, first earl of Mulgrave (17551831), diplomatist and politician
, was born on 14 February 1755, the third son of Constantine Phipps, first Baron Mulgrave of New Ross (bap
. 1722, d
. 1775), a landowner, and his wife, Lepell (17231780), the eldest daughter of John Hervey, Baron Hervey of Ickworth, and his wife, Mary Lepell. He was educated at Eton College (176771) and admitted as a student at the Middle Temple in 1772 before enlisting in the army as an ensign in the 1st foot in 1775. Phipps rose rapidly through the ranks, and, after moving between a number of different regiments, in 1793 he was made colonel of the 31st foot, a post which he held until his death. Subsequent promotions raised him to brigadier-general (1793), major-general (1794), lieutenant-general (1801), and general (1809). He was also the governor of Scarborough Castle from 1796 until his death. During his military career Phipps saw action in the American War of Independence and was stationed in the Caribbean. It was as a diplomatist and politician, however, that he made his greatest impact on public life.
At the general election of 1784 Phipps was returned to the House of Commons as a government candidate for the borough of Totnes, Devon. In the 1784 parliament he strongly supported the administration of William Pitt the younger and spoke often, especially on military matters. In 1790 he was returned for Scarborough, Yorkshire, on the family interest, and he continued to support Pitt, to whom he was becoming increasingly close in both personal and political terms. He appears to have become such a regular visitor to Pitt's home at Holwood that he had a room reserved there for his use, and Pitt came to value greatly his advice on military matters. Indeed, Phipps may be seen as one of a circle of professional experts outside the cabinet to whom Pitt turned for guidance on a range of issues. Phipps opposed the abolition of the slave trade and supported the government's vigorous response to the rise of domestic radicalism and what he saw as the abominable doctrines of equality associated with the French Revolution (Stokes and Thorne, 799). He spoke in favour of anti-radical measures such as the Aliens Bill
(January 1793) and supported the construction of barracks (February 1793). His attitude to such matters is perhaps best summed up in a letter to William Windham in December 1792, in which he wrote that those who are the last to exert themselves in defence of their rights frequently are or always ought to be the first to lose them (Lord Rosebery, ed., The Windham Papers
, 2 vols., 1913, 1.108). In 1792, on the death of his brother , he succeeded to the latter title, his brother having failed to obtain a reversion for the British peerage that he had been awarded in 1790. This rankled somewhat with Mulgrave (as he now became), and he made a number of attempts to obtain a British peerage for himself.
In 1793 Mulgrave was sent on a special mission to Turin to investigate the intentions and abilities of the Sardinians. When he heard of the Anglo-Spanish landings at Toulon on the southern coast of France, which had taken place on the night of 278 August, he saw an opportunity to deploy his military talents and immediately departed from Turin and placed himself at the service of Admiral Hood, who was in overall command of allied forces at Toulon. Hood put Mulgrave in charge of the British land forces at Toulon with the rank of brigadier-general. William Wyndham Grenville, first Baron Grenville, the foreign secretary, noted to Henry Dundas, the home secretary, that:
Mulgrave will find himself the senior land officer at Toulon. With my opinion of his zeal and talents, I earnestly wish he could maintain that situation, at least for the present; but I am not quite sure how that would be best brought about. (Grenville to Dundas, 16 Sept 1793, Fortescue MSS, 2.425)
Grenville's wish for a more permanent role for Mulgrave at Toulon did not materialize for, although Mulgrave made a success of his appointment and worked closely with the Spanish Admiral Gravina, who had been placed in charge of the city of Toulon by Hood, he was reluctant to take a subordinate role when more senior army officers arrived to take chargenamely Lieutenant-General Charles O'Hara and his second in command, Major-General David Dundas. Mulgrave returned to London, where he was able to report to ministers directly and to advise them about further action at Toulon.
In 1794 Mulgrave was created Baron Mulgrave of Mulgrave in the British peerage and gave up his parliamentary seat at Scarborough to his younger brother Edmund Phipps on the family interest. Mulgrave made his first speech in the Lords on 30 December 1794 in defence of the recent capture of Corsica, a début which Grenville described as the most brilliant first appearance in that house that perhaps ever was remembered (E. Phipps, ed., The Memoirs of the Political and Literary Life of Robert Plumer Ward
, 2 vols., 1850, 1.28n). On 20 October 1795, at Houghton-le-Spring, co. Durham, he married Martha Sophia (d
. 1849), the third daughter of Christopher Thompson Maling, of West Herrington, co. Durham, and his wife, Martha, the daughter of John Sheels of Middlesex. He and his wife had four sons, including , and five daughters.
In August 1799 Mulgrave was sent on a second special mission by the ministry. Grenville dispatched him to the Austrian military headquarters in Switzerland with the objective of persuading Archduke Charles not to move his armies from Switzerland to the middle Rhine to besiege Mainz, which would thwart plans for an allied strike by Austrian and Russian troops on the eastern borders of France through the Belfort Gap. Austria, however, was sceptical of the feasibility of the British and Russian strategy of attempting to overthrow France by the end of the year and was more concerned with moving her troops down from Switzerland to the middle Rhine for political reasons; her aim was to keep other powers, particularly Prussia, out of Belgium so that ultimately the Austrians could use it as a bargaining counter to acquire territorial gains in Italy as part of any future peace settlement. This rejection of the fundamental aspects of British strategy by Austria and the mismatch between Austrian political concerns and British and Russian strategic aims help to explain why Mulgrave's mission was probably doomed from the start, although its chances of success were not helped by the changing plans of ministers in London which had delayed his departure for crucial weeks. By the time Mulgrave reached Switzerland, Archduke Charles was already withdrawing into Bavaria, and although he received Mulgrave civilly he avoided substantive discussion with him and refused to respond to the British exhortations to remain in Switzerland which Mulgrave brought with him.
In 1801 Mulgrave's active military career came to an end when he declined the military command in Ireland. When Pitt resigned the premiership in 1801 Mulgrave remained loyal to his old master and followed his lead in his attitude towards Henry Addington's ministry. Thus he initially supported the peace of Amiens and only gradually became more critical of the ministry. When Pitt returned to office in 1804 Mulgrave was rewarded with a position in the cabinet as the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. George Rose recorded in his diary for 30 October 1804:
The King … believed Mr. Pitt had been induced to make Lord Mulgrave Chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster under an engagement from his Lordship to give Mr. Pitt all the patronage of the Duchywhich I happened to know was not true … The King regretted much Lord Mulgrave having the office, and still more his being in the Cabinet. (Later Correspondence of George III, 4.266n2)
In early 1805 Mulgrave achieved even higher office when he became foreign secretary. His elevation was precipitated by an accident which befell the then incumbent, Dudley Ryder, earl of Harrowby, who suffered a fall on 5 December 1804 which incapacitated him and eventually forced him to relinquish his post. The situation was complicated by two factors: first, it was initially not clear whether Harrowby would recover, and thus whether a replacement would be needed at all; and second, Pitt was at the time in the process of seeking the support of Henry Addington for his ministry. A principal sticking point in the negotiations was Addington's insistence that one of his supporters, Robert Hobart, second earl of Buckinghamshire, join the cabinet. Pitt was initially reluctant to include Buckinghamshire, but when it became clear that Harrowby would indeed have to retire, a solution was found by promoting Mulgrave to foreign secretary and putting Buckinghamshire in the relatively minor post formerly held by Mulgrave: the chancellorship of the duchy of Lancaster. Mulgrave was offered the foreign secretaryship on 31 December 1804 and accepted the following day.
There was more to this appointment, however, than the desire to solve a problem of political negotiation. Pitt had always valued Mulgrave's advice, and in the interval between Harrowby's accident and his eventual retirement had already begun to consult him on foreign affairs. It has been suggested that Mulgrave had a greater impact than has usually been allowed on a key episode in the development of British foreign policy: Pitt's famous paper of 1805 outlining the British perspective on the third coalition against France and his plan for the future reconstruction of Europe. Written by Pitt, the plan was included in a letter to Vorontsov, the Russian ambassador in London, which was signed by Mulgrave as foreign secretary. Edward Ingram has argued that Mulgrave's contribution went much farther than merely adding his signature to a document written by Pitt, and that his views were the origin of Pitt's plans for the territorial reconstruction of Europe (Ingram, 514). John Ehrman's assessment of Mulgrave's role in the genesis of Pitt's plan, however, is more convincing. Ehrman concedes that Mulgrave may have influenced one aspect of the paper (on the question of Prussian territorial acquisitions in the Low Countries), but he points out that, crucially, Mulgrave made no mention of devising mechanisms for a form of collective security in Europe, which is precisely the aspect of Pitt's plan usually credited with exercising a great influence on Castlereagh and, through him, on the post-Napoleonic congress system of European diplomacy.
Mulgrave served as foreign secretary for the remainder of Pitt's second ministry. Pitt's death and the formation of the ministry of all the talents under Grenville (18067) left Mulgrave, along with the rest of Pitt's former colleagues, out of office. After the fall of the talents, Mulgrave became first lord of the Admiralty in the Portland ministry which succeeded it. As first lord he was closely involved with planning and implementing the successful expedition to capture the Danish fleet at Copenhagen (1807) and the disastrous Walcheren expedition (1809). He appears to have found the heavy administrative duties of the first lord a strain and on one occasion he spoke of the impossibility of meeting all the demands that were put on the navy (Hall, 12). When Spencer Perceval succeeded Portland as prime minister in 1809 Mulgrave remained at the Admiralty, but by early 1810 he was seeking relief from the burdens of his position. In April 1810 Perceval informed George III
that the laborious duties of the Admiralty have been pressing for some time so heavily upon Lord Mulgrave's health, that he has told Mr Perceval repeatedly that it was impossible that he should be able to hold the office much longer. (Later Correspondence of George III, 5.573)
In the end Mulgrave was transferred in May 1810 to the cabinet post of master-general of the ordnance, which he held until 1818, when he relinquished it to the duke of Wellington. In September 1812 he was created earl of Mulgrave and Viscount Normanby.
In his later years as a minister Mulgrave spoke less frequently in the Lords, and by the end of the decade his health was clearly beginning to fail. The painter Joseph Farington records in his diary for 1 March 1820 that he had been told that Mulgrave:
is affected with universal Paralysis and is in the state both in look and power of a Man aged 90 though but 64. He is so feeble that he cannot write a letter, and in his motion rather shuffles and creeps than walks. His apprehension is dull and his utterance imperfect. … His spirits are somewhat affected. (J. Farington, The Farington Diary, ed. J. Greig, 8 vols., 19238, 8.243)
However, Mulgrave lived on until 7 April 1831, when he died at Mulgrave Castle, Yorkshire. He was succeeded by his eldest son, , politician and diplomatist, who later became first marquess of Normanby.
Mulgrave's third son, Edmund Phipps
(18081857), lawyer and author
, was born on 7 December 1808. He went up to Trinity College, Oxford, in 1825, and graduated BA in 1828 and MA in 1831. The following year he was called to the bar from the Inner Temple. In addition to practising on the northern circuit, where he was recorder of Scarborough and then of Doncaster, he wrote several works, both fiction and non-fiction. Among these, of particular importance are The Memoirs of the Political and Literary Life of Robert Plumer Ward
(2 vols., 1850) and a number of pamphlets on economic and currency matters. He married Louisa, the eldest daughter of , with whom he had one son. Phipps died at his home in Wilton Crescent, London, on 27 October 1857.
Stephen M. Lee
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BL, memoranda on official corresp., Add. MS 28559
NMM, letter-book | BL, corresp. with Earl Bathurst, loan 57
BL, corresp. with Lord Grenville, Add. MS 58940
BL, corresp. with earl of Liverpool, Add. MSS 3824938284, 3832038327, passim
BL, corresp. with Sir Arthur Paget, Add. MS 48390
BL, corresp. with Lord Wellesley, Add. MSS 3728337313, passim
BL, corresp. with William Windham, Add. MSS 3787337888, passim
CKS, letters to William Pitt
Cumbria AS, Carlisle, letters to earl of Lonsdale
Harrowby Manuscript Trust, Sandon Hall, Staffordshire, corresp. with Lord Harrowby
L. Cong., letters to Lord Melville
Morgan L., letters to Sir James Murray-Pulteney
NA Scot., letters to Sir Alexander Hope
NL Scot., corresp. with Sir Alexander Cochrane
NL Scot., corresp. with Lord Lynedoch
NL Scot., letters to Lord Minto
NMM, corresp. with Lord Barham
NMM, letters to Sir John Duckworth
priv. coll. (NRA), corresp. with Spencer Perceval
Royal Arch., letters to George III
corresp. with William Pitt, PRO 30/8
T. Lawrence, oils, c.1790, Neue Pinakothek, Munich · S. W. Reynolds, mezzotint, pubd 1801 (after J. Hoppner), BM · W. Beechey, oils, 1807, NPG [see illus.] · W. Skelton, line engraving, pubd 1808 (after W. Beechey), BM, NPG · H. Meyer, stipple, pubd 1811 (after J. Jackson), BM, NPG · J. G. Murray, group portrait, stipple, pubd 1823 (The Trial of Queen Caroline, 1820; after J. Stephanoff), BM · Count D'Orsay, pencil and chalk drawing, 1848 (Edmund Phipps), NPG · attrib. R. Cosway, miniature, NPG · W. J. Ward, group portrait, mezzotint (after J. Jackson), BM, NPG