Sir Robert Peel, 3rd Baronet
|The Right Honourable
Sir Robert Peel, Bt
Sir Robert Peel, Bt, by Camille Silvy.
|Chief Secretary for Ireland|
29 July 1861 – 7 December 1865
|Prime Minister||The Viscount Palmerston|
|Preceded by||Edward Cardwell|
|Succeeded by||Chichester Fortescue|
4 May 1822|
|Died||9 May 1895
Stratton Street, London
|Spouse(s)||Lady Emily Hay
|Alma mater||Christ Church, Oxford|
Sir Robert Peel, 3rd Baronet GCB, PC (4 May 1822 – 9 May 1895) was a British Peelite and later Liberal politician. The eldest son of the prime minister Robert Peel, he was educated at Harrow and Christ Church, Oxford and entered the Diplomatic Service in 1844. He served as Member of Parliament for Tamworth, his father's constituency, from 1850 until 1880, for Huntingdon from 1884 and for Blackburn from 1885 to 1886. He was appointed Irish secretary in 1861 in Palmerston's ministry, but in 1865, under Russell he was succeeded by Chichester Fortescue. His political career was said to be marred by his lack of dignity and his inability to accept a fixed political creed. He was appointed a GCB in 1866.
Background and education
Born in London on 4 May 1822, Peel was the eldest son of Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet, the statesman, and Julia, daughter of Sir John Floyd, 1st Baronet. He went to Harrow School in February 1835. He matriculated from Christ Church, Oxford on 26 May 1841, but did not take a degree.
Entering the diplomatic service, he became an attaché to the British legation at Madrid on 18 June 1844. He was promoted to be secretary of legation in Switzerland on 2 May 1846, and was chargé d'affaires there in November 1846. On his father's death, on 2 July 1850, and his own succession to the baronetcy, he resigned his office at Berne.
Entering the House of Commons as the 'Liberal-Conservative' (i.e. as one of the Peelites) member for his father's former constituency, Tamworth, on 19 July 1850, he had every opportunity open to him of taking a distinguished place in public life. He had a fine presence and gaiety of manner, and was popular in social life; while his oratorical gifts – a rich ringing voice, a perfect command of language, rare powers of irony, a capacity for producing unexpected rhetorical effects – ought to have rendered his success in parliament a certainty. But he used his abilities fitfully. The want of moral fibre in his volatile character, an absence of dignity, and an inability to accept a fixed political creed, prevented him from acquiring the confidence of his associates or of the public.
On 24 April 1854 he was shipwrecked off the coast of Genoa in the steamboat SS Ercolano, and only saved his life by swimming ashore on some portion of the wreck. From 29 March 1854 to 1859 he served as a captain in the Staffordshire Yeomanry. In March 1855 Lord Palmerston, who had been Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs while Peel was in the diplomatic service, appointed him a junior Civil Lord of the Admiralty. Henceforth he was regarded as a liberal, and his persistent advocacy of the liberation of Italy fully justified this view of his political opinions.
In July 1856 he acted as secretary to Lord Granville's special mission to Russia at the coronation of Alexander II. On 5 January 1857, during a lecture delivered at the opening of the new library at Adderley Park, near Birmingham, he spoke discourteously of the Russian court and the court officials. The lecture was severely commented on by the Russian and French press, was the subject of a parliamentary debate, and caused great annoyance to the English court.
Nevertheless, on Palmerston's return to power, he, on 26 July 1861, made Peel Chief Secretary for Ireland and a privy councillor. In this position his careless good humour pleased the Irish and the prime minister, and he almost thought he had solved the Irish question when he made excursions incognito through the country on a jaunting-car and interviewed the peasants. His speeches were very optimistic; but, before his connection with the castle ended, fenianism came to a head. Irish debates became more embittered, and his replies and speeches in parliament lacked discretion and were not calculated to promote peace. In February 1862 he received a challenge from the O'Donoghue, but the matter was brought before the commons on 25 February and was adjusted. Although he took a warm interest in some Irish questions, especially higher education, which he had aided by a handsome contribution to the Queen's Colleges founded by his father, his career in Ireland was a failure. When the liberal government was reconstituted, after the death of Lord Palmerston, by Lord John Russell, to whom Peel's failings were peculiarly obnoxious, he was succeeded in the Irish secretaryship by Chichester Fortescue, and he did not again hold office. On 5 January 1866 he was created G.C.B..
He continued to sit for Tamworth as a Liberal, but was often a severe critic of Mr. Gladstone's policy. In 1871 he gave a remarkable proof of his eloquence by describing to the house the rout, which he had himself witnessed, of the French army of General Bourbaki, and its flight over the Swiss frontier in the depth of winter during the Franco-Prussian War. In 1874 he for a second time christened himself a Liberal-Conservative; and when the eastern question, during Lord Beaconsfield's administration, came to the front, he wholly separated himself from the followers of Mr. Gladstone. He did not stand for Tamworth at the general election in 1880, but unsuccessfully contested Gravesend in the conservative interest; and his voice was often heard on conservative platforms, denouncing the action of the liberal administration in Egypt and Ireland. In the 'Times' of 8 May 1880 he published a letter, in which he recounted the offers from various governments of honours and offices which he had refused. On 21 March 1884 he was returned as a Conservative member for Huntingdon. When that borough was disfranchised, he was, in November 1885, returned for Blackburn.
On the critical division on the second reading of the Home Rule Bill, on 7 June 1886, he abstained from voting. At the general election in the following July Peel contested the Inverness Burghs for the Liberal party against a Liberal Unionist who had broken with his party on the issue of Home Rule. Peel was not successful. Subsequently, with characteristic impetuosity, he threw himself into the home rule agitation as a supporter of the Irish demands, and at a by-election in 1889 came forward as a Liberal candidate for Brighton in the home rule interest. He was hopelessly defeated, and his political career came to a disappointing close.
From about 1856 he was extensively engaged in racing under the name of Mr. F. Robinson; and later on had an establishment at Bonehill, near Tamworth, where he bred horses.
Peel's father's fine collection of seventy-seven pictures and eighteen drawings, including the well-known 'Chapeau de Poil', by Rubens, he sold to the National Gallery, in March 1871, for £75,000. (Parliamentary Papers, 1872, No. 35). According to John Bateman's "The Great Landowners of Great Britain and Ireland" (1883), he owned 9,923 acres (40.16 km2) of land in Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Lancashire yielding an annual rent of £24532. However, in later life his private circumstances were embarrassed, chiefly owing to his reckless extravagance, and he ceased to reside at Drayton Manor, Warwickshire.
Peel married Lady Emily, seventh daughter of George Hay, 8th Marquess of Tweeddale, on 13 January 1856. They had one son and three daughters. On 9 May 1895, aged 73, Peel was found dead, from hæmorrhage on the brain, in his bedroom at 12 Stratton Street, London. He was buried at Drayton-Bassett parish church on 16 May. His only son Robert succeeded in the baronetcy. Lady Peel died in April 1924.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Sir Robert Peel
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
Sir Robert Peel
|Member of Parliament for Tamworth
With: John Townshend, to 1856;
Viscount Raynham 1856–1863
John Peel 1863–1868
Sir Henry Bulwer 1868–1871
John Peel 1871–1872
Robert William Hanbury 1872–1878
Hamar Alfred Bass from 1878
Jabez Spencer Balfour
|Member of Parliament for Huntingdon
Sir William Coddington, Bt
William Edward Briggs
|Member of Parliament for Blackburn
With: Sir William Coddington, Bt
Sir William Coddington, Bt
Sir William Henry Hornby
Hon. William Cowper
|Civil Lord of the Admiralty
|Chief Secretary for Ireland
|Baronetage of Great Britain|