Roundell Palmer, 1st Earl of Selborne

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The Right Honourable
The Earl of Selborne
PC, FRS
Lord Selborne LC LS&PC.jpg
Lord Chancellor
In office
15 October 1872 – 17 February 1874
MonarchVictoria
Prime MinisterWilliam Ewart Gladstone
Preceded byThe Lord Hatherley
Succeeded byThe Lord Cairns
In office
28 April 1880 – 9 June 1885
MonarchVictoria
Prime MinisterWilliam Ewart Gladstone
Preceded byThe Lord Cairns
Succeeded byThe Lord Halsbury
Personal details
Born(1812-11-27)27 November 1812
Mixbury, Oxfordshire
Died4 May 1895(1895-05-04) (aged 82)
NationalityBritish
Political partyConservative
Liberal
Liberal Unionist
Spouse(s)Lady Laura Waldegrave
Children5
Alma materUniversity of Oxford

Roundell Palmer, 1st Earl of Selborne, PC, FRS (27 November 1812 – 4 May 1895) was a British lawyer and politician. He served twice as Lord Chancellor of Great Britain.

Background and education[edit]

Palmer was born at Mixbury in Oxfordshire, where his father William Jocelyn Palmer was rector. His mother Dorothea was daughter of the Rev. William Roundell of Gledstone Hall, Yorkshire. William Palmer and Edwin Palmer were his brothers.[1] He was educated at Rugby School and Winchester College. He then proceeded to the University of Oxford (matriculating from Christ Church, moving to Trinity College upon winning a scholarship there, and becoming a fellow of Magdalen College in 1834), graduating BA in 1834 and MA in 1836. While at Oxford he became a close friend of the hymn writer and theologian, Frederick William Faber.

At Oxford he won the Chancellor's Prize for Latin Verse in 1831, the Ireland Scholarship in Greek and the Newdigate Prize in 1832, and the Chancellor's Latin Essay Prize in 1835. He was President of the Oxford Union in 1832.

Political career[edit]

Palmer was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1837. He preferred practice at the equity bar, and avoided juries. From 1840–43 he was a leader writer for The Times. He was returned to the House of Commons for Plymouth in 1847. A Peelite, he was defeated in 1852, but was returned in a by-election the following year. He lost his seat in 1857, and was defeated again in 1859.

In 1861, he was appointed Solicitor General in the administration of Lord Palmerston (and was returned unopposed for Richmond), receiving the customary knighthood. In 1863 he was promoted Attorney General, continuing in office under Lord Russell after Palmerston's death in 1865, until the government's defeat in 1866. As a law officer, Palmer had to handle the numerous questions of international law which arose from the American Civil War.

An early follower of Gladstone, Palmer broke with him over the disestablishment of the Irish Church, to which he objected. After the Liberals were returned at the 1868 election, he refused Gladstone's offers to appoint him either Lord Chancellor or Lord Chief Justice, in order to be free to oppose Irish disestablishment from the backbenches. He was the leading counsel for Britain in front of the Alabama Claims tribunal at Geneval.

Despite his continuing opposition to the government on Irish and Church issues, on 15 October 1872 he was appointed Lord Chancellor under Gladstone. He was created Baron Selborne, of Selborne in the County of Southampton, and was sworn of the Privy Council. His first tenure in the office saw the passage of the Judicature Act of 1873, which completely reorganised the English judiciary. Selborne again held the Lord Chancellorship under Gladstone between 1880–85. In 1885 he established a Lord Chancellor's Department. He was created Viscount Wolmer, of Blackmoor in the County of Southampton, and Earl of Selborne in 1882.

Lord Selborne as Lord Chancellor, by Walter William Ouless.

After the fall of Gladstone in 1885, Selborne became increasingly alarmed with what he saw as Radical tendencies within the Liberal Party. He finally broke with Gladstone over Irish Home Rule, refusing re-appointment as Lord Chancellor when the Liberals returned to office in 1886, and joining the Liberal Unionists.

Honours[edit]

Selborne was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in June 1860.[2] He was an honorary fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford and an honorary Student of Christ Church, Oxford, High Steward of the University of Oxford and Lord Rector of the University of St Andrews.

Judicial Decisions[edit]

Family[edit]

Selborne married Lady Laura, daughter of William Waldegrave, 8th Earl Waldegrave, in 1848. They had five children: four daughters followed by a son. Their eldest, Laura Elizabeth was born in 1848 and became an author and social reformer, who in 1876 married George Ridding, the first Bishop of Southwell, and became known as Lady Laura Ridding.[3] Their second, Mary Dorothea (1850–1933), married her first cousin, the 9th Earl Waldegrave in 1874. Their third, Sophia Matilda Palgrave (1852–1915), a writer of fiction, married the Comte de Franqueville in 1903.[4] Their fourth, Sarah Wilfreda (1854–1910) married her second cousin George Tournay Biddulph, the son of Robert Biddulph, in 1883.[5] Their youngest, William Palmer, 2nd Earl of Selborne, later became a prominent Unionist politician. Lady Selborne died in April 1885. Lord Selborne survived her by ten years and died in May 1895, aged 82.

Publications[edit]

  • Palmer, Roundell (November 1886). A Defence of the Church of England Against Disestablishment (1 ed.). London. OCLC 57501388. 2nd ed. (London, December 1886), 3rd ed. (London, March 1887), 4th ed. (London, February 1888)
  • Palmer, Roundell (1888). Ancient facts and fictions concerning churches and tithes. London ; New York: Macmillan. LCCN 03002193. OCLC 60714511.
  • Selborne Memorials (London, 1896–98)
    • Palmer, Roundell (1896). Memorials. Part 1, Family and personal, 1766–1865. I. London ; New York: Macmillan. OCLC 277580024.
    • Palmer, Roundell (1896). Memorials. Part 1, Family and personal, 1766–1865. II. London ; New York: Macmillan. OCLC 277580029.
    • Palmer, Roundell (1898). Memorials, Part II. Personal and Political. I. London ; New York: Macmillan. OCLC 831400848.
    • Palmer, Roundell (1898). Memorials, Part II. Personal and Political. II. London ; New York: Macmillan. OCLC 277583879.

References[edit]

  1. ^  "Palmer, William (1811-1879)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  2. ^ "Lists of Royal Society Fellows 1660–2007". London: The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 24 March 2010. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  3. ^ Serena Kelly, "Ridding , Lady Laura Elizabeth (1849–1939)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 22 Nov 2017.
  4. ^ London: Jarndyce Catalogue No. CCXXXII. Women Writers 1789–1948, Part III, P–Z, Item 2. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  5. ^ Lady Laura Ridding (1919). Sophia Matilda Palmer, comtesse de Franqueville, 1852–1915: a memoir. John Murray. p. 5.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Thomas Gill
Viscount Ebrington
Member of Parliament for Plymouth
18471852
With: Viscount Ebrington
Succeeded by
Charles John Mare
Robert Collier
Preceded by
Charles John Mare
Robert Collier
Member of Parliament for Plymouth
1853–1857
With: Robert Collier
Succeeded by
James White
Robert Collier
Preceded by
Henry Rich
Marmaduke Wyvill
Member of Parliament for Richmond
18611872
With: Marmaduke Wyvill to 1865
John Dundas 1865–1866
Marmaduke Wyvill from 1866
Succeeded by
Lawrence Dundas
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir William Atherton
Solicitor General for England and Wales
1861–1863
Succeeded by
Sir Robert Collier
Preceded by
Sir William Atherton
Attorney General for England and Wales
1863–1866
Succeeded by
Sir Hugh Cairns
Political offices
Preceded by
The Lord Hatherley
Lord Chancellor
1872–1874
Succeeded by
The Lord Cairns
Preceded by
The Earl Cairns
Lord Chancellor
1880–1885
Succeeded by
The Lord Halsbury
Academic offices
Preceded by
Arthur Penrhyn Stanley
Rector of the University of St Andrews
1877–1880
Succeeded by
Sir Theodore Martin
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Selborne
1872–1895
Succeeded by
William Palmer
Earl of Selborne
1882–1895
Viscount Wolmer
1882–1895