STEWART, Frederick William Robert, Visct. Castlereagh (1805-1872).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1826 - 1852

Family and Education

b. 7 July 1805, o.s. of Charles William Stewart†, 3rd mq. of Londonderry [I] and 1st Bar. Stewart [UK], and 1st w. Lady Catherine Bligh, da. of John Bligh†, 3rd earl of Darnley [I]. educ. Eton 1814; Christ Church, Oxf. 1823. m. 2 May 1846, Hon. Elizabeth Frances Charlotte Jocelyn, da. of Robert Jocelyn*, 3rd earl of Roden [I], wid. of Richard Wingfield†, 6th Visct. Powerscourt [I], s.p. styled Visct. Castlereagh 1822-54; suc. fa. as 4th mq. of Londonderry [I] and 2nd Bar. Stewart [UK] 6 Mar. 1854; KP 28 Aug. 1856. d. 25 Nov. 1872.

Offices Held

Ld. of admiralty July 1829-Nov. 1830; vice-chamberlain Dec. 1834-Apr. 1835; PC 23 Feb. 1835.

Col. N. Down militia 1837; ld. lt. co. Down 1845-64.


‘Cas’ or ‘Young Rapid’, as the rakish Frederick Stewart was known,1 was a grandson of the 1st marquess of Londonderry and the eldest son of the army officer and diplomat Charles Stewart, who sat for county Londonderry until he was created Baron Stewart in 1814. After the death of his mother in 1812, and in the absence of his father as ambassador in Vienna, he was cared for in vacations from Eton by his uncle Lord Castlereagh*, the foreign secretary, at North Cray Farm, Kent. On a visit to him there in 1821, his stepmother described him, evidently after a spell of illness, as ‘quite recovered and as strong as ever, intelligent and beautiful’.2 When Castlereagh was excluded from his Down seat on Londonderry’s death that year, the family interest was given to a local stopgap, Mathew Forde, on the understanding that it would eventually revert to Frederick, of whom Castlereagh wrote that he ‘seems to inherit the family propensity for election and enjoyed much his county prospects’.3 After Londonderry’s suicide in August 1822, Frederick, who now took the courtesy title of Lord Castlereagh, recorded that he ‘certainly thought my poor uncle unlike himself for a long time; so much was he altered in his way of speaking and doing anything’.4 He, of whom Lord John Russell* observed that ‘he talks, but does not seem mad’, bore himself well as chief mourner at his uncle’s funeral,5 and soon afterwards travelled to Vienna to be with his father, the new marquess, with whom he had an emotional reunion.6 Londonderry complained of neglect by ministers, for instance that the Londonderry militia colonelcy was not safeguarded for Castlereagh’s future enjoyment, but extracted from them a United Kingdom earldom (Vane) with special remainder to his sons with his second wife.7 Through her he had come into extensive estates in county Durham and he informed his father-in-law Lord Camden, 9 Oct. 1822, that he considered ‘England and Wynyard as my most natural home’, but added that ‘I am aware however that I have a duty towards Ireland to perform for Frederick and for the family name, and that I am fully determined to do’.8

Castlereagh returned to England for a period of intensive study under his tutor John Matthias Turner, before going up to Christ Church in January 1823.9 However, in May he participated in a series of noisy night-time disturbances and was one of a number of students subsequently sent down. His family were said to be ‘greatly afflicted’, not least because it precluded him from taking up a promised commission in the army. But once the dean had removed his name from the register his expulsion could not be reversed, and Dr. Charles Lloyd, the regius professor of divinity, recorded that ‘everybody speaks of him as of a young man who, if he had not fallen on unhappy times, might have gone through the university not only without disgrace, but with credit and distinction’.10 Thereafter he seems to have travelled intermittently on the continent, including in 1824 to Scandinavia, where he contracted venereal disease.11 That year Londonderry petulantly rebuffed Lord Liverpool’s offer of a junior diplomatic posting for Castlereagh, asking instead that

Mr. Robinson* [at the board of trade] or your lordship might employ him (out of remembrance to the name he bears) in any of the offices at home in a confidential and private manner, to give him a better habit of office detail, before he came into Parliament.12

Ministers agreed to provide something, in part to keep on friendly terms with the wayward Londonderry, but were still trying to accommodate him two years later.13

As early as July 1824 Castlereagh was taking soundings about standing for Down, and his father reported from their residence, Mount Stewart, that month that ‘Frederick has been very handsomely admitted into the Down Hunt, and I think his conduct since his arrival here has given satisfaction’.14 One of the family’s supporters, the Rev. Mark Cassidy, commented the following year that, although it would depend on undertaking a detailed personal canvass, his success was certain.15 He returned from the continent in time to offer at the dissolution in 1826, when Forde, alleging betrayal, was forced to withdraw.16 Ignoring what he called the ‘morally impossible’ ideas of his father, who remarked that ‘I hope, as a young and ardent mind, he is not too sanguine’, the underage Castlereagh arranged for a cousin to stand against him and Lord Arthur Hill, the brother of Lord Downshire, with whom Londonderry was in cahoots. Despite the disgust shown by the independent interest, the poll was thereby kept open for nearly two weeks, and Castlereagh was elected with Hill on the day after his 21st birthday.17 Cassidy sent him a long letter of encouragement and advice, warning him against servility to ministers and inattention to local concerns.18 In fact, Castlereagh, who was expected to support the Liverpool government, was active in the affairs of both counties Down and Durham, where his father also had electoral interests.

Castlereagh presented Down petitions for Catholic relief, 27 Feb., 2 Mar., and voted in this sense, 6 Mar. 1827.19 Sir James Mackintosh* noted on the 4th that ‘Young Castlereagh has they say made a very becoming short speech’; thereafter he spoke rarely, but wittily and well.20 He asked about government’s intentions towards the Irish constabulary, 23 Mar., when he was granted a month’s leave to attend the assizes.21 Following the line set out by his father, who retained the family’s hostility to Canning, Castlereagh declared his opposition to the new premier, 4 May, in what Hudson Gurney* described as ‘a speech of great violence’.22 On 25 May he repeated that he saw no prospect of the administration being able to deliver emancipation. Sir Henry Hardinge* reported to Londonderry, 11 Dec. 1827, that he had ‘seen Castlereagh and ventured to suggest a fling off on the Greek and Turkish question, which he seems inclined to adopt’; nothing apparently came of it in the House.23 Castlereagh again voted for Catholic relief, 12 May 1828. Londonderry, who continued to bear grudges against ministers, was angry that the duke of Wellington, the prime minister, passed over Castlereagh for office in January and June that year.24 Mrs. Arbuthnot, who thought it a pity that Wellington should give him up just because the home secretary, Peel, ‘does not like him’, recorded that Londonderry ‘says everybody is preferred to office rather than his son, who has talent, is excessively well disposed, but who, he insinuated, would go into opposition in consequence of being overlooked’.25 According to General Dyott, writing in October 1828, Castlereagh was ‘a lively pleasant young man, but [had] none of the satire of his celebrated uncle’.26

He declined Wellington’s offer of the colonelcy of the South Down militia in February 1829.27 That month Planta, the patronage secretary, listed him as likely to be ‘with government’ on Catholic emancipation and considered him a possible mover or seconder of the address.28 Castlereagh welcomed the new policy as a means of calming Ireland, 9 Feb., objected to the inflammatory tactics of the Ultras, 9 Mar., and, as ‘the representative of the most Protestant county of Protestant Ulster’, called for continued prosperity and good government under the Union, 17 Mar. He brought up more favourable petitions, 3, 13, 27 Mar., and voted for emancipation, 6, 30 Mar. He divided for Daniel O’Connell being allowed to take his seat unimpeded, 18 May. The following month Mrs. Arbuthnot again pleaded his cause with Wellington, recounting the story that Liverpool had more or less promised him a reversion to office at Londonderry’s funeral in 1822 and arguing that, ‘though his father was behaving so ill, still ... the young man had done nothing and that he had claims, that he was clever and that it was hard to set him down as an idler merely because, having nothing to do, he did nothing’. Castlereagh having accepted the proffered vacancy at the admiralty, she observed that ‘if he has any good sense and application it will make a man of business of him ... He is very clever but so flighty, I doubt his doing much’.29 Her husband noted that it was ‘a popular appointment in every quarter except that in which it ought to be the most so’; and Lord Ellenborough commented that Londonderry, who was disappointed at not obtaining a position himself, was ‘much annoyed at Castlereagh’s taking office. He neither likes the expense of an election for Downshire, nor losing a vote he thought he could dispose of’.30 Expecting a challenge, Castlereagh left immediately for Ireland, but with the tacit support of the Downshire interest he was re-elected unopposed in July 1829.31

Both he and his father were said to be ‘sulky with the duke’ in early 1830, when Castlereagh commented privately that the Commons ‘is in a strange state’ and that ‘we shall be either out of office next week, or stronger than we ever were’.32 He nevertheless divided with his ministerial colleagues that session. He spoke against abolition of the Irish lord lieutenancy, 11 May. He stated his reluctant support for the continued duties on seaborne coals, 13 May, but warned the chancellor that he would have to heed the outcry against the higher Irish stamp and spirit taxes. Having been addressed on this subject in the Northern Whig, he offered his resignation rather than jeopardize his seat, but Wellington refused it and, in any case, the tax changes were soon reversed.33 He sent a message of approval to the county Down meeting on this subject, 9 May, and supported the ensuing petition in the House, 14 June 1830. The following month he received, but evidently ignored, a request from the dismissed lord lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Anglesey, to join opposition.34 His parliamentary stance on the taxes, together with active canvassing and government influence, enabled him to see off a serious challenge from Forde and the independent interest at the general election that summer, when he headed the poll.35

At Londonderry’s request, on 7 Oct. 1830 Castlereagh reported his grievances to Wellington, who replied that ‘I can quite understand and enter into your uncomfortable position with your father, in being separate in politics. But this is no fault of mine, and he should have thought of this himself’.36 Having of course been listed by ministers among their ‘friends’, he divided in their minority on the civil list, 15 Nov. He left office with them a few days later and, with his income falling from £3,000 to £200, was obliged to make economies, as he wryly reported to Cassidy.37 The new prime minister, Lord Grey, attempted to entice Londonderry and his son into supporting parliamentary reform by holding out offers of the lord lieutenancy of Down to the former and the colonelcy of the county militia to the latter, but nothing came of it.38 Castlereagh refused to present the favourable Down petition and condemned government’s extensive measure both privately and in the Commons, 22, 25 Mar. 1831.39 He voted against the second reading, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, which precipitated a dissolution, 19 Apr. 1831. Aware that he faced a strong opponent in the reformer William Sharman Crawford† and the Independent Club, he despaired of carrying Down once the Hills threw in their lot with them, but his father, an arch anti-reformer, inspired him to persevere.40 On the hustings he spoke for limited reform, but criticized the abolition of so many English seats, the loss of the Irish corporation boroughs and the ballot. After a six-day poll he was returned behind Hill, to whom he still owed considerable covert support.41

He divided against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, for postponing consideration of the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July, and with Hunt to make proven payment of rent a qualification for voting in boroughs, 25 Aug. 1831. He brought up petitions for the grant to the Kildare Place Society, 15 July, 8 Aug., 27 Sept., when he claimed that its discontinuation was unpopular with northern Irish Protestants. He voted against the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept.; Londonderry’s hostile vote in the Lords the following month led to him being physically attacked by a street mob.42 He divided against the second reading of the revised bill in the Commons, 17 Dec. 1831, the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He supported the regium donum, 5 Mar., and brought up Ulster petitions against the ministerial plan for national education in Ireland, 14, 30 Mar., 18 Apr. On 30 Apr. he suffered a severe accident when his horse took fright and he was thrown out of his cabriolet.43 Claiming that government had bought the support of Irish Members by selling out the establishment to the Catholics, he seconded the wrecking amendment to, and voted against, the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May. Early the following month he was expected to join the Protestant Conservative Society of Ireland.44 He divided against the Irish party processions bill, 25 June, and for preserving the voting rights of Irish freemen, 2 July. His only other recorded vote was against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July 1832.

O’Connell observed in October that it was ‘shocking that an Irish county should return a man who bears the odious title of the assassin of his country - Castlereagh’; but, a founder member of the Carlton Club that year, he was again returned as a Conservative for Down at the general election of 1832.45 Early the following year Lady Holland maliciously reported that the actress ‘Madame Vestris, for the first time in her life, is with child. Lord Castlereagh, for the honour of Ireland, is enchanted at his feat’.46 This was just one of the amorous escapades enjoyed by Castlereagh, who in later years travelled a good deal, including to the Near East. He retired from the Commons in 1852 and two years later succeeded to his father’s Irish titles and estates.47 Following a decade of mental illness he died, apparently intestate, at an asylum in Hastings in November 1872. The English and Irish halves of the family were then reunited, for he was succeeded as 5th marquess of Londonderry by his half-brother, the former North Durham Member, George Stewart, 2nd Earl Vane (1821-84).48 His son Charles, Viscount Castlereagh (1852-1915), was Conservative Member for Down from 1878 until he inherited the marquessate in 1884.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell


  • 1. H.M. Hyde, The Londonderrys, pp. xv, 44.
  • 2. Lady Londonderry, Life and Times of Frances Anne, Marchioness of Londonderry, 66.
  • 3. PRO NI, Castlereagh mss D3030/Q2/2, pp. 256, 261-2.
  • 4. W. Hinde, Castlereagh, 277.
  • 5. Add. 51679, Russell to Lady Holland [Oct. 1822]; I. Leigh, Castlereagh, 365-6.
  • 6. Castlereagh mss Q2/2, pp. 306, 308; Lady Londonderry, 85.
  • 7. Cent. Kent. Stud. Camden mss U840 C504/5; Add. 38291, f. 321; 38293, f. 76; Lady Londonderry, 119-20.
  • 8. Castlereagh mss Q1.
  • 9. Add. 38291, f. 80.
  • 10. Add. 40342, ff. 117, 119, 121; The Times, 8, 9 July 1823.
  • 11. Castlereagh mss T2, Bloomfield to Londonderry, 5 June 1824.
  • 12. Add. 38298, ff. 190, 192.
  • 13. Camden mss C257, Robinson to Camden, 10 Aug. 1826.
  • 14. Castlereagh mss N/147; T2, p. 96.
  • 15. PRO NI, Cassidy mss D1088/45.
  • 16. The Times, 31 May; Belfast Commercial Chron. 10, 21 June 1826.
  • 17. Castlereagh mss N/157, 158; PRO NI, Londonderry mss D654/B4/2, Londonderry to Castlereagh, 6, 15, 20, 26, 29 June, to Downshire, 15 June; Belfast Commercial Chron. 19, 28 June, 12 July 1826.
  • 18. Cassidy mss 39.
  • 19. The Times, 28 Feb., 3 Mar. 1827.
  • 20. Add. 52447, f. 48; Hyde, 44.
  • 21. The Times, 24 Mar. 1827.
  • 22. TCD, Donoughmore mss G/7/7; PRO NI, Fitzgerald mss MIC639/12/6/49, 52; Gurney diary.
  • 23. Durham CRO, Londonderry mss D/LO/C/83/10.
  • 24. Castlereagh mss Q1, Londonderry to Dowager Lady Londonderry [?1828]; Wellington mss WP1/934/24; 979/13; Lady Londonderry, 149-50.
  • 25. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 192-3.
  • 26. Dyott’s Diary, ii. 39.
  • 27. Wellington mss WP1/993/56; 1000/18.
  • 28. Add. 40398, f. 86; 40399, f. 1.
  • 29. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 282-5; Wellington mss WP1/1029/22.
  • 30. Arbuthnot Corresp. 120; Ellenborough Diary, ii. 55; Lady Londonderry, 159-62.
  • 31. PRO NI, Nugent mss D552/A/6/6/21; Wellington mss WP1/1025/20; Belfast News Letter, 3, 17 July 1829.
  • 32. Grey mss, Durham to Grey, 5 Feb.; Hatherton mss, Castlereagh to Littleton, 8 Feb. 1830.
  • 33. PRO NI, Pilson diary D353/1, 10 May 1830; Wellington mss WP1/1113/18.
  • 34. PRO NI, Anglesey mss D619/32C/9.
  • 35. Castlereagh mss N/211, 231, 252; Wellington mss WP1/1126/24; 1131/18; Newry Commercial Telegraph, 2 July, 3, 17, 20, 24 Aug. 1830.
  • 36. Lady Londonderry, 164-6.
  • 37. Cassidy mss 92.
  • 38. Anglesey mss 28A-B/48, 49.
  • 39. Cassidy mss 80.
  • 40. Wellington mss WP1/1184/15, 20; Add. 40402, f. 52; PRO NI, Downshire mss D671/C/2/451; M. Brock, Great Reform Act, 192.
  • 41. PRO NI, Meade mss MIC259/2, Brush to Meade, 8 May; Newry Commercial Telegraph, 13, 17, 20, 27 May 1831.
  • 42. Lady Londonderry, 171-2.
  • 43. The Times, 2 May 1832.
  • 44. NLI, Farnham mss 18611 (3), Lefroy to Farnham, 4 June 1832.
  • 45. O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1929; Newry Commercial Telegraph, 11, 21 Dec. 1832.
  • 46. Lady Holland to Son, 140.
  • 47. CP, viii. 115; Hyde, 44-49; Lady Londonderry, 259.
  • 48. Hyde, 50-51; Downpatrick Recorder, 30 Nov., 7 Dec. 1872; Ann. Reg. (1872), Chron. pp. 170-1.