Edgar Vincent, 1st Viscount D'Abernon

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This article is about the British politician, diplomat, art collector and author. For the American publicist, see Edgar Vincent.
The Right Honourable
The Viscount D'Abernon
GCB GCMG PC FRS[1]
Bundesarchiv Bild 102-00050, Lord Richard de Abernon.jpg
Lord D'Abernon in 1926
Personal details
Born Edgar Vincent
(1857-08-19)19 August 1857
Slinfold, West Sussex, England
Died 1 November 1941(1941-11-01) (aged 84)
Hove, England
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Helen Venetia Duncombe

Edgar Vincent, 1st Viscount D'Abernon, GCB, GCMG, PC, FRS[1] (19 August 1857 – 1 November 1941) was a British politician, diplomat, art collector and author.

Early life[edit]

Caricature by Spy (Leslie Ward) in Vanity Fair magazine (20 April 1899)

Vincent was the youngest son of Sir Frederick Vincent, 11th Baronet, of Stoke D'Abernon (1798–1883) and his second wife, Maria Copley (d. 1899).[2] He was born at Slinfold, West Sussex and educated at Eton College for the diplomatic service. Instead, he spent five years as a member of the Coldstream Guards before coming into the service as secretary to Lord Edmond FitzMaurice, Queen's Commissioner on the East Rumelian Question. He was himself appointed Commissioner for the Evacuation of Thessaly (ceded to Greece by Turkey) and advised the Egyptian government on financial matters from 1883 to 1889.

Ottoman Bank crash[edit]

That year he became governor of the Imperial Ottoman Bank. One of his policies was to get the Bank involved in South African mining shares on European stock exchanges. This caused a speculation craze in Constantinople where tens of thousands of people bought South African mining shares, a lot of them with money loaned from the Ottoman Bank. This led to a run on the Bank in late 1895 and then a crash in the share values, followed by an international panic and the financial ruin of many of those who invested in the shares. Vincent was heavily condemned for his role in the disaster, though he personally made a fortune from the shares.[2]

In 1896 the banking office in Constantinople was attacked by a group of armed Armenians who threatened to destroy the building with bombs. Vincent escaped through a skylight and notified the Turkish authorities at the Sublime Porte and secured a negotiator from the Russian Embassy. The attackers agreed to surrender their bombs in exchange for safe passage to exile in France, being conducted on Sir Edgar's private vessel.[3]

Member of Parliament[edit]

In 1899 he was elected a Conservative Member of Parliament for Exeter. He was less a true Conservative than a personal devotee of the Conservative leader, A. J. Balfour. He held the seat until losing to a Liberal in 1906. He opposed the Conservative policy of Tariff Reform and unsuccessfully stood for the Liberal Party in Colchester in December 1910. In July 1914 he was raised to the peerage as Baron D'Abernon of Esher, Surrey, upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister, H. H. Asquith.[2]

Poland[edit]

D'Abernon was part of the Interallied Mission to Poland in July 1920, during the Polish-Soviet War. Later this experience provided material for his book The Eighteenth Decisive Battle of the World: Warsaw, 1920 (1931).

Ambassador to Germany[edit]

From 1920 to 1925 D'Abernon was the British Ambassador to Berlin. In September 1921 he wrote that the success of the Inter-Allied Military Commission of Control, which reported on German disarmament, meant that there would be no military danger from Germany for many years and that it would be impossible for the Germans to conceal the manufacture of heavy weaponry.[4] In February 1922 he criticised the idea of a military alliance between Britain and France:

The fundamental criticism...is that England undertakes definite and very extensive responsibilities in order to avoid a danger which she believes to be largely imaginary. An armed attack by Germany on France within the next twenty-five years is admittedly improbable, an attack by Germany on England in the same period even more so...the whole tone of the French is to assume that the real danger to the future peace of Europe is military aggression by Germany.[5]

On 9 February 1925 D'Abernon wrote that it was necessary "to abandon the view that Germans are such congenital liars that there is no practical advantage in obtaining from them any engagement or declaration. On this assumption progress is impossible. Personally I regard the Germans as more reliable and more bound to written engagements than many other nations".[6]

Lord Vansittart called D'Abernon "the pioneer of appeasement".[7] General J. H. Morgan also called D'Abernon "the apostle of 'appeasement' and did not believe in the possibility, much less the probability, of a German military revival".[8]

Honours[edit]

D'Abernon was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1887,[9] promoted to Knight Grand Cross in 1917,[10] and made Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1926.[11] He joined the Privy Council in 1920,[12] was created Baron D'Abernon, of Esher in the county of Surrey, in 1914[13] and elevated to Viscount D'Abernon, of Esher and Stoke d'Abernon in the county of Surrey, in 1926.[14] He succeeded his elder brother as 16th Baronet of Stoke d'Abernon in 1936.

Directorships[edit]

After his retirement from the foreign service, D'Abernon devoted his time to directorships of numerous domestic organisations such as the Lawn Tennis Association, the Race Course Betting Control Board, the Medical Research Council, and the National Institute of Industrial Psychology, and the Royal Mint advisory committee. He was also a trustee of the National and Tate Galleries, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1934.[1][15] He was also President of the Royal Statistical Society from 1926 to 1928.[16]

Personal life[edit]

D'Abernon married the renowned beauty Helen Venetia Duncombe in 1890. Together they shared a love of society and the fine arts, especially English painting. Both had portraits made by John Singer Sargent. She posed for hers in 1904 at their villa, the Palazzo Giustiniani, in Venice. Vincent was Chairman of the royal commission on National Museums and Galleries, which published its report in 1928. The bulk of their art collection was sold at auction in 1929.[17] Two works once in their collection are in the National Gallery,[18] three at the National Gallery of Art, Washington,[19] and others at the (Mellon) Yale Center for British Art and other museums.

D'Abernon died of hypostatic pneumonia and Parkinson's disease at Hove in November 1941.[2] As the couple were childless, his titles became extinct when he died.

Styles and honours[edit]

Portrait of Lord D'Abernon by Augustus John, oil on canvas, c. 1925
  • Edgar Vincent (1857–1887)
  • Sir Edgar Vincent KCMG (1887–1899)
  • Sir Edgar Vincent KCMG MP (1899–1906)
  • Sir Edgar Vincent KCMG (1906–1914)
  • The Right Honourable The Lord D'Abernon KCMG (1914–1917)
  • The Right Honourable The Lord D'Abernon GCMG (1917–1920)
  • The Right Honourable The Lord D'Abernon GCMG PC (1920–1926)
  • The Right Honourable The Viscount D'Abernon GCMG PC (1926)
  • The Right Honourable The Viscount D'Abernon GCB GCMG PC (1926–1934)
  • The Right Honourable The Viscount D'Abernon GCB GCMG PC FRS (1934–1941)

Works[edit]

  • A Grammar of Modern Greek (1881)
  • Alcohol – Its Action on the Human Organism, His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1918
  • An Ambassador of Peace, 3 volumes, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1929–1931
  • The eighteenth decisive battle of the world: Warsaw, 1920, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1931; reprinted by Hyperion Press, Westport, Conn., 1977, ISBN 0-88355-429-1

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Dale, H. H. (1942). "Edgar Vincent, Viscount D'Abernon. 1857-1942". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society 4 (11): 83–26. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1942.0008.  edit
  2. ^ a b c d Richard Davenport-Hines, 'Vincent, Edgar, Viscount D'Abernon (1857–1941)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008, accessed 10 July 2011.
  3. ^ Kinross, Lord Patrick Balfour (1977) The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire. New York: Morrow Quill Paperbacks. ISBN 0-688-03093-9
  4. ^ Lord D'Abernon, An Ambassador of Peace. Volume I (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1929), p. 14.
  5. ^ D'Abernon, Volume I, pp. 259–260.
  6. ^ Leopold Schwarzschild, World in Trance (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1943), p. 155.
  7. ^ Lord Vansittart, The Mist Procession (London: Hutchinson, 1958), p. 276.
  8. ^ J. H. Morgan, Assize of Arms. Being the Story of the Disarmament of Germany and Her Rearmament (1919–1939) (London: Methuen, 1945), p. 334.
  9. ^ The London Gazette: no. 25726. p. 4192. 2 August 1887. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
  10. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30111. p. 5457. 1 June 1917. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
  11. ^ The London Gazette: no. 33212. p. 6685. 19 October 1926. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
  12. ^ The London Gazette: no. 32086. p. 9979. 15 October 1920. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
  13. ^ The London Gazette: no. 28848. p. 5362. 10 July 1914. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
  14. ^ The London Gazette: no. 33136. p. 1428. 26 February 1926. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
  15. ^ "Fellows of the Royal Society K-Z". Royal Society. July 2007. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  16. ^ "Royal Statistical Society Presidents". Royal Statistical Society. Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  17. ^ Old Masters Bring $646,500 in London (29 June 1929) The New York Times
  18. ^ National Gallery
  19. ^ National Gallery of Art, Washington

References[edit]

  • "D'Abernon, Edgar Vincent, 1st Baron" (1911) Encyclopædia Britannica. 11th edition.
  • Paul Auchterlonie, 'A Turk of the west: Sir Edgar Vincent's career in Egypt and the Ottoman empire,’ British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 27:1. (2000) pp. 49–68. ISSN 1353-0194
  • Richard Davenport-Hines, ‘Vincent, Edgar, Viscount D'Abernon (1857–1941)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008, accessed 10 July 2011.

Further reading[edit]

  • R. P. T. Davenport-Hines, Speculators and Patriots. Essays in Business Biography (Routledge, 1986).
  • Philip Dent, 'The D'Abernon Papers: Origins of 'Appeasement'’, The British Museum Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 3/4 (Autumn, 1973), pp. 103–107.
  • Gaynor Johnson, The Berlin Embassy of Lord D'Abernon, 1920–1926 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002). ISBN 0-333-94549-2

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Henry Northcote
Member of Parliament for Exeter
1899–1906
Succeeded by
Sir George Kekewich
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount D'Abernon
1926–1941
Extinct
New creation Baron D'Abernon
1914–1941
Baronetage of England
Preceded by
Frederick Vincent
Baronet
(of Stoke d'Abernon)
1936–1941
Extinct