Percy Smythe, 6th Viscount Strangford

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6th Viscount Strangford.jpg
The 6th Viscount Strangford in a miniature by William Haines, c. 1808.
British Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Russia
In office
MonarchGeorge IV
Preceded byEdward Thornton
Succeeded byEdward Cromwell Disbrowe
British Ambassador to Ottoman Turkey
In office
MonarchGeorge IV
Preceded byBartholomew Frere
Succeeded byWilliam Turner
British Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Sweden
In office
MonarchGeorge III
Preceded byEdward Thornton
Succeeded byBaron FitzGerald
British Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Portugal
In office
MonarchGeorge III
Preceded byEarl of Rosslyn and Earl of St Vincent
Succeeded byEarl of Clarendon
Personal details
Born31 August 1780
Died29 May 1855 (1855-05-30) (aged 74)
Ellen Burke
(m. 1817; died 1826)
Children8, including George, Percy and Lionel
Parent(s)Lionel Smythe, 5th Viscount Strangford
Maria Eliza Philipse
RelativesFrederick Philipse III (grandfather)
Sir John Burke, 2nd Baronet (brother-in-law)
EducationHarrow School
Alma materTrinity College, Dublin

Percy Clinton Sydney Smythe, 6th Viscount Strangford GCB GCH (31 August 1780 – 29 May 1855) was an Anglo-Irish diplomat.

Early life[edit]

He was the son of Lionel Smythe, 5th Viscount Strangford (1753–1801) and Maria Eliza Philipse. In 1769, his sixteen-year-old future father left Ireland, joined the army and served during the American War of Independence. While quartered in New York in the winter of 1776 to 1777, he met and courted Maria.[1] She was the daughter of Frederick Philipse III (1720–1785), the third and last Lord of Philipsburg Manor and a descendant of the Dutch founder of the city. At first, her father rejected Lionel, however, as Philipse was a Loyalist during the war,[2] the New York Legislature confiscated his estate, one of the largest in the province, and Philipse changed his mind. They married in September 1779 at Trinity Church in Manhattan and they returned to the United Kingdom.[1] Upon the withdrawal of the British troops from New York in 1783, Philipse also went to England, where he later died.[2]

Smythe was educated at Harrow and graduated from Trinity College, Dublin in 1800, entered the diplomatic service, and in the following year succeeded to the title of Viscount Strangford in the Peerage of Ireland.[1]

He had literary tastes, and in 1803 published Poems from the Portuguese of Camoēns, with Remarks and Notes, Byron at this time describing him as "Hibernian Strangford".[3]

Diplomatic career[edit]

Ambassador to Portugal[edit]

In 1806, he served as chargé d'affaires under the Earl of Rosslyn and the Earl of St Vincent, the Extraordinary Envoys of the United Kingdom to Portugal. In 1807, he was appointed British Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Portugal under the reign of King George III.[4] In 1807, as Britain's envoy to Portugal, Lord Strangford coordinated the Portuguese royal family's flight from Portugal to Brazil. Lord Clinton, as he was known in Brazil, he arrived with the Royal Family in Salvador in January 1808 and soon they moved to Rio de Janeiro where they arrived on 8 March 1808.[5][6] Lord Clinton and the Brazilian accountant Dom Fernando José de Portugal had hard work to do in the Brazilian Imperial Palace. They had to raise the money moved from Portugal to Brazil under English escort. Their work was for thirty days. The tax service of 2% was according to the Prize Money (the law had been cancelled in 1803 and was re-edited in 1807).[7] They counted one hundred million Pounds and two million pounds in taxes. (In that year, with that money would be possible to buy two hundred million bags of coffee, nowadays it is U$20 billion). After that, the payment delayed fourteen years to be paid after the English recognizance of Brazilian Independence. That was the money Napoleon wanted to finance his war against England.[8] Napoleon said in his memoirs that Don John was the only one to trick him.[9][7]

Ambassador to Sweden[edit]

He was British Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary at the Court of Stockholm in Sweden from 1817 to 1820, during the reign of Charles XIII of Sweden and Charles XIV John of Sweden.[10]

Ambassador to Ottoman Turkey[edit]

The Levant Company nominated Lord Strangford and his appointment was confirmed in 1820 as the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.[11] He was successful in his efforts to secure the consolidation of the new constitutional settlement between the Ottoman Empire and the Danubian Principalities which followed the revolution in Wallachia in 1821, to persuade the Ottomans to withdraw their troops from the Principalities, and to dissuade the Russian Empire from military intervention.[12]

As ambassador to the Sublime Porte, he had opportunities to assemble fragments of Greek sculpture. Among his collection of antiquities was the "Strangford Shield", a 3rd-century CE Roman marble that reproduces the shield of Athena Parthenos, Phidias' sculpture formerly in the Parthenon. The "Strangford Shield" is conserved in the British Museum. He left Turkey in 1824.

Ambassador to Russia[edit]

From 1825 to 1826, he served as British Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary at St. Petersburg, Russia,[13] when he[14] was created Baron Penshurst, of Penshurst in the County of Kent, in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, enabling him to sit in the House of Lords.[15] His diplomatic career went into decline after he was caught falsifying dispatches to the British government and revealing confidential documents to the Austrian ambassador in St Petersburg.[5]

Personal life[edit]

In 1817, he married Ellen Burke Browne (1788–1826), daughter of Sir Thomas Burke, 1st Baronet (d. 1813) and sister of Sir John Burke, 2nd Baronet.[16] Ellen had previously been married to Nicholas Browne, Esq., of Mount Hazel, in Galway, with whom she had Katherine Eleanor Browne (d. 1843) who married High-Sheriff Robert French (b. 1799) of Monivea Castle.[17] Together, Percy and Ellen had five children.

After the death of his wife in 1826, Smythe had three children by Katherine Benham (1813–1872), the eldest of whom was the artist.

On his death on 29 May 1855, he was succeeded by his eldest son George Smythe, 7th Viscount Strangford, who was an active figure in the Young England movement of the early 1840s. After his death, Benham married William Morrison Wyllie, the artist with whom she had William Lionel Wyllie and Charles William Wyllie, also artists.[20]


He was appointed Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB) in 1815 and Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Guelphic Order (GCH) in 1825. In February 1825, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society[21] He translated the Rimas of Luís de Camões in 1825.

A window in his family chapel in St. Mary's Church, Ashford, Kent, commemorates him, mentioning the monarchs whom he served and the countries to which he was dispatched.


Through his eldest son with Benham, he was the grandfather of Minnie Smythe (1872–1955), also a painter.[22]


  1. ^ a b c d e Millar, Mary S. (2006). Disraeli's Disciple: The Scandalous Life of George Smythe. University of Toronto Press. p. 192. ISBN 9780802090928. Retrieved 13 December 2016. Lady Dorothy and george smythe.
  2. ^ a b Purple, Edwin R., "Contributions to the History of the Ancient Families of New York: Varleth-Varlet-Varleet-Verlet-Verleth," New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, vol. 9 (1878), pp. 120–121 [1]
  3. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Strangford, Viscount s.v. Percy Clinton Sydney Smythe". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 983.
  4. ^ "No. 16102". The London Gazette. 26 December 1807. p. 1748.
  5. ^ a b "Person – National Portrait Gallery". Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  6. ^ Severn, John Kenneth (2007). Architects of Empire: The Duke of Wellington and His Brothers. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 222. ISBN 9780806138107. Retrieved 13 December 2016. Percy Smythe ambassador to portugal.
  7. ^ a b Gomes, Laurentino (29 August 2013). 1808: The Flight of the Emperor: How a Weak Prince, a Mad Queen, and the British Navy Tricked Napoleon and Changed the New World. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780762796663. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  8. ^ Gregory, Desmond (1988). The Beneficent Usurpers: A History of the British in Madeira. Associated University Presse. ISBN 9780838633267. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  9. ^ Cunha, Alexandre Mendes; Suprinyak, Carlos Eduardo (19 September 2016). The Political Economy of Latin American Independence. Routledge. ISBN 9781317241461. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  10. ^ J. Haydn, Book of Dignities (1851), 83–4
  11. ^ Alfred C. Wood, A History of the Levant Company, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1935, pp. 183–184.
  12. ^ Florescu, Radu R. (2021). The Struggle Against Russia in the Romanian Principalities, Centre for Romanian Studies, pp. 123 - 147, ISBN 9781592110261
  13. ^ S. T. Bindoff, E. F. Malcolm Smith and C. K. Webster, British Diplomatic Representatives 1789–1852 (Camden 3rd Series, 50, 1934).
  14. ^ Burke's Peerage, s.v. "Strangford, Viscount".
  15. ^ "No. 18101". The London Gazette. 22 January 1825. p. 123.
  16. ^ Burke, James (2005). A History of Burke in Ireland. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  17. ^ "List of Charts from Ireland for the French family Association". Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  18. ^ Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1977]. British parliamentary election results 1832–1885 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 396. ISBN 0-900178-26-4.
  19. ^ Rt. Hon. Colonel Henry James Baillie
  20. ^ "Paintings by William Lionel Wyllie – Hole Haven and the Estuary". Canvey Island Archive. Retrieved 14 June 2014.
  21. ^ "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 19 October 2010.[permanent dead link]
  22. ^ Women Painters of the World on Project Gutenberg
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by Viscount Strangford
Succeeded by
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Penshurst
Succeeded by