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  Granville George  Leveson-Gower (1815–1891), by George Richmond, 1876 Granville George Leveson-Gower (1815–1891), by George Richmond, 1876
Gower, Granville George Leveson-, second Earl Granville (1815–1891), politician, was born at Great Stanhope Street, Mayfair, Westminster, on 11 May 1815, the eldest son in the family of three sons and two daughters of , and a grandson of , who had been a colleague of the younger Pitt. was his brother, and his sister. From 1833 until his father's death he bore the courtesy title of Lord Leveson. His mother was Lady Henrietta Elizabeth Cavendish (1785–1862) [see ], second daughter of , and his first wife, Lady Georgiana Spencer [see ]. Granville was thus connected to many of the great political families of eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century England. He jokingly made the point in a parliamentary debate in 1855: ‘I have relations upon this side of the House [of Lords], relations upon the cross-benches [and] relations upon the opposite side of the House’ (Fitzmaurice, 1.122). His political role was always that of a great whig magnate. The family estates were in Staffordshire, but Granville never lived on them.

Education, parliament, and marriage

Leveson-Gower was educated at Mr Bradford's private school in Beaconsfield from the age of eight to thirteen and then went to Eton College. After a spell with a private tutor he proceeded to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1832, and remained there until 1836. His studies were desultory but he successfully presented himself for the BA examination, although he did not formally take the degree until 1839. His father was the British ambassador in Paris (1824–8, 1830–35, and 1835–41) and Leveson spent much time there, becoming fluent in French (which he was said always to speak with the accent of the ancien régime) and mingling with French society. Universally judged to be an amiable young man, he attracted a variety of nicknames, of which the one that stuck for life was ‘Pussy’. He was himself an attaché at the Paris embassy from May 1835 to August 1836.

Leveson wished to enter parliament and was accommodated in Morpeth, which was still (despite the Parliamentary Reform Act of 1832) virtually a closed borough in the gift of the second Earl Grey, and from which in 1837 the sitting member, Edward Howard, wanted to retire temporarily. Leveson's maiden speech (17 April 1837), on British policy in the Iberian peninsula, was a great success for fortuitous reasons. He had been sitting next to the experienced diplomat Henry Bulwer, who had been explaining the situation to him. Both Bulwer and Leveson rose to speak and, according to precedent, the speaker called the maiden speaker. Leveson used all Bulwer's best arguments, to the latter's amused surprise. Perhaps because of this success, he was called upon later in the year to move the address in reply to the queen's speech (20 November 1837). But otherwise he spoke little, and when Howard wanted Morpeth back in February 1840 he was left without a parliamentary seat.

On 25 July 1840 Leveson married Marie-Louise Pellina (1812?–1860), the only child of Emmerich Josef Wolfgang Heribert, duke of Dalberg, and the widow of Sir Richard Acton, seventh baronet, of Shropshire. Leveson thus became connected with two of the most talented and cosmopolitan families of nineteenth-century Europe. Lady Acton was a Roman Catholic, somewhat older than Leveson, and his family were not happy about the marriage. Leveson was compelled to promise that any daughters would be brought up in their mother's faith but refused to enter into similar undertakings about any sons. Only the threat that they would otherwise content themselves with a protestant marriage persuaded Father Randal Lythgoe, later father provincial of the English Jesuits, to conduct the ceremony. This presumably explains why they were married twice on 25 July 1840, first at the Spanish Chapel and then at Devonshire House in Piccadilly (Granville to Leveson, 15 April 1840, and correspondence between Leveson and R. Lythgoe, 18–20 July 1840, Granville MSS, TNA: PRO, PRO 30/29/18). Lady Acton had a son from her first marriage, Sir John Acton, the famous historian, but there were no children of her marriage to Leveson.

Just before his wedding Leveson was invited by Lord Palmerston to become under-secretary at the Foreign Office. He found the experience interesting but intimidating, and, apart from Palmerston's reputation for overworking his subordinates, Leveson found his abrasive style uncongenial, and later in his career was often to be critical of it.

Leveson's work at the Foreign Office was terminated by the Conservative victory in 1841. He was roughly handled on the hustings in South Staffordshire in the general election of July 1841 but came in at a by-election for the safe seat of Lichfield in September 1841. He made no particular mark in the Commons in opposition but he consolidated an alliance with Charles Villiers, later earl of Clarendon, first forged in their doubts about Palmerston's policy in 1839–41. He also became a staunch supporter of free trade. His official biographer, Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, comments on his comparative freedom from the usual prejudices of his class, pointing out that he had been brought up in a very cosmopolitan society and that, significantly, ‘his father, though closely allied with the great territorial connection in the country, had never himself resided on his English estates, which were regarded as a source of mining and manufacturing wealth rather than of agricultural enterprise’ (Fitzmaurice, 1.38). His father died on 8 January 1846 and Granville made his first speech in the House of Lords in favour of the repeal of the corn laws.

Whig peer and courtier

Granville expected office when Lord John Russell replaced Sir Robert Peel as prime minister in 1846 and was disappointed to be offered only the honorary court appointment of master of the buckhounds, which he held until 1848, although he also became, a little later in 1846, a member of the new commission on railways. He was, probably as another consolatory appointment, sworn of the privy council in August 1846. In 1847 he was made paymaster-general in succession to T. B. Macaulay, but without a seat in the cabinet. In the following year he also became vice-president of the Board of Trade, under Henry Labouchere. He finally entered the cabinet, still as paymaster-general, in October 1851. His main work during this period was to assist the prince consort in the organization of the Great Exhibition of 1851, where his foreign contacts and linguistic skills were invaluable.

Nevertheless, Granville's elevation to the Foreign Office, when Russell forced Palmerston's resignation over his unauthorized recognition of Louis Napoléon's coup d'état in December 1851, was surprising and reflected the lack of suitably qualified candidates, Lord Clarendon having declined it. Palmerston, though angry with Russell, briefed Granville carefully, but Granville had no time to develop any policies before the Russell government itself fell in February 1852. Russell had been irritated, after the fall of Palmerston, by a request from the court that the new foreign secretary would supply them with a ‘programme’ of the government's foreign policy objectives. Granville wrote an anodyne, but not uninteresting, analysis, mainly designed to show that the government's policy would henceforth be less abrasive than under Palmerston, but referring to Britain's worldwide role, her support for ‘progress’, the need to foster her trade abroad, and the desirability of steering a middle course between meddling ‘intervention’ in the affairs of other states and allowing British interests to go by default (Fitzmaurice, 1.49–52).

Granville, by his wide contacts, did something to bring about the ‘fusion’ of the whig party and the Peelites, and when the earl of Aberdeen formed his coalition government in December 1852 Granville became lord president of the council at Russell's suggestion in order to strengthen the whig element in the cabinet. This was essentially an honorific office, and though Granville was not inactive—he sat on the cabinet committees to consider the renewal of the East India Company charter and the projected parliamentary reform bill, as well as having departmental responsibility for the intended educational reforms—he made no great mark. He tended to be on the side of the doves in the deepening Eastern crisis which led to the Crimean War, although later giving the opinion that, if the policy of either Aberdeen or Palmerston had been consistently carried through, war could have been avoided.

When the ministry was reorganized in June 1854 and the presidency of the council was required for Lord John Russell, Granville was persuaded to step down and take the chancellorship of the duchy of Lancaster without a seat in the cabinet. He returned to the cabinet as lord president of the council when Palmerston succeeded Aberdeen as prime minister in February 1855. He also became the leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Lords. He remained lord president, except for an interlude when the Liberals were out of office in 1858–9, until July 1866. He was sent as ambassador-extraordinary to Russia to represent the queen at the coronation of Alexander II in the summer of 1856 and was made a knight of the Garter in July 1857.

Education was a major issue in the 1850s and 1860s. Critics were already aware that Britain was falling behind her continental rivals in the provision for the middle classes. The judicial decision in the Leeds grammar school case in 1805 tied the old endowed schools strictly to the terms of their original foundations to teach the classics. By the middle of the century a new generation of schools was springing up to teach science and modern languages, and in 1858 the two ancient universities instituted the Oxford and Cambridge local examinations to try to establish some general standards. In the 1860s the great problem was the so-called ‘conscience clause’ to allow parents to withdraw their children from religious education in the publicly maintained schools if it offended their own beliefs. As lord president of the council Granville had ultimate responsibility for all these issues; but he seems to have felt little interest in them and was pleased enough, in 1856, to see real responsibility transferred to a newly created vice-president of the committee of the privy council for education, who sat in the Commons. This marked, in effect though not in name, the creation of a ministry of education. Granville similarly distanced himself from Lord Newcastle's commission of 1858, which inquired into elementary education.

Granville's record as chancellor of the University of London, an office he held from 1856 to 1871, was no more impressive. He used his casting vote to block the admission of women to the matriculation examination in 1862, though he seems to have moved to a position of bored acquiescence a few years later. On one occasion a despairing vice-chancellor, George Grote, had to tell him that although he (the vice-chancellor) could be responsible for the detailed management of the university, it was essential that Granville should turn up for ceremonial occasions (Grote to Granville, 14 May n.d., Granville MSS, TNA: PRO, PRO 30/29/18).

Granville's first wife died on 14 March 1860, and he married as his second wife Castalia Rosalind (1847–1938), youngest daughter of Walter Frederick Campbell of Islay, Scotland, on 26 September 1865 at St Mary Abbots, Kensington. They had two sons, Granville George (1872–1939) and William Spencer (1880–1953), who became successively third and fourth Earl Granville, and three daughters Victoria Alberta (1867–1953), Sophia Castalia Mary (1870–1934), and Susan Katherine (1876–1878).

When Lord Derby resigned the premiership on 11 June 1859 the queen sent for Granville as a compromise candidate to avoid the rival claims of Palmerston and Russell. Palmerston would have served under him but Russell would not. Palmerston formed the government and Granville went back to the presidency of the council. When Palmerston died in October 1865 Granville was again talked of as a possible successor, but this time the queen sent for Russell. Granville remained lord president of the council. Russell also made him lord warden of the Cinque Ports, which entitled him to live in Walmer Castle, but which otherwise, as Russell warned him, was not an altogether desirable appointment: ‘The salary is nil, and the expense something’ (Fitzmaurice, 1.488).

When William Gladstone became prime minister in December 1868 Granville was only fifty-three, but he belonged by temperament to an older generation of whig peers. He was not an ineffective politician. In June 1866 he had resumed his position as leader of the Liberal Party in the Lords. (Lord John Russell, now Earl Russell, had been leader ex officio while prime minister in 1865–6.) As leader he piloted through important legislation, including the disestablishment of the Irish church in 1869, with skill and urbanity. Nor was he a die-hard. Throughout the 1860s he consistently supported further parliamentary reform. But he was ill prepared for the new issues and forces which dominated the late nineteenth century.

Colonial secretary, 1868–1870

Gladstone appointed Granville colonial secretary. Granville had rarely held departmental office before, but in 1868 the secretaryship of state for the colonies was still regarded as a prestigious position, previously held by Lord Stanley, the duke of Newcastle, and Russell himself, but one which seldom involved much real work. Empire, however, was about to become the cause of the future, and Disraeli and the tories were quicker to appreciate the changing public mood than were the whigs. The new interest in empire revealed itself in concern for the old colonies of settlement, which were to evolve into the dominions, before it became identified with the acquisition of new lands, usually described by the short-hand term of the ‘new imperialism’.

Gladstone and Granville immediately fell foul of this changing public perception. There were problems in New Zealand, where the 1860s had seen open warfare between the European settlers and the Maori, and in Canada, where Granville himself played an important role in persuading the Hudson's Bay Company to surrender its vast territories to the crown and in the setting up of the first prairie province, Manitoba. The latter resulted in the Red River rebellion, led by Louis Riel, because the métis (people of mixed French-Canadian and Amerindian descent) objected to being transferred without consultation to the jurisdiction of the Canadian government. Gladstone and Granville saw no reason why these crises should delay the implementation of Edward Cardwell's army reforms, even though these involved reductions in, or even the complete withdrawal of, imperial garrisons. Indeed they thought that the colonists should assume greater responsibility for their own defence. Granville tartly told Sir George Bowen, the governor of New Zealand:
The refusal to retain troops in New Zealand did not proceed from any indifference to the true welfare of the Colony but from a conviction that … the employment of British troops in a Colony possessed of responsible Government was objectionable in principle except in the case of foreign War. (Eldridge, 63–4)
These decisions, however, opened them to Disraeli's charges that they were intent on dismantling the empire for short-term financial reasons. At the same time Granville took some decisions that were to lay the foundations of the new imperialism, though without any clear appreciation of the long-term consequences. He favoured buying out the Dutch possessions on the Gold Coast, though he realized that the House of Commons would be unenthusiastic, and he supported the dispatch of Sir Garnet Wolseley's expedition against the Asante in 1873.

Foreign secretary, 1870–1874

Granville himself was unexpectedly removed from the Colonial Office in July 1870 by the sudden death of the foreign secretary, his old friend Lord Clarendon. Granville returned to the office he had last held in 1852 for much the same reason as on the earlier occasion, the lack of more obvious candidates. He was not particularly familiar with the European situation. He was initially badly briefed by Edmund Hammond, the permanent under-secretary, who told him ‘he had never … known so long a lull in foreign affairs, and that he was not aware of any important question that I [Granville] would have to deal with’ (Hansard 3, 203, 1870, 3). A few hours later Granville learned of the appearance of the Hohenzollern candidate for the Spanish throne, which led directly to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War.

The Derby–Disraeli ministry had stood on the sidelines at the time of the Austro-Prussian War in 1866; Gladstone's administration did the same thing as the Franco-Prussian War irrevocably altered the balance of European power in favour of the Germans. There is little evidence that anyone in the cabinet appreciated the significance of what was happening. Palmerston a few years earlier had not been unsympathetic to the cause of German unity, despite his objections to the bullying of Denmark. Granville, perhaps because of old associations, was a little more friendly towards France than some of his colleagues, but generally it was the traditional enemy, France, and especially the emperor, Napoleon III, who were suspected of being the disturbers of European peace. In 1870 Britain focused her attention on what was essentially a side issue, though one that was both historically and strategically important to Britain—the fate of the Low Countries. Britain was obligated by the treaty of 1839 to concern herself with the neutrality of Belgium. Granville issued a formal question to both France and Prussia as to whether they would respect Belgian neutrality. On receiving assurances from both combatants that they would, Britain stood back to await the outcome of the contest.

Russia took advantage of the Franco-Prussian War to abrogate unilaterally the clauses of the treaty of Paris at the end of the Crimean War, which neutralized the Black Sea. Gladstone and Granville were well aware that they could not prevent this development, especially as Russia had secured the tacit support of Prussia, but both considered it very important that the treaty should be amended in a regular way. A conference was convened in London in January 1871, which duly cancelled the Black Sea clauses but also strengthened Turkey's control of the Dardanelles. As much as possible had been salvaged.

To Gladstone the establishment of a code of international law, which all nations would respect, was vital to ensure worldwide peace and justice. Although the moral fervour came from Gladstone, the concept was entirely congenial to Granville. It was soon to be severely tested by the Alabama arbitration. The Alabama was one of several ships built in Britain for the southern states during the American Civil War. Although the British government had agreed to the northern request that the Alabama should be detained, she slipped away, was armed in the Azores, and did considerable harm to northern shipping. The legal position was by no means clear, but in 1871 Britain agreed to refer the matter to international arbitration. The arbitrators' verdict, delivered in September 1872, while not accepting the whole of the American case, was unfavourable to Britain, which was required to pay over £300,000 in compensation. The arbitration had never been popular in Britain and public irritation probably played some part in the Liberal defeat in 1874, but to both Gladstone and Granville the restoration of friendly relations with the United States and the recognition of the principle of arbitration in international disputes meant more than an unsatisfactory verdict.

When the Conservatives won the 1874 election Gladstone insisted that he wished to retire from politics and devote himself to scholarly studies. It was perhaps a reflection of the fact that few people thought his withdrawal was other than temporary that no proper arrangements were made for a succession to the leadership of the Liberal Party. Some assumed that Granville, as leader in the Lords, had succeeded ex officio. Others believed that the leadership must pass to either Lord Hartington or W. E. Forster in the Commons. In the mean time Granville provided a social centre for the party, much as Lord Holland had provided one at Holland House earlier in the century. Until 1873 this was at 16 Bruton Street, then at 18 Carlton House Terrace. Like the earlier great salons, the Granvilles' receptions welcomed distinguished visitors from all walks of life, by no means all of them political supporters.

Even after the 1880 election there was a general public expectation that, in the interests of party unity, the premiership would have to go to a whig, though more probably to Hartington than to Granville. Only Gladstone's declaration that he could not serve in a subordinate capacity, and might even have to oppose the government on certain issues, compelled Hartington and Granville jointly to recommend to the queen that she send for Gladstone. They did not expect to find it easy to persuade her. Granville's relief at their success was recorded by Victoria's private secretary, Henry Ponsonby. After the interview ‘Granville kissed his hand with a smile like a ballet girl receiving applause … and exclaimed “No difficulty at all—all smooth”’ (Jenkins, 137).

Throughout the ministry Granville supported Gladstone in his efforts to keep the whigs and radicals together, notably at the time of the duke of Argyll's resignation over the Irish Land Act in 1881 and Hartington's threatened resignation over the franchise crisis in 1883, though he was unsuccessful on the first occasion. Granville took some of the burden of routine appointments from Gladstone's shoulders and chaired meetings during Gladstone's frequent illnesses (some genuine, some diplomatic).

Return to the Foreign Office, 1880–1885

Granville himself went back to the Foreign Office in April 1880. The acute phase of the great Eastern crisis of 1875–8 had passed but many problems remained. Russia had replaced France as the national enemy in the mind of the public and was seen as a particular threat to British India. With the rising tide of imperialism, the security of India loomed larger and larger for both economic and prestige reasons. Granville had long had an interest in Indian questions. Charles Canning, who was governor-general during the so-called Indian mutiny of 1857, was a close friend from Eton days. He wrote to Granville constantly during that crisis and Granville stoutly defended him in the Lords. Granville also had to deal with Indian questions during Gladstone's first ministry. In 1868 Russia had occupied Samarkand, the capital of Bukhara. Clarendon began negotiations with the Russian chancellor, Prince Gorchakov, to try to demarcate spheres of influence. Granville continued these discussions and, in January 1873, Gorchakov agreed to respect the neutrality of Afghanistan. But the following spring Russia took possession of Khiva, which the British saw as almost as threatening as an intervention in Afghanistan. The Liberal policy of negotiation had not resolved the central Asian crisis, and the more vigorous forward policy of their Conservative successors involved Britain in war with Afghanistan in 1878.

On their return to office the Liberals negotiated a settlement with the emir, Abdurahman, by which they controlled his foreign policy but did not interfere in domestic affairs. Afghanistan had been stabilized, but another central Asian crisis flared up in 1885. A Russian force defeated an Afghan force at Panjdeh in a disputed border region. The incident caused intense public excitement. Gladstone's government responded with unusual firmness, immediately securing a vote of credit for £11 million to cover possible military action. But Granville also negotiated. A compromise, acceptable to the Afghans, was reached by which Panjdeh was conceded in return for Afghan control of the Zulfikar Pass.

Panjdeh remained in British folk memory as the point at which Britain and Russia came very close to war. The public was less aware of important disputes in the Balkans, some concerned with interpretations of the treaty of Berlin of 1878, some with the frontiers of Greece and Montenegro. Although Bismarck, the German chancellor, largely called the tune, the British government agreed to a naval demonstration at Smyrna to induce the Turks to cede the agreed territory to Greece and Montenegro. It has been suggested (by W. N. Medlicott in his Bismarck, Gladstone and the Concert of Europe, 1956) that the early 1880s were an important turning point in European relations, when Bismarck's policy of tight alliances triumphed over Gladstone's more open policy of a concert of Europe ruled by international law. There is little in Granville's papers to suggest that he was conscious of great decisions being made. Bismarck felt an increasing contempt for the British foreign secretary, which he did not hesitate to express to Lord Rosebery, who entered the cabinet in 1885 (NL Scot., Rosebery MS 10004).

Neither Gladstone nor Granville was prepared for the central role assumed by Africa in the 1880s. The crisis in South Africa, culminating in the battle of Majuba Hill and the independence of the Transvaal, was the concern of the Colonial Office, rather than the Foreign Office; but other crises crowded in. The most significant concerned Egypt. The Suez Canal had been opened in 1869. It was of great strategic importance to Britain, both because of communications with India and because the vast majority of the trade passing through it was British. Neither Gladstone nor Granville had any wish to intervene in Egypt, but the rise of an Egyptian nationalist movement, directed both at the Turks and foreign financial exploitation, led to the British military occupation of Egypt in 1882. The occupation was meant to be temporary but, once involved, the British dared not withdraw lest another power, probably France, should take their place. Granville, in common with most members of the cabinet, found it impossible to comprehend a non-European nationalist movement, particularly one led by an army officer, Arabi Pasha. Characteristically, however, he subsequently showed courteous concern to settle Arabi in comfortable exile in Ceylon (Cabinet opinions ‘As to Arabi going to Ceylon’, 4–7 Dec 1882, Granville MSS, TNA: PRO, PRO 30/29/143).

Granville was equally baffled by the sudden German interest in what became South-West Africa. At first he seems to have believed that the Germans wanted the British to protect their nationals there. On discovering that the Germans wanted to establish a protectorate themselves, he had no real objections. But the Angra Pequena incident, as it became known, caused a sharp strain in Anglo-German relations; Bismarck may genuinely have believed that the British wished to thwart German colonial plans worldwide, or he may have wished to create that impression as part of his general international policy.

Britain gave more hostages to fortune when she concluded a treaty with Portugal about the Congo in April 1884. The initiative came from the British ambassador in Lisbon, Sir Robert Morier, rather than from the Foreign Office. The treaty did not find favour with the British business community, who thought the terms unfavourable and organized an elaborate campaign against it. It was also denounced by other European nations, who denied the right of Britain and Portugal to settle the fate of the Congo bilaterally.

The result was the Berlin West Africa Conference of November 1884 to February 1885, which essentially established the ground rules for the ‘scramble for Africa’, and in practice greatly accelerated the scramble by insisting on the idea of ‘effective occupation’. As a result, in the next few months Britain, in order to secure existing or prospective trading interests, acquired protectorates or spheres of influence over the Niger delta and over the areas that became Kenya and Uganda.

By the end of the Berlin West Africa Conference, Bismarck had found that his interests coincided more closely with those of Britain than of France, which he had been trying to conciliate at the beginning, but Britain's continued occupation of Egypt, which rested on no legal foundation, made her uncomfortably dependent on the goodwill of other powers. This was amply demonstrated in 1885 when international consent was required to reorganize Egypt's foreign debt. Britain's involvement with Egypt also dragged her into the Sudan, which had been conquered by Egypt a generation earlier, but which had now developed its own fundamentalist nationalist movement under the Mahdi. Britain decided that withdrawal was the only policy and sent General Charles Gordon, a British soldier of immense prestige, who had served there previously under Egyptian authority, to carry it out. Gordon's death at Khartoum in January 1885 did much to seal the fate of the Gladstone government.

Granville's handling of all these problems attracted severe criticism from a number of diverse quarters. Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, who constituted himself a champion of the Egyptian nationalist movement, subsequently wrote an indictment of British government policy in his Secret History of the English Occupation of Egypt (1907). On the other side of the argument Granville's parliamentary under-secretary, Sir Charles Dilke, deplored Granville's inertia and lack of understanding of the new competitive spirit abroad in the world (C. Dilke, diary and journal, BL, Add. MSS 43924–43925, 43935) and accused him of allowing the permanent under-secretary, Lord Tenterden, to draft all the dispatches and then being unable to defend them in cabinet (BL, Add. MS 43935, fols. 110–11). The article in the Dictionary of National Biography reproached Granville for missed opportunities and allowing desirable areas of the world ‘to slip out of the possession of Great Britain’. It was a widely held contemporary view. In May 1885 Lord Randolph Churchill fiercely attacked him in The Times and Lord Hartington told Lewis Harcourt privately that every word was true and that Granville ‘was probably the worst Foreign Minister England [has] ever had’ (Jackson, 181).

Last years and death

When Gladstone returned briefly to power in 1886 Herbert Bismarck, the great chancellor's son, wrote to Rosebery, ‘don't put old Granny at the head of this most important office [the Foreign Office]’ (H. Bismarck to Rosebery, 31 Jan 1886, Rosebery MS 10004). The queen, who had once liked Granville but had been offended by his criticisms of her proposed assumption of the title of empress of India in 1876, also preferred Rosebery. Rosebery duly went to the Foreign Office and Granville took the Colonial Office—not without some protests to Gladstone that this change would seem to confirm public criticisms and make his position as leader of the Lords difficult.

In fact, Granville was no fool. His urbanity defused many situations, and the deafness of which those who tried to lobby him increasingly complained may well have been, in part, assumed. He also had an ability, from their point of view an irritating one, to turn the conversation from politics to horse-racing and -breeding. At the same time Granville was out of his depth in a rapidly changing world. Nor was he in total control of British foreign policy—he never enjoyed the freedom of action Palmerston had gained for himself. In 1870–74 and again in 1880–85 all important foreign questions were discussed by the cabinet as a whole (see cabinet memoranda in Granville MSS, TNA: PRO, PRO 30/29/68–9, fols. 143–5). Moreover the prime minister, Gladstone, had strong and developed ideas about the direction that policy should take. John Morley described Granville as Gladstone's ‘best friend’ (Morley, 3.462) and this seems to be borne out by the immense amount of correspondence between them (A. Ramm, Political Correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville, 4 vols., 1942–62). But it was an unequal relationship. Granville was experienced, good-humoured, a useful representative of the old aristocracy, but ultimately a loyal lieutenant. He followed Gladstone's lead on Irish affairs, as he had done on foreign policy.

By 1885 Ireland was the most important question on the British political agenda and Gladstone's home-rule proposals were to split the Liberal Party. Granville was one of the few great whig peers to support Gladstone (along with lords Kimberley, Ripon, Rosebery, and Spencer). There is no reason to suppose that Granville did violence to his own views in following Gladstone's lead. In 1885 he had not been enthusiastic about the proposal for limited devolution and a legislative council in Ireland, foreseeing very clearly all the problems of divided jurisdiction, and he accommodated himself readily to Gladstone's more radical proposals.

Few other issues have split English upper-class society as Irish home rule did, and, characteristically, Granville in his last years scored some minor successes in trying to bring about reconciliation, notably in the old whig club, Brooks's, where rival factions so consistently blackballed each other's candidates that members began to fear no one would be admitted at all and it would not be long before the last member would preside over the demise of the ancient institution. Granville intervened to remind members of the divisions the club had survived in the past and sanity was restored.

Granville continued as leader of the Liberal Party in the Lords—though increasing ill health necessitated frequent absences—until his death, which occurred before his party returned to power. He died at his brother's house, 14 South Audley Street, London, on 31 March 1891. Contemporary accounts said he died of gout and an abscess in his face (possibly cancer). He was buried in the family plot at St Michael's Church, Stone, Staffordshire, on 4 April 1891. Granville died in some financial embarrassment and £60,000 had to be raised to save his estate from bankruptcy. Gladstone masterminded the operation, though it came at an awkward moment when he was forming his last administration. Rosebery and Hartington (now the duke of Devonshire), among others, contributed but eventually Gladstone had to find the balance himself. (The story survives in the Gladstone, not the Granville, MSS; see Matthew, 332.)

Muriel E. Chamberlain


E. G. Petty-Fitzmaurice, The life of Granville George Leveson Gower, second Earl Granville, 2nd edn, 2 vols. (1905) · J. Morley, The life of William Ewart Gladstone, 3 vols. (1903) · The political correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville, 1868–1876, ed. A. Ramm, 2 vols., CS, 3rd ser., 81–2 (1952) · The political correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville, 1876–1886, ed. A. Ramm, 2 vols. (1962) · P. Jackson, The last of the whigs: a political biography of Lord Hartington (1994) · R. R. James, Rosebery: a biography of Archibald Philip, fifth earl of Rosebery (New York, 1964) · GEC, Peerage · FO List (1891) · Colonial Office List (1891) · C. C. Eldridge, England's mission: the imperial idea in the age of Gladstone and Disraeli (1973) · The Greville memoirs, ed. H. Reeve, new edn, 8 vols. (1888) · H. E. Gower, Letters, 1810–1845, ed. F. Leveson-Gower, 2 vols. (1894) · The Times (14 May 1885), 1–6 · The Times (16 April 1891) · Gladstone, Diaries · W. N. Medlicott, Bismarck, Gladstone and the concert of Europe (1956) · W. S. Blunt, Secret history of the English occupation of Egypt: being a personal narrative of events (1907) · H. C. G. Matthew, Gladstone, 1875–1898 (1995) · T. A. Jenkins, Gladstone, whiggery and the liberal party, 1874–1886 (1988) · NL Scot., Rosebery MSS · TNA: PRO, Granville MSS, 30/29 · BL, Dilke MSS


NL Scot., corresp. · TNA: PRO, corresp. and papers, PRO 30/29 · TNA: PRO, corresp. and papers, FO 362 · TNA: PRO, papers, FO 97/621 · UCL, letters · Walmer Castle, manuscripts · Yale U., Beinecke L., travel diary, kept while at sea, d301 |  Balliol Oxf., corresp. with Sir Robert Morier · BL, corresp. with Lord Aberdeen, Add. MSS 43250–43255 · BL, corresp. with Sir Francis Adams, partly relating to Tunisia, Add. MS 64796 · BL, letters to John. Bright, Add. MS 43387 · BL, corresp. with Lord Carnarvon, Add. MS 60773 · BL, corresp. with Charles Dilke, Add. MSS 43878–43881, 43901 · BL, letters to T. H. S. Escott, Add. MS 58784 · BL, corresp. with W. E. Gladstone, Add. MSS 44165–44180, 43875–43880, 44901 · BL, corresp. with Sir Edward Walter Hamilton, Add. MS 48617 · BL, letters to Lady Holland, Add. MS 52130 · BL, corresp. with Sir A. H. Layard, Add. MSS 38960–39036; 39121–39140, passim · BL, corresp. with Sir Stafford Northcote, Add. MS 50022 · BL, corresp. with Lord Ripon, Add. MSS 43520–43521 · Bodl. Oxf., letters to Lord Clarendon · Bodl. Oxf., letters to Benjamin Disraeli · Bodl. Oxf., corresp. with Sir William Harcourt · Bodl. Oxf., letters to Lord Kimberley · Borth. Inst., corresp. with Lord Halifax · Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, letters to dukes of Devonshire · CKS, letters to Lord Brabourne · CKS, letters to Edward Stanhope · CUL, corresp. primarily with Lord Acton, Add. MSS 8121, 8123 · Glos. RO, corresp. with Sir Michael Hicks Beach · Harrowby Manuscript Trust, Sandon Hall, Staffordshire, corresp. with Lord Harrowby · Herts. ALS, corresp. with earl of Lytton · Herts. ALS, letters to Lord Lytton · Hunt. L., letters to Lord Aberdare · ICL, letters to Lord Playfair · Keele University Library, corresp. with Ralph Sneyd · King's AC Cam., letters to Oscar Browning · LPL, corresp. with Lord Selborne · LPL, letters to A. C. Tait · LUL, letters to Lord Overstone · NA Scot., corresp. with Sir Charles Murray · NL Scot., corresp. with Sir Henry Elliot · NL Scot., Rosebery MSS · NL Wales, letters to Lord Rendel · priv. coll., corresp. with Lord Hammond · PRONI, Blackwood MSS · PRONI, corresp. with Lord Dufferin · Shrops. RRC, letters to Lord Acton · St Deiniol's Library, Hawarden, letters to W. E. Gladstone and Catherine Gladstone · St Deiniol's Library, Hawarden, letters to duke of Newcastle · Staffs. RO, letters to Lord Hatherton · Staffs. RO, corresp. with duke of Sutherland · TNA: PRO, corresp. with Sir Evelyn Baring, FO 633 · TNA: PRO, letters to Lord Cairns, PRO 30/51 · TNA: PRO, corresp. with Lord Cardwell, PRO 20/48 · TNA: PRO, corresp. with Lord Cowley, FO 519 · TNA: PRO, corresp. with Sir Edward Malet, FO 343 · TNA: PRO, corresp. with Lord Russell, PRO 30/22 · TNA: PRO, letters to Sir William White, FO 364/1–11 · Trinity Cam., letters to Lord Houghton · U. Birm. L., corresp. with Joseph Chamberlain · U. Durham L., corresp. with Charles Grey · U. Durham L., corresp. with third earl Grey · U. Nott. L., letters to J. E. Denison · U. Nott. L., letters to duke of Newcastle · U. Southampton L., corresp. with Lord Palmerston · UCL, corresp. with Sir Edwin Chadwick · W. Sussex RO, corresp. with Richard Cobden · W. Sussex RO, letters to F. A. Maxse · W. Sussex RO, letters to fifth duke of Richmond · W. Sussex RO, letters to sixth duke of Richmond


engraving, 1826 (after miniature), repro. in Fitzmaurice, Life of Granville George Leveson Gower · R. Doyle, pen-and-ink sketch, 1848, repro. in Fitzmaurice, Life of Granville George Leveson Gower · W. Walker, mezzotint, pubd 1853 (after R. Lehmann), BM · Hills & Saunders, photograph, 1863, NPG · G. H. Thomas, pencil drawing, 1863 (after miniature), repro. in Fitzmaurice, Life of Granville George Leveson Gower · W. & D. Downey, photograph, 1867, repro. in Fitzmaurice, Life of Granville George Leveson Gower · E. Fairfield, pen-and-ink sketch, 1872 (Waiting for the verdict; after miniature), repro. in Fitzmaurice, Life of Granville George Leveson Gower · J. Brown, stipple prints, pubd 1874–5, BM · G. Richmond, oils, 1876, U. Lond. [see illus.] · T. L. Atkinson, mezzotint, pubd 1879 (after G. Richmond), BM · M. Beerbohm, sketches, c.1890, Merton Oxf. · D. A. Wehrschmidt, oils, c.1890, National Liberal Club, London · W. Thornycroft, marble statue, 1895, Palace of Westminster, London · Ape [C. Pellegrini], chromolithograph caricature, NPG; repro. in VF (13 March 1869) · Dalziel, woodcut, BM · J. Gilbert, group portrait, pencil and wash (The coalition ministry, 1854), NPG · T. Lawrence, portrait (in youth), Kensington Palace, London · G. Richmond, chalk drawing, NPG · F. Sargent, pencil drawing, NPG · T. [T. Chartran], chromolithograph caricature, NPG; repro. in VF (5 July 1882) · photographs, NPG · portraits, repro. in Fitzmaurice, Life of Granville George Leveson Gower · prints, NPG

Wealth at death  

£33,283 2s. 0d.: probate, 5 Nov 1891, CGPLA Eng. & Wales