Paul Frecker
Fine Photographs

Lord Palmerston

Volume 1, page 53, sitting number 417.

Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784- 1865) was in Parliament from 1807. Initially a Tory, he was Secretary of War from 1809 to 1827. He broke with the Tories in 1830 and sat in the Whig Cabinets of 1830-34, 1835-41 and 1846-51 as Foreign Secretary. He was Prime Minister from 1855 to 1858, during which time he rectified Lord Aberdeen's mismanagement of the Crimean War, suppressed the Indian Mutiny, and carried through the Second Opium War. He was Prime Minister again from 1859 to 1865, when he almost involved Britain in the American Civil War on the side of the South.

As a young man he was extremely handsome, and his exploits with women earned him the nickname 'Cupid.' When he was Foreign Secretary in Lord Melbourne's government, before the Queen's marriage, she found him charming, amusing and clever. He took great pains to instruct her in the intricacies of foreign policy and how to address her fellow sovereigns, even writing the appropriate endings to her letters to them in pencil, so she could write over them in pen in her own hand before the pencil marks were rubbed out.

But slowly her attitude towards him began to change, and she certainly did not approve when he married the beautiful widow of Earl Cowper, the Queen being of the opinion that widows ought not to remarry. As Lord Russell's Foreign Secretary he gave her constant cause for irritation, on occasion being astonishingly rude and undiplomatic. She found his manner arrogant, and was offended by his open sympathy for the liberal movements in Europe which were striving to undermine her Royal relations. Worst of all in her eyes, he sidetracked the Prince Consort's views on foreign policy. In 1848 she told Lord Russell at Balmoral that she 'could hardly go on with him.'

The Queen was therefore filled with trepidation when Palmerston succeeded Lord Aberdeen as Prime Minister in 1855. By this time he was nearly seventy, deaf and short-sighted. He dyed his hair, and according to Disraeli had 'false teeth which would fall out of his mouth when speaking if he did not hesitate and halt so much in his talk.' However, he had spent a lifetime in Parliament and still had much sense and vigour in him. To the Queen's surprise, she did not find him nearly as troublesome or high-handed as she had expected. In fact, he was so accommodating that she grew quite fond of him, finding that of all the Prime Ministers she had had, he was the one who gave least trouble. It was particularly gratifying to her that Palmerston came to have a very high opinion of the Prince Consort's talents, and in 1856 she rewarded her reformed Minister with the Order of the Garter.


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Lord Palmerston, Palmerston, Henry John Temple, Camille Silvy, Silvy