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Constantine Henry Phipps, first Marquis of Normanby (1797-1863)

This article was written by John Andrew Hamilton and was published in 1895.

MulgraveConstantine Henry Phipps, first Marquis of Normanby 1797-1863, eldest son of Henry, first earl of Mulgrave, by his wife Martha Sophia, daughter of Christopher Thomson Maling, esq., of West Herrington, Durham, was born on 15 May 1797. He was sent to Harrow, and afterwards matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and proceeded M.A. in 1818. He then entered parliament, sitting by family interest for Scarborough, and in 1819 made a successful maiden speech in favour of the Roman catholic claims, and another later on in support of Lord John Russell's motion for parliamentary reform. He also carried a motion for an address to the crown for the abolition of the sinecure office of joint postmaster-general. These liberal opinions did not please his family. He quitted parliament and England, and took up his residence in Italy. In 1822 he re-entered the House of Commons as member for Higham Ferrers in the advanced whig interest, and became known to the public in 1826 as the author of several political pamphlets written in support of the policy of Canning.

At the general election of 1826 he was returned for Malton, till then held by Lord Duncannon, and in that and the next year was a steady supporter of Canning. In 1831 he succeeded his father in the earldom of Mulgrave. Next year he was appointed captain-general and governor of Jamaica, sworn of the privy council, and made a knight grand cross of the Guelphic order. His especial task proved to be the distribution of the money compensation to former owners of emancipated slaves, and he successfully suppressed a rebellion. Resigning the office early in 1834, he confidently expected to have been offered cabinet office in June 1834 by Lord Grey, and was greatly disappointed with the offer of the postmaster-generalship, which he refused); but when Lord Melbourne formed his administration in July, Mulgrave was included in it as lord privy seal, with a seat in the cabinet.

In 1835 he was sent to Ireland as lord lieutenant, an appointment much criticised at the time, but which proved judicious. On his landing on 11 May in Dublin he was received with enthusiasm, and the catholic party built great hopes on his tenure of office. His presence in Ireland, with Thomas Drummond (1797-1840), was full of encouragement to O'Connell and his friends. O'Connell wrote of him: ‘We have an excellent man in Lord Mulgrave, the new lord lieutenant; I tell you there cannot be a better’. His friendly relations with O'Connell were the subject of bitter attacks at protestant meetings and in the opposition press, and also of suspicious inquiries by the king. He frankly consulted Roman catholic prelates and politicians, removed numbers of magistrates from the bench for partisanship in office, refused to appoint protestant clergymen to the bench in any large numbers, and appointed numerous catholics to executive posts. His administration was most distasteful to the Orange party, and, though in the main firm and just, was marked by too frequent an exercise of the prerogative of mercy in political cases. To this leniency his opponents attributed many outbursts of crime, particularly the murder of Lord Norbury on 1 January 1839. Mulgrave was created Marquis of Normanby in June 1838, and retired next year to become in February 1839 secretary of war and the colonies in place of Charles Grant, lord Glenelg. In May the ministry was defeated on the Jamaica Bill, and resigned. Normanby was summoned by the queen — possibly at the suggestion of his wife, who was one of the queen's bedchamber women — with a view to his forming an administration, but was unable to do so; and, as Peel refused to take office unless Lady Normanby and Lady Morpeth were removed from their posts in the household, the whigs resumed office, and Normanby returned to the colonial office. His halting policy there offended Lord Howick, and contributed materially to his resignation. It was felt that the colonial office must be held by a stronger man, and in August Normanby was transferred to the home office, and Lord John Russell took his place. He was home secretary until the ministry fell in September 1841.It was his last administrative post.

In August 1846, at a moment perhaps unfortunate, when a change was coming over the diplomatic relations of France and England, he was appointed ambassador at Paris, and continued to hold that office till his resignation in February 1852. He was prone to take, or to appear to take, sides in the politics of foreign states. In 1847 his intimacy with Thiers, then in opposition, imperilled his good relations with Thiers's rival and Louis-Philippe's minister, Guizot, and exposed him to the hostility of the Parisian press. Guizot's estimate of his character was summed up in a phrase, ‘Il est bon enfant, mais il ne comprend pas notre langue.’ The English foreign minister, Palmerston, supported Normanby so vigorously as to nearly provoke a diplomatic rupture, but the quarrel was composed by Count Apponyi. Nor were Normanby's relations with the foreign office always smooth. But his services were recognised by the grand cross of the Bath in December 1847, and he was created a knight of the Garter in April 1851. His remonstrance against Lord Palmerston's hasty recognition of Louis Napoleon was the immediate occasion of Lord Palmerston's dismissal in 1851. His own resignation in the February following, though nominally due to ill-health, was really occasioned by political differences at home.

In December 1854 Lord Aberdeen appointed him minister to the court of Tuscany at Florence, where he had resided in early life and was well known. His strong Austrian sympathies more than once proved an embarrassment to the foreign minister, Lord Clarendon; and Lord Malmesbury, on taking office in February 1858, promptly recalled him by telegraph. On his settling in England his antipathy to Lord Palmerston led him to support the tories, his former opponents, against the whigs, his old friends; but he was soon disabled by paralysis, and died at Hamilton Lodge, South Kensington, on 28 July 1863. In spite of a somewhat frivolous and theatrical manner, he was a man of considerable prescience and political ability. He was generally popular.

He married, on 12 August 1818, Maria, eldest daughter of Thomas Henry Liddell, first lord Ravensworth, by whom he had one son, George Augustus Constantine, who succeeded him in the title.

Normanby was the author in early life of a number of romantic tales, novels, and sketches, avowedly founded on fact. He published anonymously ‘The English in Italy,’ 1825, 3 vols., a collection of romances of various lengths, and ‘The English in France,’ 1828, a similar work; four novels, ‘Matilda,’ 1825; ‘Yes and No,’ 1828; ‘Clorinda’ in the ‘Keepsake’ for 1829; and ‘The Contrast,’ 1832; and subsequently ‘A Year of Revolution,’ 1857, being his Paris journal for 1848, and containing many indiscreet references to Louis-Philippe (in consequence of statements in it he became involved in controversy with Louis Blanc). ‘The Congress and the Cabinet,’ 1859; and a ‘Historical Sketch of Louise de Bourbon, Duchess of Parma,’ and a ‘Vindication of the Duke of Modena’ from Mr. Gladstone's charges in 1861, were political pamphlets. Some of his speeches in the House of Lords were also published.

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