, he threw out the suggestion that "the difficulty could easily be surmounted by committing its consideration to a fair and impartial body of men, selected from both parties."[76] A popular but lightweight Conservative peer, Lord Norton – the former C.B. Adderley, who had been such a headache to Carnarvon as his junior minister in 1866-67 – was already in contact with Gladstone seeking cross-party agreement on Reform. The Grand Old Man's antennae spotted a tactical opening that might divide the Tories. "Perhaps you noted Carnarvon's recent suggestion: that three or four men on whom much reliance could be placed by both parties, should meet together & consider the outlines of redistribution," he wrote to Norton, adding: "Some good might I believe come of such a plan."[77] Gladstone's private secretary, Edward Hamilton, thought the idea impracticable. "Where could the men be found who would command the real confidence of both sides? What precedent is there for delegating to an irresponsible Junta the development of a public measure?"[78] On learning of Gladstone's feeler, Carnarvon assured Norton of his resolve "to do my utmost to bring about some resolution."[79] He was confident that two peers and two MPs from each side of the political divide might be identified as trusted figures, although he left himself open to the mockery of posterity by describing them as "righteous men". Perennially inclined to confuse an ideal solution with a hammered-out compromise, he insisted that the "essence" of his proposal would be "the adoption of some arithmetical principle", with Salisbury and Gladstone "being honourably bound to accept their general proposals".[80] This, of course, would still leave room for squabbles over details, especially constituency boundaries. In any case, Salisbury refused to devolve authority to the imaginary group that one historian has termed "the miniature Sanhedrin".

Unable to grasp its Utopian impracticality, Carnarvon even-handedly blamed both parties for the rejection of his initiative.[81] The roots of its failure lay in his inability to comprehend how detailed policies emerged in response to political pressures. Salisbury had explored "the system of political bargains to which great Legislative changes are frequently due" in an unsigned article the previous year. "The bargains are not, it need hardly be said, compromises between the two parties in the State. They are the upshot of the internal negociations by which the dominant party ... from time to time maintains or re-established discipline in its ranks."[82] Unlike Carnarvon, Salisbury had experienced the benefit of an apprenticeship amidst the rough and tumble of the House of Commons. The balance of advantage and disadvantage in Carnarvon's individual initiatives from 1867 to 1886 may be analysed in terms of the pressures of contemporary events at each point. But the common theme that accounts for their overall lack of success may be found in his fantastical belief in each case that an ideal solution could be conjured out of the political ether by the right assemblage of disinterested wisdom.

Given the disasters attributed to his South African policies, and his semi-detached attitude to the party, it was remarkable that Carnarvon was not only given office in the minority Conservative government formed by Lord Salisbury in 1885, but entrusted with the senior and responsible role of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Although he had taken a moderate view of the disestablishment of Ireland's Protestant Church in 1869, and of Gladstone's first Land Act the following year, Carnarvon had little knowledge of Irish affairs, and – characteristically – framed his own views through the prism of his Colonial Office experience. Dr Gordon persuasively argued that as early as 1880, Carnarvon had concluded that "Crown Colony" government (repressive direct rule, known as "Coercion") could not be maintained indefinitely in Ireland.[83]

His condition for accepting office in 1885 was the abandonment of Coercion, and it is not surprising that his analysis logically pushed him towards some form of local autonomy, on the lines of a self-governing colony ("some such arrangement as existed in the English colonies" was the phrase that Nationalist MP and journalist Justin McCarthy claimed Carnarvon had used in conversation in 1885.[84]) Carnarvon was misguided in allowing his thinking to be shaped by Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, who was prominent but not necessarily influential. Duffy belonged to the Young Irelander generation of four decades earlier. He had sat at Westminster as a Tenant Right MP between 1852 and 1855, before emigrating to Australia. There he had become premier of Victoria, acquiring a knighthood and an enthusiasm for imperial unity, a combination that too readily encouraged Carnarvon to trust his judgement. However, by the time Duffy retired to Europe in 1880 – spending most of his time not in Ireland but in France – Parnell's Home Rule movement had bypassed him in the country of his birth. Carnarvon was influenced by Duffy's optimistic belief that Irish devolution could satisfy national aspirations without threatening landlord rights or British strategic interests. However, his colleagues – Salisbury at least was well aware of the drift of Carnarvon's thinking – were not persuaded.[85]

In July 1885, Carnarvon held what would prove – for his own reputation at least – a fateful meeting with Parnell, an encounter known at the time to only two of his government colleagues. He had regarded it as a private discussion "in the honourable confidence of two gentlemen within the four walls of that room". Unfortunately, Parnell proved himself to be less scrupulous, alleging a year later that an unnamed Conservative minister had dangled Home Rule before him, and – after a newspaper had identified Carnarvon – publicly challenging his account of what had transpired. The fact that the interview had been arranged in an unoccupied house in London's West End wrapped the encounter in cloak-and-dagger absurdity: Carnarvon's trusted four walls had enclosed a room with the furniture covered by dust sheets.[86] In fact, their tentative discussion had centred less upon a parliament than upon a "chamber" or "central board", with the Irish leader in "singularly moderate" mood. The notion that Carnarvon was an out-and-out Conservative Home Ruler is an exaggeration. The disapproval aroused by the revelation of his tentative search for common ground obscured deeper cross-currents: Salisbury, party leader and prime minister, knew of Carnarvon's initiative, and – although wary about it – was happy enough to accept Parnell's subsequent decision to throw the Irish vote in Britain behind the Conservatives at the 1885 general election. Typically, Carnarvon never proposed any detailed scheme: it was the direction of his thinking that alarmed his Conservative colleagues.[87]

The subsequent controversy over his mild flirtation with devolution also obscured Carnarvon's attempts to govern Ireland by conciliation rather than confrontation. Moreover, he had accepted an expensive office at a time when his own financial affairs were under pressure caused by the collapse of rental income during England's agricultural recession. As so often, his health was poor, and he believed the Irish climate added to his problems. Yet, just five years later, the Dictionary of National Biography denied him even the credit for good intentions, bluntly pronouncing that his administration "raised the hopes of the nationalists higher than either his powers of achievement or the views of his colleagues justified."[88]

Those colleagues were certainly suspicious of the direction of Carnarvon's thinking. After he had delivered a grim briefing to the cabinet in October 1885, one minister recorded: "His views seemed to point to our setting up an Irish Parliament."[89] In a memorandum to the cabinet in early December 1885 – at a time when he was trying to resign on health grounds – Carnarvon warned that the demand for a devolved legislature was so generally and so passionately voiced throughout Ireland that it would become "practically impossible to refuse it." As a practical proposition, he recommended attempting to square various circles (and, specifically, to keep the Conservative party together) by establishing a parliamentary enquiry "to consider the relations of Ireland and England", subject to the maintenance of the supremacy of the Crown and the protection of "the rights of minorities in religion and property." This would "gain time", but Carnarvon's thinking had already raced well ahead. "I do not see that even a Parliament, if duly balanced and guarded, need be so dangerous as at first sight it may appear."[90] No wonder Queen Victoria's private secretary commented that Carnarvon held "peculiar views on Ireland".[91]

The subsequent revelation of his seemingly bizarre secret meeting with Parnell destroyed his standing with the Conservative party as a whole. When Carnarvon attempted to explain his motives in the House of Lords in June 1886, his statement was received "with a frigidity on the part of my late colleagues that was curious."[92] When a Conservative government was formed in July 1886, after Gladstone's Home Rule intermission, Carnarvon was not invited to join. "The country does not understand nuances," Salisbury cheerfully explained. Home Rule, in any form, had become "the paramount question of the day", and his government was formed to resist it in whatever shape it might be advocated.[93]

Carnarvon's meeting with Parnell constitutes one of the defining moments of his political career. Unfortunately, it has been generally interpreted in a manner unfavourable both to his motives and to his judgement. In his defence, it should be pointed out that the term "Home Rule" had a more diffuse meaning before Gladstone's 1886 Bill tied it firmly to the concept of a devolved parliament. Defending himself in the Lords in June 1886, Carnarvon stated: "I would gladly see some limited form of self-government, not in any way independent of Imperial control, such as may satisfy real local requirements, and, to some extent, national aspirations. I would gladly see a settlement where, the rights of property and of minorities being on the whole secured, both nations might rest from this long and weary struggle, and steady and Constitutional progress might be patiently and gradually evolved."[94] It was no doubt unlucky for him that Gladstone's Home Rule Bill was defeated in the House of Commons, and so never reached the Lords, where he might have been able to define his position with more clarity. As a result, it became an article of faith energetically pushed by the Parnellites that Salisbury's government had been willing to concede a measure of devolution, and if Carnarvon had not explicitly made the promise, that was because you could never trust the Tories. "In the person of Lord Carnarvon the Government coquetted with Home Rule, interviewed Irish leaders [the plural is misleading], and promised, in that delightfully indefinite way which is the joy of Conservative statesmen, all sorts of speedy blessings for Ireland," stated Justin McCarthy, adding with non-negotiable emphasis: "The negotiations which Lord Carnarvon opened up with the Home Rule leaders [inflation to the plural once again] are matters of history."[95]

On balance, we may acquit Carnarvon of the charge, as he put it, of "an attempt at an illicit bargain with Mr. Parnell". Yet it is doubtful whether his decision to meet with the Irish leader was prudent and sensible. Speaking in 1888, Carnarvon placed his decision against the background of his determination to listen to all points of view in Ireland. "I did not, when I went to that country, shut my ears to information that could be obtained from any person who was entitled to give it. It would have been absurd if I had consented to hear only subordinates and had refused to listen to the leader of the most important Party in Ireland."[96] Yet there was a difference. Seeking the views of members of the Irish public and tapping the experience of local administrators were valuable methods of securing information from voices that might otherwise not be heard. But Carnarvon's claim in 1886 that he had a "duty to make myself acquainted with ... Mr. Parnell's views and opinions" was a very different matter. Parnell's position on most Irish issues should have been clear enough. True, there were policy areas where he took refuge in tactical vagueness, but it was surely Parnell's responsibility to provide clarity, not Carnarvon's to probe for it. However exploratory their meeting, inevitably it crossed the line between information-seeking and negotiation, however tentative.[97] Carnarvon never recognised this. Acknowledging that he had been charged with an error in judgement in meeting Parnell at all, he waspishly commented that "if there was such an error of judgment it consisted in my accepting such a meeting without the presence of witnesses."[98]

In assessing Carnarvon's role in 1885-6, and in particular the way in which it has been viewed by historians, it is important to note that several scholars have analysed the political conflicts of the mid-eighteen eighties through the prism of "high politics". This approach interprets the positions adopted by prominent participants in public life not so much as responses to the challenges posed by particular issues but rather as manoeuvres designed to use the opportunities presented to build alliances, marginalise opponents and thereby secure political power. Although undoubtedly illuminating, it is an approach that cannot easily accommodate somebody of Carnarvon's dogged high-mindedness: a recent general history labels him as the only one of the "chief actors" of the time who can be acquitted of cynicism.[99] However, the "high politics" approach encourages hypotheses that present him as somebody exploited and manipulated by more ruthless contemporaries. Two such theories should be noted. One is the suggestion that Salisbury allowed Carnarvon to float the idea of Conservative concessions on devolution on the assumption that Gladstone would make a more extensive counter-bid, thereby manoeuvring the Liberal leader into committing himself to a Home Rule strategy that was bound to split his party.[100] It is an ingenious interpretation, but it does depend upon a number of imponderables. While Gladstone was strategically unpredictable, he was not tactically stupid: even after the end-of-year general election gave him the prospect of a return to office, he argued that if the issue of Irish devolution had to be confronted, it would be preferable for the Conservatives to deal with it.[101] If this suggestion views Carnarvon as bait, a second interpretation makes him a fall guy. His meeting with Parnell was "in fact a non-event", but the subsequent controversy surrounding it converted it into "an excellent parody of a historical fact", one that enabled other Conservative politicians, notably Lord Randolph Churchill, to "escape uninjured" from their own backstairs dealings with the Irish Nationalists.[102] Carnarvon's reputation as a loose cannon in public life made possible this attribution of entire responsibility to his maverick independence and failures of judgement.

The closing of political doors in Britain probably explains his decision to undertake a tour of South Africa and Australia in 1887-88. To say that the journey gave him valuable insights into colonial life might be an exaggeration, but he was certainly delighted to discover that the wife of the premier of Tasmania had personally baked the cake served at a government reception in his honour.[103] Perhaps his southern hemisphere odyssey was designed to burnish and extend his credentials as an imperial statesman.[104] Unluckily, the Parnellites took advantage of his absence to reiterate the claim that he had dangled Home Rule in his meeting with Parnell – accusations "vamped up with very considerable additions and embellishments", as he put it with some asperity in a further personal statement to the House of Lords on his return in May 1888.[105] There was little sign of reconciliation with his former colleagues throughout 1888 and 1889, as he took an independent stance both on the reconstruction of English local government and on reform of the Lords. In any case, there would be no fourth cabinet innings. Carnarvon's health had long been poor, and he died in 1890, aged just 59.[106]

B: Carnarvon biography

Unfortunately, as Dr Gordon notes, Carnarvon has been ill-served by biographers.[107] Politely opaque commentary began with his obituaries: Carnarvon's premature death came too close to the controversies of his life. The Times tactfully if enigmatically commented that he "carried scrupulousness and sensitiveness in public life almost to a fault ... the worst that can be said of him is that he was too conscientious for partisanship and too scrupulous for political success."[108] His death in 1890 was certainly unfortunately timed for the Dictionary of National Biography, a multi-volume project that sought to pronounce neutral and Olympian verdicts on the personalities commemorated. Its ongoing publication schedule reached Carnarvon's surname, Herbert, in 1891, uncomfortably close to the controversial final years of his life. The fact that the entry devoted to him was written by the co-editor of the DNB, Sidney Lee, is an indication of the awkwardness in memorialising him: Carnarvon was too controversial to be entrusted to a contributor. Lee mildly complained at the "meagre" materials available to him, signalling that his account was largely based on the public record. He paid tribute to Carnarvon's "chivalrous sentiment" and to his range of interests, but his verdict was bleak: Canada apart, "Carnarvon achieved little of conspicuous success in the practical world of politics."[109]

In 1898, eight years after his death, Carnarvon was the victim of a sweetly worded hatchet job by Charles Gavan Duffy, formerly his unofficial adviser on Irish affairs. Contributing a chapter to R. Barry O'Brien's life of Parnell, a two-volume edifice whose bricks were singularly devoid of biographical straw, Duffy printed a handful of letters from Carnarvon, written over several years, which showed their author to be courteous, well-intentioned but careful to avoid commitment. Ostensibly, Duffy defended the "pourparler" with Parnell, insisting that "Lord Carnarvon has never had fair play in that transaction either from friends or enemies." He had been "misrepresented not so much from malice as from sheer misconception, for he was a type of man with whom his critics were not familiar." Indeed, the key to understanding Carnarvon was to realise that his "strict and sensitive code of honour" was out of place in the cynical world in which he tried to function. On the face it, Duffy painted a portrait of a disinterested and high-minded public figure, even indicating condemnation of Parnell for violating the confidentiality that should have protected their meeting. Yet, in a feline concluding paragraph, he pointed out that it was "not strange" that the Irish leader should have assumed that if the Conservatives gained a majority at the 1885 general election "by the help of Irish votes they would be prepared to make the concession that Irish voters desired." Carnarvon himself was damned with attributions of misplaced virtue: "he sincerely desired to concede Home Rule to Ireland and to induce his colleagues to co-operate with him in the concession. It was an honourable and public-spirited design, and its failure was in no respect discreditable to him."[110] By presenting Carnarvon in the guise of a political saint, Duffy was able to sweep aside the nuances of his position, and overlook the fact that Carnarvon himself avoided the disputed and still undefined term, "Home Rule". Dr Gordon reveals that combative his widow tackled Duffy, point by point contesting his interpretation.[111]

Determined to restore her husband's reputation, the Countess of Carnarvon drew consolation from his belief that "the publication of historical biographies should take place after such a lapse of years as would enable events and actors to be written of freely, and, as far as humanly possible, dispassionately."[112] The fight-back began in 1902, with a small but handsomely produced volume of Carnarvon's speeches on Canada, edited by his cousin and literary executor, Sir Robert Herbert.[113] The timing, at the conclusion of the Second Boer War, seemed "opportune". Canada, with a vocally loyal French Canadian prime minister, Wilfrid Laurier, stood high in British public regard after contributing troops to the South African campaign (in fact, so far as Laurier was concerned, more than a little reluctantly). The establishment in Australia of "the second great confederation within the British Empire" could also be portrayed as proof of Carnarvon's far-sightedness. More controversial, and an implied riposte to Salisbury's attribution of blame, was the claim that the recent South African crisis vindicated Carnarvon's forward policy a quarter of a century earlier. "How much ... should we have been spared if the former annexation of the Transvaal had been maintained, and the importance of bringing all the South African Colonies and States under one Federal Administration had not been neglected in days when principles and details would have been easier of settlement."[114]

Carnarvon's widow remained committed to the production of a full-scale biographical defence of her husband. Unluckily, the obvious author, Sir Robert Herbert, suffered from heart problems, and died in 1905. It was not until the early nineteen-twenties that the project finally took off. The War of Independence in Ireland perhaps made possible a more favourable reinterpretation of the policies Carnarvon had advocated between 1885 and 1888. The passage of time also made it easier to secure permission to publish letters written to Queen Victoria. The publication of the final volume of Disraeli's official biography in 1920, with its contemptuous abuse of "Twitters", may have been the final spur. However, the project did not prove a happy one.

Lady Carnarvon's chosen author, Sir Arthur Hardinge, accepted the task "for friendship's sake" but his initial draft – after two years of work – did not meet with her approval.[115] A former Fellow of All Souls and an accomplished linguist, Hardinge was a career diplomat, who had spent most of his adult life out of England. As a result, he was "unfortunately not acquainted" with Carnarvon.[116] Not surprisingly, his attitudes were essentially Victorian, reflecting the perspective of a life-long Tory whose career had briefly included running Britain's East African territories. At around the time of the Carnarvon biography, Hardinge joined the British Fascists, a marginal group of Mussolini enthusiasts, although there is no evidence that he was ever involved in Oswald Mosley's later and more sinister British Union of Fascists.[117] His own memoirs, published in 1927, were criticised by a reviewer in The Times for factual errors.[118] However, it was not these problems that troubled Lady Carnarvon. Her concern was that Hardinge's draft was primarily "historical and political", whereas she insisted on "as perfect a picture of a man as can be achieved".[119] Initially, she proposed to involve herself as co-author, with a division of topics, but it seems that Hardinge was sidelined from the book altogether: the tactful formula was adopted that he was "unable from want of time to complete it". Family members contributed reminiscences, and the Warden of New College, H.A.L. Fisher, was a source of "valuable advice". A research assistant, Victor Clinton-Baddeley, fresh from achieving a First in History at Cambridge, was added to the project in 1922.[120] The three volumes were published in 1925: Hardinge's name remained on the title page, with "Elisabeth Countess of Carnarvon" appearing as the editor. Her role was clearly more than nominal. A friendly obituary of the putative author noted that the book was "much altered by another hand", while her own preface regretted that the dual responsibility had robbed the text of "some of the harmony and unity which such a book should possess". Totalling around one thousand pages, the resulting publication could hardly fail to convey impressions of Carnarvon's ideas and activities, but it was episodic and lacking in overall integration. Perhaps this shortcoming accidentally represented an insight into its subject's wayward trajectory? The biography seems to have made little impact upon reviewers at the time. It has been cited by subsequent historians mainly for its account of Carnarvon's clandestine meeting with Parnell.[121]

The following decades added only one important source for Carnarvon's career. In 1955, the Toronto-based Champlain Society published an edition of his correspondence with the governor-general of Canada, Lord Dufferin, covering the years 1874 and 1878. While this volume throws some light on Carnarvon's methods of working and his role in colonial policy, most of the letters were from Dufferin, Carnarvon's intermittent replies often apologising for brevity caused by pressure of work. The correspondence was cordial and confidential, but Carnarvon did not discuss wider political issues with Dufferin, who was a Liberal, and he only occasionally alluded to other colonial issues.[122] It would be half a century before Dr Peter Gordon's biographical essay on Carnarvon appeared in the Oxford Dictionary of Biography [ODNB]. As noted in the Introduction, this was followed in 2009 by Dr Gordon's edition of The Political Diaries of the Fourth Earl of Carnarvon, 1857-1890: Colonial Secretary and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, with an extended Introduction which amplified Dr Gordon's ODNB article.[123] Overall, it remains striking that there should have no substantial discussion of Carnarvon's career throughout the eighty years following the publication of Hardinge's biography. The scholarly community owes debt of appreciation for the reopening of the subject by Dr Gordon, both in the extensive Introduction to the Carnarvon Diaries, and in his comprehensive ODNB contribution. His work will naturally form a preliminary to a full reconsideration of Carnarvon's career.

C: Reconsidering Carnarvon

[a] form

Should a reconsideration of Carnarvon's career be attempted as a scholarly monograph, or through an extended edition of his diaries? The latter would provide an opportunity to embrace and extend the work of Dr Peter Gordon, while correcting errors of identification and subjecting contested readings to verification. It is likely that there are whole areas of Carnarvon's life that might usefully be included in a larger project, drawing upon the two-thirds of the original source omitted from the Carnarvon Diaries. Enough is quoted by Hardinge to indicate that the diaries contain much valuable material on subjects other than British, Irish and Empire politics, insights on subjects as diverse as religion and local government, as well as vignettes of personalities such as Bismarck and Tennyson.[124] Highclere was one of the first country houses to adopt the practice of the weekend house party, an assorted assemblage of people of potential interest. Eclectic in his invitations, the host was also regarded as one of the first aristocratic politicians to open his home to visiting colonists.[125] An expanded edition of Carnarvon's diaries would almost certainly illustrate the life of one of England's greatest mansions.[126]

"Lord Carnarvon rarely stayed long in any place".[127] His travels were adventurous. There were at least three visits to France, one of which took him to Paris within two years of the disastrous war against Prussia.[128] He was a frequent visitor to Italy, twice travelling through the country on the eve of the Risorgimento, and later acquiring his own Mediterranean property, "Altachiara" – a translation of Highclere.[129] Advised in 1873 to take a Mediterranean cruise for his health (Carnarvon needed no excuse), he somehow found himself a close-up observer of the revolutionary turmoil of the short-lived Spanish republic.[130] His personal experience went far beyond Europe, to Britain's colonies in his mature years, but perhaps more crucially influential were his early travels in the Middle East, which brought him into contact with issues that resonate a century and a half later.

Unfortunately, for all their apparent immediacy, Carnarvon's diaries do present some difficulties as historical sources. The volumes for 1854-55 are missing, and it does not help historians that entries for the 1877-78 ministerial crisis over foreign policy were excised, either by their author himself in 1884, or perhaps by his widow in her determination to sanctify his memory.[131] He compiled a specific journal of his eastern travels in 1853, probably so that it might be shared with family and friends. Hence it is not always obvious whether he was recording for his personal recollection, or writing for others. Carnarvon also drew up extensive memoranda in parallel with his private journal, either to help him resolve current difficulties or as retrospective accounts of major events in which he was involved. Understandably, theses reconstructed accounts tended to be self-justificatory – diarists are not always strong on self-criticism – and Carnarvon cannot be regarded as the best judge of his controversial actions. Unfortunately, the distinction between immediate reaction and considered exculpation is not always clear in the Carnarvon Diaries.[132] A historian-biographer may be better placed to assess the function of the various forms of Carnarvon's personal testimony than a diary editor. Dr Gordon wisely omitted most of the entries dealing with "domestic and day-to-day routine happenings". Such material would certainly form a valuable source for Carnarvon's paternalist relations with servants and tenants, but its repetition would require a biographer's analysis. Carnarvon's practice of referring baldly to the many people he knew in his journal entries will also create editorial problems, as may be seen in the contested identifications of the Carnarvon Diaries. An extended edition of his diaries would also require a substantial biographical introduction. On balance, it would seem that reconsideration of Carnarvon's career would be more effectively achieved through a scholarly biography on a scale that could stand alongside those of Disraeli, Salisbury and other major players on the contemporary political stage.[133]

[b] themes

Any biographer of the fourth Earl of Carnarvon will face a number of thematic challenges. Viewing his political career as a series of political headlines, it is not easy to trace elements of consistency. In 1867, he was well behind the curve of even his Conservative leaders in his opposition to franchise reform; in 1885, he was hopelessly ahead of any possibility that his party might embrace some form of devolution for Ireland. His energetic expansion of the imperial boundaries in the Pacific and in southern Africa coincided with a non-interventionist stance in the eastern Mediterranean. Hence Carnarvon appears in general histories of nineteenth-century politics, and in the biographies of Disraeli and Salisbury, as if he were a flamboyant comet, intermittently blazing his unpredictable orbit across the political sky before vanishing in an apparently predictable cloud of sparks. How could he be so suspicious of Britain's urban working class in 1867, but so trusting of Irish nationalism in 1885-6? How is it possible to reconcile his determination to extinguish the independence of the Transvaal with his sympathy for some form of self-government in Ireland? Carnarvon's career cries out for sympathetic biographical treatment, an approach that might identify underlying elements that might integrate his responses to specific issues.

There are clues that such elements did exist. It is important to note that his nickname, "Twitters", referred to his hyperactive personality, and not to his intellect. A First Class Honours graduate, he was capable of thinking on a broad scale about political issues: the historian Maurice Cowling included Carnarvon among a small group of "highly articulate political intellectuals" operating in 1867.[134] (Perhaps he would have been more successful, in basic survival terms, had he resembled those of his contemporaries who simply responded to the haphazard challenge of events.) As a classical scholar, he published English verse translations of the Odyssey and the Agamemnon. An extensive tour of the Middle East after Oxford led to a book about the Druse and Yezidi communities in the Lebanon, in which he made clear the distaste for Turkish rule that would colour his foreign policy revolt two decades later.[135] Intellectuals have perennially played awkward roles in British politics. For Conservative intellectuals, the challenges are all more intractable. They face a choice between providing a theoretical basis for a reactionary stance, or they leave themselves open to the criticism of attempting to safeguard established interests by imposing untried structures, the kind of interventionism that they so roundly condemn in their radical opponents. Carnarvon took the first approach in resisting parliamentary reform in 1867, and in opposition to county councils in 1888. He adopted the second in attempting to shore up the imperial position in South Africa by creating a framework for federation, and by urging reform of the House of Lords – for instance, the creation of life peerages and the exclusion of aristocratic "black sheep" – in order to preserve the effectiveness of the upper house as a bulwark against change. One possible biographical clue may be found in advice he received from his mother, an intelligent woman to whom he was evidently close. "Don't be too much of a Tory," she warned him in 1852. "Toryism is very good as the Foundation, but you build, you must enlarge and ornament also."[136] Carnarvon would erect some exotic architecture on his Conservative principles.[137]

For both biographers and historians, the challenge of understanding Carnarvon must lie in identification of the motivating forces that drove an undoubtedly discriminating intellect.[138] One powerful influence, no doubt more obvious to his contemporaries than it might seem today, was his strong religious belief.[139] He is sometimes labelled as "High Church". However, although connected by marriage to Edward Bouverie Pusey, one of the major figures of the Oxford movement, Carnarvon does not seem to have been especially attracted to ritualism. He was a High Churchman primarily in the older sense of the term, denoting someone who not simply believed in the partnership of Church and State, but – just like the youthful Gladstone – placed the institutions in that order. Thus he supported education for the masses, but only if placed under religious – primarily Anglican – control.[140] In 1872, he was regarded as sufficiently erudite to be included in an informal Anglican discussion of the Athanasian Creed, and he published at least one devotional work, but he does not seem to have evolved any profound theological structure.[141] Carnarvon's beliefs could strike more worldly contemporaries as unsophisticated. His vehement opposition to a proposal in 1882 to allow affirmation as an alternative to the parliamentary oath was "a sad exhibition", in Derby's opinion, a sign that he was "losing in weight & intellectual power". Carnarvon was "solemnly indignant at the wickedness of the proposal, & canting to a painful degree."[142] Lamenting Carnarvon's death in 1890, a prominent clergyman bore witness that "his faith was as simple as the faith of a child". A sensitive young man could hardly pass through Oxford in the mid-nineteenth century without becoming aware of the pull of the Roman Catholic Church, but Carnarvon – the son of a Tractarian father and an Evangelical mother – does not seem to have been troubled by the fall-out from the defections from Anglicanism of theologians of the calibre of Newman and Wilberforce. It is surprising, too, to discover that somebody with such broad intellectual interests should have been so bluntly anti-Darwinian. Being told on his deathbed that prayers were to be offered for him in St Paul's cathedral, he managed to respond that some of the happiest hours in his life had been spent there.[143]

We also need to know more about one of the great and enduring enthusiasms of Carnarvon's life, freemasonry – another institution where the twenty-first century may be reluctant to enter into the values of the nineteenth. He became active in the "Craft" as a young man in the eighteen-fifties, rising in 1875 to the office of Pro Grand Master of the Order in England. The post ranked second only to that of Grand Master, which was honorifically filled by the Prince of Wales: Carnarvon persuaded him to accept the office despite the opposition of Queen Victoria. Carnarvon's authorised biography stated that he was attracted to Freemasonry by "its ancient rites, its mystical significance, its world-wide activities and brotherhood".[144] However, there must have been a deeper dimension, something sufficiently inspirational to make him take on so demanding a leadership role at a time when he was a cabinet minister. Freemasonry probably embodied a paternalist ideal of cross-class harmony that appealed to him as a wealthy Tory landowner. It is also probably no coincidence that it was discontent among the worshipful brethren of Canada West (Ontario from 1867) that drove him to campaign, and very effectively, against the existing leadership in Britain. His organisational model, outlined in a speech in 1856, saw the Grand Lodge in England as commanding the "allegiance" of Canadian freemasons, and acting as a court of appeal, "but I would utterly surrender to the Provincial Grand Lodge all the minutiae of local business."[145] The parallel with colonial self-government was obvious.

Thus Carnarvon biography might look to an interlocking framework of Church, fraternity and Empire within which to analyse his responses to specific policy issues. It should also seek to place him within a wider cultural context. According to a private secretary, Carnarvon was a "fluent linguist",[146] although available sources reveal relatively little about his competence – Latin and Greek through his Oxford degree, French, almost certainly, as the badge of an educated gentleman and some knowledge of Italian and Portuguese. In 1880 he was trying to improve his German, but the language never became for him, as it did for so many Victorian intellectuals, the vehicle for the transmission of most advanced nineteenth century ideas.[147] There is a paradox too in the fact that the aristocrat whom Judge Gowan found referred to in London literary circles as "the most accomplished gentleman in Europe" should have spent his entire ministerial career dealing with issues within a predominantly English-speaking world under British imperial control.[148]

[c] the search for an integrated personality To an even greater extent than arises in most biographies, a reconsideration of the life and career of the fourth Earl of Carnarvon must aim at the integration and understanding of a whole personality. Of necessity, historians compartmentalise the people whom they study. Thus, a research student interested in southern Africa will turn to Carnarvon's diaries for the origin of decisions that shaped the destiny of the Boers or the Zulu, and will tend to discount the attention that he gave to personal matters, or to religion, or to Freemasonry, or to the prevention of cruelty to animals. Yet the same brain that made choices in the historian's specific area of interest was also engaged in daily living life across a varied range of subjects and challenges. It was not simply that Carnarvon was often overwhelmed with the responsibilities of government, for instance complaining in November 1875 that he had experienced "a very severe fortnight of official work, with Cabinets, a 'war' in the Malay peninsula, a raging controversy at the Cape and a more than heavy amount of ordinary business".[149] He was also a landowner on a large scale, and an unusually caring and demonstrative parent, indeed for three crucial years as a Disraeli cabinet minister, a widower with sole responsibility for a young family.[150] Carnarvon recorded his own reflections on the interconnection of issues in 1877, after the unusual experience of "a tolerably quiet evening", which gave him the rare opportunity of thinking through his South African priorities. "One of my greatest difficulties in office is that I have really no time for any quiet or deliberate thought. Everything has to be decided on the spur of the moment, and either it must be decided by a sort of instinct or on the advice of those whose judgement I think I can trust.... Everything too at home naturally and necessarily is referred to me and if I do not listen to every question from the children's dresses to the cooking of the dinner I know all would go wrong."[151] It is temptingly easy for an armchair observer a century and a half later to conclude that Carnarvon was obviously not good at delegating – but what was he to delegate? Too many Victorian aristocrats farmed out the role of fatherhood, burdening Britain with generations of emotionally stunted natural leaders. As for the job of colonial secretary, "the business of this office is so constant that it is vain to look for any real break for two or three days together".[152] Surely more noteworthy is the fact that it seems never to have occurred to Carnarvon that he might devolve to others the solution of minor administrative or domestic issues. Yet, somehow, decisions were taken, or evolved or maybe just happened, decisions that affected the destinies of Canada one day and the Transvaal on another, or shaped the course of franchise reform at one moment and complicated foreign policy at another. These responses, too often instinctive yes / no reactions, have become embedded and entombed in monographs and doctoral theses under the guise of policies and turning points. Yet we shall never fully comprehend the processes behind them unless we take full account of all the pressures upon the human being who had to cope with them, and integrate them within the personality, the attitudes and the emotions of the individual concerned.

There are deeper elements of being that call for exploration in the case of Carnarvon, challenges that require us to confront the limitations of our own retrospective perceptions. Commenting in 1888 on "the risk of leaving papers behind one", Carnarvon ruefully noted that "I shall leave a great mass both public and private". It could hardly help the construction of a holistic portrait that the personal documentation came into the public domain in separate donations and discoveries spanning more than half a century.[153] Nonetheless, considerable amounts of diaries and correspondence have come to light – and it is at this point that the biographical challenge begins. The English language has experienced some changes in vocabulary and variations in syntax over the past century and a half, but fundamentally, in listening to Carnarvon's evidence, we have the nineteenth century talking to the twenty-first. The danger is that we hear the words, but cannot appreciate the context in which they were uttered.

Take, for example, Carnarvon's private defence of his frank speech disagreeing with the drift of the cabinet's foreign policy to the South African delegation in January 1878. He acknowledged that "such a speech at such a time by a single minister without the concurrence of his colleagues, was a somewhat lawless act, and under ordinary circumstances would have been a very unfair one. ... Nothing indeed but the extraordinarily critical state of the case and the conviction which not only I but many of my colleagues entertained that Disraeli was determined to force us into an alliance with Turkey and a war with Russia, and that therefore almost any sacrifice was worth making to avert an act of injustice, immorality, and grave impolicy, could justify me in what I did." It is fair to add that, in his memorandum written in "calm reflection" sometime after the crisis, even Carnarvon wondered whether he could claim "an adequate justification for departing from what undoubtedly was the regular and approved course which a minister is bound to pursue."[154] Modern-day readers are likely to react even more sharply, to question his entitlement to break cabinet ranks, and criticise the arrogance of his initiative. But that would be precisely to miss Carnarvon's own sense of himself as an autonomous power within the constitutional polity, his assumption – unfortunately not spelled out for our digestion – that the inheritor of a peerage of senior rank had not so much the right as the duty to set markers and defend values. During his early years in politics, the House of Lords was not a very impressive body, and Carnarvon found himself one of the few active young peers. Coupled with deep religious beliefs, it is likely that this encouraged him to believe that the hereditary principle had conferred a special role and responsibility upon him. "Stainless conduct, high moral qualities, the desire for the good of others, wholly irrespective of self or of party—these have been the foundations and the pillars of this great institution", he assured the upper house in 1889: no doubt, like the Lord Chancellor in Iolanthe, he saw himself as embodying the Lords.[155] In 1880, he had found himself sufficiently detached between the two main parties to contemplate the possibility of joining the Liberals. "If Office offers itself to me at all in conformity with my feelings of what is right personally and in a public point of view I shall accept it".[156] The syntax is instructive: it was not for the Earl of Carnarvon to seek preferment, but for governments of whatever colour to offer him a role in conformity with his principles.

The mindset attributed to Carnarvon here will of course suggest the world view of the Whigs, the great landowners of the eighteenth century who championed the cause of the people, and who expected that, in return, the people would defer to their right not just to exercise leadership but collectively to constitute what the young Disraeli scorned as "a high aristocratic republic".[157] The Whig ranks were steadily depleted throughout the nineteenth century, either by individual defections or major secessions, such as those of the Stanleys over the Irish Church in 1834 and the Cavendishes – almost Whiggery's final coup de grâce – in opposition to Home Rule in 1886. Donald Southgate, the historian who has chronicled their disintegration, classified the fourth Earl of Carnarvon as an example of this process.[158] Carnarvon's father, Lord Porchester, had bolted in 1831, refusing to endorse Lord John Russell's scheme for parliamentary reform. "All his early prejudices and personal partialities had been in favour of Reform," he told the House of Commons, "...for he was born and bred a Whig, but he was a decided and determined opponent of the Bill."[159] Porchester's abandonment of the progressive cause was complete and cataclysmic. "We are going on step by step to an utter subversion of all interests and institutions," he told Charles Greville in 1834.[160] In fact, after inheriting the earldom in 1833, Carnarvon's father devoted himself mainly to travelling and to the reconstruction of Highclere Castle. As noted, Carnarvon himself did not become active in the House of Lords until the mid-eighteen fifties. Thus throughout the years between the Tamworth Manifesto of 1834 and the collapse of the Aberdeen Coalition in 1855 – the period that might be termed the Peelite decades – the Carnarvon dynasty effectively sat out national politics: the fourth Earl does not seem to have identified closely with the term "Conservative". "He is a strong churchman, proud of his ancestors having been loyal cavaliers, with a peculiar veneration for the memory of Charles I, & a good deal of sympathy for the Jacobites," Derby noted in 1880.[161] Carnarvon reflected an eclectic combination of intellectual influence, choosing to emphasise Tory elements from his varied aristocratic breeding, such as his High Church view of Anglican supremacy as part of a stratified but harmonious society, but all built on a hidden substructure of a Whiggish assumption of a particular and rightful role – and concomitant responsibility – in public life.[162]

Others seem to have agreed with Carnarvon's implicit self-assessment. In 1878, Salisbury vigorously contested his inclination to resign in response Disraeli's angry denunciation of his indiscretion. "You are a member of a Cabinet not the servant of the Premier. ... Providence has put in our hands the trust of keeping the country from entering a wrongful war."[163] It would have been uncharacteristic of Salisbury to make an off-the-cuff, boastful claim about the cabinet government. His statements on public affairs were founded upon a deep reef of political theory. Palmerston's dismissal from the Foreign Office in 1851 had incontrovertibly established the principle that the prime minister had the right to hire and fire his colleagues, which is how servants were treated in Victorian times.[164] Nor was it consistent with Salisbury's subsequent reflections upon six years of serving under Disraeli. "As the head of a Cabinet his fault was want of firmness," he told Arthur Balfour in 1880. "The chiefs of Departments got their own way too much. ... Thus it became possible that the Transvaal should be annexed – not indeed against the wish of the Cabinet, but actually without its knowledge. Lord Carnarvon wished to do it."[165] It was certainly true that the institution of cabinet government was evolving, and that each ministry was affected by the personality of the prime minister and the balance of forces that it contained. Salisbury was prepared on occasion to be overruled by his ministers, and in Joseph Chamberlain he had his own Carnarvon operating free-range in a more explosive South Africa.[166] Yet he had no compunction about dumping three of his ministers in the row over tariffs in 1903, and – even allowing for its tactical implications – his appeal to Carnarvon suggests recognition of his pretension to an autonomous role in public life. It is open to question whether Salisbury would have written in similar terms to W.H. Smith, the wealthy newsagent, who had so implausibly risen to become the ruler of the Queen's Navee.[167] The irony was that Carnarvon destroyed his claims by acting upon them: the potential of his assumed claims proved far stronger than his decision to uphold them by quitting. In the quarter-century that followed Carnarvon's death, the political discourse around aristocracy changed entirely, as radicalism advanced and working class representation broke into the House of Commons. Gestures that had emerged from a sense of the hereditary responsibility – even duty – of caste were irretrievably transmuted into the selfish arrogance of class.[168]

Carnarvon was conscious of ancestry and ready to accept the burdens that it placed upon him. "If there was one place more than another in this country where they were bound to speak out their opinion, whether pleasing or displeasing to others, it was the House of Lords," he remarked in one of his last speeches at Westminster.[169] However, he was also well aware that the world was changing. At his swearing-in ceremony in the Great Hall of Dublin Castle in 1885, he recalled that a forebear, Sir Henry Sidney, had held the same office, presumably with the same pageantry, two centuries earlier, in the aftermath of the Battle of the Boyne (in which, it would have been unhelpful to mention, he had also fought). But Carnarvon was also well aware that, with Ireland's constitution in potential flux, his inauguration might be "the last occasion of its kind".[170]

Carnarvon's flexible combination of principled opposition and practical accommodation to change may be seen in a tailpiece to his political campaigns, the transfer of local government in the counties from the control of magistrates drawn principally from the landed classes, to elected councils chosen by ratepayers. He argued that there was no parallel between the shires and the boroughs: in the latter, voters lived in close proximity and their representatives could easily assemble. He criticised the three-year term of the councillors, which threatened constant electioneering, caucus control and possible loss of continuity in policy making. As an add-on to an existing system, the new councils would simply complicate the complexity of English local government. "They would now have Quarter Sessions, Petty Sessions, Boards of Guardians, Highway Boards, and County Councils, and they would have District Councils; there were to be three electoral registers, two electoral areas, and three or four modes of election". He pointed out that the measure, which applied to England, would eventually have to be extended to Ireland, very likely with negative consequences. He indulged in the jeremiad rhetoric of an opponent of all change: "they were going to reduce everything to the deadest level of the most monotonous uniformity. ... they were galloping down hill with reins hanging loose and with no drag on the coach." In particular, Carnarvon condemned the failure to look beyond the immediate future. Ministers argued that "the County Councils would be directed and kept in the right path by those who had formerly been members of the Quarter Sessions, who would give them the benefit of their ripe experience and business habits, and would be able to counteract the caucuses." While he hoped such continuity and paternalist guidance would happen, "who could seriously say that that would be the case, or honestly believe that, even supposing those magistrates of ripe experience should find their way, in the first instance, into the County Council, that would long be the case?"[171]

Disappointed that the "broken and demoralized" House of Lords had failed to block a measure that its members clearly disliked, Carnarvon might well have sat back and left the new institutions to their fate. Yet, characteristically, he announced that, whatever his doubts about the legislation, "it is the duty of every lover of his country to accept the facts, and to spare no effort to make the measure work well and safely". His tenants and neighbours elected him, unopposed, to the new Hampshire County Council, and in January 1889 he returned specially from Italy, where he had taken refuge for his health, to attend the inaugural meeting. He formed one of a core of magistrates who discreetly provided continuity from the old Quarter Sessions system, and took his own duties seriously. Nonetheless, the newcomers ("outsiders" Carnarvon called them with revealing inverted commas) made their presence felt, and "one felt oneself in contact with an entirely new creation." An unexpected issue erupted in November. The Isle of Wight, initially and incongruously included with Hampshire, was about to break away, triggering a sharp debate on the interpretation of voting qualifications for farm labourers on the island. The episode caricatured in miniature two of the major themes of Carnarvon's career on the national stage, Ireland and Reform. Reflecting on the meeting, he noted that "the popular and almost democratic influence is curiously visible. Any one of the old school would be miserable at seeing what he would think the downward tendencies." Tacitly distancing himself from "the old school", in almost his last pronouncement on public affairs, Carnarvon expressed his hope "that substantially we may pull through".[172]

[d] the mirage of the ideal solution Although Carnarvon's health was known to be perennially poor, his death in June 1890 caught journalists unprepared. Obviously, so prominent a personality merited substantial coverage, but editorial writers scrambled to pay tribute to his courteous charm while seeking to make sense of his zigzag career. One exception to the general tone of puzzled politeness was the Standard, an outspoken Tory morning newspaper, generally considered the mouthpiece of Lord Salisbury.[173] Its verdict upon Carnarvon verged upon the contemptuous. "He was too much under the dominion of theory, and, like many men of that class, was averse to compromise, and unwilling to look all the facts in the face which stood in the way of his convictions."[174] Lacking in both charm and charity, this bleak evaluation almost certainly reflects the view of their errant colleague held by the Conservative leadership. However, it misses the mark. Carnarvon was capable of compromise, if not very often, as he demonstrated in his flexible response to the disestablishment of the Irish Church. He urged Salisbury to avoid outright confrontation on the second reading of Gladstone's 1884 Reform Bill, earning a place in Lady Gwendolen Cecil's demonology as one of the "arch-funkers".[175] He is much better understood as a practitioner of Goldilocks politics. For every problem, there was an ideal answer, not too reactionary, not too radical, but "just right". These fantastical solutions shared several features. They were rarely revealed in much detail, and in some cases apparently existed only through Carnarvon's own assertion. They tended to ignore important aspects of the issue, and they had very little chance either of immediate acceptance or of securing longer-term stability. Their common feature was, of course, Carnarvon himself. Edward Gibson, the able Irish lawyer, was one of his nominees in 1884 to the conclave of "righteous men" who were to resolve the Reform controversy. The compliment was not returned. Six years later, Gibson reflected that Carnarvon "thought that his own personal influence was capable of working wonders with all".[176] That diary entry of course reflected the strange Irish episode of 1885-6, but it could equally apply to the earlier upheavals in his career.

The Goldilocks theme can certainly be identified in Carnarvon's role in 1866-67. As the Duke of Marlborough effectively pointed out in the House of Lords, his entitlement to criticise the Derby-Disraeli Reform legislation was undercut by the fact that he had joined a cabinet pledged to carry some such measure. Indeed, Carnarvon had accepted that "we are generally agreed upon an attempt at legislation. ... To this I quite agree – I see no alternative."[177] In this instance, Carnarvon provided a glimpse of his ideal solution: household suffrage in the large towns, but a more restrictive £6 rating franchise in the smaller boroughs.[178] This would preserve the element of diversity in the constitution to which he assigned considerable importance, presumably by enabling nearby landowners to exercise influence upon restricted and respectable country-town electorates. One problem with this elegant duality was that it was improbable that anybody beyond Highclere would accept it as an equitable solution. It was also unlikely to provide long-term stability: rate-paying qualifications would be effectively devalued by inflation (although this was an element that rarely featured in Victorian political debate), while population growth would surely expand some of the smaller towns into major urban centres, rendering illogical any dual qualification system.[179] In any case, Carnarvon's resignation – and Cranborne's too – ignored a very basic point, that parliamentary reform was a two-stage issue. It mattered who was granted the right to vote, but perhaps even more important was the question of where they voted. The truly conservative element in the Derby-Disraeli package was its minuscule redistribution of constituencies. Of the thirty seats reallocated, seven were already available thanks to the disenfranchisement of four small boroughs for corruption. The remaining twenty-three seats came from depriving smaller constituencies of their second member: fourteen went to new boroughs, fifteen to the counties, some of which were divided to ring-fence their rural element. As a result, "the rural South and West still had many more seats than the Midlands and the North." In the immediate aftermath of any Reform Bill in the mid-eighteen sixties, a Gladstone landslide was to be expected. However, in 1874, the Conservatives slightly outpolled the Liberals in the English boroughs, but returned 154 MPs to their opponents' 116.[180] In the last resort, the franchise had mattered much less than the arrangement of the representation. Yet it is hardly necessary for the historian to assemble the argument that Carnarvon's 1867 resignation was a mistake. Talking to Northcote in 1872, "he said he must admit on looking back that he had been overmuch frightened about it, and that it had worked out better than he expected."[181]

Carnarvon's belief in the ideal solution was even more starkly displayed in his second engagement with parliamentary reform, his proposal – discussed earlier – that the complex issues of 1884 might be resolved by eight "righteous men", drawn equally from both sides. He did not specify their terms of reference, nor how such a group could be convened and might pursue its business. A neutral chairman would presumably have been required: Carnarvon perhaps saw himself in the role. It was hard to imagine how the two political parties – each vulnerable to internal splits over parliamentary reform – could have realistically guaranteed in advance their uncritical acceptance of a mysteriously-evolved package, the details of which would inevitably have aroused further controversy. The proposed admixture of peers and MPs undermined Carnarvon's own cherished belief in the independence of the House of Lords, which other peers excluded from the process might well have felt entitled to uphold. While it was possible to overstate the popular demand for further franchise reform – 1884 was perhaps as much the result of strains within the system as of pressure from without – it seems unlikely that those excluded from the franchise would have automatically bowed to a pronuniciamento from an obscure group of the allegedly great and good: a key element in the 1884 crisis was the rejection of deference. As in 1867, Carnarvon appears to have looked to the mystical discovery of "some arithmetical principle" that would identify a magic button in the constitutional machine, overlooking all possibility of subsequent disagreement over constituency sizes and boundaries.[182] Essentially, the problem in Carnarvon's initiative lay in the confusion between an ideal solution and a compromise deal. If the two sides were to reach some agreement through horse-trading, then it made no sense to devolve the process to party notables when the ultimate decision would require the concurrence of the two leaders. As it happened, almost a month after Carnarvon's initiative, Liberals and Conservatives agreed to face-to-face talks. It was probably coincidence that the initial meeting comprised eight politicians: Gladstone, for instance, selected just one peer, Granville, while his inclusion of both Hartington and Dilke reflected the need to balance Whig and radical tendencies within the Liberal ranks, rather than some occult process of divination as imagined by Carnarvon. For his part, Salisbury used the negotiations to reinforce the primacy of his leadership of the Conservatives, his rival Northcote allowing him to set the pace. Even so, Salisbury was uncomfortable with the eight-man format. The remaining two Tories, Cairns and the Duke of Richmond, were quickly dropped from the team. With Hartington typically looking on in bored detachment, Salisbury and Dilke steadily "got rid" of the various contentious issues, hammering out detailed constituency arrangements. Gladstone complained that Salisbury had "no respect for tradition"; Salisbury called their meetings "abnormal conferences".[183] It was all a long way from Carnarvon's fantasy that eight wise men might magically pluck some harmonising and organising principle out of the ether.

South Africa and Ireland were further examples of Carnarvon's belief in the ideal, all-embracing, miraculously unifying and reassuringly moderate solution to complex problems. Characteristically, his federal panacea for South Africa lacked definition. The suggestion that Canada's constitution, the British North America Act of 1867, might form a helpful model disappeared during the drafting process of his key despatch. Carnarvon himself felt that he "might possibly indicate Federation as a contingency and leave the door open to it, but not urge it".[184] He seemed confident that, as the perceived ideal solution, it would conjure its own magic, despite the fact that the policy had been floated from London without positive response four times in the preceding twenty-five years.[185] Just as he had expected the Canadian delegates to agree to detailed provisions in their constitution the day after their arrival in Britain, so he assured Queen Victoria's private secretary that a South African conference on federal union would assemble within "six or seven weeks" – utterly impracticable in vast territories where most travel was still by ox wagon.[186] In fact, the local ministry in the Cape Colony – which Carnarvon had envisaged as the cornerstone of the new polity – flatly refused to have anything to do with the proposal. However, Carnarvon's initiative had sedulously ignored a still greater handicap: two of the proposed units in the federation, the South African Republic (Transvaal) and Orange Free State, were not even part of the Empire. As the name of the latter indicated, they were in treaty relations with Britain which arguably (so Chamberlain would later argue) located them in some outer imperial orbit called "suzerainty", but there was no reason why Boers who had exiled themselves from colonial rule in the Great Trek forty years earlier should obediently slot into a convenient piece of Carnarvon's global jigsaw. Glossing over the immediate and practical difficulties helped obscure the more fundamental contradictions of the federation policy. Carnarvon sought to devolve the management of African communities upon his white-run South African dominion, while simultaneously ensuring fairness to the majority population.[187] It was far more likely that the colonists would demand that Britain ensure their security from perceived tribal threats – an insistence that led inexorably to the Zulu War – at which point they would feel sufficiently confident to reject imperial control, as the Transvaal Boers so ruthlessly demonstrated at Majuba in 1881. A colonial secretary who operated through compromise might just have secured some framework for common action across the disparate settler polities. A minister in pursuit of a fantastical panacea could only be on the highway to sub-continental disaster.

Carnarvon's curious association with the phantom of Irish devolution between 1885 and 1888 constitutes the last major example of his penchant for Goldilocks policy-making. In fairness, it must be acknowledged that his suggestions, largely undefined, for some approach to Home Rule formed part of a tripartite package, which envisaged bold responses to the other two elements. It seems that Carnarvon wished to respond to agrarian discontent with a state-funded land purchase scheme that would presumably have gone far beyond the path-breaking Ashbourne Act already passed by Salisbury's minority administration. He also hoped to tackle the vexed question of Catholic higher education, although here he faced obstacles from the intended beneficiaries. This setback placed greater emphasis upon the need to deal with the devolution question. In December 1885, he warned the cabinet that Irish opinion was demanding "some elective body, which shall have all the outward form and semblance of a Parliament". He insisted that safeguards were possible but refused to "embarrass this Memorandum by going into these details." Rather, he proposed a version of the righteous men, this time in the form of a cross-party joint committee of Lords and Commons. Their righteousness would, however, be circumscribed, since the ideal solution must emerge within a context that recognised the "supremacy and authority of the Crown" and guaranteed the rights of the key minorities, Protestants and property-owners. The device would gain time, preserve party unity, "give a chance of moderate counsels prevailing" and perhaps even achieve interparty consensus. Since it was also argued as a means of educating public opinion, it would presumably hold open meetings, unlike the proposed "sanhedrin" of 1884. Carnarvon did not specify that its members should be wise or righteous, but it did seem clear that they should be predominantly Anglo-Saxon. Indeed, "if we failed to come to a conclusion through the fault of the Irish Party", the government would be "free to deal with the question in a much more decided manner". However, he hoped that the ideal solution would emerge "without committing the Government in the first instance to any definite proposals".[188] In reality, the establishment of such an enquiry would be tantamount to a Conservative admission of the need to satisfy the demand for Irish Home Rule. As in 1884, when Gladstone encouraged the righteous men scheme to turn Salisbury's flank, so in 1885-6 an interparty committee would have been a tacit endorsement of the Liberal leader's wily insistence that the Conservatives were better placed to handle a major constitutional reform.

Carnarvon kept a low profile during the first half of 1886, spending almost three months at his home in Italy.[189] In June, as the Home Rule Bill ground to a halt in the Commons, the Irish Party brought him back to public attention by unscrupulously revealing his secret meeting with Parnell. On the last day of the session, he made a personal statement in the House of Lords, explaining his contact with the Irish leader and defining his own position. His disavowal of Gladstone's bill was followed by a remarkable assertion of his continuing belief in the "just right" solution. "I would gladly see some limited form of self-government, not in any sense independent of Imperial control, such as may satisfy real local requirements, and, to some extent, national aspirations."[190] As circle-squaring propositions go, this one was surely in the 'slightly pregnant' league. But however much and however hopelessly Carnarvon might believe that some sop to "national aspirations" might make them go away, the phrase was too much for his fellow Tory peers, and his comments were received in cold silence.

As in his December 1885 cabinet memorandum, Carnarvon had projected himself as the architect of moderate devolution without actually offering a single detail of his proposed scheme. Rather, in June 1886, he flayed the corpse of Gladstone's Home Rule Bill. Not only was it "financially unsound", "it heals none of the old wounds ... it settles nothing upon a lasting basis" and it did not confront "that burning question of Ulster". It was unfair of Carnarvon to criticise Gladstone's proposed legislation for failing to tackle the agrarian question: land purchase could only be dealt with in a parallel measure, and the constraints of the parliamentary timetable had forced the government to defer its own scheme. But Carnarvon's condemnation of the Home Rule project – "dangerous and ill-digested" as he described it to Salisbury – essentially formed part of a constructed narrative, one that implied that Carnarvon had been on the verge of supplying a Goldilocks scheme for Irish devolution – broad enough to satisfy Nationalists, sufficiently comforting to reassure Unionists, giving Ireland real freedom without threatening the unity of the United Kingdom. This alluring prospect was destroyed by Gladstone's decision to unveil a measure that had created "tumult and the passionate feeling ... evoked by the hopes ... which cannot be gratified". As a result of this reckless triggering of angry polarisation, "it has virtually postponed to a very distant day that settlement which I so much desire to see."[191]

This was self-exculpation by smoke and mirrors. Had Gladstone proposed a revolutionary measure granting Ireland something approximating to full independence under a dangerously democratic constitution, then it might have been plausible to claim that the ground had been cut from under any moderate alternative. But the 1886 Home Rule Bill fell considerably short of a national retreat and class surrender. The Dublin legislature would have remained subservient to Westminster, from which Irish representation was to be excised. The Irish legislature was to be bound to pay fixed contributions to the Imperial Treasury, while key areas such as customs, police and foreign policy would remain controlled from London. The popular chamber would certainly fall under Nationalist control, but it was balanced by an upper house, half its size, comprising 28 Irish peers and 75 elected members, subject to a high property qualification, and elected for ten years on a restrictive franchise. This "first order" could delay legislation for three years, with continuing deadlock to be resolved by a joint sitting, where a Unionist minority from the "second order" – Ulster Protestants and members representing Trinity College – might help them to reject controversial initiatives.[192] Overall, it sounded like the sort of balanced scheme that might have come from Carnarvon's own brain. A.V. Dicey commented that "in spite of many obvious blots", Gladstone's measure was "a most ingenious attempt to solve the problem of giving to Ireland a legislature which shall be at once practically independent, and theoretically dependent, upon the Parliament of Great Britain; which shall have full power to make laws and appoint an executive for Ireland, and yet shall not use that power in a way opposed to English interests or sense of justice." In short, it constituted "the rough outline of an ingeniously attempted solution."[193] Dicey could afford to be acidly polite, since he believed that no approximation to Irish Home Rule could possibly work. But it was implausible for Carnarvon to imply that some even more milk-and-water solution would heal old wounds and constitute a lasting settlement. Yet his defence received grudging support from The Times two years after the crisis. It blamed his openness as lord-lieutenant for arousing false hopes of concession: "his tentative groping about for a policy of his own ... was likely to produce misleading impressions and to supply material for deliberate misrepresentations". The Times doubted whether the moderate scheme that Carnarvon seemed to favour could have worked, but it agreed that any such initiative had been "removed from the region of possibility by Mr. Gladstone's extravagant proposals in 1886."[194]

The Times had returned to Carnarvon because, in May 1888, he had again felt obliged to reply to Parnellite distortions of his activities as lord-lieutenant. Claiming to write "frankly ... to remove all ambiguity as regards myself and my views", Carnarvon once again managed to be impressively opaque about devolution. Echoing the escape clause of his December 1885 cabinet memorandum, he asserted that, in a letter to a newspaper, it was "obviously impossible ... to describe what such a measure should be", although The Times indulgently allowed him two long columns of small type. Rather, he specified five limitations. Two of these – the supremacy of Westminster and the exclusion of Irish control over the police – had formed part of the 1886 Bill. His third stipulation, the "limitation of local taxation to such an extent as to prevent injustice", sounded eminently reasonable, but who was to determine the boundaries of fairness, and, more important, how, were points left without discussion. This vagueness was all the more surprising since in 1885, Carnarvon had challenged a pro-devolution Dublin official: "how would you prevent the landlords being ruined by a tax being put on their property of such an oppressive nature as virtually to deprive them of their property[?]". No satisfactory answer had been forthcoming.[195] "The reasonable satisfaction of Ulster", Carnarvon's fourth condition, was wholly Utopian, since Protestant Ulster had firmly rejected any form of devolution. The final requirement, that any constitutional settlement must be "preceded by some land settlement" was unlikely to appeal to Unionists. They were certainly willing to finance a State-supported land purchase programme – in effect, to sacrifice the landowners in order to save the Union – but they were unlikely to tackle land grievances in order to smooth the working of a devolutionary structure that they totally rejected.[196] "I am conscious that I have stood between two rival and antagonistic opinions," Carnarvon virtuously remarked, but once again Gladstone was to blame for cutting the ground from under his carefully undefined ideal solution: the "unfortunate" Home Rule Bill and the result of the 1886 general election "have destroyed the chance of any reasonable understanding on such a basis."[197]

However, this is not to say that Carnarvon's ideas had remained static since 1886. He had twice served as colonial secretary, and had regarded the achievement of Canadian Confederation as part of his political stock-in-trade. Now he was thinking about the colonies again: in an era when few people took much detailed interest in Britain's overseas dependencies, they might provide useful back-up and intellectual camouflage for any postulated ideal solution. Yet it was not Canada, the Empire's most successful example of devolved government, that now occupied his thoughts. Carnarvon's involvement with Canada had always been ambiguous. He had become colonial secretary in 1866 when British North American union had already been worked out among the provinces and agreed in outline with Britain. He had resigned before the legislation completed its parliamentary passage. His South African federation project appeared to owe its inspiration to Canada, but he had resiled from suggesting the British North America Act as blueprint for the mishmash of colonial territories and Trekker republics that he aimed to bring together. He had burnished his Canadian credentials and updated his understanding of Canadian politics by touring Quebec and Ontario as recently as 1883, receiving a warm welcome in recognition of his association with Confederation.[198] Yet Canada did not form part of his 1888 ruminations. This seems a curious omission, since the Dominion constitution had featured in various considerations of Irish Home Rule throughout the two previous years. For instance, during the winter of 1886-7, the warring factions of the Liberal party had sought within it some formula that might heal their differences. The problem was that the Canada example could be read in different ways. Should Ireland's relationship with Britain resemble that enjoyed by Canada, the Dominion status solution eventually imposed upon the Free State in 1921? Or was the parallel with Ontario, a large and powerful province but subservient to Ottawa?[199]

As if this was not sufficiently confusing, another level of Canada-related constitutional engineering had also attracted speculative interest. At its formation in 1867, the Dominion had comprised three English-speaking units, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, plus one, Quebec, that was predominantly francophone. But it was also possible to think of the founding provinces not in language terms, but as three predominantly Protestant communities, linked to one whose institutions were shaped by its Catholic majority. Although Ireland's four provinces were simply historical units, which had exercised no governmental functions since the sixteenth century, the idea of establishing provincial councils seemed an attractive means of appeasing Ulster.[200] Carnarvon had considered supporting provincial councils in 1886, and referred to them in his May 1888 letter to The Times.[201] Yet the statesman who claimed to be godfather to the British North America Act pointedly did not cite Canadian parallels for his vaguely proclaimed ideal solution.

Instead, he sketched the last and surely the least plausible of his ideal solutions, as usual with little or no supporting detail. In 1880 he had dismissed the possibility of "governing [Ireland] by a more despotic Crown Colony system ... we could not hold Ireland as an English Poland."[202] Now he saw advantages in applying some adapted version of the device. A Crown Colony might exercise "certain limited rights of self-government", with an elected chamber acting as a sounding box and safety valve, but with executive authority firmly centred upon an appointed governor. His experience in Dublin had persuaded him that the lord-lieutenant "too often had only a semblance of power". British rule in Ireland attempted to do "both too much and too little ... the existing system is an ill sorted patchwork of ancient powers and modern practice." By contrast, some form of "Crown Colony Government adapted to the special requirements of Ireland" could empower a strong and steady administration to carry through continuous lines of policy, providing the stability that would attract modernising capital. In a sense, Carnarvon's outline proposal might be seen less as an alternative to the Home Rule Bill than as a modification to Gladstone's proposal. Gladstone had intended to retain the office of lord-lieutenant, but had made no provision for the appointee to be advised by an Irish premier and cabinet backed by a majority in the legislature. Thus Carnarvon might be defended as simply proposing to strengthen further the role of the executive, and conjure away the awkward issue of representation altogether.

The inspiration for this latest version of the ideal solution came from two of the smallest settler colonies in the Empire, Natal and Western Australia, both of which had representative but not responsible government. Even without local autonomy, Natal's combative settlers had caused complications during the eighteen-seventies. Although Carnarvon had recently toured both South Africa and Australia, he had not visited Natal. He had set foot in Western Australia on his way back to Britain simply because steamers called at the port of Albany, 250 miles from the local capital, Perth. Carnarvon's belief that a Crown Colony regime in Ireland could make possible efficient economic development sat rather awkwardly with his own recent experience, in 1883, of investing in Western Australian land, a venture on which he had lost money.[203] Thus, for all his vaunted colonial expertise, he really knew very little of either of these imperial waifs. The absurdity of using them as a possible model for Ireland lay in their Lilliputian size: Western Australia certainly spanned a massive area, but its settler population was less than 50,000; Natal, much smaller in area, contained fewer than 40,000 Europeans. In any case, however much Crown Colony government might be modified to suit the Irish situation, some form of consultative legislature would be needed, if only to handle the vast amount of local legislation which, as Carnarvon himself pointed out, was currently filtered through a Westminster machine which simply could not cope with the business.[204] It was myopic to assume that any Irish legislature would accept such severe limitations on its freedom of action. In short, it is difficult to understand how Carnarvon could have persuaded himself that this latest shadow alternative to Home Rule would have the effect of "placing this distracting and destroying question for a long term of years outside the pale of party intrigues and faction fights."[205] Fortunately, Carnarvon's latest ideal solution was almost totally ignored across the Irish Sea. The pro-Home Rule Nation commented there was no point in discussing it, since "everyone knows who knows anything that a Crown Colony Government could never be established in Ireland".[206] The Tory statesman who had dreamed of confiding a national crisis to the wisdom of righteous men had finally resorted to arguing that Britain's two most insignificant colonies might provide the inspiration for re-shaping the constitution of the United Kingdom.

In summary, it may be argued that there are common elements to the ideal solutions that Carnarvon proposed to the various crises in which he became embroiled. They rarely contained much detail: his 1867 suggestion of a broad franchise in the cities coupled with a restrictive qualification in smaller towns was perhaps the most specific. He was hopelessly optimistic in his confidence that opposing points of view would discern and support Goldilocks solutions – some form of federation in South Africa, the righteous men of 1884, the cross-party parliamentary enquiry on Ireland that he suggested in 1885. His preferred solutions generally involved relatively small adjustments, but he took for granted that they would somehow satisfy those demanding fundamental change. Even Carnarvon had to admit – and within five years – that he had panicked over Disraeli's Reform Bill, yet he seemed incapable of foreseeing likely difficulties arising from his own policy positions, polarising issues in South Africa to the point of war, undermining the tough diplomatic stance needed to force Russia to back off in the Balkans. If this common theme of Goldilocks politics is accepted, the biographer needs to locate its driving force. Carnarvon's innate Tory belief in a stratified but harmonious society may go some way towards accounting both for his sense of entitlement to pronounce on the whole gamut of public issues and his belief that the body politic could be mended if only the right elixir was identified and applied. Although in resisting the disestablishment of the Irish Church, he showed himself capable of fighting for concessions, it is important to underline that his ideal solutions were not seen as compromises emerging from tough bargaining among politicians of opposing principles, but rather as pristine projects in their own right, such as his December 1885 mirage of a scheme of devolution for Ireland that would somehow occupy an imagined space between Unionism and Home Rule. The fact that Carnarvon went straight into the House of Lords without acquiring some preliminary experience in the Commons may partially explain his inability to grasp the politics of horse-trading. It may also be significant that his family had taken little part in public life throughout the two decades before Carnarvon took to politics: he entered public life with a background that was much more Pusey than Peel.

This essay has argued that it is difficult to construct an integrated picture of the fourth Earl of Carnarvon from his "end-product" appearances in the monographs of nineteenth-century history, and the glimpses of him in biographies of those contemporaries in whose lives he played some fleeting and often incomprehensible role. Carnarvon merits a major biographical study in his own right. The task will be a challenge. How can you assemble an integrated portrait of the politician who distrusted the transfer of a small share of political power to Britain's urban working class in 1867, but contemplated an apparently broad measure of devolution to nationalist Ireland in 1886? How could the colonial minister who so relentlessly advanced his perception of British supremacy in South Africa become the cabinet dissident who opposed Disraeli's defence of British strategic interests in the eastern Mediterranean? There is much that is puzzling about a public figure who ended his career seeking an answer for the Irish question in Western Australia, just as there is something poignant about an aristocrat who gave his last public service to the newly created Hampshire County Council. Carnarvon biography should commence by reconstructing his world view as a landowner, a devout Anglican¸ a Tory intellectual, his self-image as an autonomous power in the State and the oracle who could project, even if he could not always define, some moderate and all-embracing answer whenever his personal world faced fundamental challenge. In his own time, observers could not comprehend the man, and were frequently provoked into contemptuous dismissal. This essay closes with an attempt to redress that balance by quoting the tribute of a London journalist reporting his death in 1890. "He wanted to make all men as kind and fair to each other as he was kind and fair to all men."[207] It is a generous verdict on any life, albeit one that provokes many questions.

ENDNOTES Websites were consulted on various dates between March 2018 and February 2020. I am most grateful to Dr Andrew Jones for comments on various drafts of this essay. 

[1] At the age of 7, his parents took him on an extended visit to the eastern Mediterranean, where he witnessed the coronation of Sultan Abdulmejid. However exotic and quixotic the tour might seem, it was in fact utterly irresponsible. Shortly after his 8th birthday, Carnarvon (then Lord Porchester) succumbed to "the Asiatic plague" (probably cholera), which he later believed was triggered by sunstroke. He lay gravely ill for 5 weeks, and was further debilitated by medical treatment. "He was bled and leeched and blistered according to the barbarous custom of the times; twice his pulse sank so low that they thought he was dying". When he finally threw off the fever, his bones protruded from what was left of his body. Although as a teenager, he not only survived but enjoyed the meagre amenities of Eton, the poor health that he suffered in later life probably had its origins in this ordeal, e.g. he was seriously ill in 1872, and found the climate of Dublin difficult in 1885-6. A. Hardinge, The Life of Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert Fourth Earl of Carnarvon 1831-1890 (3 vols, Oxford 1925) [cited as Hardinge], i, 21-25, ii, 41-2. The childhood crisis may also explain why he never grew tall: he was "below the middle height, of slight stature". Poor health drove Carnarvon to winter in Madeira in 1880-1. Meeting him on his return, Lord Derby thought Carnarvon was "smaller to look at than before": balding, and having taken to wearing an eyeglass (monocle), "his appearance had in it something comic". "A trim, good-natured, rather bird-like little old gentleman" was the description of a journalist (probably W.T. Stead) who interviewed him around 1888: Carnarvon was in his late 50s at the time. Belfast News-Letter (London Correspondent); J. Vincent, ed., The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby (1826-1893) between 1878 and 1893: a Selection (Oxford, 2003), 322; Pall Mall Gazette, 30 June 1890.

[2] Canadian prime minister Sir John A. Macdonald, a guest there in 1879, called it "one of the swellest places in England." J.K. Johnson, ed., Affectionately Yours: The Letters of Sir John A. Macdonald and His Family (Toronto, 1969), 139 (20 August 1879). The family estates also included Pixton Park in Somerset. In 1871, the Countess of Carnarvon, his first wife, inherited Bretby in Derbyshire, for transmission to their eldest son. Carnarvon is not recorded as having owned any Irish property. (Nor, despite his earldom, did he own land in Wales.) He visited Queen Victoria at Balmoral, but apparently did not share the Victorian fascination with the Highlands: after enduring a "very dreary and desperate" Presbyterian service, he concluded that "this sort of thing" accounted for the "defects" of the Scots. In 1883, Carnarvon was reported to hold 35,583 acres of land, with an annual rental income of £37,211. This was reduced during the agricultural depression. Nonetheless, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography gives his wealth at death as over £328,000. J. Bateman, The Great Landowners of Great Britain and Ireland (4th ed., London, 1883), 79; P. Gordon, ed., The Political Diaries of the Fourth Earl of Carnarvon, 1857-1890: Colonial Secretary and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (Cambridge, 2009), 35-8, 265 (1875). [Full citation and identification below].

[3] The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography essay on "Herbert, Henry Howard Molyneux, fourth earl of Carnarvon, 1831-1890" (2007-8) is by Peter Gordon: See also B. Hourican, "Herbert, Henry Howard Molyneux (1831-1890), 4th earl of Carnarvon", Dictionary of Irish Biography, iv, 641-2, which understandably focuses upon 1885-6.

[4] Queen Victoria had urged Carnarvon's appointment as foreign secretary at the formation of Derby's ministry in 1866. G.E. Buckle, ed., The Letters of Queen Victoria: Second Series... (1862-1878) ( 2 vols, London, 1926) , i, 352-3.

[5] G.W. Martin, "Britain and the Future of British North America, 1837-1867" (PhD thesis, Cambridge, 1972), 207, 211-12, 312-25.

[6] C.F. Goodfellow, Great Britain and South African Confederation 1870-1881 (Cape Town, 1966), 49-167.

[7] The online version of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography essay on "Herbert, Henry Howard Molyneux, fourth earl of Carnarvon, 1831-1890" by Peter Gordon is dated 2008:

[8] P. Gordon, ed., The Political Diaries of the Fourth Earl of Carnarvon, 1857-1890: Colonial Secretary and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (Camden Fifth Series, volume 35: Cambridge University Press, for the Royal Historical Society, London, 2009). The Introduction is at 1-88. [Cited as Carnarvon Diaries.]

[9] As noted above: A. Hardinge, The Life of Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert Fourth Earl of Carnarvon 1831-1890 (3 vols, Oxford, 1925) [cited as Hardinge].

[10] C.W. de Kiewiet and F.H. Underhill, eds, Dufferin-Carnarvon Correspondence 1874-1878 (Toronto, 1955).

[11] In referring to the work of Dr Gordon, I should make clear that I have challenged a number of editorial interpretations and identifications in the Carnarvon Diaries, although it seemed inappropriate to make my criticisms widely known until 2019. There is much of interest in Dr Gordon's edition, but it should be used with caution: "Carnarvon Diaries: Camden Series, volume 35. Comments and Corrections": Dr Gordon's impressive career is outlined in an obituary in The Guardian, 25 June 2018:  

[12] Carnarvon Diaries, 102, 114.  Canada's finance minister, Alexander Galt, wrote: "I liked Lord Carnarvon very much[,] he is a young man but very intelligent and I think he will rise." Library and Archives Canada, Galt Fons, MG27, I, D8, Galt to Anne Galt (typescript copy), 8 October 1858.

[13] Hertfordshire Record Office, Lytton Papers, D/EK 01, Carnarvon to Lytton, private, 15 April 1859. The veteran Colonial Office clerk Arthur Blackwood patronisingly reported that "Carnarvon is the acme of discretion, and labours incessantly", D/EK 024, Blackwood to Lytton, n.d. Carnarvon conceded that it was "occasionally necessary" to refer questions to Derby. Carnarvon Diaries, 114.

[14] Earl of Lytton, The Life of Edward Bulwer First Lord Lytton (2 vols, London, 1913), ii, 281. We should allow here for slight changes in meaning of two of the adjectives over a century and a half. In calling Carnarvon "ambitious", it is unlikely that Lytton meant to imply that he sought self-advancement, but that he aimed to think in large terms. Similarly, "sensitive" meant responsive, not prickly. However, there was one episode when Lytton lost his temper "and spoke in terms which I did not think he had any right to use towards me". Carnarvon showed his resentment, and   the older man handsomely apologised. Carnarvon Diaries, 114.

[15] A. Hawkins and J. Powell, eds, The Journal of John Wodehouse, First Earl of Kimberley for 1862-1902 (London, 1997, Camden Fifth Series, vol. 9), 72.

[16] J. Vincent, ed., Disraeli, Derby and the Conservative Party: Journals and Memoirs of Edward Henry, Lord Stanley, 1849-1869 (Hassocks, Sussex, 1978), 206 (30 January 1864).

[17] The federation initiative launched by the incoming Canadian ministry in 1858 was not only unexpected, it challenged the vaguely defined boundaries between colonial autonomy and imperial supremacy. As an inexperienced minister in a weak minority government, and one that was facing an imperial crisis in India, Lytton was keen, as Carnarvon put it, "to evade rather than refuse the proposal". G. Martin, Britain and the Origins of Canadian Confederation, 1837-1867 ( Vancouver, 1995), 100-8, 216-26; Carnarvon Diaries, 104 (memorandum of 1 July 1859).

[18] "I have every regard for Adderley," Carnarvon complained to Derby, "... but his incurable inaccuracy & confusion of mind are such, that it is simply impossible ... to depend upon what he will say." UK National Archives, Carnarvon Papers, 30/6/139, Carnarvon to Derby (copy), private and confidential, 7 January 1867, 20-2.

[19] The paragraphs which follow are based upon Martin, "Britain and the Future of British North America, 1837-1867", 207, 211-12, 312-25.

[20] University of New Brunswick, Stanmore Papers, reel 4, S. Wilberforce to A.H. Gordon, 7 December 1864. (Wilberforce was the bishop of Oxford, Cardwell MP for the city.) P.B. Waite, "Edward Cardwell and Confederation", Canadian Historical Review, vol. 43, 1963, 17-41.

[21] The Confederation package included a promise that Britain would guarantee a loan for the construction of a railway from Halifax to the St Lawrence valley, thus binding the new union together. Gladstone's famous rectitude interposed, objecting to asking the House of Commons to underwrite such a major deal so late in the session. This meant that Carnarvon's timetable for an outline bill would only be made feasible by splitting off the financial arrangements for submission to parliament the following year. The delegates from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, who did not altogether trust their new compatriots, would have objected to this.

[22] The Liberals favoured the solution agreed in the British North America Act the following year: existing provincial franchises would apply in Dominion elections until the new central legislature adopted uniform provisions – which did not happen until 1885.

[23] The governor-general, Lord Monck, and the Canadian politicians correctly deduced that major legislation was hardly possible until the 1867 Westminster session. The threat of Fenian raids provided a plausible reason for keeping ministers at their posts. In addition, Canada's technical preparation for the new political system (which involved dividing their united province into what would become Ontario and Quebec) was delayed, not least because the ministry's key figure, John A. Macdonald, was drinking heavily.

[24] Ged Martin, Britain and the Origins of Canadian Confederation, 1837-1867, 267-8, 271-2, 278-89.

[25] It may be argued that Carnarvon was the reference point for Trollope's creation of a cabinet minister in his 1867-8 novel Phineas Finn: the Irish Member, "young Lord Cantrip from the colonies..., than whom no smarter young peer does honour to our hereditary legislature" (Book ii, ch. 4). A cantrip is a mischievous trick, and Trollope's use of puns also conveys the two distinct syllables, can-trip. Lord Cantrip is presented as a sensible and hard-working young aristocrat, but there may be a hidden message of disapproval towards his resignation from the cabinet a few months earlier. Carnarvon's youngest brother, Auberon Herbert, published a political novel in 1884, which may contain an allusion to his sibling. However, Lord Holmshill played a different role in politics, holding a courtesy title and sitting in the Commons as an advanced Whig. Herbert described him as "heir to large estates, but not much overwedded to the good things that had fallen to his share; looking with rather hopeless eyes on the present situation, and as much wanting in active desire to preserve the old order and avert changes, as in enthusiasm for the new things that were coming to their birth." A. Herbert, A Politician in Trouble about his Soul, (London, 1884), 2-3. This might be taken as generally resembling Carnarvon, but could apply to many other defensively-minded aristocrats. It might be assumed that Herbert would realise that any serious-minded young lord in his novel would be read as a sketch of his brother, especially given the hint of jealousy in the reference to his inheritance. Auberon Herbert was an enthusiast for minority causes, such as vegetarianism. His conversion to republicanism in 1872 was followed by a row between Carnarvon and the Prince of Wales at Sandringham. Carnarvon made clear that he did not agree with his brother but "Royalty or no Royalty, he allowed no criticisms upon him to be made to himself." The Prince half-apologised the next day: it is surprising that he was so sensitive to the views of an obvious maverick. Hardinge, i, 39-40. Derby called Auberon "a wild, half-mad, but rather clever personage". J. Vincent, ed,, The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby (1826-93) between September 1869 and March 1878 (London, 1994, Camden Fifth series, vol. 4), 460 (5 December 1877). A reconsideration of Carnarvon should examine his relations with his eccentric younger brother.

[26] M. Cowling, 1867, Disraeli, Gladstone and Revolution: the Passing of the Second Reform Bill (Cambridge, 1967), 155, 165, and see also R. Blake, Disraeli (London, 1969 ed.), 458-60; D. Steele, Lord Salisbury: a Political Biography (London, 1999), 48-52, P. Smith, ed., Lord Salisbury on Politics... (Cambridge, 1972), 254-5. It may be noted that the three resignations were seen as driven by Cranborne at the time. Stanley felt that Carnarvon resigned "with evident reluctance". Vincent, ed., Disraeli, Derby and the Conservative Party: Journals and Memoirs of Edward Henry, Lord Stanley, 1849-1869, 292 (2 March 1867). "Lord Cranborne sat up all one Sunday night, studying the figures, and frightened himself so dreadfully at the results he came to that he was obliged to resign. The other two did not waste wax candles and get headaches, but they resigned too." Punch, 16 March 1867, 104.

[27] Vincent, ed., Disraeli, Derby and the Conservative Party: Journals and Memoirs of Edward Henry, Lord Stanley, 1849-1869, 249 (23 April 1866).

[28] A. Roberts, Salisbury: Victorian Titan (London, 2000 ed.), 90-3; F.B. Smith, The Making of the Second Reform Bill (Melbourne, 1966), 155; Hardinge, i, 344-50. Carnarvon's resignation statement in the Lords preceded that by Cranborne in the Commons. He confined himself to general principles and concerns, since "it is impossible for me to justify the course I have taken, without reference to the measure itself", which had still not been revealed to parliament. House of Lords Debates, 4 March 1867, 1189-91. Parliamentary debates consulted via

[29] Hardinge, i, 354-9; Smith, The Making of the Second Reform Bill, 210; House of Lords Debates, 22 July 1867, 1784-1872, esp. 1865. Smith is incorrect in stating that Carnarvon seconded a vaguely-worded motion by the veteran Whig Earl Grey calling for unspecified amendments. Since the House of Lords possessed the right to propose amendments but most peers reluctantly acquiesced in the Bill, Grey's initiative was largely irrelevant, and Carnarvon urged him not to press it to a vote. The third minister to resign from the cabinet, Jonathan Peel, was, like Cranborne, a member of the House of Commons.

[30] It could not have helped his political standing that he was regarded as having inadvertently leaked details of cabinet plans for Reform in discussions "with various people outside". This sounds similar to the wide consultations that he carried out in Ireland in 1885-6, which fostered the belief that he favoured sweeping reforms. Vincent, ed., Disraeli, Derby and the Conservative Party: Journals and Memoirs of Edward Henry, Lord Stanley, 1849-1869, 291 (25 February 1867).

[31] Carnarvon Diaries, 208. Paul Smith's statement that Carnarvon and Salisbury overcame their reservations and joined Disraeli's cabinet in 1874 "in order to put Tory handcuffs on the prime minister" should be read in the light of this statement. Smith, ed., Lord Salisbury on Politics, 93.

[32] R. Herbert, ed., Speeches on Canadian Affairs By Henry Howard Molyneux, Fourth Earl of Carnarvon (London, 1902), ix-x. Holding office in 1858 also gave Carnarvon a claim to have been a godparent to the new colony of British Columbia, although his description of the territory in the House of Lords as "but a short time since tenanted only by wild beasts, and still wilder savages" does not read happily today. Ibid., 36.

[33] Library and Archives Canada, Fonds Macdonald, vol. 221, Gowan to Macdonald, 15 May 1871.

[34] "Pure 'square' Conservatism is played out," Cranborne wrote to him in 1868. R. Taylor, Lord Salisbury (London, 1975), 29.

[35] Carnarvon Diaries, 197 has him bemoaning on 1 May 1871 as "a horrible phaeton" the prospect of the collapse of the Gladstone ministry. Hardinge, ii, 40 quotes the same passage as "a horrible phantom".

[36] Lytton, The Life of Edward Bulwer First Lord Lytton, ii. 281. Carnarvon was aware that he lacked an effective speaking voice. Introducing the Canadian Confederation legislation into the House of Lords, he blamed "a slight cold" for the fact that he was "imperfectly heard" and hence not accurately reported. The acoustics of the Lords chamber were a permanent challenge to Carnarvon. "In addition to his nervousness... his voice was weak," noted the Morning Post (30 June 1890), a newspaper that was deferential to the aristocracy. UK National Archives, Carnarvon Papers, 30/6/137, Carnarvon to Archbishop Connolly (copy), private, 20 February 1867; Hardinge, iii, 318-19; Carnarvon Diaries, 78-81. There are indications that he worked closely with journalists to ensure full reporting of his speeches. The Pall Mall Gazette (30 June 1890) marked his death by revealing the contents of several private interviews Carnarvon had granted to its "special correspondent" (probably the editor, W.T. Stead himself). Disraeli believed that Carnarvon "lived mainly in a coterie of Editors of Liberal newspapers who praised him and drank his claret". A. Ponsonby, Henry Ponsonby: Queen Victoria's Private Secretary (London, 1943), 330 (letter from Disraeli's private secretary, 13 May 1878).

[37] E.J. Feuchtwanger, Disraeli, Democracy and the Conservative Party: Conservative Leadership and Organization after the Second Reform Bill (Oxford, 1968), 43. The enthusiasm expressed by Disraeli for the House of Lords in his 1872 Manchester speech was a factor in Carnarvon's support. "He praised your Manchester speech warmly," Northcote reported to Disraeli, "and said he did not recall an expression with which he did not agree." Ibid., 43 (23 September 1872).

[38] Hardinge, ii, 58-63.

[39] Carnarvon Diaries, 211 (21 February 1874).

[40] In January 1859, as under-secretary at the Colonial Office, Carnarvon had criticised the policy of South African federation in a detailed and thoughtful memorandum, for instance suggesting that bringing together the disparate settler territories in a structured relationship would create a context for internal quarrels. He warned particularly that control of "Native" [African] affairs would have to be entrusted to a South African federal government, and doubted that "the Dutch [Afrikaner / Boer] States" would conform to British 19th-century liberal standards. Most of the problems that Carnarvon identified in 1859 remained obstacles when he committed himself to the policy 16 years later. K.N. Bell and W.P. Morrell, eds., Select Documents on British Colonial Policy 1830-1860 (Oxford, 1928), 191-4 (7 January 1859).

[41] Vincent, ed,, The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby (1826-93) between September 1869 and March 1878, 207 (13 April 1875). "I am afraid Carnarvon is trying to manage with too high a hand", Derby noted in February 1875. Ibid., 194-5 (10 February 1875). Speaking about imperial federation in Melbourne in 1887, Carnarvon made a strangely similar point. "It must be founded, first of all, upon sentiment and loyalty; and, secondly, it must be equally founded upon a sense of mutual advantages and common interests. ... I venture to say that no scheme of federation, were it propounded by an archangel himself, if it failed in these two conditions, could ever succeed." Australasian, 12 November 1887.

[42] de Kiewiet and Underhill, eds, Dufferin-Carnarvon Correspondence 1874-1878, 323 (13 December 1876).

[43] Sir Garnet Wolseley, a harsh observer, wrote in 1879: "the man who writes history, even although he should write it with all the classical elegance of a Froude is not necessarily a good man to make history. To make history & to write and record its events are two very different talents". A. Preston, ed., The South African Journal of Sir Garnet Wolseley 1879-1880 (Cape Town, 1973), 234.

[44] Carnarvon Diaries, 291 (7 May 1877).

[45] C.F. Goodfellow, Great Britain and South African Confederation 1870-1881 (Cape Town, 1966), 49-167. Goodfellow's comprehensive study is acknowledged in the Introduction to the Carnarvon Diaries, 23n, but is not referenced in the text.

[46] Carnarvon Diaries, 269; Hardinge, ii, 94.

[47] Carnarvon Diaries, 283-5; Hardinge, ii, 344-5. It is of interest that Carnarvon, a restless traveller on a global scale, never visited India.

[48] Lord G. Hamilton, Parliamentary Reminiscences and Reflections, 1886-1906 (London, 1922), 10.

[49] Marquis of Zetland, ed., The Letters of Disraeli to Lady Bradford and Lady Chesterfield (2 vols, London, 1929), i, 313 (29 December 1875), 161.

[50] The couple had married in 1861. There are indications that she was politically ambitious for her husband: Vincent, ed., Disraeli, Derby and the Conservative Party: Journals and Memoirs of Edward Henry, Lord Stanley, 1849-1869, 335; Hardinge, i, 183-4.

[51] Roberts, Salisbury: Victorian Titan, 180.

[52] Vincent, ed., The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby (1826-93) between September 1869 and March 1878, 252 (14 November 1875).

[53] de Kiewiet and F.H. Underhill, eds, Dufferin-Carnarvon Correspondence 1874-1878, 378 (1 November 1878).

[54] G.E. Buckle, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli..., vi, 1876-1881 (London, 1920), 215 (7 January 1878). Derby also acknowledged that Carnarvon was "a good administrator". Vincent, ed., The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby (1826-93) between September 1869 and March 1878, 479 (4 January 1878). For his part, and despite the bitterness of their breach, Carnarvon acknowledged the prime minister's "fair and steady" support, adding that Disraeli had proved "courageous when it was desirable to take a decided course". Hardinge, ii, 377.

[55] Gladstone reciprocated: "I look upon Carnarvon as decidedly the most trustworthy man ... in the Cabinet." Gladstone to Granville, 5 January 1878, A. Ramm, ed., The Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville, 1876-1886 (2 vols, Oxford, 1962), ii, 67.

[56] Marquis of Zetland, ed., The Letters of Disraeli to Lady Bradford and Lady Chesterfield (2 vols, London, 1929), i, 313 (29 December 1875), 161 (18 October 1874).

[57] Vincent, ed., The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby (1826-93) between September 1869 and March 1878, 479 (4 January 1878).

[58] The story later appeared in an Australian newspaper. "The merchants stuck so closely to their proper business that his lordship was near missing his chance ; but, one of them having imprudently referred to the Cape route to India, Lord Carnarvon was alive in a moment. India was in the East, and our possession of India was what gave us an interest in the Eastern question; and from that slender beginning he evolved an 'anti-Jingo' discourse of prodigious length and thoroughness, which amounted to nothing less than a denunciation of the policy on which his colleagues were bent ; and then he sent it to all of the papers to be inserted verbatim." Hobart Mercury, 18 October 1887.

[59] Ramm, ed., The Political Correspondence of Mr. Gladstone and Lord Granville 1876-1886, i, 65. In a useful compilation of comment in newspapers and reviews, G.C. Thompson, Public Opinion and Lord Beaconsfield, 1875-1880 (2 vols, London, 1886), ii, 294-300 quoted editorial writers who assumed that Carnarvon spoke for the government.

[60] Lord E. Fitzmaurice, The Life of Granville George Leveson Gower Second Earl of Granville... (2 vols, London, 1905), ii, 296.

[61] A.J. [Earl] Balfour (ed. B.E.C. Dugdale), Chapters of Autobiography (London, 1930), quoting memorandum of 8 May 1880, 115.

[62] Zetland, ed., The Letters of Disraeli to Lady Bradford and Lady Chesterfield, i, 161, 313; Robert Blake, Disraeli, 668. In 1880, Derby called Carnarvon "clever & laborious: but rather flighty". Vincent, ed., The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby (1826-1893) between 1878 and 1893: a Selection, 235.

[63] Hardinge, iii, 44-5 (18 September 1878).                                                                                                  

[64] Zetland, ed., The Letters of Disraeli to Lady Bradford and Lady Chesterfield, i, 161 (18 October 1874). Carnarvon considered renaming the Fiji archipelago the Windsor Islands.

[65] Zetland, ed., The Letters of Disraeli to Lady Bradford and Lady Chesterfield, i, 189 (27 September 1878), and see also Buckle, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli..., vi, 1876-1881, 420. Brian L. Blakeley, The Colonial Office 1868-1892 (Durham, NC, 1972), 71 suggests that Disraeli was jealous of Carnarvon, and suspected him of manipulating journalists to secure favourable reporting. There seems to be no evidence of jealousy in the Carnarvon Diaries.

[66] P. Lewsen, ed., Selections from the Correspondence of J.X. Merriman 1870-1890 (Cape Town, 1960), 66 (3 February 1879). No doubt Merriman would have been even less impressed had he known that Carnarvon was by then engaged in a characteristic geopolitical rebound, suggesting to Derby that Britain should withdraw to the Cape peninsula, retaining its strategic naval base, while abandoning the interior of South Africa altogether. Derby noted Carnarvon's argument that, if the Transvaal were to be abandoned, "the best thing we could do would be to give up South Africa, retaining only the harbour of Cape Town & territory enough round it to make it safe. I could not quite follow his reasoning, but it seemed to be this – that all the Boer population would go together, that they are a majority of the whites even in the Cape colony, & that they must either be all dependent or all free." Vincent, ed., The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby (1826-1893) between 1878 and 1893: a Selection, 112 (26 March 1879). In fairness to Carnarvon, he had identified as early as June 1877 the possibility that "we may perhaps have to keep only that minimum of S. Africa which is necessary to us on Imperial grounds." Goodfellow, Great Britain and South African Confederation 1870-1881, 134.

[67] Vincent, ed., The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby (1826-1893) between 1878 and 1893: a Selection, 520 (13 March 1883).

[68] Ramm, ed., The Political Correspondence of Mr. Gladstone and Lord Granville 1876-1886, ii, 274 (7 May 1881);   A. Roberts, Salisbury: Victorian Titan, 830.

[69] Carnarvon Diaries, 39, 317-19 (also Hardinge, iii, 44). In May 1878, Gladstone recorded a "remarkable" confidential discussion with Carnarvon, who warned him of the increasing pretensions of the Queen to interfere in political matters – an "outrage" and "corruption" which both attributed to Disraeli's unscrupulous flattery. Gladstone was still officially an independent MP, not a Liberal leader, but Carnarvon seems to have been signalling a willingness to work with him. H.C.G. Matthew, ed., The Gladstone Diaries ... Volume IX, January 1875 – December 1880 (Oxford, 1986), 316-17 (The meeting took place on 25 May 1878).

[70] D.W.R. Bahlman, ed., The Diary of Sir Edward Walter Hamilton (2 vols, Oxford, 1972), ii, 1 (3 January 1883). The Introduction to the Carnarvon Diaries, 40, quotes from what appears to be an identical entry by the same diarist, E.W. Hamilton, but gives the date as 3 February 1889.

[71] So Dublin Castle official George Fottrell found on meeting them in London at the time of the formation of the Salisbury ministry in June 1885. S. Ball, ed., Dublin Castle and the First Home Rule Crisis: the Political Journal of Sir George Fottrell, 1884-1887 (Cambridge, 2008), 118.

[72] He was attending what were in effect shadow cabinet meetings by June 1881. Carnarvon Diaries, 381.

[73] Vincent, ed., The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby (1826-1893) between 1878 and 1893: a Selection, 235 (20 May 1880).

[74] A. Jones, The Politics of Reform 1884 (Cambridge, 1972), 74, 154-5, 165-6, 178-9, 187-8.

[75] Carnarvon Diaries, 352-3; Hardinge, iii, 102-7. No doubt on the strength of his title, Carnarvon served in the honorary role of Constable of Carnarvon Castle, and supported restoration work there, although he was not a Welsh landlord.

[76] Carnarvon was speaking at a banquet in Shoreditch Town Hall in honour of W.H. Smith. His speech was widely reported, e.g. Glasgow Herald, 22 October 1884.

[77] H.C.G. Matthew, ed., The Gladstone Diaries ..., volume XI: July 1883-December 1886 (Oxford, 1990), 229 (24 October 1884).

[78] Bahlman, ed., The Diary of Sir Edward Walter Hamilton, ii, 716 (24 October 1884). Hamilton used "irresponsible" in its strict meaning, not answerable to anybody, and should not be taken as implying that Carnarvon's wise men were expected to act recklessly.

[79] W.S. Childe-Pemberton, Life of Lord Norton (Right Hon. Sir Charles Adderley) 1814-1905, Statesman & Philanthropist ( London, 1909), 260 (27 October 1884).

[80] Hardinge, iii, 109-11, quoting his letter to Salisbury, 26 October 1884.

[81] Jones, The Politics of Reform 1884, 178-9.

[82] Smith, ed., Lord Salisbury on Politics, 352, quoting Quarterly Review, October 1883. The form "negociation" was widely used the 19th century, possibly to hint that the process had French origins.

[83] Carnarvon Diaries, 50. A. O'Day, Irish Home Rule, 1867-1921( Manchester, 1998), 92-121 is a good general account of the events of 1884-6. Carnarvon would repackage his interpretation of "Crown Colony" government in 1888.   

[84] R. Barry O'Brien, The Life of Charles Stewart Parnell 1846-1891 (2 vols, London, 1898), ii, 52.

[85] D. Steele, Lord Salisbury: A Political Biography (London, 1999), 170-1; Roberts, Salisbury: Victorian Titan, 330-3.

[86] The venue was the West End residence of Carnarvon's recently deceased mother-in-law, the Countess of Chesterfield. The advantage of meeting in a so-called "empty house" was that there were no servants to leak the news of the encounter. Lady Chesterfield was the sister of the Countess of Bradford, recipient of many of Disraeli's more pungent comments on "Twitters". It was a small world.

[87] Hardinge, iii, 178-81 (1 August 1885); F.S.L. Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell (London, 1978 ed.), 285-7.

[88] S. Lee, "Herbert, Henry Howard Molyneux", Dictionary of National Biography, xxvi, 195-201.

[89] A.B. Cooke and J. Vincent, The Governing Passion ... 1885-1886 (Brighton, 1974), 286-7 (quoting Northcote, 6 October 1885).

[90] Hardinge, iii, 256-61 (7 / 11 December 1885).

[91] G.E. Buckle, ed, The Letters of Queen Victoria, second series ... 1862-1885, iii (London, 1928), 717 (23 December 1885).

[92] Dictionary of National Biography, xxxvi (1891), 199; Carnarvon Diaries, 429 (10 June 1886).

[93] Roberts, Salisbury: Victorian Titan, 394.

[94] House of Lords Debates, 10 June 1886, 1256-60.

[95] J. McCarthy, Ireland since the Union ... (London, 1887), 345.

[96] House of Lords Debates, 3 May 1888, 1175-80. The Times (11 May 1888) was unimpressed by Carnarvon's enthusiasm for seeking opinions from across Irish society: "his tentative groping about for a policy of his own, not confined to private studies, but extended to conversational interviews with all sorts of people, was likely to produce misleading impressions". But, as would soon appear, in committing itself to the Pigott forgeries, The Times had blundered in its own sources of information for Irish affairs.

[97] For a sympathetic discussion of Carnarvon's intentions, N. Mansergh, The Irish Question 1840-1921 (rev .ed., London, 1965), 125-6.

[98] House of Lords Debates, vol. 325, cols 1179-80.

[99] K.T. Hoppen, The Mid-Victorian Generation 1846-1886 (Oxford, 1998), 676. Another historian has called Carnarvon's meeting with Parnell "noble but naive". R. Shannon, Gladstone: Heroic Minister 1865-1898 (London, 2000 ed.), 393.

[100] Roberts, Salisbury: Victorian Titan, 350.

[101] Shannon, Gladstone: Heroic Minister 1865-1898, 393.

[102] Cooke and Vincent, The Governing Passion, 282.

[103] Hardinge, iii, 274.

[104] Carnarvon delivered a public lecture on Australia at Newbury, close to Highclere, on 30 October 1888. He praised the success of the Australian colonies in dealing with pauperism, and referred to their secular and compulsory school systems. The lecture hardly amounted to a personal reform manifesto, not least because Carnarvon was committed to a Church role in education. The Times, 31 October 1888.

[105] House of Lords Debates, 3 May 1888, cols 1176.

[106] His son, the 5th Earl, funded the excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamun, for which he is defended in Hardinge, i, 164n.

[107] Carnarvon Diaries, xv.

[108] The Times, 30 June 1890. "... though he spoke well and always with sincerity, his over-sensitiveness made him rather an element of weakness than of strength to his allies." Editorially, the Glasgow Herald contrasted the "over-confidence" of Lord Randolph Churchill with Carnarvon's "over-conscientiousness". Its London correspondent more bluntly said "his statesmanship was limp and uncertain". Glasgow Herald, 30 June 1890.

[109] Dictionary of National Biography, xxvi, 195-201. The Times obituary deftly undercut even Carnarvon's claim to have carried through Canadian Confederation: he had resigned over parliamentary reform "before his Bill had gone very far on its way".

[110] O'Brien, The Life of Charles Stewart Parnell 1846-1891, ii, 58-95. This reflected an enduring impression of Carnarvon's honesty: Gladstone's biographer John Morley described Carnarvon at this time as "a man of known purity and sincerity of character": J. Morley, The Life of William Ewart Gladstone (3 vols, London, 1903), iii, 212.

[111] Carnarvon Diaries, xv. Dr Gordon published Carnarvon's memoranda on Ireland in 1885-6 in "Select Document: Lord Carnarvon’s memoirs relating to his lord lieutenancy, c. 29 March to 7 April 1886", Irish Historical Studies, vol. 40, 2016, 247-276.

[112] Hardinge, i, v. T.W.S. Escott mentioned that a privately printed edition of Carnarvon's writings, apparently on imperial subjects, had been circulated among his friends in 1897. This was perhaps Earl of Carnarvon (ed. R. Herbert), Essays, Addresses and Translations... (London, 1896), listed in the British Library catalogue. I have not been able to consult a copy. T.W.S. Escott, Social Transformations of the Victorian Age: a Survey of Court and Country (New York, 1897), 438.

[113] Robert Herbert, ed., Speeches on Canadian Affairs by Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert, Fourth Earl of Carnarvon (London, 1902). A contemporary and occasional confidant, Robert Herbert emigrated to Australia after a brilliant career at Oxford, and served as first premier of Queensland from 1859 to 1866. In 1871, he became permanent under-secretary (i.e. senior civil servant) at the Colonial Office. Herbert is an interesting case study in priorities of commemoration: his memorial window in the parish church at Ickleton in Cambridgeshire does not mention his role in Queensland. In recent years, academics have speculated about his relationship with John Bramston, an Oxford friend who accompanied him to Australia. Their shared property gives its name to a Brisbane inner suburb, but we should perhaps not read too much into its portmanteau name, Herston. Luke Trainor, "Herbert, Sir Robert George Wyndham (1831–1905)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography ( supplements B. A. Knox, "Herbert, Sir Robert George Wyndham (1831–1905)", Australian Dictionary of Biography (

[114] Herbert, ed., Speeches, ix, xiii-xiv.

[115] The Times, 29 December 1933; Carnarvon Diaries, xvi.

[116] Hardinge, i, vi; The Times, 29 December 1933. On one occasion, Hardinge had used a train journey from Vlissingen (Flushing) in the Netherlands to teach himself enough Danish to survive on his arrival in Copenhagen. For a brief period in 1885, he had acted as an assistant private secretary to Salisbury, who combined the office of foreign secretary with the premiership. Hardinge's job including acknowledging letters from eccentric correspondents, and he was soon glad to accept an appointment to the Embassy at St Petersburg. During Hardinge's short stay in London, Carnarvon was mostly in Dublin. A. Hardinge, A Diplomatist in Europe (London, 1927), 78-88.

[117] The British Fascists aimed "to fight Socialism by propaganda", Aberdeen Press and Journal, 29 December 1924. Their President, General R.D.B. Blakeney, denied that they planned "to go cavorting about with a cudgel in one hand and a bottle of castor oil in the other, and attired in a black shirt." Gloucester Citizen, 20 January 1925. Sir Arthur Hardinge's membership of the Grand Council was mentioned by the Hobart Mercury, 22 August 1925 (consulted via the National Library of Australia Trove site), presumably copied from an unknown British newspaper. For an organisation devoted to propaganda, the British Fascists managed to leave few traces, and apparently disappeared altogether after 1927. Hardinge's flirtation with fascism perhaps explains why he was not recorded in the 1933-40 volume of the Dictionary of National Biography. There is a useful brief account in G. H. Mungeam , "Hardinge, Sir Arthur Henry (1859–1933)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography ( He was nicknamed "Hoppy" at Eton.

[118] The Times, 22 February 1927. In his memoirs, Hardinge attributed Gladstone's resignation in 1885 to a defeat on a House of Commons vote on the supply of cordite, a confusion with the defeat of Rosebery's ministry ten years later.

[119] Carnarvon Diaries, xvi (14 March 1921).

[120] Hardinge, i, vi-vii. Lady Carnarvon's somewhat cavalier reference to him as "Mr V.C. Baddeley" – in fact, he had two surnames and five forenames – may suggest that his services were not entirely appreciated. He graduated from Cambridge with First Class Honours in History in 1922, in the same cohort as career historians Herbert Butterfield and Alfred Cobban. A "prominent member" of the University's Amateur Dramatic Club, Clinton-Baddeley became an actor and novelist. The Times, 4 May, 19 June 1922. Lady Carnarvon also described a Miss Audrey Kingsford as "a willing and able helper". I am grateful to Gail Wood for attempting to trace Miss Kingsford in the 1911 census. It is very likely that she provided secretarial support.

[121] I repeat the full citation: Sir Arthur Hardinge (ed. Elisabeth Countess of Carnarvon), The Life of Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert Fourth Earl of Carnarvon 1831-1890 (3 vols, Oxford 1925); The Times, 29 December 1933. The review in The Times, 2 October 1925, was little more than an extended book note, outlining Carnarvon's career and pointedly ignoring the presentation.

[122] I repeat the full citation: C.W. de Kiewiet and F.H. Underhill, eds, Dufferin-Carnarvon Correspondence 1874-1878 (The Champlain Society, Toronto, 1955). Although Carnarvon aimed to create a Canadian-style federal structure in South Africa, he did not discuss his plans with Dufferin. Like the Camden Series, the volumes of the Champlain Society stand for a high level of scholarly accuracy.

[123] For the Introduction, Carnarvon Diaries, 1-88. Dr Gordon's edition of the Carnarvon Diaries contains just one footnote reference to the Champlain Society volume, in the Introduction, and this useful source is not cited to illuminate diary entries for 1874-8: Carnarvon Diaries, 85n (one editor's name is given incorrectly, and there is a minor omission in transcription). The Carnarvon Diaries makes no reference to D.M.L. Farr, The Colonial Office and Canada, 1867-1887 (Toronto, 1955), a detailed discussion of British-Canadian relations in that period. Although Canada was no longer his chief priority, Carnarvon was kept busy by Canadian issues, ranging from the dispute between Ottawa and the province of British Columbia, in which he attempted to arbitrate (see, e.g. de Kiewiet and F.H. Underhill, eds, Dufferin-Carnarvon Correspondence 1874-1878, 47-8) to the minor problem of finding a suitable British Army officer to command Canada's defence forces (a task that he might perhaps have delegated).

[124] Hardinge, iii, 309-10, 313.

[125] Hardinge, iii, 12-13, 323; Carnarvon Diaries, 21. The guests at a Highclere house party in 1863 included in-laws, miscellaneous aristocrats, an artist and the editor of The Times. Perhaps the most unlikely visitor was Paul Kruger, who came to lunch one day in 1878 as part of a delegation protesting against the annexation of the Transvaal. Evidently resolutely determined not to be overawed, Kruger was nonetheless impressed by Carnarvon's stables: Boers valued horses. Hawkins and Powell, eds, The Journal of John Wodehouse, First Earl of Kimberley for 1862-1902, 98; Hardinge, ii, 271. Carnarvon was not the only aristocrat to open his home to colonial visitors: Lytton invited the Canadian delegates to Knebworth in 1858, the Duke of Newcastle entertained Joseph Howe of Nova Scotia at Clumber in 1862, and Palmerston invited Canada's George Brown to Broadlands in December 1864, famously (and jocularly) insisting that they should take a walk together in the snow. The care which Carnarvon took in assembling appropriate guests may be seen in his November 1858 invitation to Hugh Childers, recently returned from a colonial stint in Australia, to meet delegates from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and "to allow me the opportunity of showing you as much of our part of Hampshire as a single Sunday will admit of". S. Childers, The Life and Correspondence of Hugh C.E. Childers 1827-1896 (2 vols, London, 1901), i, 88n.

[126] Additional interest might be created by the fact that, since 2010, Highclere Castle has been used as the setting for the British television historical drama, Downton Abbey.

[127] Hardinge, iii, 333.

[128] Hardinge, ii, 44-6. In 1881, he visited Lourdes, Hardinge, ii, 75-6. Carnarvon's close interest in the Franco-Prussian War was sharpened by the fact that his brother Alan was a surgeon at a Paris hospital, and insisted on staying at his post throughout the siege. Carnarvon referred to him by the family nickname, Pal; his salutation to his elder brother was "Dear Carnarvon".   Lady Burghclere [ed.], Alan Herbert 1836-1907: Letters and Memories (privately printed, London, 1907).

[129] e.g. Hardinge, i, 148-9, 158-62, iii, 235-7.

[130] Hardinge, ii, 46-51. Carnarvon's idea of a good holiday included visiting convict establishments at Ceuta and Gibraltar. One of the contributory reasons for the downfall of the Spanish republic of 1873-4 was its attempt to create a federal State. This does not seem to have influenced Carnarvon's thinking on South Africa.

[131] Carnarvon Diaries, xvii.

[132] Carnarvon's entries dated 1 March 1858 and 1 July 1859 are both in fact extended memoranda, probably begun on those dates, but continued at some length over the months that followed. Carnarvon Diaries, 97-115. In 1858, the Colonial Office was startled when the governor-general of Canada, Sir Edmund Head, seemed to endorse his ministers' wish to launch an intercolonial discussion of British North American union. As this was "a subject of imperial interest & importance", Carnarvon clarified his own thoughts on Head's conduct in a memorandum. UK National Archives, Carnarvon Papers, 30/6/132, 21-22 (22 September 1858). One-off documents of this kind may not be easy to integrate into published diary extracts.

[133] Of course, this is not meant to imply that Carnarvon's biographer should act as his partisan defender, although there may well be episodes where explanation of his motives may constitute some form of defence.

[134] M. Cowling, 1867: Disraeli, Gladstone and Revolution. The Passing of the Second Reform Bill (Cambridge, 1967), 21.

[135] Recollections of the Druses of the Lebanon ... (2nd ed., London, 1860). Carnarvon used the spelling "Yezidi" for the people now known as Yazidi. He condemned Turkish control as 400 years "of misrule and abused dominion", but predicted that it was "fast passing into darkness" (106-7).

[136] Hardinge, i, 43 (1 March 1852). Perhaps he heeded his mother's plea: one historian defined Carnarvon's Toryism as "a curious blend of romanticism and tough-mindedness". F.B. Smith, The Making of the Second Reform Bill, 70. His Highclere tenants were in no doubt of her influence over his education. One cottager enjoyed his speeches as lord lieutenant in 1885-6, adding that it was "a good thing that my Lord's Lady Mother gave him a good larning [sic] so that he could answer these wild Irishes." Hardinge, iii, 327.  

[137] The 15th Earl of Derby commented of a speech in 1870 that Carnarvon made "the mistake of putting too large a superstructure on a very small foundation". Vincent, ed., The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby (1826-93) between September 1869 and March 1878, 49.

[138] Cowling's description of Carnarvon in 1867 as "an earnest, doctrinaire, illiberal young man" captures him well. Cowling, 1867: Disraeli, Gladstone and Revolution, 155.

[139] This is an appropriate place to note one achievement that is to Carnarvon's enduring credit, the decision in 1874 to abolish slavery in the Gold Coast [modern Ghana], referred to in Carnarvon Diaries, 236; Hardinge, ii, 145-9. It is true that Carnarvon responded both to pressure from the House of Commons and to a determined plea from the governor, George Strahan - but the fact remains that he did respond. W.D. McIntyre, The Imperial Frontier in the Tropics, 1865-75 (London, 1967), 282-4. C.C. Eldridge, England's Mission: The Imperial Idea in the Age of Gladstone and Disraeli 1868-1880 (London, 1973), 159 gives Carnarvon little credit.

[140] Hoppen, The Mid-Victorian Generation, 613, for an example of the "High Churchman" label. Hardinge, i, 362-79, gives some insight into his religious beliefs. Carnarvon served on the Ritual Commission in 1869-70, seeking compromise solutions on specific ceremonial practices. Reviewing his political position in 1879, he identified "Church questions" as an obstacle to the otherwise logical step of joining the Liberals. Carnarvon Diaries, 13-14, 319. Carnarvon's aunt married Dr Pusey's brother. Carnarvon contributed a sketch of Henry Mansel to J.B. Lightfoot's edition of Mansel's study of the Gnostic heresies. The 15th Earl of Derby, who resigned alongside Carnarvon in protest against Disraeli's pro-Turkish policies in 1878, nevertheless distrusted the influence of religion upon his colleague's attitudes. Derby believed that Carnarvon favoured closer relations with the Greek Orthodox Church, sympathised with those who saw a Russian attack on Turkey as a "crusade", and even attributed to him a demand that Christian services should be held in Hagia Sophia, the former Constantinople cathedral, a mosque for 400 years. Some of this may have been exaggeration, but it suggests that Carnarvon's religious beliefs cannot be isolated from his wider political views. J. Vincent, ed., The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby (1826-93) between September 1869 and March 1878, 345, 391, 446. Robert Gray, Bishop of Cape Town, had encountered Carnarvon in 1858-9, and welcomed his return to the Colonial Office in 1866: "Lord Carnarvon will be all right on Church questions." C. Gray, Life of Robert Gray Bishop of Cape Town ... (2 vols, London, 1876), ii, 286 (11 August 1866).

[141] The Athanasian Creed had too much to say about damnation for Victorian politeness. Archbishop Tait's wish to end its compulsory (although often neglected) use would have required legislation. Carnarvon found the outcome of the meeting "very loose and vague", but thought there was a consensus "not to the effect that we were willing to co-operate, but that we would not resist." This could have constituted a summary of his Conservative views generally. Hardinge, ii, 43. I have been unable to consult his (anonymous) 1873 work, Shadows of the Sickroom.

[142] Vincent, ed., The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby (1826-1893) between 1878 and 1893: a Selection, 443 (4 July 1882). Carnarvon's assault on the measure was an overheated attack on atheism in general, and Bradlaugh in particular. Allowing the alternative choice of attestation was "giving the privilege to those to whom it was least desirable to give it.... The Bill touched the whole foundations of civil government....when once a country became godless, its legislation could not be wise; and when once the fear of God ceased to be, the fear of man would not be of very long existence. ... whenever this nation should throw aside the God-fearing, God-recognizing character which it had hitherto held, from that time he could augur but evil for the future." House of Lords Debates, 4 July 1882, 1370-4.

[143] The clergyman was the Archdeacon of London, William Sinclair. The Times, 30 June 1890. For his anti-Darwinian views, Carnarvon Diaries, 13.

[144] Hardinge, i, 223.

[145] Hardinge, i, 222-8.

[146] Reminiscences by Sir Herbert Jekyll, Hardinge, iii, 331.

[147] Hardinge, iii, 57. The Glasgow Herald (30 June 1890) loftily remarked that "his translations from the Greek are more than passably done". Gladstone had "misgivings" about Carnarvon's English edition of Homer's Odyssey. Matthew, ed., The Gladstone Diaries ... Volume XI, 625-6.

[148] Hardinge, i, 48-51, 162-7.

[149] de Kiewiet and F.H. Underhill, eds, Dufferin-Carnarvon Correspondence 1874-1878, 167.

[150] The photograph of Carnarvon with his youngest son (Hardinge, iii, facing 47; Carnarvon Diaries, 395) is too intimate to have been staged. On one occasion, he placed a tinned sardine in a garden pond for the boy to catch when fishing: a small incident, but humanising. Hardinge, iii, 325. Goodfellow, Great Britain and South African Confederation 1870-1881, 61 suggests the impact of Carnarvon's bereavement on his power of decision-making.

[151] Carnarvon Diaries, 290 (7 April 1877).

[152] de Kiewiet and F.H. Underhill, eds, Dufferin-Carnarvon Correspondence 1874-1878, 49 (25 June 1874).

[153] Carnarvon Diaries, xvi-xvii.

[154] Hardinge, iii, 370-1.

[155] House of Lords Debates, 21 March 1889, 340. Carnarvon was consistent in his support for House of Lords reform, for instance seeking to give peers power to exclude any title-holder convicted of a crime. This proved too great a restriction upon the hereditary principle for their Lordships to accept: Hardinge, iii, 295-7; House of Lords Debates, 21 March 1889, 333-40.

[156] Hardinge, iii, 47 (5 April 1880).

[157] Blake, Disraeli, 195.

[158] D. Southgate, The Passing of the Whigs, 1832-1886 (London, 1962), 79. "Socially and intellectually," Carnarvon noted in 1879, he felt "many bonds of union" with the Whigs. "With them I have always had many friendly relations. Except in Church questions I probably agree with the Whigs as much as I do with any party". Carnarvon Diaries, 318-19 (29 December 1879); savagely edited in Hardinge, iii, 43.

[159] House of Commons Debates, 4 July 1831, 711. Specifically, he added that "if a man wished to draw a bill – removing some anomalies to create others, and to sow the seeds of perpetual change - he could not better have succeeded than by drawing this Bill." Ibid., 714. His son would echo this criticism in 1867. Porchester was following the lead of his father, another veteran Whig, who was also a diehard opponent of the Bill. In the final crisis of May 1832, Lord Holland noted that the second Earl of Carnarvon attacked the prime minister, Earl Grey, "with a virulence of language, extravagance of gesture, and fury of sentiment such as I have never witnessed in the House of Lords."A.D. Kriegel, ed., The Holland House Diaries, 1831-1840... ( London, 1977), 183 (16/17 May 1832).

[160] P.W. Wilson, ed., The Greville Diary ..., 2 vols,. London, 1927, ii, 466, undated. In  January 1835, the Duke of Wellington invited the third Earl of Carnarvon to move the Address in reply to the King's Speech in the House of Lords. This would have been a useful way of tying a Whig defector to Peel's Conservative administration. Carnarvon replied, full of "friendly feeling" but unable to comply. "Lady Carnarvon has been ordered to the sea and we have been lingering on in town from day to day till she has acquired sufficent strength to undertake so much of a journey." R.J. Olney and J. Melvin, eds, The Prime Ministers' Papers Series: Wellington, II: Political Correspondence November 1834-April 1835 (London, 1986), documents 808, 820.

[161] Vincent, ed., The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby (1826-1893) between 1878 and 1893: a Selection, 235 (20 May 1880). Charles I and the Jacobites do not loom large in Hardinge.

[162] Carnarvon's considerable interest in social reform issues, not discussed in this essay, was consistent with his Whiggish Toryism. P. Smith, Disraelian Conservatism and Social Reform (London, 1967), 39-40, 59-62, 114-15.

[163] Roberts, Salisbury: Victorian Titan, 180.

[164] I. Jennings, Cabinet Government (3rd ed., Cambridge, 1965), 207-15. An attempt by John P. Mackintosh to integrate Salisbury's comment into an overall analysis of the function of cabinet ministers is unpersuasive. J.P. Mackintosh, The British Cabinet (2nd ed., London, 1968), 312. Russell in 1851 stressed that he was acting with the support of the Queen, but there can be little doubt that she would have endorsed Carnarvon's dismissal in 1878.

[165] Balfour [ed. Dugdale], Chapters of Autobiography, 113. Derby noted in 1875 that Carnarvon's South African federation scheme was "sharply criticised" and "no member of the cabinet quite likes it", but it went ahead anyway. Vincent, ed., Disraeli, Derby and the Conservative Party: Journals and Memoirs of Edward Henry, Lord Stanley, 1849-1869, 211 (11 April 1875).

[166] Mackintosh, The British Cabinet, 314-19. Salisbury found cabinet dissent a useful device for rebuffing inconvenient royal requests for action. Ibid., 239-40.

[167] W.H. Smith had entered the cabinet in 1877 as First Lord of the Admiralty. W.S. Gilbert denied that he was the model for Sir Joseph Porter, who held the same office in HMS Pinafore.

[168] An echo of the upheaval may be heard in the plaint, either from Hardinge or his editor, describing "the England of 1925, groaning under more oppressive fiscal burdens than have probably even been borne, even in the days of Empson and Dudley", Henry VII's unpopular ministers.

[169] House of Lords Debates, 31 July 1888, 923.

[170] Carnarvon Diaries, 388. Lord Holmshill, in his brother Auberon's novel, remarked: "We feel that things are slipping. We all know well enough that we are not in the country what we were twenty years ago, and we shall not be twenty years hence what we are to-day." The role of the Whigs in government was "to disguise the changes that are taking place and make everything more decent", acting as "a useful sort of stop-gap between the old and the new". The sentiments are an uncontroversial summary of the perspective of a Liberal aristocrat trapped as a follower of Gladstone. Perhaps they also echo Carnarvon's own views. A. Herbert, A Politician in Trouble about his Soul, 38.

[171] House of Lords Debates, 31 July 1888, 918-33.

[172] Hardinge, iii, 300-2; Southampton Herald, 19, 26 January, 9 November 1889. In January 1889 Carnarvon was elected an alderman, giving him a longer term of office, with no ward to represent. His health was poor for much of 1889. He attended the November meeting, where "he thought he might say without flattery that a great deal of difficult business had been accomplished", although it was clear that he thought successful progress was the result of elite guidance.

[173] The Standard's chief leader writer was the poet Alfred Austin, to whom Salisbury sent outline instructions for editorials. T.E. Kebbel, who saw himself as the custodian of Disraeli's memory, also wrote for the paper. Either might have penned the Carnarvon obituary. D. Griffths, Plant Here The Standard (Houndmills, 1996), 142-8.

[174] Standard, 30 June 1891.

[175] Roberts, Salisbury: Victorian Titan, 296, 304-5.

[176] Jones, The Politics of Reform 1884, 74 (diary entry dated 27 June 1890).

[177] Hardinge, ii, 341 (2 February 1867).

[178] House of Lords Debates, 4 March 1867, 1289-91; Hardinge, i, 350-3.

[179] Carnarvon retreated from political conflict to a vacation in Torquay, which he described as "the little village where William III landed". By 1900, Torquay (which was not a parliamentary borough) had grown to of 25,000. Hardinge, i,353. Jones, The Politics of Reform 1884, 1-2 sets the Third Reform Act crisis in the context of population change.

[180] London University also gained an MP. Smith, The Making of the Second Reform Bill, 214-25. Smith gives the popular vote for English and Welsh boroughs in 1874 as 38.32 percent of registered electors to the Conservatives, 37.39 percent to the Liberals.

[181] E.J. Feuchtwanger, Disraeli, Democracy and the Tory Party: Conservative Leadership and Organization after the Second Reform Bill, 43 (23 September 1872).

[182] Jones, The Politics of Reform 1884, 178. Curiously, Carnarvon enlisted the Clerk of the House of Commons, Sir Thomas Erskine May, who was (and remains) the authority on parliamentary procedure. While he was an expert on the interpretation of election law, May had no particular standing to recommend changes in franchise qualifications. His office was non-political and he himself was the expressly the servant of politicians, who could hardly take charge of a group of independent statesmen.

[183] Roberts, Salisbury: Victorian Titan, 305-6. The selection of Gladstone as special envoy to the Ionian Islands in 1858 might also be seen as an early example of Carnarvon's belief that the right person might miraculously discern the previously veiled ideal answer to an intractable problem: few men could be more righteous that W.E. Gladstone. However, accidental and contextual circumstances should be stressed here. Gladstone's friend, Robert Phillimore, took it upon himself to suggest to Carnarvon that Gladstone might accept such an assignment, and there were good reasons for the minority Derby administration to keep lines of communication open with such a major but unaffiliated political figure. Carnarvon's subsequent assurance to Phillimore that he had inspired the proposal could have been merely formal courtesy. Carnarvon's original idea, that Gladstone should be appointed British ambassador to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, was obviously impossible, given that the savagery of Gladstone's criticism of the Neapolitan regime in 1851 would have made him persona non grata to "King Bomba". But the evolution of the idea of the Ionian Islands mission does suggest that finding a role for Gladstone was the priority. J. Morley, The Life of William Ewart Gladstone (3 vols, London, 1903), i, 594-5; Carnarvon Diaries, 106-7; Hardinge, i, 130-6.

[184] Goodfellow, Great Britain and South African Confederation 1870-1881, 65; Hardinge, ii, 181.

[185] Goodfellow, Great Britain and South African Confederation 1870-1881, 12-47.

[186] Goodfellow, Great Britain and South African Confederation 1870-1881, 65.

[187] Goodfellow, Great Britain and South African Confederation 1870-1881, 49-150; Hardinge, ii, 157-324.

[188] Hardinge, iii, 259-61 (11 December 1885). The memorandum has recently been published in Ball, ed., Dublin Castle and the First Home Rule Crisis, 276-80.

[189] Friends urged him to delay his return to England, advising that "it would be a good thing if I were not in London just now with public spirit running so high." Carnarvon Diaries, 422-3 (22 April 1886).

[190] House of Lords Debates, 10 June 1886, 1259; Hardinge, iii, 224, with minor difference in punctuation.

[191] House of Lords Debates, 10 June, 1259-60; Hardinge, iii, 228 (to Salisbury, 23 June 1886); A. Jackson, Home Rule: an Irish History, 1800-2000 (London, 2004 ed.), 69-70 for the 1886 land purchase bill.

[192] Jackson, Home Rule: an Irish History, 1800-2000, 67-71. Technically, the Home Rule legislature was unicameral, but the two "orders" could sit together if they so chose, although they would vote separately.

[193] A.V. Dicey (ed. E.J. Feuchtwanger), England's Case against Home Rule (Richmond, Surrey, 1973., cf. first ed., London, 1886), 225-6.

[194] The Times, 11 May 1888.

[195] The civil servant, Fottrell, had replied that "it was hard off-hand to devise a safeguard of absolute demonstrable efficiency" but he assumed that an Irish parliament would reveal "a large element of latent conservatism in Ireland". This was highly optimistic for 1885; by 1888, after the Plan of Campaign, it would have been pure fantasy. Ball, ed., Dublin Castle and the First Home Rule Crisis: the Political Journal of Sir George Fottrell, 1884-1887, 137.

[196] Cf. Joseph Chamberlain speaking in Birmingham in December 1886: "Without solving this land question Home Rule is impossible ... if you solve it, Home Rule will be unnecessary". J.L. Garvin, The Life of Joseph Chamberlain, ii: 1885-1895: Disruption and Combat (London, 1933), 278

[197] Carnarvon's letter appeared in The Times, 11 May 1888. Hardinge, iii, 262-6 published the section on self-government, giving the date of the actual letter, 10 May.

[198] Carnarvon Diaries does not mention the visit. Hardinge, iii, 90-7 unluckily calls his Montreal host, George Stephen of the Canadian Pacific Railway (later Lord Mount Stephen), "Mr Stevens".

[199] "Ireland was a province," Chamberlain insisted, "as Nova Scotia was a province of Canada". This was a low blow, since Nova Scotians had just elected a provincial government pledged to secede from the Dominion. M. Hurst, Joseph Chamberlain and Liberal Reunion: The Round Table Conference of 1887 (Newton Abbot, 1970), 145. A further embarrassment in the Ontario/ Nova Scotia/ Ireland comparison was that Canadian provinces also returned MPs to the Dominion parliament.

[200] Protestants formed a small majority in the historic 9-county province of Ulster, but with some Presbyterians voting Liberal, a political balance was possible, and an Ulster provincial council might have evolved a system of de facto power-sharing on the lines practised in Newfoundland. With an influential Protestant minority especially in the professions, Leinster, with the city of Dublin, much commercial agriculture and relatively little agrarian distress, might also have developed its own political culture. However, there would have been little to prevent the provincial councils from meeting together, even if – like the two "orders" in Gladstone's 1886 Home Rule Bill – they voted separately. Inter-provincial rugby matches were played between Leinster, Munster and Ulster by 1879, and the Gaelic Athletic Association (founded in 1884) adopted county and provincial structures, but otherwise Ireland's provinces had only a shadowy existence.

[201] Hardinge, iii, 246 reports provincial councils as forming part of a memorandum by Carnarvon on a possible common front with Lord Randolph Churchill. But Carnarvon was in Italy at that time.

[202] Carnarvon Diaries, 50.

[203] Carnarvon Diaries, 69-70.

[204] One of the earliest issues that determined Parnell to campaign for Home Rule was the inability of Parliament to find time to consider a local bill for the dredging of Arklow harbour in County Wicklow: Ged Martin, "Charles Stewart Parnell: Economics and Politics of a Building Trade Entrepreneur":

[205] Hardinge, iii, 265.

[206] Nation, 18 May 1888.

[207] Liverpool Mercury, 30 June 1890 (London correspondent).