Robert Stewart [Viscount Castlereagh]


Life
1769-1822 [2nd marquis of Londonderry]; b. Henry St., Dublin; Co. Down; son of Robert Stewart, 1st Marquis, a Whig family; ed. Armagh and Cambridge; elected MP and Dungannon delegate, 1783; witnessed French Revolution and gave his support to William Pitt and the Tories, advocating moderate reform; associated with repression before and after the 1798 Rebellion; condoned the execution of William Orr but later spared Charles Teeling and Hamiton Rowan in connection with the secret parliamentary committee on the causes of rebellion; commanded the militia at Bantry Bay, 1798; succeeded as marquis [alt. Marquess of Londonderry], and Viscount Castlereagh, 1816; appt. Chief Secretary for Ireland under his uncle Lord Camden, during the Rising of 1798; became acting-Chief Sec. to the Lord Lieutenant in 1797, and officially so in 1799;
 
proposed the Union of Great Britain and Ireland in an address of January 1799, forcefully urging that it would ‘consolidate the strength and glory of the Empire’ as well assolving domestic problems; drew George Canning into a duel in which the latter was injured, 1806; appt. Secretary of War; 1812, appt. Foreign Secretary; 1813, appt. plenipotentiary at the Peace Congress of Vienna, 1814 - professing ‘it is not our business to collect trophies, but to try ... to bring back the world to peaceful habits’; leader of the House of Commons in 1819 when Lord Liverpool, then PM, sat in the House of Lords; attacked by Byron in The Intellectual Eunuch Castlereagh (1818); suffered paranoia and mental breakdown; committed suicide with a penknife, in Kent, 1822 - not from guilt but stress - possibly connected with blackmail related to sexual behaviour (a tranvestite in a brothel is mentioned in the literature;
 
his Memoirs and Correspondences were edited by Sir Charles Stewart, a half-brother; his wife conducted a feud with Lady Conyngham of Slane Castle, the royal mistress; a story by Mrs. Crow included in Yeats’s Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (1888) concerns a haunting that prefigured Castlereagh’s his rise to power while still Captain Stewart, and his violent end (see infra). DIB ODNB OCIL

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Works
Sir Charles Stewart, Correspondence and Dispatches of Lord Castlereagh, 4 vols. (1855). COMM, C. K. Webster, The Foreign Policy of Castlereagh, 1815-1822 (1925).

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Criticism
T. P. Fitzgerald, The Political and Private Life of the Marquis of Londonderry, late Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs ... including most important and authentic particulars of his last moments and death, with numerous anecdotes and reflections illustrative of the history of the noble lord (London: John Fairburn [1822]), 32pp.; J. A. R.Marriott: Castlereagh: The Political Life of Robert, 2nd Marquess of Londonderry (1936), ill.; John Bew, Castlereagh: From Enlightenment to Tyranny  ([London:] Quercus 2011), 722pp.

“The Radiant Boy”
Mrs. Crow

Captain Stewart, afterwards Lord Castlereagh, when he was a young man, happened to be quartered in Ireland. He was fond of sport, and one day the pursuit of game carried him so far that he lost his way. The weather, too, had become very rough, and in this strait he presented himself at the door of a gentleman’s house, and sending in his card, requested shelter for the night. The hospitality of the Irish country gentry is proverbial; the master of the house received him warmly; said he feared he could not make {137} him so comfortable as he could have wished, his house being full of visitors already, added to which, some strangers, driven by the inclemency of the night, had sought shelter before him, but such accommodation as he could give he was heartily welcome to; whereupon he called his butler, and committing the guest to his good offices, told him he must put him up somewhere, and do the best he could for him. There was no lady, the gentleman being a widower.
 Captain Stewart found the house crammed, and a very jolly party it was. His host invited him to stay, and promised him good shooting if he would prolong his visit a few days: and, in fine, he thought himself extremely fortunate to have fallen into such pleasant quarters.
 At length, after an agreeable evening, they all retired to bed, and the butler conducted him to a large room, almost divested of furniture, but with a blazing turf fire in the grate, and a shake-down on the floor, composed of cloaks and other heterogeneous materials.
 Nevertheless, to the tired limbs of Captain Stewart, who had had a hard day’s shooting, it looked very inviting; but before he lay down, he thought it advisable to take off some of the fire, which was blazing up the chimney in what he thought an alarming manner. Having done this, he stretched himself on his couch and soon fell asleep.
[...]
 He believed he had slept about a couple of hours when he awoke suddenly, and was startled by such a vivid light in the room that he thought it on fire, but on turning to look at the grate he saw the fire was out, though it was from the chimney the light proceeded. He sat up in bed, trying to discover what it was, when he perceived the form of a beautiful naked boy, surrounded by a dazzling radiance. [...]

 
For full-text version, see Yeats, ed., Fairy and Folk Tales [... &c.] (1888), in RICORSO Library, "Irish Classics" > Yeats - via index or direct.

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Commentary
C. Litton Falkiner, Studies in Irish History and Biography (Longman & Co [1901]), Castlereagh, acc. Moore, ‘Where (still to use your Lordship’s tropes / The level of obedience slopes / Upwards and downwards, as the stream / Of hydra-faction kicks the beam’, spoken by Phil Fudge in parody of Castlereagh’s reputation as a ‘Malaprop Cicero’. Acc. to Brown he was ‘A wretch never named but with curses and jeers.’ O’Connell described him as the Assassin of his country. Moore exults, in The Fudge Family: ‘That ’twas an Irish head, an Irish heart / Made thee the fall’n and tarnished thing thou art’, and speaks of the ‘worst infections’ of his country ‘all condensed in him.’ Falkiner quotes Shelley’s verse in The Masque of Anarchy: ‘I met murder on his way / He had a mask like Castlereagh’. Dying Henry Grattan said, ‘Don’t [be] hard on Castlereagh; he loves his country.’ Further: ‘The Union is passed; the business between him and me is over, and it is for the interest of Ireland that Lord Castlereagh should be Minister. I beg you not to attack him unless he attacks you, and I make it my dying request.’ (Life of Grattan, Vol. V.)

Note: Falkiner also cites an Irish Bull in the shape of Castlereagh’s entreaty to Irish gentlemen ‘not to turn their backs on themselves’ (p.180).

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Byron & Shelley: ‘So Castlereagh has cut his throat - the worst / Is that his own was not the first.’ (Byron.) ‘I met murder on the way - / He had the face of Castlereagh.’ (Shelley.)

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Lady Morgan (on meeting Castlereagh at the Abercorn’s home Stanmore Priory): ’one of those cheerfu, lieveable, give and take persons, who are so invaluable in villa life, where pleasure and repose are the object and the end. His implacable placidity, his cloudless smile, his mildness of demeanour, his love of music, his untuneable voice and passion for singing all the songs in the Beggars’ Opera, and the unalterable good humour ... rendered him most welcome in all the circle.’ (Quoted in Mary Campbell, Lady Morgan: The Life and Times of Sydney Owenson, London: Pandora 1988, p.106; as also Byron and Shelley, supra.) Campbell adds - from Lady Morgan’s Memoir: ‘Castlereagh’s favourite comment was “No one cares for Ireland by Miss Owenson and I.”’ (p.107.)

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George Birmingham, in his introduction to Recollections of Jonah Barrington [1918], writes: ‘It is a commonplace to say that the Act of Union was passed by bribery: ‘How did they pass the Union? / By perjury and fraud, / By slaves who sold their land for gold / As Judas sold his God. // How did they pass the Union? / By Pitt and Castlereagh. / Could Satan send for such an end / More fitting tools than they?’ - and remarks: ‘No doubt, there was corruption, plenty of it ...’.

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Kevin Whelan: ‘Only Castlereagh [of Irish MPs] had a successful career in the union parliament and the psychological cost can perhaps been seen in his ultimate act - cutting his own throat.’ (‘The Other Within: Ireland, Britain and the Act of Union’, in Acts of Union: The Causes, Contexts and Consequences of the Act of Union, ed. Dáire Keogh & Kevin Whelan, Dublin: Four Courts Press 2001, p.19.)

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References
Roy Foster, Modern Ireland (1988), p.229, b. Co. Down, Irish Parliament, 1790; created Viscount Castlereagh, 1796; arrested leading United Irishmen; Chief Sec., 1799-1801; pressed for Catholic relief bill, and resigned; prepared plans for tithe commutation and state payment for Irish Catholic priests; Sec. of War and Colonies, 1805; Foreign Sec., 1812-22; Marquess of Londonderry, 1821; committed suicide.

Brian Cleeve & Anne Brady, A Dictionary of Irish Writers (Dublin: Lilliput 1985), ‘received less than justice from Irish students of his period ... overshadowed by his great rival and opponent in the famous duel, Canning ... always in favour of Catholic Emancipation ... in making the Peace of Vienna, he insisted “our business is not to collect trophies, but to bring back to the world peaceful habits”.’

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Hyland Books (Cats. 214 & 220) list T .P. Fitzgerald, The Political and Private Life of the Marquis of Londonderry (1822).

Emerald Isle Books (1995) lists Castlereagh v. Col. John Meade, Count of Down Election 1805; The Patriotic Miscellany or Mirror [...] collection of all the publications during the late contested election (London [printed Downpatrick] 1805), folded caricature frontis.

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Notes
Death of Castlereagh
: ‘Shortly beforehand, the bishop of Clogher had been found in flagrante delicto with a grenadier guardsman in the (still extant) White Hart inn on Holywell Street in St Albans. He was caught, by a small crowd, trying to escape with his breeches down. According to the archbishop of Canterbury, “it was not safe for a bishop to show himself in the streets of London”. The incident preyed on Castlereagh's mind, another clergyman claimed in 1855, because he had been blackmailed over an encounter in a brothel with a transvestite he had mistaken for a woman. Other possible explanations, such as terminal-stage syphilis, are given for his mental breakdown and paranoia.’ (See Martin Mansergh, review of John Bew, Castlereagh: From Enlightenment to Tyranny, in The Irish Times (29 Oct. 2011), Weekend Review, p.10.)

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Portrait, Castlereagh by Thom. Lawrence, lent by the Earl of Clanwilliam; see Anne Crookshank, Irish Portraits Exhibition (Ulster Museum 1965)

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