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Viscount Castlereagh.

Background image Mountstewart House.

Viscount Castlereagh.
 

(1769 - 1822)

Viscount Castlereagh was born in Dublin the son of an Irish landowner (see Mount Stewart Co Down) In 1790 he became a member of the Irish Parliament and the British Parliament in 1794. Downpatrick was a"Rotten Borough" which was bought for him by his father. These elections could be bought for as much as thirty thousand pounds a vast sum in those days. The Rotten Boroughs were abolished comparatively recently. In 1796 when his father was created Earl of Londonderry he received the courtesy title of Viscount Castlereagh. He played a large part in formulating the peace settlements after the Napoleonic Wars in 1815.

Possibly as a result of seeing the outcome of the French revolution and also the American war of Independence Castlereagh was instrumental in persuading the Irish parliament to pass the Act of Union between Ireland and Britain. He took his seat in the united House of Commons in 1801. Although Castlereagh advocated freedom for Roman Catholics his family played a leading role in suppressing with some ferocity the 1798 Rebellion of the United Irishmen, which enjoyed much Protestant support, indeed many of its leaders were Protestant.

Prime Minister William Pitt appointed Castlereagh war minister in 1805. Castlereagh planned and implemented the overseas operations against France. In 1809 he organized an unsuccessful expedition against the island of Walcheren. Fellow Member of Parliament George Canning vehemently opposed the expedition and as a result of this difference of opinion the two fought a duel. Subsequently both men resigned.

Castlereagh was appointed foreign secretary and leader of the house in 1812. He used his considerable diplomatic powers and social position to unite the enemies of Napoleon, and after the battle of Waterloo (1815) to obtain favorable peace terms for France and the reshaping of the European alliances.

After the death of his father in 1822 Castlereagh succeeded him as Marquee's of Londonderry. At that time viscount Sidmouth relinquished his post as home secretary, Castlereagh took it over but was unable to cope and he committed suicide on 12th August 1822 and was buried at Mount Stewart

Shelly wrote the verse below about the death of Castlereagh.

I met Murder on the way.
He had a mask like Castlereagh.

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Read about Castlereagh from A Compendium of Irish Biography by Arthur Webb.