Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh

Robert Stewart, 2nd Marquess of Londonderry, KG, GCH, PC, PC (Ire) (18 June 1769 – 12 August 1822), usually known as Lord Castlereagh,[1] derived from the courtesy title Viscount Castlereagh[lower-alpha 1] (UK: /ˈkɑːsəlr/ KAH-səl-ray) by which he was styled from 1796 to 1821, was an Anglo-Irish statesman. As British Foreign Secretary, from 1812 until his suicide in 1822 he was central to the management of the coalition that defeated Napoleon, and he was the principal British diplomat at the Congress of Vienna.


The Marquess of Londonderry

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
In office
4 March 1812  12 August 1822
Prime Minister
Preceded byThe Marquess Wellesley
Succeeded byGeorge Canning
Leader of the House of Commons
In office
8 June 1812  12 August 1822
Prime MinisterThe Earl of Liverpool
Preceded bySpencer Perceval
Succeeded byGeorge Canning
Secretary of State for War and the Colonies
In office
25 March 1807  1 November 1809
Prime MinisterThe Duke of Portland
Preceded byWilliam Windham
Succeeded byThe Earl of Liverpool
In office
10 July 1805  5 February 1806
Prime MinisterWilliam Pitt the Younger
Preceded byThe Earl Camden
Succeeded byWilliam Windham
President of the Board of Control
In office
2 July 1802  11 February 1806
Prime Minister
Preceded byThe Earl of Dartmouth
Succeeded byThe Lord Minto
Chief Secretary for Ireland
In office
14 June 1798  27 April 1801
Prime MinisterWilliam Pitt the Younger
Lord LieutenantThe Marquess Cornwallis
Preceded byThomas Pelham
Succeeded byCharles Abbot
Personal details
Born
Robert Stewart

(1769-06-18)18 June 1769
Dublin, Ireland
Died12 August 1822(1822-08-12) (aged 53)
Woollet Hall, Kent, England, UK
Cause of deathSuicide
Resting placeWestminster Abbey
NationalityIrish
Political party
Spouse(s)Lady Amelia Hobart
Parents
                   *Lady Sarah Frances Seymour-Conway
Alma materSt. John's College, Cambridge
Signature

Early in his career, as Chief Secretary for Ireland, he took the lead in putting down the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and was instrumental in securing the passage of the Irish Act of Union of 1800. Castlereagh encouraged lenient treatment of the rebels after they surrendered, but many Irish denounced him as a traitor. Criticism increased when he supported Pitt's Act of Union which abolished the Irish Parliament. Castlereagh was a consistent supporter of Catholic emancipation. In 1805 he became the Secretary of State for War and proved to be highly effective in reforming recruitment, and securing the appointment of Arthur Wellesley as commander in Spain. He resigned in 1809 after government splits and an unsuccessful war. He then fought a duel with his Tory rival George Canning; they both survived.

Castlereagh was Foreign Secretary and also Leader of the British House of Commons in the Liverpool government from 1812 until 1822.

Castlereagh organised and financed an alliance to defeat Napoleon, bringing the powers together at the Treaty of Chaumont in 1814; Napoleon was defeated and forced to abdicate that year, and again after his brief return in the Hundred Days in 1815. Castlereagh worked with Europe's leaders at the Congress of Vienna to provide a long-term peace consistent with the conservative mood of the day, and was largely successful in his primary goal of creating a peace settlement that would endure for years. He employed his diplomatic skills to block harsh terms against France, now once again under the conservative Bourbon monarchy, believing that a harsh treaty based on vengeance and retaliation would fail. France's colonies were returned, but France had to give up all its gains in Europe after 1791. At the same time he was watchful of Britain's overseas interests. He purchased the Cape Colony and Ceylon from the Netherlands. In 1820 he enunciated a policy that Britain would not intervene in European affairs – a policy that was largely adopted down to 1900.

After 1815 Castlereagh was the leader in imposing repressive measures at home. He was hated for his harsh attacks on liberty and reform. Badly overworked and under deep psychological distress, Castlereagh committed suicide in 1822 just before he was to represent Britain at another international Congress.

John Bew writes that:

No British statesman of the 19th century reached the same level of international influence....But very few have been so maligned by their own countrymen and so abused in history. This shy and handsome Ulsterman is perhaps the most hated domestic political figure in both modern British and Irish political history.[2]