Algernon Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale

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The Lord Redesdale
Algernon Freeman-Mitford (portrait by Samuel Lawrence).jpg
Member of Parliament
for Stratford-on-Avon
In office
4 July 1892 – 8 July 1895
Preceded byFrederick Townsend
Succeeded byVictor Milward
Personal details
Algernon Bertram Mitford

(1837-02-24)24 February 1837
Died17 August 1916(1916-08-17) (aged 79)
Political partyConservative
Lady Clementina Gertrude Helen Ogilvy
(m. 1874)
Children9, including Alexander and David
EducationEton College
Alma materChrist Church, Oxford
Portrait in 1902 by Leslie Ward

Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale, GCVO, KCB, DL (24 February 1837 – 17 August 1916) was a British diplomat, collector and writer. Nicknamed "Barty", he was the paternal grandfather of the Mitford sisters.

Early years[edit]

Freeman-Mitford was the son of Henry Reveley Mitford (1804–1883) of Exbury House, Exbury, Hampshire, and the great-grandson of the historian William Mitford, and was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. While his paternal ancestors were landed gentry, whose holdings had once included Mitford Castle in Northumberland, his mother (Georgiana) Jemima was a daughter of the courtier the 3rd Earl of Ashburnham, with a noble ancestry through the earls of Beverley. His parents separated in 1840 when Redesdale was just three years old, and his mother remarried a Mr. Molyneaux.

Like his cousin Swinburne, he was named Algernon after his great-grandfather Algernon Percy, 1st Earl of Beverley.



Entering the Foreign Office in 1858, Mitford was appointed Third Secretary of the British Embassy in St Petersburg. After service in the Diplomatic Corps in Shanghai, he went to Japan as second secretary to the British Legation at the time of the migration of the Japanese Seat of Power from Kyoto to Edo (modern-day Tokyo), known as the "Meiji Restoration". Mitford's memoirs recount the troubled time of the foreign settlements at Kobe over the fortnight following American Rear-Admiral Henry Bell's death, and the death of British consul Francis Gerard Mijburgh. Rededale served as secretary under Myburgh's replacement, John Frederik Lowder. There he met Ernest Satow and wrote Tales of Old Japan (1871), a book credited with making such Japanese Classics as "The Forty-seven Ronin" first known to a wide Western public. He resigned from the diplomatic service in 1873.

Following the 1902 Anglo-Japanese Alliance, in 1906 he accompanied Prince Arthur on a visit to Japan to present the Emperor Meiji with the Order of the Garter. He was asked by courtiers there about Japanese ceremonies that had disappeared since 1868.

He had persuaded Edward VII to plant Japanese knotweed at Sandringham House and it later became difficult to eradicate, according to George VI.[1]

Public life[edit]

From 1874 to 1886, Mitford acted as secretary to HM Office of Works, involved in the lengthy restoration of the Tower of London and in landscaping parts of Hyde Park such as "The Dell". From 1887, he was a member of the Royal Commission on Civil Services. He also sat as Member of Parliament for Stratford-on-Avon between 1892 and 1895.

According to W. S. Gilbert, Mitford served as a consultant on Japanese culture to Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan during the development of their 1885 Savoy Opera The Mikado. A traditional Japanese song hummed by Mitford to Gilbert and Sullivan during a rehearsal was used in the opera for the march accompanying the Mikado's entrance.[2]

In 1886, Mitford inherited the substantial country estates of his first cousin twice removed, John Freeman-Mitford, 1st Earl of Redesdale. In accordance with the will he assumed by royal licence the additional surname of Freeman. Appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Gloucestershire, he became a magistrate and took up farming and horse breeding. He was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron from 1889 to 1914.[3] Redesdale joined the Royal Photographic Society in 1907 and became a Fellow in 1908.[4] He was President of the Royal Photographic Society between 1910 and 1912.[5]

He substantially rebuilt Batsford House beside Batsford in Gloucestershire in the Victorian Gothic manorial style, but at such a cost that it had to be sold within a few years of his death. It was bought by Lord Dulverton and is still owned by his descendants.


In the 1902 Coronation Honours list it was announced that he would receive a barony,[6] and the Redesdale title was revived when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Redesdale, of Redesdale in the County of Northumberland, on 15 July 1902.[7] He took the oath and his seat in the House of Lords a week later, on 24 July.[8]

Pre- and extra-marital fatherhood[edit]

During his time in Japan, he was said to have fathered two children with a geisha. Later, he may have fathered Clementine Hozier (1885–1977), in the course of an affair with his wife's sister Blanche.[9] Clementine married Winston Churchill in 1908.

H. S. Chamberlain[edit]

In his closing years, Lord Redesdale edited and wrote extensive and effusive introductions for two of Houston Stewart Chamberlain's books, Foundations of the Nineteenth Century and Immanuel Kant: A Study and Comparison with Goethe, Leonardo da Vinci, Bruno, Plato, and Descartes, both two volumes each, translated into English by John Lees, M.A., D.Litt., and published by John Lane at the Bodley Head, London, in 1910 and 1914 respectively.


Lord Redesdale married in 1874 Lady Clementina Gertrude Helen Ogilvy (1854–1932), the daughter of David Ogilvy, 10th Earl of Airlie, by his spouse Blanche, the daughter of Edward Stanley, 2nd Baron Stanley of Alderley. They had five sons and four daughters:

See also[edit]

  • Hugh Cortazzi, Mitford's Japan : Memories and Recollections, 1866–1906, Format: Paperback, Published: January 2003, ISBN 1-903350-07-7
  • Anglo-Japanese relations.
  • Mitford family


  • Tales of Old Japan (1871)
  • A tragedy in stone; and other papers (1882)
  • The Bamboo Garden (1896)
  • The Attaché at Peking (1900)
  • The Garter Mission to Japan (1906)
  • Memories (1915; 2 vols)
  • Further Memories (Hutchinson & Co., London, 1917 - posthumous)

Lord Redesdale also wrote an extensive Introduction [1] to Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, and translated, with another Introduction for Immanuel Kant, both by Houston Stewart Chamberlain.


  1. ^ Litchfield, David R. L. (2013). Hitler's Valkyrie: The Uncensored Biography of Unity Mitford. The History Press. p. 25. ISBN 9780750951616.
  2. ^ Gilbert, W. S. (2 May 1907). "The Mikado: Mr. Gilbert Explains a Famous Air". Morning Leader. p. 5. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  3. ^ Cortazzi, Hugh (ed.). Mitford's Japan: memories and recollections, 1866-1906. p. xxiii.
  4. ^ Obituary. The Right Hon. Lord Redesdale, The Photographic Journal, November 1916, p. 250.
  5. ^ "Past Presidents". Royal Photographic Society. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014. Accessed 7 May 2013.
  6. ^ "The Coronation Honours". The Times. No. 36804. London. 26 June 1902. p. 5.
  7. ^ "No. 27455". The London Gazette. 18 July 1902. p. 4587.
  8. ^ "Parliament - House of Lords". The Times. No. 36829. London. 25 July 1902. p. 4.
  9. ^ Hardwick, Joan (1997). Clementine Churchill: The Private Life of a Public Person. London: John Murray. ISBN 0-7195-5552-3.
  10. ^ "Person Page".
  11. ^ "Person Page".
  12. ^ "Person Page".
  13. ^ "Person Page".
  14. ^ "Person Page".
  15. ^ "Person Page".
  16. ^ "Person Page".
  17. ^ International Plant Names Index.  Mitford.


External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Stratford-on-Avon
Succeeded by
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Redesdale
2nd creation
Succeeded by