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Charles William Stewart (afterwards Vane), third Marquis of Londonderry (1778-1854)

This article was written by Ernest Marsh Lloyd and was published in 1897

Lord LondonderryCharles William Stewart (afterwards Vane), third Marquis of Londonderry, was the only son of Robert Stewart, first marquis, by his second wife, Frances, eldest daughter of Charles Pratt, first earl Camden. He was born in Dublin on 18 May 1778, being nine years younger than his half-brother Robert, second marquis, better known as Lord Castlereagh. He was educated at Eton, and narrowly escaped drowning there at the age of thirteen in a courageous attempt to save his schoolfellow, Lord Waldegrave. He was commissioned as ensign in a newly raised regiment of foot (Macnamara's) on 11 October 1794, in which he became lieutenant on 30 October and captain on 12 November. He obtained a majority in the 106th foot on 31 July 1795, but both this and his former regiment were disbanded in that year. He was employed on the staff of Lord Moira's corps in the campaign of 1794-5 in the Netherlands. He then accompanied Colonel (afterwards Sir Charles Gregan-) Craufurd to the headquarters of the Austrian army, and served with it in the campaigns of 1795-6 on the Rhine and Upper Danube. In a cavalry affair near Donauwörth he was struck by a bullet under the left eye and his sight injured.

He was aide-de-camp to his uncle, Lord Camden, who was lord-lieutenant of Ireland from 1795 to 1798. On 4 August 1796 he obtained a majority in the 5th dragoons (Royal Irish), and became lieutenant-colonel of it on 1 January 1797. The regiment served in Ireland during the rebellion of 1798; but its discipline became so bad, and so many disloyal men were found to be in its ranks, that it was disbanded on 8 April 1799. Stewart had done his utmost to improve it; his family interest was great, and four days afterwards he was made lieutenant-colonel of the 18th light dragoons.

He served with two squadrons of this regiment in the short campaign of 1799 in Holland. Being attached to Abercrombie's division on 19 September, and to Pulteney's on 2 October, he had little fighting. He was slightly wounded on outpost duty at Schagenburg on 10 October On 25 September 1803 he was made aide-de-camp to the king and colonel in the army. Shortly afterwards he was appointed under-secretary in Ireland. He had been elected member for Thomastown to the Irish parliament in 1798, and after the union he was member for co. Derry in the imperial parliament till 1814. In 1805, when invasion was threatened, he published ‘Suggestions for the Improvement of the Force of the British Empire.’ In 1807 he became under-secretary for war, Castlereagh being the secretary of state. The two brothers were always most warmly attached to each other.

In August 1808 Stewart left his office for a time to command the hussar brigade in the corps sent out to Portugal under Sir John Moore. The brigade consisted of the 18th and the king's German hussars, to which the 10th was afterwards added. It covered the advance of Hope's division upon Madrid and Salamanca in November, and afterwards covered the retreat of the whole army on Coruña. On 12 December Stewart surprised a French post at Rueda and took eighty prisoners; and on the 28th he had a prominent part in the brilliant cavalry action at Benavente, the pickets being furnished by his regiment. He shared with Lord Paget the praise of Moore, that they had put the right spirit into the British cavalry.

He returned to England and to his office in January 1809. He was given the governorship of Fort Charles, Jamaica — a sinecure office worth £650 a year, which he resigned in favour of Lord Bloomfield in 1822. In April 1809 he went back to Portugal as adjutant-general under Wellesley, with the rank of brigadier-general. At the passage of the Douro he led some charges of squadrons which were specially noticed by Wellesley in general orders, and he also distinguished himself at Talavera. Ill-health obliged him to go to England for the winter, and on 5 February 1810 he received, in his place in parliament, the thanks of the House of Commons. He was promoted major-general on 25 July.

He returned to the Peninsula in March, and served as adjutant-general throughout the campaigns of 1810 and 1811. He was mentioned in despatches for Busaco and Fuentes d'Onoro. In the latter battle he disarmed a colonel of chasseurs and made him prisoner, and at El Bodon he found fresh opportunity of taking part in a cavalry encounter. He was essentially a sabreur, handsome and dashing; in Alison's words, ‘his nature was chivalrous rather than administrative;’ and he longed to exchange his staff appointment for a cavalry command. But Wellington would not indulge him. On 25 June 1811, in reply to a letter from the Duke of York, he wrote that Stewart was a very gallant and very able officer of cavalry, but, owing to his defective sight and hearing, his gallantry would be apt to lead him into difficulties.

Stewart was at the siege and capture of Ciudad Rodrigo in January 1812, but a return of intermittent fever obliged him to go home in February, and he saw no further service in the Peninsula. He was appointed a groom of the bedchamber on 28 July. At the end of the year he wrote to Wellington to say that it was proposed he should bring out an hussar brigade, and to ask if he could have command of a cavalry division. Wellington replied that he wished to keep all the cavalry in one division under Cotton. Disappointed in this, Stewart determined to resign his appointment as adjutant-general, which he had originally accepted with reluctance. Wellington was not sorry to lose him. He harassed the cavalry, and had vexed Wellington by his free comments on the way in which it was handled, and by the pretensions which he set up as adjutant-general. Wellington believed also that he intrigued against him in the army, and preached that no good was to be done in Spain; and this was the more serious because, as Wellington told Croker in 1826, ‘Castlereagh had a real respect for Charles's understanding, and a high opinion of his good sense and discretion. This seems incomprehensible to us who knew the two men’ . In spite of all this, there were no signs of estrangement in their future relations. Wellington habitually wrote to Stewart in terms of affectionate intimacy, and the latter always showed unstinted admiration for Wellington. An obelisk at Wynyard Park, inscribed ‘Wellington, the friend of Londonderry,’ commemorated a visit from the duke in 1827.

Stewart was made a K.B. on 1 February 1813, and received the Portuguese order of the Tower and Sword soon afterwards, and the gold medal with one clasp in the following year, for his services in the Peninsula. Castlereagh had returned to office as foreign secretary in 1812, and on 9 April 1813 Stewart was appointed British minister to the court of Berlin, ‘specially charged with the military superintendence, so far as Great Britain is concerned, of the Prussian and Swedish armies.’ He reached the headquarters of the allies at Dresden on 26 April, and signed the formal treaty of alliance between Great Britain, Russia, and Prussia. He was present at Lützen, and was actively engaged at Bautzen; and he took part in Blücher's brilliant cavalry stroke at Haynau on 26 May. He helped to storm one of the redoubts at Dresden, and was severely wounded at Kulm. At Leipzig (16 Oct.) Blücher gave him the command of his reserve cavalry, and he captured a battery at the head of the Brandenburg hussars.

But it was in bringing pressure upon Bernadotte that he was of most service to the cause of the allies. He at once recognised the prince royal as ‘a highly finished actor’ who was playing a game of his own, and was not inclined ‘to spill Swedish in drawing French blood.’ But by strenuous exertions and very plain speaking he brought him to take some share in the battle of Leipzig; and he prevented the completion of a convention under which Davoust, who was in Hamburg with thirty thousand men, would have been allowed to return to France. At the same time he kept on good terms with Bernadotte, and received from him the Swedish order of the Sword. He also received the order of the Black Eagle, and six months later of the Red Eagle, of Prussia, and the Russian order of St. George (fourth class). The latter was accompanied by a letter from the Emperor Alexander, bearing witness to his indefatigable zeal and to the coolness and valour he had shown in the battlefield. On 20 November he was given the colonelcy of the 25th light dragoons.

During the campaign of 1814 Stewart was at the headquarters of the allies with Castlereagh. He was present at the actions of La Rothière, Fère-Champenoise, and Montmartre, and at the entry into Paris on 31 March. He was promoted lieutenant-general on 4 June, and was raised to the peerage as Baron Stewart on 1 July. He received honorary degrees at Oxford and Cambridge, was sworn of the privy council on 23 July, and made a lord of the bedchamber in August. On the enlargement of the Bath he received the G.C.B., and in 1816 the G.C.H.

On 27 August 1814 he was appointed ambassador at Vienna. He assisted Castlereagh, and afterwards Wellington, in the negotiations of the congress there, and accompanied the allied sovereigns again to Paris after Waterloo. He represented Great Britain at the congress of Troppau in 1820, and that of Laybach in 1821, and was at Verona with Wellington in 1822. Throughout these affairs he was the zealous instrument of Castlereagh's policy. Among his duties at Vienna was the collection of information about the conduct of Queen Caroline, and he went to England in the autumn of 1820 to advise the government about it. He was a lord of the bedchamber to George IV from his accession to April 1827.

By his brother's death, on 12 August 1822, he became Marquis of Londonderry, and when he found that Canning was to take the foreign office he tendered his resignation; but at Canning's request he remained till the end of the year to assist Wellington at Verona.

On 8 August 1808 he had married Catherine, daughter of the third Earl of Darnley. She died on 8 February 1812, while he was on his way home from Spain, leaving one son. On 3 April 1819 he married Frances Anne, only daughter of Sir Harry Vane-Tempest, and of Anne, countess of Antrim, and heiress of very large estates in Durham and the north of Ireland. On his marriage he took the surname of Vane, and on 28 March 1823 he was created Earl Vane and Viscount Seaham in the peerage of the United Kingdom, with remainder to the eldest son by his second marriage. After his return from Vienna he and his wife occupied themselves in improving and developing their property, especially the Seaham estate, which he bought from the Milbanke family in 1822. By opening collieries, and making a harbour, docks, and a railway, he created a thriving seaport which has abundantly justified his foresight, and has nearly ten thousand inhabitants. He rebuilt the mansion at Wynyard twice, for it was burnt down in 1841, and he remodelled the park.

In 1835, during Peel's short administration, he was offered and accepted the embassy at St. Petersburg. The support given by France to Mehemet Ali made the British government draw towards Russia, and he was a man who would find favour there. But in England, as a conspicuous opponent of reform, he had incurred so much hostility that he was on one occasion mobbed and dragged off his horse. Always an uncompromising tory, he did not measure his words, and he had shown some want of sympathy with the Poles. The appointment was bitterly attacked in the commons on 13 March, and not very stoutly defended; and Londonderry, feeling that such a debate would weaken his hands, withdrew his acceptance. The appointment had been recommended by Wellington, who was foreign secretary. He told Greville ‘that he was not particularly partial to the man, nor ever had been; but that he was very fit for that post, was an excellent ambassador, procured more information and obtained more insight into the affairs of a foreign court than anybody, and that he was the best relater of what passed at a conference, and wrote the best account of a conversation, of any man he knew’.

Londonderry compensated himself by travels in Russia and other parts of eastern and southern Europe in 1836 and subsequent years. He had succeeded the prince regent as colonel of the 10th hussars on 3 February 1820, and in 1823 he had thought himself bound to accept a challenge from Cornet Battier of that regiment, arising out of a trivial matter brought before him as colonel. This brought him a sharp reprimand from the Horse Guards, while Battier was dismissed from the army. In 1839 he fought another duel with Henry Grattan the younger, owing to an absurd charge which the latter had made against the tories in connection with the bedchamber question. In each case Londonderry received his adversary's fire, and then discharged his own pistol in the air.

On 10 January 1837 he became general, and on 21 June 1843 he was transferred from the 10th hussars to the 2nd life-guards. He had been appointed governor of co. Derry in 1823, and one of the joint-governors of co. Down in 1824; and he was made lord-lieutenant of Durham on 27 April 1842. In 1852 he received the Garter made vacant by Wellington's death, and was one of the pallbearers at his funeral. But he did not long survive his old chief. He died at Holdernesse House, London, on 6 March 1854, from influenza, and was buried on the 16th at Long Newton, near Wynyard Park, co. Durham, where his widow built a ‘memorial-room’ for the insignia of his orders and other relics of him. She died on 20 January 1865.

Londonderry's only son by his first wife, Frederick William Robert Stewart (1805-1872), succeeded as fourth Marquis of Londonderry. Londonderry had three sons and four daughters by his second marriage. The eldest of these sons, George Henry Robert Charles William Vane-Tempest (1821-1884), succeeded him as Earl Vane, and (by the death of his half-brother) became fifth Marquis of Londonderry on 25 November 1872. The latter's son is the sixth and present marquis.

He was the author of several works:

1. ‘A Narrative of the Peninsular War from 1808 to 1813,’ 2 vols., London, 1828. This was based upon letters written by him to Castlereagh during the war, and combines freshness of style with much exact information. It did not include the campaigns of 1812 and 1813.
2. ‘A Narrative of the War in Germany and France in 1813-14,’ London, 1830.
3. ‘Recollections of a Tour in the North of Europe in 1836-7,’ 2 vols., London, 1838.
4. ‘Journal of a Tour in the Southern Parts of Spain, &c.’ (privately printed), London, 1840.
5. ‘A Steam Voyage to Constantinople by the Rhine and Danube in 1840-1, and to Portugal, Spain, &c. in 1839,’ 2 vols., London, 1842. A correspondence with Metternich is appended to this work.
6. ‘Memoir and Correspondence of Viscount Castlereagh, second Marquess of Londonderry, edited by his brother,’ 12 vols., London, 1848-53. This grew out of ‘a letter to Lord Brougham,’ which he published in 1839, in reply to the hostile account given of Castlereagh in the ‘Sketches of Statesmen of the Time of George III.’

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