Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wallace, Richard

WALLACE, Sir RICHARD (1818–1890), connoisseur and collector of works of art, was at one time reputed to be the natural son of Richard Seymour Conway, fourth marquis of Hertford, his senior by only eighteen years. The truth may be that he was the fourth Marquis of Hertford's half-brother and a late-born son by an unidentified father of that nobleman's mother, Maria, née Fagnani, marchioness of Hertford, who had married, on 18 May 1798, Francis Charles Seymour Conway, third marquis [see under Seymour, Francis Ingram, second Marquis of Hertford]. Born in London on 26 July 1818, he was in youth known as Richard Jackson. He was educated entirely under the supervision of his mother, Maria, lady Hertford. The influences by which he was surrounded were on the whole more French than English, but he always insisted strongly on his English extraction. Most of his young days and early manhood were passed in Paris, where as ‘Monsieur Richard’ he became a well-known figure in French society and among those who devoted themselves to matters of art. Before he was forty he had made a large collection of objets d'art—bronzes, ivories, miniatures, &c.—which was dispersed in Paris in 1857 at prices much above those he had paid. After the sale of his own collection he devoted most of his knowledge to the assistance of the fourth marquis (his reputed half-brother).

On Lord Hertford's death, unmarried, in 1870, Wallace found himself heir to such of his property as the deceased marquis could devise by will, including a house in Paris and Hertford House in London, the Irish estates about Lisburn, which then brought in some 50,000l. a year, and the finest collection of pictures and objets d'art in private hands in the world.

During the war of 1870–1 Wallace equipped an ambulance which, under the name of the Hertford ambulance, was attached to the 13th corps d'armée; he equipped two more in Paris itself, one being placed under French, the other under English doctors. He also founded and endowed the Hertford British Hospital, for the use of British subjects in Paris, and subscribed a hundred thousand francs to the fund in aid of those who had suffered by the bombardment. He was faithful to Paris during the siege, and is said, on excellent authority, to have spent at least two millions and a half of francs on aid to the besieged. On 24 Dec. 1871 he was created a baronet in recognition of his efforts during the siege.

In 1873 Sir Richard was elected M.P. for Lisburn, which constituency he continued to represent until 1885. In 1878 he was nominated one of the commissioners to the Paris Exhibition, at the close of which his services were rewarded with a knight commandership of the Bath; he was already a commander in the légion d'honneur. He was also a trustee of the National Gallery, and a governor of the National Gallery of Ireland, to both of which he had presented pictures. The last four years of his life were spent chiefly in Paris, and there he died on 20 July 1890, leaving no surviving children. He was buried in the cemetery of Père-Lachaise. On 15 Feb. 1871 he was married to Julie Amélie Charlotte, the daughter of Bernard Castelnau, a French officer, who had already borne him a son. Lady Wallace died on 16 Feb. 1897. She left by will the great Hertford-Wallace collection to the English nation. A commission was appointed by the government of 1897 to determine the future home of the collection, and it was decided to acquire Hertford House, and to adapt it to the purposes of a public museum. Sir Richard Wallace disliked sitting to artists. Paul Baudry made a sketch of him which was etched by Jacquemart for the ‘Gazette des Beaux-Arts,’ and a portrait, with but slight pretensions as a work of art, belongs to the collection at Hertford House.

[Foster's Baronetage, 1882; Gazette des Beaux-Arts; Times, 22 July 1890; private information.]

W. A.