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Guide Castlereagh: The Biography of a Statesman

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On the fall of Napoleon the Treaty of Paris May secured immediate British requirements the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy and the separation of the Low Countries as an independent kingdom and set Castlereagh free to play a commanding and mediatory role at the peace conference at Vienna. His main European objectives were to prevent the aggrandizement of Russia and to strengthen the weak central European areas of Germany and Italy.

He and Metternich, the Austrian minister for foreign affairs, dominated the inner negotiations, though it was Castlereagh who took the lead in resisting the territorial demands of Russia and Prussia. Castlereagh also attached fundamental importance to regular consultation by the great powers on matters of common concern; and the peace treaty contained specific provision for periodic meetings of the contracting parties.

The distinction became increasingly apparent in the remaining seven years of his career. The Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle in readmitted France to the concert of powers. Castlereagh firmly resisted, however, a Russian attempt to institute a league of European powers to guarantee the existing order under sanction of military force.

When the liberal movement in Germany after and the revolutions in Spain and in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in brought Austria and Russia closer together, he refused to treat their meeting at Troppau in October as a full European congress, and after the Congress of Laibach he openly repudiated the Troppau principle of intervention and coercion. His classic state paper of May emphasized the difference between the despotic states of eastern Europe and the constitutional structures of Britain and France and made it clear that the British government could only act on the expediency of any given issue and within the limits of its parliamentary system.


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With the emergence in of the questions of Greek independence and the fate of the Spanish colonies, however, British political and commercial interests became directly affected, and Castlereagh decided to attend in person the Congress of Verona in The instructions he drew up for himself showed plainly that he would not sanction forcible interference in either Greece or Spain and that Britain would ultimately be prepared to recognize de facto governments resulting from successful revolutions.

It is clear that Castlereagh was preparing for that detachment of Britain from the reactionary policy of the continental powers that was accomplished after his death. His apparent involvement with the eastern autocracies was disliked at home, and his role as spokesman for the government in the violent domestic politics of the postwar era kept him in a position of unpopular prominence. After the abortive Thistlewood plot to assassinate the Cabinet in , he always carried pistols in self-defense, and during the trial of Queen Caroline he was obliged to take up his residence in the Foreign Office for greater safety.

Biography of Castlereagh ()

The burden imposed on him by the royal divorce affair of , in addition to his duties at the Foreign Office and in the House of Commons, probably hastened his final collapse. In he showed signs of abnormal suspiciousness, which by became outright paranoia. He was, or thought he was, being blackmailed on charges of homosexual acts, and on Aug. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles. You can make it easier for us to review and, hopefully, publish your contribution by keeping a few points in mind. Your contribution may be further edited by our staff, and its publication is subject to our final approval.

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Castlereagh: A Life

Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Castlereagh also had to manage a difficult and demanding new king, George IV, going through divorce proceedings, while Lady Castlereagh went to war with the royal mistress Lady Conyngham of Slane Castle. The strain became too much. Bew provides explanations, not to be found in any school textbook, as to why in August Castlereagh cut his own throat. Shortly beforehand, the bishop of Clogher had been found in flagrante delicto with a grenadier guardsman in the still extant White Hart inn on Holywell Street in St Albans. He was caught, by a small crowd, trying to escape with his breeches down.

Other possible explanations, such as terminal-stage syphilis, are given for his mental breakdown and paranoia. John Bew acknowledges the support of a galaxy of latter-day pro-Union luminaries in his introduction. Unfortunately, no one pointed out that Galway is not at the mouth of the Shannon page , that Emmet was arrested a month after his rebellion, not the morning after page and that there was no Prussian emperor, only a king, in page These are minor details in a biography well worth reading.

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