William Waddington

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William Waddington
42nd Prime Minister of France
In office
4 February 1879 – 28 December 1879
Preceded by Jules Dufaure
Succeeded by Charles de Freycinet
Personal details
Born 11 December 1826
Died 13 January 1894(1894-01-13) (aged 67)
Political party None

William Henry Waddington (11 December 1826 – 13 January 1894) was a French statesman who was Prime Minister of France in 1879.


Early life and education[edit]

Waddington was born at Saint-Rémy-sur-Avre (Eure-et-Loir), the son of a wealthy Englishman, who had established a large spinning factory in France and had been naturalised as a French subject, and his French wife. After receiving his early education in Paris, Waddington was sent to Rugby School, and then to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was second classic and won the chancellor's medal.[1] He rowed in the victorious Cambridge eight in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race on the River Thames in March 1849. He did not take part in the re-row in December that year which Oxford won.[2]

Marriage and family[edit]

In Paris Waddington married Mary Alsop King, an American author born in New York City from Charles King an American academic, politician, newspaper editor and the ninth president of Columbia College (now Columbia University) and his second wife, Henrietta Liston Low.

The Waddingtons raised one son, Francis Richard, who, on 18 January 1903 in Paris, married Charlotte Sallandrouze de Lamornaix, the daughter of Admiral Sallandrouze de Lamornaix.

Archaeological research[edit]

Returning to France, Waddington devoted himself for some years to archaeological research. He travelled in Asia Minor, Greece and Syria, and his experiences and discoveries were recorded in two Mémoires, recognised by the French Institute, and in his Mélanges de numismatique et de philologie ("Numismatic and Philological Miscellanies", 1861).

Except for his essay on "The Protestant Church in France", published in 1856 in Cambridge Essays, his remaining works all concerned archaeology. They include his Fastes de l'empire romain ("The Splendours of the Roman Empire"), and editions of Diocletian's Edict on Maximum Prices and of Philippe Lebas' Voyage archéologique (1868–1877). He was elected, in 1865, a member of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres.

Chamber of Deputies[edit]

After standing unsuccessfully for a Chamber of Deputies seat for the département of the Aisne constituency in 1865 and 1860, Waddington was returned by that constituency in the election of 1871. He was Minister of Public Instruction in the short-lived cabinet of 19 May 1873.

Senator for the Aisne[edit]

"France at the Congress". Caricature by T published in Vanity Fair in 1878.

In 1876, having been elected senator for the Aisne, he was again entrusted by Prime Minister Dufaure with the Ministry of Public Instruction. Because he was a Protestant, he was not permitted to combine the Ministry of Public Worship with the Public Instruction portfolio, as had been the custom in ministerial assignments. His most important project, a bill transferring the granting of degrees to the state, was passed by the Chamber, but thrown out by the Senate.

He continued to hold office under Jules Simon, with whom he was overthrown on the famous seize mai (16 May 1877). The triumph of the republicans at the general election brought him back to power the following December as Minister of Foreign Affairs, again under Dufaure. He was one of the French plenipotentiaries at the Berlin Congress. The cession of Cyprus to the United Kingdom was, at first, denounced by the French newspapers as a great blow to his diplomatic reputation, but he obtained, in a conversation with Lord Salisbury, a promise that the United Kingdom would, in return, allow France a free hand in Tunis.

Prime Minister of France[edit]

Early in 1879 Waddington succeeded Dufaure as Prime Minister. Holding office by sufferance of Léon Gambetta, he kept peace between the radicals and the reactionaries till the delay of urgent reforms lost him the support of all parties. He was forced to retire from office on 27 December.

He refused an offer to become ambassador in London, and in 1880 was reporter of the committee on the adoption of the scrutin de liste at elections, on which he delivered an adverse judgment.

London ambassador[edit]

In 1883 he accepted the London embassy, which he continued to hold till 1893. His wife, the American Mary Alsop King, wrote her recollections of their diplomatic experiences – Letters of a Diplomat's Wife, 1883–1900 (New York, 1903), and Italian Letters of a Diplomat's Wife (1904).

Waddington's Government, 5 February-28 December 1879[edit]


  • 4 March 1879 – Charles Lepère succeeds Marcère as Minister of the Interior and of Worship. Pierre Tirard succeeds Lepère as Minister of Agriculture and Commerce.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Waddington, William Henry (WDNN845WH)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  2. ^ Walter Bradford Woodgate Boating 1888

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Jules Simon
Minister of Public Instruction
Succeeded by
Anselme Batbie
Preceded by
Henri Wallon
Minister of Public Instruction
Succeeded by
Joseph Brunet
Preceded by
Marquis de Banneville
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Charles de Freycinet
Preceded by
Jules Dufaure
Prime Minister of France