Henry Elliot

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"Ambassador to the Porte"
As depicted by "Spy" (Leslie Ward) in Vanity Fair, March 1877

Sir Henry George Elliot GCB KCMG PC (30 June 1817 – 30 March 1907) [1] was a British diplomat. He was the second son of Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 2nd Earl of Minto. He was most noted for his period as ambassador at Constantinople, and his participation in the 1876-77 Constantinople Conference. Elliot took a pro-Turkish line despite the ‘Bulgarian atrocities’.[2] He argued in a dispatch he made on 4 September 1876 "that British interests in preventing change in the Turkish empire were 'not affected by the question whether it was 10,000 or 20,000 persons who perished in the suppression'.[3][4] As a result of the unpopularity in Britain of his pragmatism in the face of atrocities he was relocated to Vienna in 1877. He died at home (Ardington House near Wantage) in 1907.[5][6]


Elliot was educated at Eton College and then Trinity College, Cambridge.[7] He did not take a degree.[5]

Early employment[edit]

Elliot's first proper employment was to work as the aide-de-camp and private secretary to Sir John Franklin in Tasmania. He worked there from 1836 to 1839. In 1840 he worked at the Foreign Office a précis writer for Lord Palmerston at the Foreign Office.[5][6]

Diplomatic service[edit]

In 1841 Elliot entered the diplomatic service. His first posting was as an attaché at St Petersburg. This was followed first, in 1848 by a position as a secretary to the legation at The Hague then in 1853 to Vienna and then in 1858 he was appointed Minister at Copenhagen.[6]


In 1859 he was appointed Minister in Naples. This was followed in 1863 by an appointed as Minister to the King of Italy. This lasted till 1867.[6]


In 1867 he was appointed Ambassador at Constantinople.[6]

Matthew's judgement on Elliot[edit]

H. C. G. Matthews, in the concluding paragraph of Elliot's entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, notes that:

To have annoyed both Salisbury and Gladstone was unusual. Elliot, in fact, represented the accepted Foreign Office view of his day as to the need to maintain the Porte. His illiberal statements of 1876–7 should not mask his overall competence in maintaining whiggish objectives of liberal constitutionalism, at least in western Europe.[5]

Meyer's judgement on Elliot[edit]

Elliot's role as Ambassador to Constantinople was a central theme in a book and BBC Four TV programme aired 22 February 2010 written and presented by Sir Christopher Meyer, former British Ambassador to the US. Meyer examined the possibility of an ethical foreign policy. The programme argued that Elliot supported Turkey because it acted as a bulwark between Russia and the UK's interests in the middle-east and India. Elliot's critics accused him of turning "native" but he argued, and the programme lent support to this view, that there were capital considerations they had not taken into account.[8][9]


  1. ^ The Peerage
  2. ^ Pears, Edwin (1916). Forty Years in Constantinople, The Recollections of Sir Edwin Pears 1873-1915 (1 ed.). London: Herbert Jenkins Limited. pp. 16–21. Retrieved 18 March 2016 – via Internet Archive.
  3. ^ Matthew, quoting R.T. Shannon (1963), Gladstone and the Bulgarian agitation, 1876, 23.
  4. ^ See also "No. 24365". The London Gazette. 19 September 1876. p. 5115.
  5. ^ a b c d http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/33002?docPos=1 H. C. G. Matthew, ‘Elliot, Sir Henry George (1817–1907)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004;
  6. ^ a b c d e The Times, Monday, 1 Apr 1907; pg. 7; Issue 38295; col F Death Of Sir Henry Elliot.
  7. ^ "Elliot, or Elliott, the Hon. Henry George (ELT835HG)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  8. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00r06j3 BBC4 Getting Our Way
  9. ^ Meyer, Christopher (2009) Getting Our Way: 500 Years of Adventure and Intrigue: the Inside Story of British Diplomacy, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, ISBN 978-0-297-85875-1

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
British Minister to Denmark
Succeeded by
Sir Augustus Paget
Preceded by
British Minister to the Two Sicilies
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Sir James Hudson
British Minister to Italy and the Holy See
Succeeded by
Sir Augustus Paget
Preceded by
The Lord Lyons
British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire
Succeeded by
Sir Henry Layard
Preceded by
Sir Andrew Buchanan
British Ambassador to Austria
Succeeded by
Sir Augustus Paget