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Francis Wemyss-Charteris-Douglas, , 8th Earl of Wemyss and 6th Earl of March




Lord Elcho
Lord Elcho, M.P.,
from 'The Drawing-Room Portrait..'
Francis Wemyss-Charteris-Douglas, , eighth earl of Wemyss and sixth earl of March (1818–1914), politician, the eldest son of Francis Wemyss-Charteris-Douglas, seventh earl of Wemyss and fifth earl of March (1795–1883), and his wife, Lady Louisa Bingham (1798–1882), third daughter of Richard, second earl of Lucan (of Balaklava fame), was born in Edinburgh on 4 August 1818. (But see below) He was educated at Edinburgh Academy, at Eton College, and at Christ Church, Oxford, where John Ruskin was his contemporary; he graduated BA in 1841. The eighth earl was tall and lean with a hawk-like visage and Dundreary whiskers. Although 56,739 acres of the Wemyss estates were in East Lothian, over 4000 acres were in Gloucestershire and as a result in 1841 he entered parliament to represent East Gloucestershire as a Tory protectionist. His conversion to the repeal of the corn laws forced his resignation in January 1846. The next year he was elected as MP for East Lothian, a seat he held until he was called to the House of Lords on the death of his father in 1883. In 1843 he married Lady Anne Frederica Anson (d. 1896), second daughter of Thomas William Anson, first earl of Lichfield (1795–1854), and his wife, Louisa Catherine (d. 1879); they had six sons and three daughters.

Wemyss enjoyed early political success. He was made a lord of the Treasury with the formation of the earl of Aberdeen's ministry late in 1852. From his grandfather's death in 1853 he was styled Lord Elcho. He retired with the Peelites in 1855 when Lord Palmerston became prime minister and he did not subsequently hold office. From that time Elcho acted independently, styling himself a Liberal-Conservative. In 1859, though he supported the earl of Derby's Reform Bill, he later opposed the reform proposals of Lord John Russell. On the introduction of the Franchise Bill of 1866 he joined Edward Horsman, Robert Lowe (afterwards first Viscount Sherbrooke), and others in forming the ‘cave of Adullam’, to oppose giving the vote to the ‘ignorant masses’ of men. The meetings of the ‘cave’ took place at Elcho's St James's home; Reform League supporters stoned the windows. Elcho so opposed the opportunism of Gladstone, Bright, and Russell that he later voted for Disraeli's Household Suffrage Bill.

Elcho was a member of the royal commission on trades unions in 1867. He developed a close friendship with Alexander Macdonald (1821–1881), the moderate president of the National Miners' Association and one of the first two trade unionist MPs (1874–81). By using his political position to pass the Master and Servant Amendment Act of 1867, which made it a civil rather than a criminal offence for an employee to breach a contract, he is viewed as an ‘old Liberal, New Model Employer, Whig Aristocrat’ who tried up to a point to cope with economic and political change through paternalism. Co-operation between Macdonald and Elcho lasted until the depression of 1873 caused Macdonald to advocate restrictive measures to lower the supply of coal and to raise miners' wages.

Elcho took an active part in the proceedings of the House of Commons. He introduced a Medical Practitioners Bill in 1854 and, in great measure, it was due to his exertions that the act of 1858, which created the General Medical Council, became law. In 1869 he called for government inspection and regulation of fertilizer and animal food and in 1872 he supported increased inspection of mines. At the behest of the Metropolitan Reform Association in 1874, Elcho unsuccessfully introduced a bill to extend the City corporation of London and have the association assume the duties of the City, the Metropolitan Board of Works, and the vestries. It was the reforms of Gladstone's first ministry, 1868–73, and especially the Irish Land Act of 1881 that enraged Elcho, as well as British landlords, publicans, and business interests. These events led him with others on 5 July 1882 to found the Liberty and Property Defence League to fight socialism, trade unionism, and ‘promising’ politicians; Elcho was the founder, chairman, and a major source of financial support of this organization until he died in 1914. It attracted whigs, ultra-tories, landlords, employers, individualist philosophers, and members of the Personal Rights Association, the last a society that attempted to combat harmful legislation affecting the poor and women's right to work. While the league attempted to win the votes of the blue-collar worker, it had to settle for influencing the middle classes and the rate-payers. The Liberty and Property Defence League included 208 trade or defence associations; it launched a four-pronged counter-attack through the Free Labour Protection Association (FLPA) founded in July 1897 aimed at defeating the growth of the militant new unionism; the Employers' Parliamentary Council aimed at defeating legislation harmful to business; the co-partnership movement attempted to narrow the gulf between employers and employees by profit sharing plans; and a journal, the Liberty Review, was published monthly from 1888 to 1907. The FLPA was a key weapon in defeating the engineering strike of 1897. Unfortunately for the league and its allies, the FLPA's success in this instance led to the formation of the Labour Representation Committee in 1900 which eventually spawned the Labour Party.

The cause of the 1897 strike, a scenario played out a number of times during the twentieth century, was the debate over the open shop and the definition of intimidation and interpretation of the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act of 1875. At its core the strike was an attempt by the skilled engineers of the now socialist-led Amalgamated Society of Engineers to frustrate efforts by the Employers' Federation of Engineering Associations to stay competitive by increasing productivity through the introduction of labour-saving devices and methods. The FLPA tactics were based on those used by William Collison's National Free Labour Association established in 1893 to oppose the tyranny of socialistic trade-union leaders by using the courts, the police, the open shop, and free labour. Sir George Livesey of the London Metropolitan Gasworks and Frederick Millar, editor of the league's journal, the Liberty Review, were intermediaries between Collison's National Free Labour Association and the FLPA, which was led by Colonel Dyer, chairman of the Armstrong Works at Elswick, and Alexander Siemens, of the famous engineering firm, who was a charter member of the league. After Dyer's death in 1898 leadership of the Engineering Employers' Federation passed to Benjamin Browne, chairman of Hawthorn Leslie. On 15 November 1898, under the auspices of the league and the FLPA, a meeting attended by a veritable who's who of British industry, and representing over Ł1000 million of property, formed the Employers' Parliamentary Council. Regional, personal, inter-, and intra-industrial differences proved difficult to overcome and the league also encountered even greater problems given its diverse constituencies. The efforts of Wemyss to build pressure groups and other structures to combat the growth of the state and its attack on liberty and property through ‘socialist’ legislation were his greatest legacy.

Elevation to the House of Lords in 1883 as Lord Wemyss did not diminish his interest in public affairs. His persistent opposition to the steady growth of state interference brought him into conflict with each administration in its turn. His libertarian beliefs made it difficult for him to support any political party but by 1899—as licensed victuallers, Irish landlords, and employers rapidly lost faith in the Salisbury government—he and other league officials called for the formation of a free bona fide conservative party. His hope that Lord Rosebery would take up the banner of an independent-individualist party came to naught.

Lord Wemyss had many interests outside politics. He was an accomplished sculptor and painter in watercolours. Throughout his career he rendered valuable service to successive administrations with his wise counsel in matters of art and architecture, and his watchfulness over the public buildings of London. In 1856 he was largely instrumental in preventing the removal of the National Gallery to Kensington Gore.

While Wemyss played a significant role in the economic history of the period between Chartism and the First World War, he also played a role in matters of military reform and national service from the Crimean War to the outbreak of the First World War. As a member of the Aberdeen ministry, 1852–5, Elcho became aware of the deficiencies of the army. When the government authorized the formation of a corps of rifle volunteers in May 1859, he threw himself enthusiastically into the movement and was a founder of a London Scottish regiment (originally the 15th Middlesex corps). As lieutenant-colonel of this regiment he was present at the first review in Hyde Park on 23 June 1860 when 19,000 volunteers paraded before Queen Victoria. Elcho relinquished command of the regiment in 1879 and became an aide-de-camp to the queen in 1881. Elcho was also ensign-general of the Royal Society of Archers and he served on the royal commission of 1862, which produced the Volunteer Act of 1863.

In a related area Elcho presided over the meeting that inaugurated the National Rifle Association in 1859; he was first chairman of the association in 1859–67 and again in 1869–70. He presented the association with the Elcho challenge shield for yearly competition by teams representative of England and Scotland, later including Ireland and Wales, and he regularly attended the Wimbledon meetings of the association.

Lord Elcho was a persistent advocate of the militia ballot. He was frankly critical of Edward (afterwards Viscount) Cardwell's military reforms, and in 1871 he printed a series of letters published as Letters on Military Organization. In 1907, when he reached his ninetieth year, he vigorously protested in the House of Lords against the reforms of R. B. Haldane. Six years later in a letter to The Times (3 June 1913) he referred to the military system of the country as having been ‘fatuously destroyed several years ago’.

In 1900 Wemyss married, as his second wife, Grace (d. 1946), daughter of Major John Blackburn, army officer, and his wife, Maria. Wemyss died after a short illness on 30 June 1914 at his London residence, 23 St James's Place, and was buried on 4 July at Aberlady, the village next to his vast estate and house, Gosford, on the southern shores of the Firth of Forth. He was succeeded by his fourth—the eldest surviving—son, Hugh Richard (1857–1937), whose wife was Mary Constance Charteris, a prominent member of the Souls and a close friend of A. J. Balfour.




The Wyndham sisters
The Wyndham sisters - Lady Elcho to the rear
The Wyndham sisters are Lady Elcho, Mrs. Adeane, and Mrs. Tennant, all daughter of the Honorable Percy Wyndham. The painting was done in their London home on Belgrave Square. Sargent has arranged the women so that their mother, Madeline, is looking down upon them from the full portrait by George Frederick Watt.


Lady Elcho is the one behind. She is Mary Constance neč Wyndham (1862-1937) -- the oldest. She married Hugo Richard Wemyss Charteris Douglas, Lord Echo in 1883. Her brother-in-law was the Honourable Evan Charteris who did the first biography of Sargent shortly after John's death. Mary would have been roughly thirty-seven at the time of sitting.


Mrs Adeane, is the one on the left, she was Madeline neč Wyndham (1869-1941) and she married Charles R.W. Adean in 1889. He was the Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire. Madeline would have been about thirty.


Mrs. Tennant, sitting on the right and obviously the youngest, was Pamela neč Wyndham (1871-1928). She married Edward Tennant in 1895 and she became Lady Glenconner when her husband took title in 1911. When her husband died in 1920, she married Viscount Grey of Fallodon in 1922. Pamela would have been about twenty-eight at the time of sitting.

Note: The details of parentage, dates, etc, differ from those I show in the genealogy section.


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