Thursday, July 15, 2010

Castlereagh and Mount Stewart

Most Regency fans will recognise the famous portrait of Lord Castlereagh, the British Foreign Secretary from 1812, and Britain's representative at the Congress of Vienna in 1814-1815.

Viscount Castlereagh was a courtesy title only, since he was actually the heir to the Earl and (later) Marquess of Londonderry. Our marquess succeeded to the titles in 1821. (He died in 1822, without children, and was succeeded by his half-brother.)

The family seat is Mount Stewart, in Northern Ireland, close to Strangford Lough. This is the imposing front entrance which faces the park and the path to the huge lake.

This is the back of the house, looking over the formal garden.

Sadly, the splendid garden is modern, created in the 20th century, and much of the house celebrates the lives of the 20th century family. But you can see how magnificent the interior was. Here, for example, is the marble hall with the galleried landing above.
Some copies of Castlereagh memorabilia are still on view, including paintings, etchings and papers, as well as busts and miniatures. Perhaps most interesting are these chairs. There are 22 of them and they were used at the Congress of Vienna. They were later presented to Castlereagh's half-brother (the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry) as a tribute to the diplomatic achievements of both brothers.

I was disappointed to discover that the needlework is not original! It was done around the end of the 19th century by nuns in Nantes but it does depict the coats of arms of the delegates at the Congress and the countries they represented. And it still sent a shiver down my spine to look at them.


Elizabeth Hawksley said...

Great pictures, Joanna.

I've always admired Castlereagh. He fought for the enfranchisment of Irish Roman Catholics, and pushed for the abolition of the slave trade in France, Spain and Belgium, both at the Congress of Vienna and later, in separate treaties with Spain and Belgium.

He was, as '1066 and All That' would say, a Good Thing.

Melinda Hammond /Sarah Mallory said...

Castlereagh is real hero material!

Thanks for the pictures and the information, Joanna. Wonderful how places and objects can conjure up the past for us, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree. When I was researching the Congress of Vienna for my book, His Reluctant Mistress, I found much to admire in the way he behaved there, generally taking a very long-term view and not being parochial about British interests.

His wife was the butt of many jokes there -- when, for example, she wore his Garter decoration in her hair -- but he loved and cherished her, as she did him. Sad that they had no children.

I do think it's a pity that most of Mount Stewart is given over to the 20th century Londonderry family. Even the NT shop had almost nothing about Castlereagh.

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