The Earl of Carnarvon
4th Earl of Carnarvon.jpg
Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire
In office
6 August 1887 – 29 June 1890
Preceded byThe Marquess of Winchester
Succeeded byThe Earl of Northbrook
Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
6 July 1866 – 8 March 1867
MonarchQueen Victoria
Prime MinisterThe Earl of Derby
Preceded byEdward Cardwell
Succeeded byThe Duke of Buckingham and Chandos
In office
21 February 1874 – 4 February 1878
MonarchQueen Victoria
Prime MinisterBenjamin Disraeli
Preceded byThe Earl of Kimberley
Succeeded bySir Michael Hicks Beach, Bt
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
In office
27 June 1885 – 28 January 1886
MonarchQueen Victoria
Prime MinisterThe Marquess of Salisbury
Preceded byThe Earl Spencer
Succeeded byThe Earl of Aberdeen
Personal details
Born(1831-06-24)24 June 1831
Grosvenor Square, London
Died29 June 1890(1890-06-29) (aged 59)
Portman Square, London
Political partyConservative
Lady Evelyn Stanhope
(m. 1861; died 1875)
Elizabeth Howard
(m. 1878)
Parent(s)Henry Herbert, 3rd Earl of Carnarvon
Henrietta Anna Howard
Alma materChrist Church, Oxford

Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert, 4th Earl of Carnarvon, KP, PC, DL, FRS, FSA (24 June 1831 – 29 June 1890), known as Lord Porchester from 1833 to 1849, was a British politician and a leading member of the Conservative Party. He was twice Secretary of State for the Colonies and also served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.


Born at Grosvenor Square, London, Carnarvon was the eldest son and heir of Henry Herbert, 3rd Earl of Carnarvon (d.1849), by his wife Henrietta Anna Howard, a daughter of Lord Henry Howard-Molyneux-Howard, younger brother of Bernard Howard, 12th Duke of Norfolk. The Hon. Auberon Herbert was his younger brother.


He was educated at Eton College. In 1849, aged 18, he succeeded his father in the earldom. He attended Christ Church, Oxford, where his nickname was "Twitters",[1] apparently on account of his nervous tics and twitchy behaviour, and where in 1852 he obtained a first in literae humaniores.

Early political career, 1854–66

Carnavon made his maiden speech in the House of Lords on 31 January 1854, having been requested by Lord Aberdeen to move the address in reply to the Queen's Speech. He served under Lord Derby, as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1858 to 1859, aged twenty-six.

In 1863 he worked on penal reform. Under the influence of Joshua Jebb he saw the gaols,[a] with a population including prisoners before any trial, as numerically more significant than the system of prisons for convicts. He was himself a magistrate, and campaigned for the conditions of confinement to be made less comfortable, with more severe regimes on labour and diet. He also wished to see a national system that was more uniform. In response, he was asked to run a House of Lords committee, which sat from February 1863. It drafted a report, and a Gaol Bill was brought in, during 1864; it was, however, lost amid opposition. The Prisons Act 1866, passed by parliament during 1865, saw Carnarvon's main ideas implemented, though with detailed amendments.[2]

Colonial Secretary and Canadian federation, 1866–7

In 1866 Carnarvon was sworn of the Privy Council and appointed Secretary of State for the Colonies by Derby. In 1867 he introduced the British North America Act, which conferred self-government on Canada, and created a federation. Later that year, he resigned (along with Lord Cranborne and Jonathan Peel) in protest against Benjamin Disraeli's Reform Bill to enfranchise the working classes.

Colonial Secretary, 1874–8

Returning to the office of the British colonial secretary in 1874, he submitted a set of proposals, the Carnarvon terms, to settle the dispute between British Columbia and Canada over the construction of the transcontinental railroad and the Vancouver Island railroad and train bridge. Vancouver Island had been promised a rail link as a condition for its entry into Canadian Confederation.

South Africa

In the same year, he set in motion plans to impose a system of confederation on the various states of Southern Africa. The situation in southern Africa was complicated, not least in that several of its states were still independent and so required military conquest before being confederated. The confederation plan was also highly unpopular among ordinary southern Africans. The Prime Minister of the Cape Colony (by far the largest and most influential state in southern Africa) firmly rejected confederation under Britain, saying that it was not a model that was applicable to the diverse region, and that conflict would result from outside involvement in southern Africa at a time when state relations were particularly sensitive.[3] The liberal Cape government also objected to the plan for ideological concerns; Its formal response, conveyed to London via Sir Henry Barkly, had been that any federation with the illiberal Boer republics would compromise the rights and franchise of the Cape's Black citizens, and was therefore unacceptable.[4] Other regional governments refused even to discuss the idea.[5] Overall, the opinion of the governments of the Cape and its neighbours was that "the proposals for confederation should emanate from the communities to be affected, and not be pressed upon them from outside."[6]

According to historian Martin Meredith, Lord Carnarvon was primarily concerned with "imperial defence", and "regarded the Cape and its naval facilities at Simon's Bay as being the most important link in the imperial network".[7] He thus decided to force the pace, "endeavouring to give South Africa not what it wanted, but what he considered it ought to want."[8] He sent colonial administrators such as Theophilus Shepstone and Henry Bartle Frere to southern Africa to implement his system of confederation. Shepstone occupied and annexed the Transvaal in 1877, while Bartle Frere, as the new High Commissioner, led imperial troops against the last group of independent Xhosa in the Ninth Frontier War. Carnarvon then used the rising unrest to suspend the Natal constitution, while Bartle Frere overthrew the elected Cape government, and then moved to invade the independent Zulu Kingdom.

However the confederation scheme collapsed as predicted, leaving a trail of wars across Southern Africa. Humiliating defeats also followed at Isandlwana and Majuba Hill. Of the resultant wars, the initially disastrous invasion of Zululand ultimately ended in success, but the First Boer War of 1880 had even more far-reaching consequences for the subcontinent. Francis Reginald Statham, editor of The Natal Witness in the 1870s, famously summed up the local reaction to Carnarvon's plan for the region:

He (Carnarvon) thought it no harm to adopt this machinery (Canadian Confederation System) just as it stood, even down to the numbering and arrangement of the sections and sub-sections, and present it to the astonished South Africans as a god to go before them. It was as if your tailor should say – "Here is a coat; I did not make it, but I stole it ready-made out of a railway cloak-room, I don't know whether you want a coat or not; but you will be kind enough to put this on, and fit yourself to it. If it should happen to be too long in the sleeves, or ridiculously short in the back, I may be able to shift a button a few inches, and I am at least unalterably determined that my name shall be stamped on the loop you hang it up by.[9]

The confederation idea was dropped when Carnarvon resigned in 1878, in opposition to Disraeli's policy on the Eastern Question, but the bitter conflicts caused by Carnarvon's policy continued, culminating eventually in the Second Boer War and the annexation of the two Boer republics.[10]

Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1885–6

On his party's return to power in 1885, Carnarvon became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. His short period of office, memorable only for a conflict on a question of personal veracity between himself and Charles Stewart Parnell, as to his negotiations with the latter in respect of Home Rule, was terminated by another premature resignation. He never returned to office.

Herbert sketched in 1869 by "Ape" for Vanity Fair
Herbert sketched in 1869 by "Ape" for Vanity Fair

Other public appointments

Carnarvon also held the honorary posts of Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire between 1887 and 1890 and Deputy Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire. He was regarded as a highly cultured man and was a president and a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (his time there noted for their campaign to save St Albans Cathedral from Lord Grimthorpe) and a Fellow of the Royal Society as well as was high steward of Oxford University. He was also a prominent freemason, having been initiated in the Westminster and Keystone Lodge. He served as Pro Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England from 1874 to 1890. With his permission a number of subsequently founded lodges bore his name in their titles.

Some buildings commissioned by, associated with or overseen by Lord Carnarvon

Concrete Cottages, Old Burghclere, before 1871.[b] Rare and pioneering concrete dwelling built for the magnificent 4th Earl of Carnarvon. Originally tripartite, they show both agricultural and urban Neo-Palladian traits.
Concrete Cottages, Old Burghclere, before 1871.[b] Rare and pioneering concrete dwelling built for the magnificent 4th Earl of Carnarvon. Originally tripartite, they show both agricultural and urban Neo-Palladian traits.
Villa Altachiara or Villa Carnarvon, Portofino, Liguria, Italy, from a postcard made before 1900. Prince Frederick William of Prussia stayed there near the end of his life.
Villa Altachiara or Villa Carnarvon, Portofino, Liguria, Italy, from a postcard made before 1900. Prince Frederick William of Prussia stayed there near the end of his life.

Carnarvon became a Freemason in 1856, joining the Westminster and Keystone Lodge, No. 10. In 1860 he was made the second Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons (created in 1856) and in 1870 he was appointed Deputy Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) by Lord Ripon, and was Pro Grand Master from 1874 to 1890. Furthermore, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1875, confirming, in addition to his work as a statesman, his interest in innovation, geometry, the Enlightenment, science, the Scientific Revolution and the world.

Marriages and issue

Lord Carnarvon married twice. His first marriage was in 1861 to Lady Evelyn Stanhope (1834–1875), daughter of George Stanhope, 6th Earl of Chesterfield, and Hon. Anne Elizabeth Weld-Forester, by whom he had one son and three daughters:

Following his first wife's death in 1875, Lord Carnarvon married his first cousin Elizabeth Catherine Howard (1857–1929) in 1878. She was a daughter of Henry Howard of Greystoke Castle, near Penrith, Cumberland (brother of Henrietta Anna Molyneux-Howard (1804–1876), wife of Henry Herbert, 3rd Earl of Carnarvon), a son of Lord Henry Howard-Molyneux-Howard and younger brother of Bernard Howard, 12th Duke of Norfolk. Elizabeth Howard's brother was Esmé Howard, 1st Baron Howard of Penrith. By his second wife he had two further sons:

Death and burial

Lord Carnarvon died in June 1890, aged 59, at Portman Square in London. His second wife survived him by almost forty years and died in February 1929, aged 72.


  1. ^ "Gaol" is an older British English version of the American English "jail", more usually found in official documents and names of prisons in the United Kingdom, and Ireland. For example, Kilmainham Gaol, Reading Gaol, etc..
  2. ^ Long Piddle, Burghclere Bottom, Scouses Corner, on the north side of the Kingsclere and Sydmonton road, Old Burghclere.
  3. ^ The Drake Patent Concrete Building Company was founded in 1868.
  4. ^ A cousin of Carnarvon's successor as Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Thomas Baring, 1st Earl of Northbrook.
  5. ^ Potter's home at 22 Havelock Road, Croydon is still there
  6. ^ His late September 1866 address to the Highclere Agricultural Association at Burghclere on the subject of Labourers' Cottages in Ireland was reported in at least the Dublin Evening Mail and the Glasgow Herald.
  7. ^ Prince Frederick William of Prussia and Victoria, Princess Royal stayed there circa 1886. Elizabeth Chapin Patterson, daughter of Simeon B. Chapin, rented it for Avatar Meher Baba in July 1933. It is also associated with Norina Matchabelli, and Contessa Francesca Vacca Agusta, who died there. It is now owned by the footballer Samuel Eto.


  1. ^ Charmley 2013.
  2. ^ McConville 1995, p. 97, Ch. 3.
  3. ^ Reader's Digest Association South Africa 1992, p. 182.
  4. ^ Mostert 1992, p. 1247.
  5. ^ Cana 1909, p. 89, Ch. VII.
  6. ^ Theal 1902, p. 402-3.
  7. ^ Meredith 2007, p. 63.
  8. ^ Michell 1910, p. 109.
  9. ^ Statham 1881, p. 239.
  10. ^ Parker 2013, p. 37, "Lord Carnarvon".
  11. ^ Collins 1959.
  12. ^ Potter 1908.
  13. ^ "Obituary : Bridget Grant". The Telegraph. 23 July 2005. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  14. ^ Monument to Lord Carnarvon (Memorial). Brushford Church, Somerset.
  15. ^ Ref:DD\DRU: "HERBERT FAMILY OF PIXTON PARK, Dulverton, Somerset Heritage Centre, The Teversal estate in Nottinghamshire, formerly belonging to the Molyneux family, was brought into the Herbert family by Henrietta Howard, daughter of Lord Henry Howard-Molyneux-Howard of Greystoke, who married Henry Herbert, Lord Porchester, later 3rd Earl of Carnarvon, in 1830
  16. ^ Mellors 1924, p. 265.

Further reading