Lord Castlereagh

I’ve been researching Lord Castlereagh (Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, later Marquess of Londonderry). “From March 1812 to July 1822 Castlereagh’s biography is, in truth, the history of England.” (from the biography at http://www.nndb.com). During this period he had the leadership of the House of Commons as well as being Foreign Secretary. His diplomacy kept the alliance between Great Britain, Austria, Russia and Prussia together at a crucial time in 1814, and Castlereagh also figured prominently in the Treaty of Paris and the Congress of Vienna, thus playing a crucial role in the history of Europe as well as Britain.

It’s as his role of Foreign Secretary that he will play a role in a proposal I’m writing.

But to tell the truth, Castlereagh has intrigued me for a while now, ever since I read about his suicide in 1822. After a bout of gout and much stress, Castlereagh became depressed and paranoid. “My mind, my mind, is, as it were, gone,” Castlereagh had said. Both the Prince Regent and Wellington warned his doctor that Castlereagh might try to take his own life. His razors were removed from his room but a letter opener was forgotten. Castlereagh used the letter opener to cut his throat.

I think it was that horrific means of killing himself that first struck me about Castlereagh, a man who had achieved such great things. Having worked in mental health I had an understanding of clinical depression and an acute empathy for its sufferers. Knowing Castlereagh suffered from such a painful depression makes me feel so incredibly sad for him.

It seems so obvious to me that Castlereagh was a truly great man, but while he was alive, he suffered much unpopularity. In his native Ireland he was considered a traitor because he supported union with Great Britain. He was held responsible for the repressive “Six Acts” passed by Parliament after Peterloo. Even his remarkable decisions to stabilize Europe were criticized at the time. Castlereagh even (probably because of his paranoia) thought he was going to be accused of homosexuality.

Learning all this made me even sadder for him! It’s not fair!

Do you know how it is when you learn a lot about an actor or actress, that you have the illusion that you know them? You have a vivid idea of their personality, of what kind of person they are. That’s how I feel about Castlereagh. Like I know him. It’s how I feel about Wellington, too. And Jane Austen… and Emma Hamilton.

I feel I know Byron, too, but I don’t like him. Here’s what he wrote of Castlereagh shortly after the man’s tragic death:
Posterity will ne’er survey
a Nobler grave than this:
Here lie the bones of Castlereagh:
Stop, traveller, and p*ss!

Grrrrrrrrrrrr.

Is there anyone in the Regency or in history whom you feel you know?

By the way, the excerpt from The Vanishing Viscountess is up on my website now. Also notice the snowflakes on my site! Aren’t they pretty? While you are exploring the site (which of course you will want to do) sign up for my newsletter. And while you are in the signing-up-for-newsletter mood, sign up for our Riskies newsletter, too. Just email us at riskies@yahoo.com and put NEWSLETTER in the subject line.

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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doglady
14 years ago

Good morning! Another great post by the Divine Ms. G! I must admit that Castlereagh and especially his death has always fascinated me. What sort of pain must one suffer to cut one’s own throat? I have read so much about Beethoven, I truly feel that I know him and his life has many interesting parallels to Prinny’s enigmatic foreign minister. When I taught high school history I tried very hard to include humanizing aspects of the characters of the people who made history. I found the kids could relate better to history when they realized it was made by people just like them. Cannot wait for The Vanishing Viscountess to appear!

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

I’m going to have to start calling you the Divine Doglady!

I have a biography of Castlereagh and have read parts of another online (gotta love google books for stuff like this) but there is very little about his personal life. Frustrating.

I suspect his lapse into paranoia was brought on by his illness or its treatment (because of its sudden onset), but you just want to KNOW these things…

I totally agree that learning of the people of history makes it come alive. That certainly has been true of me!

Cara King
14 years ago

You know, I’m not sure there are any historical folk who I feel like I know well… For me, there’s always such a distance between a real person, and what’s written about them (or even what they write, though that can feel a lot closer.)

I expect that’s why I like fiction — I feel I really can know the folks in it… 🙂

Cara

Lois
14 years ago

You know, it didn’t occur to me that when it comes to someone I really don’t know much about, Castlereagh would be one. . . I’ve heard of his name, but that’s almost just about it. So this post was quite helpful! 🙂

But someone I feel like I know. . . well, maybe Jane Austen, in that with what it is we all do know about her, I know pretty well by now, so maybe I could say her. But obviously there, that’s sort of a trick answer (ah, such a thing? LOL) because alas, we know so little. . . 🙂

Lois

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

Good post, Diane! Certainly that’s one of the pleasures of reading biographies and histories for me, to “get to know” people (as much as we can at this point, lol!). Doglady, I was lucky enough to have a high school history teacher who had the gift of “bringing history to life”–your students were lucky to have you.

I’ve been reading a lot about Elizabeth I, Shakespeare, Marie Antoinette, and Caro Lamb for projects (separate projects, of course, though one that combined the 4 could be VERY interesting…), and I feel sort of “close” to them. I find Emma Hamilton and Byron to be very interesting people, no doubt about that, but I don’t really like them very much. 🙂

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

See, Cara and Lois, it’s all illusion, like it is illusion that I think I know Gerard Butler. It just feels the same to me somehow, especially with Castlereagh and Wellington.

Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

Is there anyone in the Regency or in history whom you feel you know?

I have several real people as characters in my alternate history WIP. One of them is Wellington, so I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about him. He’s one of my favorite historical figures–so intelligent, so snarky, and, um, if the portraits are at all accurate, kinda hot. But he’s such the aristocratic elitist that every once in awhile I want to go back and time and wring his neck.

Anyway, I found myself talking to Wellington…and at some point he started talking back. Now, I have a decent grip on reality, and I know I’m not communing with the man’s spirit or haunted by his ghost or any other such mystical nonsense. I’ve just read so much about him that I’ve internalized his personality to some degree. But, the thing is, I believe having created a sort of avatar of someone whose worldview and philosophy don’t quite match my own has expanded my mind a bit–at least, I find it easier to see both sides of an argument or to step back from my emotional reaction to an issue when I, um, discuss it with His Grace.

I swear I’m sane, really, I am!

Deb Marlowe
14 years ago

I know exactly the feeling you mean, Diane. I might not *know* any historical figures but I have an extreme fondness for a few!

As Ammanda knows–because she sat through my Beau Monde workshop :-)–I am extremely fond of Belzoni, the circus performer turned Egyptologist. I did alot of research on him and made him a character in my second book.

I find Prinny fascinating, but entirely too self indulgent to be overly attached to. Do you guys remember the docent at Brighton Pavilion who was “in love with George IV–whom we must never call Prinny!”

All of his royal brothers are interesting in their own way as well, but more as a case study of disfunction than anything else!

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Ah, Susan! I know exactly what you mean! That’s exactly how I feel! especially about Wellington. I suspect, though, that he was not as “hot” as the portraits paint him.

How did I miss your workshop, Deb? I must have been committed elsewhere. I well remember the docent who “love” the Prince Regent. SHE suffers from this same affliction!

Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

I suspect, though, that he was not as “hot” as the portraits paint him.

Probably not. OTOH, I’ve seen photos of him as a very old man, and he did have good bone structure. (At least if you’re me and like men on the well-endowed side in the nose department!) Also, contemporary descriptions of him tend to describe him as lean, wiry, and handsome.

(Am I really trying to figure out the hotness or lack thereof of a man who died over 100 years before I was born? Yes, I guess I am. Is there a special category of history geekdom for that?)

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

(Am I really trying to figure out the hotness or lack thereof of a man who died over 100 years before I was born? Yes, I guess I am. Is there a special category of history geekdom for that?)

Hee hee hee, Susan. You are doing exactly that!

My husband is half Italian, but his nose is 100% Italian. You can see a youthful him on my website bio page http://dianegaston.com/meet.htm

Note that my wedding gown is essentially a Regency dress!

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Am I really trying to figure out the hotness or lack thereof of a man who died over 100 years before I was born? Yes, I guess I am. Is there a special category of history geekdom for that?

Shall we form a club?

I am currently reading Wellington in India by Jac Weller. Though I’ve read other things which focused on his Peninsular and Waterloo campaigns, this book is giving me a stronger feel of his character and how his experiences in India shaped his character and later career.

As to hotness, I’ve also read that he was considered attractive. He was very intelligent too, which always ups the hotness factor for me.

doglady
14 years ago

Doesn’t everyone try to figure out the hotness or lack thereof of men who have been dead for 100 years? Gee, maybe we are weird! My dh was very fond of studying people in history who were deemed to have mental problems. He actually did case studies on some of them. So many of the great musicians in history had serious issues he used to tell people he married me to study my insanity! There are so many people in history about whom I’ve read and thought “What were they thinking?” Lets face it Brittney Spears has got nothing on Marie Antoinette!

janegeorge
14 years ago

**Belzoni, the circus performer turned Egyptologist.**

Right up my alley! I’ll be Googling that one.

Occasionally I feel a twinge of something akin to a past-life type simpatico, but it’s hard to pin down.

Rosa Bonheur is one for me.

Santa
14 years ago

I feel I ‘know’ Wellington. I am so happy to hear that I’m not the only one who finds the man attractive who I’ve only read about and ‘seen’ in faded portraits from that time.

I’m off to check out Diane’s husband and get my Vanishing Viscountess fix!

Todd
14 years ago

I’ve read very compelling biographies of a number of past people–Wellington, Jane Austen, Sir Richard Francis Burton. Right after reading them, I did have something of the illusion that I knew them…but not really in the way that I know someone I’ve actually met, or even an actor whose work I’ve admired. I think there is a difference (for me, at least) between someone I know only through words, and someone I’ve seen “live.”

Or maybe it isn’t knowing them only through words–I feel like I know the people in the Risky community quite well in some ways, even though I’ve only met a few of you in person. But there we have the benefit of interaction, which makes an enormous difference.

As for the hotness of the long dead…based on her portraits, Emma Hamilton was quite the babe. No wonder Nelson went for her.

Todd-who-has-interacted-enough-for-the-moment

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Doglady, I read a book (the name and author escape me now) in which the theory was put forward that many famous creative people, including Mozart, Beethoven and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, suffered from a degree of Asperger’s Syndrome.

Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

Love your wedding pictures, Diane! Your husband is a cutie.

creagh
13 years ago

hey i was happy to find this site i was researching my family history and i am a decendant of Lord Castle Reagh I am greatful for everything that is being published here as I am able to learn more about my family history!!!! The name has been shortened to Reagh over the years instead of “Castlereagh” but I am becoming alot more interested the more I learn!!!!

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

creagh,
Oh how exciting that you found my post on Castlereagh and that he is your ancestor! You must be very very proud to have the blood of such a great man flowing in your veins. Learn all you can about him; you may have the opportunity others would not have.
Thank you so much for commenting.