Stratford Canning, 1st Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe

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The Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe

Lord Stratford Canning.jpg
Lord Stratford de Redcliffe in 1814, aged 29.
British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire
In office
MonarchGeorge IV
Preceded byThe Viscount Strangford
Succeeded bySir Robert Gordon
In office
MonarchQueen Victoria
Preceded bySir John Ponsonby
Succeeded bySir Henry Bulwer
Personal details
Born4 November 1786
Died14 August 1880(1880-08-14) (aged 93)
Spouse(s)(1) Harriet Raikes (d. 1817)
(2) Eliza Charlotte Alexander (1805–1882)
Alma materKing's College, Cambridge
Shield of arms of Stratford Canning, 1st Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe, KG, as displayed on his Order of the Garter stall plate in St. George's Chapel.

Stratford Canning, 1st Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe, KG, GCB, PC (4 November 1786 – 14 August 1880) was a British diplomat and politician, best known as the longtime British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. A member of the Noble House of Stratford[1] and cousin of George Canning, he was Envoy Extraordinary and Minister-Plenipotentiary to the United States between 1820 and 1824 and held his first appointment as Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire between 1825 and 1828. He intermittently represented several constituencies in parliament between 1828 and 1842. In 1841 he was re-appointed Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, a position he held for the next 17 years. Canning came to be seen as one of the leading figures in Constantinople, as British influence over the Porte increased and the Turks came to be seen more and more as British clients. In 1852 he was elevated to the peerage as Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe, probably in reference to his supposed descent from the great 15th century merchant family of Canynges of Redcliffe near Bristol. However, despite his illustrious diplomatic career Canning's hopes of high political office were frequently dashed.

Background and education[edit]

Canning was the youngest of the five children of Stratford Canning (1744–1787), an Irish-born merchant based in London, by his wife Mehitabel, daughter of Robert Patrick. He was born at his father's house of business in St. Clement's Lane, in the heart of London. When he was 6 months old Canning's father died in 1787 so his mother and siblings went to live in a cottage at Wanstead, where he would holiday for the rest of his life. Mehitabel Canning continued her husband's business until her eldest son could take her place.[2] His eldest brother Henry Canning became British Consul in Hamburg in 1823, a posting he retained for the rest of his life. Henry Canning died at Hamburg in 1841. Another brother, William Canning (1778-1860) was a Canon of Windsor from 1828 to 1860, while another brother, Charles Fox Canning (1784–1815), was at the time of his death a lieutenant colonel to the Guards, Aide-de-Camp to the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo. He was also a first cousin of prime minister George Canning and Lord Garvagh. He was educated at Eton and King's College, Cambridge.[3] Canning Stratford began his education at a Dame's school at the age of four. At the age of 6 he left to attend Mr. Newcome's school at Hackney.[4]

Diplomatic career, 1807–1831[edit]

In 1807 Canning was given a minor role in the Foreign Office by his cousin (as deputy to Col. Norton Powlett, Clerk of the Signet), and was sent with Anthony Merry on a mission to Denmark later that year. His first trip to Constantinople came in 1808, when he accompanied the mission of Robert Adair that restored peace between Britain and the Turks. When Adair left Constantinople in 1810, Canning became Minister Plenipotentiary, and it was Canning who helped mediate the Treaty of Bucharest between the Ottomans and Russia on 28 May 1812.

Canning returned to London later that year, and helped to found the Quarterly Review. In June 1814 was appointed Envoy Extraordinary and Minister-Plenipotentiary to Switzerland, where he, along with the other allied representatives, helped negotiate Swiss neutrality and a new Swiss federal constitution. In October he went to Vienna, where he acted as an aid to Lord Castlereagh, the British representative at the Congress of Vienna. After the negotiation of Swiss neutrality in 1815, Canning's role there became dull to him, but he stayed until 1819, when he was recalled and sent to Washington as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister-Plenipotentiary to the United States.[5] Although he hoped for major accomplishments in Washington that would allow him to move up to a larger position, he was largely unsuccessful. The initiative of his cousin George, this time as Foreign Secretary, for a joint Anglo-American guarantee of Latin American independence, led to the promulgation of the Monroe Doctrine. In 1820 Canning was made a member of the Privy Council.

Canning returned to London in 1823, and the next year was sent on a mission to Russia, where he negotiated a treaty on the border between Russian and British North America, but failed to come to any agreement regarding the Greek Revolt. Later in February 1825 he concluded a treaty with Russia on the north-west American frontier (Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1825)).[6]

In 1825, Canning was returned to Constantinople, this time as Ambassador. He fled the city following the Battle of Navarino in 1827, but after a brief return to London he, along with the French and Russian ambassadors who had also fled, set up camp at Poros. In 1828 he and the other ambassadors participated in the Conference of Poros, which recommended to their respective governments the establishment of a separate Greek state, including the islands of Crete, Samos, and Euboea. Although he had been encouraged in this generous position towards the Greeks by his superior, Lord Aberdeen, this move was disavowed by the government, and Canning resigned.

Diplomatic career, 1831–1841[edit]

Following his return, Canning attempted to enter British politics, entering the House of Commons in 1831, but was not a particularly notable figure in the Commons. When the Whigs entered office and the Canningite Lord Palmerston became British foreign secretary, Canning returned again to Constantinople in 1831, but returned in 1832, disapproving of Palmerston's lack of consultation with him and the choice of Prince Otto of Bavaria as King of Greece. That year, he was appointed Ambassador to Russia,[7] but never took the office, as Tsar Nicholas I refused to receive him.

Canning was, however, sent on a new diplomatic mission, to Madrid, where he was to deal with the rival claimants to the Portuguese throne, but was largely unsuccessful. He turned again, attempting again to pursue a course in domestic politics, associating himself with Lord Stanley's band of renegade Whigs, but when Stanley's followers entered government with Sir Robert Peel in 1841, Canning again was not offered a post. Going to Lord Aberdeen, the new Foreign Secretary, with whom his relations remained ambiguous, Canning was this time offered the Constantinople embassy.

Ambassador to Constantinople, 1842–1858[edit]

Stratford Canning circa 1860

Canning's term in Constantinople lasted from 1842 to 1852, and in this period he came to be seen as one of the leading figures in Constantinople, as British influence over the Porte increased and the Turks came to be seen more and more as British clients. When Canning's old ally Stanley, now Earl of Derby, formed a government in 1852, Canning hoped to receive the foreign office, or at least the Paris embassy. Instead, he was raised to the peerage as Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe, in the County of Somerset.[8] He returned home in 1852, but when Aberdeen's coalition government was formed, Stratford de Redcliffe was returned to Constantinople.

In Constantinople for the last time, Stratford came in the midst of a crisis caused by the dispute between Napoleon III and Nicholas I over the protection of the holy places. This crisis ultimately led to the Crimean War. Stratford is accused of encouraging the Turks to reject the compromise agreement during the Menshikov mission. It appears that he was consistently urging the Turks to reject compromises arguing that any Russian treaty, or facsimile thereof, would be to subject the Ottoman Empire to protectorate status under Tsar Nicholas I. He left Constantinople for the last time in 1857, and resigned early the next year.


For the next twenty-two years Lord Stratford de Redcliffe lived in retirement, pursuing scholarly activities and deeply bored by his absence from public life. He attended the House of Lords regularly and spoke frequently on foreign policy matters as a cross-bencher. In 1869 he was made a Knight of the Garter.[9] During the Eastern Crisis of the 1870s, Stratford wrote frequent letters in The Times on the subject.

In September 1876 William Ewart Gladstone dedicated his pamphlet "Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East" to him.[10]


An illustration of the second lady Redcliffe visiting a hospital in Üsküdar, which at the time was known as Scutari.

Lord Stratford de Redcliffe was twice married. His first wife, Harriet daughter to Thomas and Harriet Raikes, died in her 27th year at Lausanne in February 1817, probably in childbirth. His second wife, Eliza Charlotte Alexander (1805–1882), bore him (at least) five children of whom four survived to adulthood. These were:

  • Hon. Louisa Charlotte Canning (1828–1908)
  • Hon. George Stratford Canning (1832–1878)
  • Hon. Catherine Jane Canning (1835–1884)
  • Hon. Mary Elizabeth Canning (1837–1905)

All his children died unmarried. Lord Stratford de Redcliffe himself died at the age of 93 in 1880, his peerage becoming extinct. He is buried underneath a large very grey monument on the western side of the grave yard at Frant in Sussex, England.


  1. ^ The Peerage entry and tree for Stratford Canning, 1st Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe
  2. ^ Lane-Poole, Stanley (1890). The Life of Lord Stratford De Redcliffe. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co. pp. 1–13.
  3. ^ "Canning, Stratford (CNN806S)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. ^ Lane-Poole, Stanley (1890). The Life of Lord Stratford De Redcliffe. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co. pp. 1–13.
  5. ^ "No. 17617". The London Gazette. 22 July 1820. p. 1430.
  6. ^ The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
  7. ^ "No. 18989". The London Gazette. 30 October 1832. p. 2394.
  8. ^ "No. 21313". The London Gazette. 27 April 1852. p. 1181.
  9. ^ "No. 23565". The London Gazette. 14 December 1869. p. 7070.
  10. ^ Gladstone, William Ewart (1876). Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East (1 ed.). London: John Murray. Retrieved 23 June 2016 – via Internet Archive.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Alexander
Josias du Pré Alexander
Member of Parliament for Old Sarum
With: James Alexander
Succeeded by
James Alexander
Josias du Pré Alexander
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George Wilbraham
William Sloane-Stanley
Member of Parliament for Stockbridge
With: John Foster-Barham
Constituency abolished
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Lord George Bentinck
Lord William Lennox
Member of Parliament for King's Lynn
With: Lord George Bentinck
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Lord George Bentinck
Viscount Jocelyn
Diplomatic posts
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No diplomatic relations
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Swiss Cantons
Succeeded by
William Disbrowe
(Chargé d'Affaires)
Preceded by
Hon. Sir Charles Bagot
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Richard Vaughan
Preceded by
The Viscount Strangford
British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire
Succeeded by
Sir Robert Gordon
Preceded by
British Ambassador to Greece
Succeeded by
Edward James Dawkins
Preceded by
Sir William à Court, Bt
British Ambassador to the Russian Empire
(nominally, but did not go; Hon. John Duncan Bligh was Minister-Plenipotentiary ad interim)

Succeeded by
The Earl of Durham
Preceded by
Sir John Ponsonby
British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire
Succeeded by
Sir Henry Bulwer
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Earl of Roden
Senior Privy Counsellor
Succeeded by
The Marquess of Donegall
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe