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The 5th Earl

Perhaps the best-known inhabitant of Dalmeny House was Archibald Philip, 5th Earl of Rosebery (1847-1929). His father having died when he was four, he was brought up by a mother with broad political interests and connections. He showed great early promise as a boy at Eton and student at Christ Church, Oxford- although left the University early in order to enter his horse, Ladas, in the Derby of 1869, as students were not allowed to own racehorses. Ladas finished last, but years later his namesake won the 1894 Derby for Lord Rosebery.

He succeeded to the title of Earl of Rosebery in 1868 on the death of his grandfather. The decade that followed saw him travel extensively, marry Hannah de Rothschild and begin an active career in politics. Despite a warm friendship with Benjamin Disraeli, he followed his inclination and family tradition to join the Liberal party and accept ministerial posts under W.E. Gladstone: Undersecretary at the Home Office and Foreign Secretary. His foreign policy was both subtle and effective during what was a hazardous period of finely-balanced Great Power diplomacy.

 

Detail: The 5th Earl of Rosebery, by J.E. Millais. (click here to enlarge)

 

Rosebery also changed the face of British election campaigning, by applying the techniques of "electioneering" he had seen in America- with its mass meetings, parades and general excitement- to the Midlothian campaign of 1880, which saw Gladstone returned as Prime Minister.

Rosebery's own time as Prime Minister in 1894-1895 was an unhappy one; he led a party in the process of splitting asunder; he found he could not run Parliamentary business effectively from the House of Lords; personally, he had not recovered (and indeed never would recover) from the blow of his wife's untimely death in 1890. He left office and active politics in the same year, but would continue to influence affairs by his remarkable powers of oratory and his incisive skills as a writer.

Winston Churchill described Rosebery as the natural leader who never completely accepted the invitation to lead; his interest in statecraft was frustrated by his dislike for the everyday business of politics. And yet several of his most closely-held beliefs are now political reality: the British Commonwealth of Nations (a phrase he invented); the end of the hereditary principle in the House of Lords; and a separate administration for Scotland. Moreover, his contribution to scholarship, in biographies of Napoleon, William Pitt, Chatham and Lord Randolph Churchill, amid hundreds of other articles and speeches, would have earned him a place in the country's history even had he never held office.

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