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

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Lord Dufferin as a young man

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

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

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


Early life

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

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

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

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

A natural diplomat

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

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

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

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

Governor General of Canada

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Lord Dufferin while Governor General of Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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Lord and Lady Dufferin on a visit to Manitoba

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

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

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

Russia and Turkey

After leaving Ottawa in 1878 at the end of his term, Lord Dufferin returned to Great Britain to continue his diplomatic career. He served as ambassador to Russia from 18791881 and to the Ottoman Empire from 18811884. Although he had previously served in Liberal governments, Dufferin had become increasingly alienated from William Gladstone over issues of home and Irish policy, particularly the Irish Land Acts of 1870 and 1881, both of which tried to resolve issues surrounding the property rights of tenants and landlords. He accepted the appointment as ambassador to Russia from the Conservative Benjamin Disraeli, further alienating the Liberal leader.

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

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

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

Viceroy of India

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Lord Dufferin as Viceroy of India

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

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

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

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

Later life

Following his return from India, Dufferin resumed his ambassadorial career, serving as ambassador to Italy from 18881891. On November 17, 1888, he was advanced in the Peerage as Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, in the County of Down and the Province of Burma, and Earl of Ava, in the Province of Burma. As ambassador to France from 1891–1896, he presided over some difficult times in Anglo-French relations, and was accused by some sections of the French press of trying to undermine Franco-Russian relations. After returning from France, Dufferin became President of the Royal Geographical Society, and Rector of Edinburgh and St. Andrew's universities.

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

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


In addition to his titles in the Peerages of Ireland and the United Kingdom, Dufferin was the recipient of many honours and awards during his lifetime, including:


Template:Succession box two to one
Preceded by:
The Lord Lisgar
Governor General of Canada
Succeeded by:
Marquess of Lorne
Preceded by:
The Marquess of Ripon
Viceroy of India
Succeeded by:
The Marquess of Lansdowne
Preceded by:
William Henry Smith
Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
Succeeded by:
The Marquess of Salisbury

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Template:Succession box two to oneTemplate:End boxTemplate:CanGG


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