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Clarendon The Right Hon George

Clarendon, The Right Hon. George William Frederick Villiers, Earl of Clarendon of Clarendon, and Baron Hyde of Hindon, K.G., G.C.B., etc., was born in London in 1800, and succeeded his uncle in the peerage in 1838. The family property was not large, and at the age of sixteen the future earl had entered the public service, so that at the time of his succession he was minister at the Spanish court. A devoted Whig, and a man of intelligence and tact, he formed part of Lord Melbourne's ministry in 1840 and 1841, gave a very active support as a member of the opposition to the anti-corn law movement, and in 1846 returned to office with Lord John Russell as President of the Board of Trade. Next year he accepted the Lord-Lieutenancy of Ireland, and found himself face to face with the potato famine. His successful efforts to relieve distress, and the policy with which he administered the Encumbered Estates Act made him very popular. Then followed the Young Ireland movement, which he suppressed mercifully but vigorously, without encouraging, however, the zeal of Orange fanatics. He left Ireland in 1852 far more settled and prosperous than he had found it, but his reward was ingratitude and suspicion. In 1853 he weakly allowed himself to be drawn into the Coalition, and being Foreign Secretary under so feeble a leader as Lord Aberdeen, "drifted into the war with Russia." Though compelled to resign with his colleagues in 1855, he was recalled by Palmerston to the Foreign Office, and represented Great Britain at the Congress of Paris, where he procured the neutralisation of the Black Sea, the cession of Bessarabia, the recognition of Italy as one of the Powers, and the modification of the law of nations as regards blockades, privateers, and the right of capturing cargoes. When the Whig ministry was reconstructed in 1859 Lord John Russell claimed the direction of foreign affairs, and Lord Clarendon remained out of office until, in 1864, he rejoined Palmerston's cabinet as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Next year, on the death of Palmerston, he went back to the Foreign Office, where he remained after Mr. Gladstone's accession to power. The negotiation of the Alabama claims was conducted by him, and he was endeavouring to avert the impending European war when he died in harness in 1870. His loss was universally lamented, for no statesman ever earned a higher reputation for unselfish generosity, persevering industry, single-minded pursuit of the public good, and graceful, yet dignified manners.