Clarendon, George Villiers, 4th earl of

Updated About content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Clarendon, George Villiers, 4th earl of (1800–70). Whig politician. Clarendon served under such diverse leaders as Aberdeen, Palmerston, Russell, and Gladstone (1853–8, 1865–6, and 1868–70). The Tory leader, Derby, twice offered him a place in government. A good linguist, he was an acknowledged expert on foreign affairs. Bismarck, with a touch of heavy Prussian humour, suggested in 1870 that had Clarendon lived longer he might have averted the Franco-Prussian War. Clarendon had learned the skills of diplomacy and politics as minister in Madrid during the Carlist wars and later as lord-lieutenant in Ireland (1847–52). As foreign secretary in 1853 he had the misfortune during the run-up to the Crimean War to be in a divided cabinet. Clarendon's biggest opportunity to distinguish himself occurred during the Congress of Paris in 1856 when he resisted the more extreme demands of Palmerston in London. He also publicized ideas on friendly mediation before states resorted to war. If he perhaps missed an opportunity to discourage the Hohenzollern candidature which precipitated the Franco-Prussian War, he was far from inactive in the search for a peaceful settlement.

C. J. Bartlett