CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
Ref NoMS 3029
TitleCharles Arbuthnot, diplomat and politician: papers
Date1767 - 1850
Extent8 boxes
Creator NameCharles Arbuthnot (1767 - 1850), MP, diplomat and politician
Administrative HistoryCharles Arbuthnot was a son of John Arbuthnott, of Rockfleet, County Mayo, by the daughter of J. Stone, a London banker and brother of Archbishop Stone, primate of Ireland. His paternal grandfather, George Arbuthnot, was one of three brothers who left the family's ancestral home in Scotland (Arbuthnott, Kincardineshire) at the turn of the eighteenth century, the most famous being his grand-uncle, Dr. John Arbuthnot (1667 - 1735), physician and wit, who settled in London, where he was appointed physician extraordinary to Queen Anne and formed a close friendship with Swift and other leading statesman of the Harley administration.

Charles Arbuthnot was raised in London by his grand-uncle, Andrew Stone, a banker and friend of George III. He did not come to know his siblings until adulthood, but seems to have established close family ties with them at this time, his support in assisting Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Arbuthnot (1776 - 1849) and Lieutenant General Sir Robert Arbuthnot (1773 - 1853) embark upon their distinguished military careers being well testified.

An autobiographical account, written in 1847, describes how he spent his early years in Oxford "in idleness and amusement", before travelling widely on the Continent, " ... being a good deal with Stanislaus, the last of the Kings of Poland" (unpublished autobiography of Charles Arbuthnot: MS 3029/ 1/ 4/ 4). His career began in 1793 as precis-writer in the foreign office, and in 1795 he was elected MP for East Looe. He entered the diplomatic service in 1800, serving in Sweden and Portugal, before accepting the prestigious appointment of ambassador extraordinary to Constantinople in 1804. His time here ended unhappily in 1807, when diplomatic relations with the Porte were broken off, and he returned to England with his family, where he served in various Government offices, including the Treasury, the Board of Wood and Forests, and the Duchy of Lancaster, until 1830. During this period he achieved prominence in domestic politics, being returned as MP for Eye, Suffolk, 1809, Orford, Suffolk, 1812, St Germans, Cornwall, 1818 - 1827, and St Ives, Cornwall, 1828 - 1830.

Arbuthnot married Marcia Clapcott-Lisle, daughter of William and Mrs H. Clapcott-Lisle, in 1799. Marcia's mother was a sister of the Marquis of Cholmondeley and lady-in-waiting to the Princess of Wales, Caroline of Brunswick. She accompanied Charles abroad, but died in childbirth in Constantinople in 1806. They had four children: Charles, Henry, Caroline and Marcia. Their eldest son, Charles G.J. Arbuthnot entered the army in 1816, and rose to the rank of general after service in Ireland and Ceylon. In England, he was attached to the Royal Household and later commanded troops at Birmingham during the period of popular unrest in the late 1840s. Arbuthnot was married again in 1814 to Harriet Fane, daughter of Henry Fane, of Fulbeck, Linconshire, and grand-daughter of the eighth Earl of Westmorland. The couple were close friends of the Duke of Wellington, and after Harriet's death in 1834, Charles lived much of the remainder of his life at Aspley House, as his close friend and companion. Around this time he made his estate at Woodford, Kettering, Northamptonshire, over to his eldest son.

See D.N.B. and refer also to sources cited in Publication Note for further details on Charles Arbuthnot and his extended family.
Custodial HistoryCorrespondence from the Duke of Wellington to Harriet Arbuthnot, and her journal ( Mrs Arbuthnot's journal ) were handed over to the Duke after her death, and letters from Wellington to Charles Arbuthnot were also subsequently given to the Duke. Some of these items have been published (see Publication Note for further details). Correspondence regarding the ownership of these items is deposited in this collection (section 10)
SourceDeposited in the University by Sir John Arbuthnot, in 1980.
DescriptionThe collection consists almost entirely of family correspondence, with most of the material falling into the period 1830 - 1850. The bulk of this relates to the life and career of Charles Arbuthnot (1767 - 1850), and his son, Charles G. J. Arbuthnott (1801 - 1870), but is interspersed with a varied and for the most part, interesting, mixture of domestic, social, and political commentary, characteristic of family correspondence of the period.

The main correspondents represented are Charles Arbuthnot (1767 - 1850), Harriet Arbuthnot (d 1834), Charles G. J. Arbuthnot (1801 - 1870), and Mrs H. Clapcott-Lisle, mother of Charles' first wife, Marcia (d 1806). The letters of Mrs H. Clapcott-Lisle (section 8) are of particular interest as they date mainly from the period 1802 - 1806, shortly after Charles and Marcia had embarked upon their life abroad, and shed some light on the family's activities at this time, of which little has been recorded elsewhere. The most substantial series in the collection is the correspondence between Charles and his eldest son, Charles G. J. Arbuthnot (in series 1/2 and 3/1). Some 800 or more letters survive, revealing what seems to have been an unusually close-knit family, into which young Charles's wife, Charlotte Vivian, was warmly welcomed in 1833, as the daughter of the Arbuthnot's old friend Sir Richard Hussey Vivian. The earlier letters in this series show the supportive role which Charles Arbuthnot played in his son's career, whilst later correspondence provides detailed observations of young Charles' life abroad, whilst working in Ceylon and British Colombo, and later, travelling on the Continent with his family.

The correspondence between Charles and Harriet Arbuthnot (sections 1/1 and 2/1) contains a mixture of domestic, political and social commentary. It testifies to the success of their match, despite their age difference, the initial reservations of the Fane family, and the rumours which were prompted by Harriet's close friendship with the Duke of Wellington. In particular, their letters demonstrate how close their political sympathies must have been and how fully they shared a concern with contemporary events. There are many references to the Duke of Wellington, with Charles' affection for him clearly evident at the time of the Duke's illness in 1831.

A small but interesting group of letters written by members of the Fane family is listed under "Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1805 - 1849" (MS 3029/10). The correspondents include Harriet's distinguished brothers, Sir Henry Fane (1778 - 1844), commander in chief in India, Robert George Cecil Fane (1796 - 1864), bankruptcy commissioner, and Louisa Fane, wife to Harriet's brother William, a civil servant in Bengal. The letters of Henry and George Cecil are full of politics and philosophy, whilst those of William Fane are less abstract and bring more practical news of his work, and of the political and social situation in the East at this time.

In addition to the family correspondence, there is a separate bundle of 41 letters sent to Mrs Arbuthnot by General Don Miguel Ricardo de Alava, a friend of the Duke of Wellington, 1824 - 1832 (section 9). Written in French, in affectionate terms, the letters appear to begin in 1824 after the general's return to the continent from a protracted stay in London. It appears that Mrs Arbuthnot kept up a regular correspondence with Alava, whom she describes in her journal as "the merest sieve in all London", on account of his love of gossip ('The journal of Mrs Arbuthnot, 1820 - 32' ed. by F. Bamford and the Duke of Wellington, 2 vols. (London, 1950), ii, p. 33). A further group of 29 (mainly draft and copy) letters from Charles Arbuthnot to various non-family correspondents is also of interest, in that it provides some further context of his business, political and social standing.

A detailed discussion of the papers will be found in Dorothy B. Johnston, Reports and Surveys of Archives in Northern Scotland , Northern Scotland , 6 (1985), 193 - 199.
AccrualsNone expected.
ArrangementThe collection has been divided into two broad groupings: MS 3029/1 - 5 comprise the personal papers of those within the immediate Arbuthnot family, and correspondence between them; MS 3029/6 - 13 concern their correspondence with other individuals.

Family correspondence and personal papers of Charles Arbuthnot, 1804 - 1850
MS 3029/ 1/ 1 Correspondence from Charles to his wife, Harriet Arbuthnot, 1820 - 1834
MS 3029/ 1/ 2 Correspondence from Charles to his son, Charles G.J. Arbuthnot, 1816 - 1850
MS 3029/ 1/ 3 Correspondence from Charles to his brother Thomas Arbuthnot, 1847
MS 3029/ 1/ 4 Miscellaneous papers, 1804 - 1849

Correspondence from Harriet Arbuthnot to other family members, 1813 - 1833
MS 3029/ 2/ 1 Correspondence from Harriet to her husband, Charles (written before and after their marriage), 1813 - 1832
MS 3029/ 2/ 2 Correspondence from Harriet to her step-son, Charles G.J. Arbuthnot, 1828 - 1833

Correspondence and personal papers of Charles G.J. Arbuthnot, 1829 - 1861
MS 3029/ 3/ 1 Correspondence from Charles to his father, Charles Arbuthnot, 1831 - 1850
MS 3029/ 3/ 2 Correspondence from Charles to his step-mother, Harriet Arbuthnot, 1829 - 1830
MS 3029/ 3/ 3 Miscellaneous papers, 1841 - 1861
MS 3029/ 4/ 1-48 Miscellaneous family correspondence, 1791 - 1918
MS 3029/ 5/ 1-2 Miscellaneous family papers, 1834 - 1855
MS 3029/ 6/ 1-29 Miscellaneous correspondence, mainly draft and copy, from Charles Arbuthnot to various correspondents (mainly political), 1804 - 1849
MS 3029/ 7/ 1-3 Correspondence from Charles G.J. Arbuthnot to various correspondents, 1836 - 1856

Correspondence from Mrs H. Lisle, 1802 - 1828
MS 3029/ 8/ 1 Correspondence from Mrs H. Lisle to her daughter, Marcia Arbuthnot, 1802 - 1806
MS 3029/ 8/ 2 Correspondence from Mrs H. Lisle to her son-in-law, Charles Arbuthnot, 1802 - 1806
MS 3029/ 8/ 3 Correspondence from Mrs H. Lisle to her grandson, Henry Arbuthnot, 1828
MS 3029/ 9/ 1-41 Correspondence in French from General Don Miguel Ricardo de Alava to Harriet Arbuthnot, 1824 - 1832
MS 3029/10/ 1-5 Correspondence between the heirs of Charles Arbuthnot and the Duke of Wellington re. ownership of letters given to the Duke by Charles Arbuthnot, 1857 - 1885
Access StatusOpen
Access ConditionsThe records are available subject to the signed acceptance of the Department's access conditions.
LanguageEnglish and French
Physical DescriptionNo physical conditions affecting use of collection.
Related MaterialFamily and Estate Papers of the Arbuthnott Family, Arbuthnott, Kincardineshire, 1475 - 1918 (MS 2764). Records relating to the Manor of Tintinhhull, Somerset, were extracted from this deposit and transferred to the Somerset Record Office, Taunton, in 1988.
Collection of extracts from Kirk Sessions and other records of the parish of Arbuthnott, Kincardineshire. Compiled by Archibald Mason, 1903 (MS 2246)
Papers of the Arbuthnott family (drawing on the above MS 2246) (MS 2889)
Papers of the Arbuthnott Family, Arbuthnott, Kincardineshire, 1814 (extracted from the Davidson and Garden Collection) (MS 2769/ III)
Papers relating to the history and genealogy of the Arbuthnott Family; including Alexander Arbuthnott's Continuation of the genealogie of the noble family of Arbuthnott , n.d. [associated with the Spalding Club, c. 1845] (MS 843/ 3)
Poem, The Club , and other works relating to Peterhead, addressed to George Arbuthnott, 1808 - 1813 (MS 689)

The Fane Family archive is deposited in Linconshire Record Office. For further details see Dorothy B. Johnston, 'Reports and Surveys of Archives in Northern Scotland', 'Northern Scotland', 6 (1985), 193 - 199.
Publication NoteThe Letters and Papers of Charles Arbuthnot (1767-1850), Diplomat and Politician, and of his Family and Friends. Northern Scotland, Volume 6, No. 2 (1985), pp.193-99.

The more important letters in the collection have been published in A. Aspinall, 'The Correspondence of Charles Arbuthnot' (London: Royal Historical Society, 1941) and A. Aspinall, 'The Formation of Canning's Ministry, February - August 1827' (London: Royal Historical Society, 1937). Some papers also appear in P.S.M. Arbuthnot, 'Memories of the Arbuthnots of Kincardine and Aberdeenshire' (London: Allen & Unwin, 1920).

Letters written to Charles and Harriet Arbuthnot by the Duke of Wellington were returned to the Duke's family in the nineteenth century. A number of these letters have been published in 'Wellington and his Friends: Letters of the first Duke of Wellington to Charles and Mrs. Arbuthnot, the Earl and Countess of Wilton, Princess Lieven and Miss Burdett-Coutts' ed. by the seventh Duke of Wellington (London: Macmillan, 1965); and E. Longford, 'Wellington: Pillar of State' (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1972). Harriet Arbuthnot's journal, gifted to the Duke after her death in 1834, has been published in two volumes, 'The Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot, 1820 - 32' ed. by F. Bamford and the Duke of Wellington (London: Macmillan, 1950). It contains essential background information for anyone working on MS 3029.
Add to My Items