Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stuart, Dudley Coutts

STUART, Lord DUDLEY COUTTS (1803–1854), advocate of the independence of Poland, born in South Audley Street, London, on 11 Jan. 1803, was eighth son of John Stuart, first marquis of Bute (1744–1814), and the only son by his second wife, Frances, second daughter of Thomas Coutts, banker. His father dying during his infancy, his education was superintended by his mother, and it was from her words and example that he acquired his strong feelings of sympathy for the oppressed. He was a member of Christ's College, Cambridge, and graduated M.A. in 1823. Impressed with admiration of the character of his uncle, Sir Francis Burdett [q. v.], he stood for Arundel on liberal principles in 1830, and was returned without opposition. He was re-chosen for Arundel at the general elections of 1831, 1833, and 1835, but in 1837 was opposed by Lord Fitzalan's influence, and defeated by 176 votes to 105. For ten years he had no seat in parliament, but in 1847, Sir Charles Napier having retired, he became one of the candidates for the borough of Marylebone, was returned at the head of the poll, and retained the seat to his death.

In 1831 Prince Adam Czartoryski visited England. Lord Dudley was greatly interested in the account which that statesman gave of the oppression exercised in Poland by the Emperor Nicholas, which had driven the Poles to revolt. Soon after his interest was further excited by the arrival in England of many members of the late Polish army, and in his place in parliament he was mainly instrumental in obtaining a vote of 10,000l. for the relief of the Poles. He then attentively studied the question, and formed the conviction that the aggressive spirit of Russia could be checked only by the restoration of Poland. At first he was associated in his agitation with Cutler Fergusson, Thomas Campbell (the poet), Wentworth Beamont, and other influential men; but, death removing many of them, he was left almost alone to fight the battle of the Poles. The grants made by the House of Commons year by year were not sufficient to support all the victims of Russian, Austrian, and Prussian cruelty, but Lord Dudley was indefatigable in soliciting public subscriptions, and when these could no longer be obtained, in replenishing the funds of the Literary Association of the Friends of Poland by means of public entertainments. For many years annual balls were given at the Mansion House in aid of the association, when Lord Dudley was always the most prominent member of the committee of management.

The labour attending these benevolent exertions was incredible, yet it was undertaken in addition to a regular attendance in parliament and an incessant employment of his pen in support of the Polish cause. His views respecting the danger of Russian aggression were by many laughed at as idle dreams, and his ideas respecting the re-establishment of Poland were pronounced quixotic. In November 1854 he went to Stockholm in the hope of persuading the king of Sweden to join the western powers in taking measures for the reconstruction of Poland, but he died there on 17 Nov. 1854; his body was brought to England and buried at Hertford on 16 Dec. He married, in 1824, Christina Alexandrina Egypta, daughter of Lucien Bonaparte, prince of Canino; she died on 19 May 1847, leaving an only son, Paul Amadeus Francis Coutts, a captain in the 68th regiment, who died on 1 Aug. 1889. Lord Dudley printed a ‘Speech on the Policy of Russia, delivered in the House of Commons,’ 1836; and an ‘Address of the London Literary Association of the Friends of Poland to the People of Great Britain and Ireland,’ 1846.

[Examiner, 25 Nov. 1854, p. 747; Gent. Mag. 1855, i. 79–81; Times, 21 Nov. 1854, 16 Dec.; Illustrated London News, 1843 iii. 325 with portrait, 1849 xiv. 124 with portrait; Report of Proceedings of Annual General Meeting of the London Literary Association of the Friends of Poland, 1839 et seq.; Estimates of Sums required to enable His Majesty to grant Relief to distressed Poles, Parliamentary Papers, annually 1834–52.]

G. C. B.