Castlereagh: Life & Legacy

Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, 1814, by Sir Thomas Lawrence NT 1542307

A new exhibition to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of Viscount Castlereagh (1769-1822) opens at Mount Stewart from 8 August 2022. The exhibition provides an introduction to the life of this complex man who lived in extraordinary times and believed he was striving for the greater good. Explore his life and legacy through his family, politics and role as a statesman.

The Exhibition

A silver inkstand, which served as a constant companion to Viscount Castlereagh and was used to write letters which shaped post-Napoleonic Europe, will be displayed publicly for the first time at his former home, as part of the exhibition. The inkstand is one of the most personal pieces associated with Castlereagh. Engraved with his coat of arms, it is one of the few objects which would have travelled with him everywhere. It would have been on his desk at 12 Downing Street and seen by anyone visiting him on governmental business, and at Paris and Vienna during the negotiations to settle Europe after the defeat of Napoleon.

Viscount Castlereagh's Inkstand on display in the Central Hall
Viscount Castlereagh's Inkstand on display in the Central Hall
Viscount Castlereagh's Inkstand on display in the Central Hall


It would have been used in the composition of letters of vital importance to sovereigns, statesmen and generals including Tsar Alexander I of Russia, the Duke of Wellington and even Napoleon’s marshal Ney. It is likely to have been present when Castlereagh interviewed Nelson before the Admiral’s departure for the Battle of Trafalgar and used to compose letters to the Duke of Wellington ahead of the Battle of Waterloo.
 
Castlereagh became so well associated with his silver inkstand that a satirical cartoon of the time, also acquired by the Trust and which will be part of the new display, depicts the statesman sitting with an inkstand on the table next to him.

The exhibition will look at the story of Viscount Castlereagh through the objects and spaces in which he lived, and visitors to the house will also be able to enjoy their own self-led tour. Open everyday, the exhibition will also be supported with special guided tours of the house at Mount Stewart. 

Take the Castlereagh Tour

  • Tours commence from Sunday 14 August at 11.30am and 1.30pm every day until Sunday 4 September.
  • From Monday 5 September to Monday 31 October tours will run everyday at 11.30am.
  • From Saturday 5 November, tours will run every Saturday at 11.30am.
  • Self-led free flow tours are available at all times when the house is open.

Who was Viscount Castlereagh?

Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh and later 2nd Marquess of Londonderry, was born in Dublin in 1769 and spent his youth at the Stewart family home at Mount Stewart, inheriting the estate himself in 1821. He embarked on a political career, representing County Down in the House of Commons in Dublin, before being elected to the House of Commons in London in 1794. This same year he married Lady Amelia Hobart who he remained close to for the rest of his life.

Four years later he was appointed Chief Secretary of Ireland, in effect the Prime Minister, and the first Irish man to ever hold this position. In post, he was responsible for suppressing the civil disobedience during the 1798 Rebellion, while also commanding the local Militia and defending Ireland against the attempted French invasion. The same role of Chief Secretary saw him steer the Acts of Union through both Dublin and London parliaments, creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

His political career continued for the rest of his life, as Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, Leader of the House of Commons and Foreign Secretary. As British Foreign Secretary he brought together a coalition of six European countries that defeated Napoleon and saw him leading the Congress of Vienna that sought to establish long-term peace after 23 years of European war against France.

The Congress of Vienna, 1815, engraving by Jean-Baptiste Isabey. Viscount Castlereagh is seated centre front.
The Congress of Vienna, 1815, engraving by Jean-Baptiste Isabey. Viscount Castlereagh is seated centre front.
The Congress of Vienna, 1815, engraving by Jean-Baptiste Isabey. Viscount Castlereagh is seated centre front.

The death and legacy of Viscount Castlereagh

In August 1822, suffering depression that he had lived with for many years, he took his own life. Castlereagh was buried with full honours in Westminster Abbey in London, and later his brother, who succeeded him as 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, would have a life-sized statue erected in the abbey to commemorate his brother.

Castlereagh saw himself as a diplomat and statesman, not a politician. When we look at his life and legacy, it’s in these fields that his influence was far-reaching and long-lasting. Elements of his life deserve greater exploration, his role in the abolition of the slave trade, his role in the Acts of Union, his leadership against Napoleon of France, his influence on the creation of the Congress system of international diplomacy.

Book your Castlereagh tour at the Mount Stewart visitor reception on arrival. Personal Group Tours by arrangement.