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Loftus, Augustus William Frederick Spencer (DNB12)

LOFTUS, Lord AUGUSTUS WILLIAM FREDERICK SPENCER (1817–1904), diplomatist, born at Clifton, Bristol, on 4 Oct. 1817, was fourth son of John Loftus, second marquis of Ely in the peerage of Ireland (1770-1845), by his wife Anna Maria, daughter of Sir Henry Watkin Dashwood, baronet, of Kirtlington Hall, Oxfordshire. His mother was lady of the bedchamber to Queen Adelaide, and his sister-in-law, Jane (daughter of James Joseph Hope-Vere), wife of his brother, John Henry Loftus, third marquis, held the same post in the household of Queen Victoria from 1857 till 1889. Having been privately educated by Thomas Legh Claughton [q. v. Suppl. I], afterwards bishop of St. Albans, Lord Augustus spent several months in 1836-7 abroad with his father, and saw King Louis-Philippe, Talleyrand, and other notabilities. He was early introduced at the court of King William IV, who undertook to 'look after him' in the diplomatic service. His first appointment, which he received from Lord Palmerston, was dated 20 June 1837, the day of the king's death, in the name of his successor. Queen Victoria.

Until 1844 he was unpaid attaché to the British legation at Berlin, at first under Lord William Russell, and from 1841 under John Fane, Lord Burghersh, afterwards eleventh earl of Westmoreland [q. v.]. The intimate relations into which Loftus came with the Prussian court lasted with a few interruptions, till 1871. In 1844 he was appointed paid attaché at Stuttgart. Russia was represented there by Prince Gortchakoff, with whom Loftus formed an enduring intimacy. The British legation was also accredited to Baden; and in the summer months Loftus soon accompanied his chief to Baden-Baden, where he maintained a summer residence till 1871.

Just before the outbreak of the Revolution of 1848, Loftus, at the request of Sir Stratford Canning (afterwards Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe) [q. v.], joined his special mission to several European courts, when on his way to Constantinople. He thus witnessed many episodes in the revolutionary movement at Berlin, Munich, and Trieste. He persuaded Canning to desist from attempting mediation at Venice between the insurgents and the government. During the Baden revolution of 1840 Loftus remained in Carlsruhe or Baden-Baden. In personal meetings with insurgents he showed himself cool and outspoken; and he witnessed amid personal peril the surrender of Rastatt to the Prince of Prussia, which ended the rebellion.

An appointment in 1852 as secretary of legation at Stuttgart, to reside at Carlsruhe, was quickly followed in February 1853 by promotion to the like post at Berlin. In September 1853 Loftus acted there as chargé d'affaires in the absence of the British minister. Lord Bloomfield [q. v.]. The moment was one of critical importance in European affairs. The Crimean war was threatening, and direction of the foreign policy of Prussia was passing at the time into the hands of Bismarck, whom Loftus 'always considered to be hostile to England, however much he may have occasionally admired her' (Reminiscences, 1st ser. i. 207). With the diplomatic history of the Crimean war Berlin was little concerned. Loftus warmly repudiated the charge brought against him in the memoirs of Count Vitzthum of having obtained by surreptitious means the Russian plan of proposed operations at Inkerman; the plan was supposed to have been communicated by the Tsar to Count Münster, and by him to the King of Prussia (ibid. 1st ser. i. 251; Count Vitzthum, St. Petersburg and London, 1852-64, i. 90). At the close of the war, Loftus reported as to the British consulates on the German shores of the Baltic, several of which had been denounced for slackness in reporting intelligence, especially as to the entrance into Russia of contraband of war. An appendix descriptive of the state of trade in the districts led to the subsequent foreign office regulation requiring all secretaries of embassies and legations to furnish annual reports on the trade and finance of the countries in which they resided.

In March 1858 Loftus left Berlin to become envoy extraordinary to the Emperor of Austria (Malmesbury, Memoirs of an Ex-Minister, 1885, p. 428). He did all that he could to avert the coming war between Austria and France, but owing to a shy and reserved manner he did not exercise much influence at Vienna. Acting under the successive instructions of the foreign secretaries, Lord Malmesbury [q. v.] and Lord John Russell [q. v.], he made clear to Count Buol, the head of the Austrian government, the sympathy felt in England for the cause of the national liberation of Italy (Reminiscences, 1st ser. i. 377). On the outbreak of the war with Italy in April 1859 Loftus continued to keep Austrian statesmen informed of the strength of the English feeling against Austria.

Towards the end of 1860 the legation at Vienna was converted into an embassy, and Loftus was transferred to the legation at Berlin, where the 'Macdonald' affair was causing friction. Loftus was instructed to restore friendly relations, but he was soon immersed in the Schleswig-Holstein crisis, in which at first he frankly expressed personal views which were favourable to Denmark (ibid. 1st ser. i. 298 seq.). In September 1862 he met Lord John Russell, his chief, at Gotha during Queen Victoria's visit to Rosenau, and was informed of the intention of the government to raise the legation at Berlin to the rank of an embassy. He was disappointed in the well-grounded expectation that he would himself be immediately named ambassador. The office was conferred on Sir Andrew Buchanan [q. v.], and in January 1863 Loftus began a three years' residence at Munich, where Lord Russell considerately made the mission first class. At Munich he formed the acquaintance of Baron Liebig, the chemist, of whose beneficent inventions he made useful notes.

In February 1866 he returned to Berlin as ambassador. He at once perceived the determination of Prussia to solve her difficulties with Austria by 'blood and iron' (Reminiscences, 2nd ser. i. 43). The crisis soon declared itself. Loftus records a midnight talk with Bismarck on 15 June 1866, in the course of which the latter, drawing out his watch, observed that at the present hour 'our troops have entered' the territories of 'Hanover, Saxony and Hesse-Cassel,' and announced his intention, if beaten, to 'fall in the last charge.' On the British declaration of neutrality, which immediately followed the outbreak of the Austro-Prussian war Loftus commented : 'We are, I think, too apt to declare hastily our neutrality, without conditions for future contingencies' (ibid. i. 78). In July 1866 Loftus was created a G.C.B. under a special statute of the Order. During his residence at Berlin he was offered, subject to the Queen's permission to accept it, the Order of the Black Eagle, but steadily declined the honour. In March 1868 he was accredited to the North German Confederation ; and in November of the same year he was made a privy councillor. Loftus anxiously watched the complications which issued in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1, and when the conflict began he was faced by many difficulties. Bismarck took offence at the ready acceptance by the British government of the request that French subjects in Germany should be placed under its protection during the war ; averring that 'there is already a feeling that Her Majesty's government have a partial leaning towards France, and this incident will tend to confirm it' (ibid. ii. 288). Loftus and his secretary, Henry Dering, managed the complicated system of solde de captivité for the 300,000 French prisoners of war in Germany to the satisfaction of those concerned.

Already in 1861 Loftus had sagaciously urged in a communication to Lord Clarendon that England and France should take the initiative in ridding Russia of the obnoxious article in the Treaty of Paris which excluded ships of war from the Black Sea (ibid. 1st ser. i. 213). Russia's endeavour to abrogate the article by her sole authority in 1870 produced critical tension with England, which would have been averted had Loftus's advice been taken.

After the creation of the German Empire fresh credentials had to be presented to its sovereign ruler at Berlin. Loftus, who was desirous of a change, was at his own suggestion removed to St. Petersburg in February 1871, where he remained eight years. The moderation and humane disposition of Alexander II, and the marriage of his daughter Marie to the Duke of Edinburgh in January 1874 seemed to favour peace between England and Russia; but the period proved to be one of diplomatic difficulty. Loftus attended the Tsar on his visit to England in 1874; but subsequently disturbances in the Balkan provinces of the Turkish empire brought the Russian and British governments to the verge of war. In October 1876 Loftus was sent to the Crimea to confer with Prince Gortchakoff, the chief Russian minister, then in attendance upon Alexander II at Livadia, as to the basis of a conference for the preservation of peace to be held at Constantinople. But the proposal of a conference was rejected by the Porte; and war between Turkey and Russia broke out in June 1877.

During the progress of the war Loftus was often an object of suspicion to the Russian government (Reminiscences, 2nd ser. ii. 230–8). Before the Congress of Berlin met in July 1878, he wisely suggested a preliminary Anglo-Russian understanding; and this, notwithstanding some doubts on the part of de Giers, Russian assistant minister for foreign affairs, was brought about by means of a discussion of the San Stefano Treaty between Count Schouvaloff, Russian ambassador in London, and Lord Salisbury [q. v. Suppl. II], then British foreign secretary. In the course of a leave of absence at Marienbad during 1878 he met, at Baden-Baden, Gortchakoff, now released from the regular conduct of foreign affairs, and they discussed the Russian mission to Kabul, which de Giers had denied at St. Petersburg. The mission was subsequently withdrawn after the Treaty of Berlin.

Early in 1879 Loftus expressed to Lord Salisbury his desire for a more genial climate and less arduous duties. Accordingly Lord Dufferin [q. v. Suppl. II] succeeded him at St. Petersburg, and he was appointed governor of New South Wales and Norfolk island. He held office in Australia from 1879 to 1885. During his first year there he opened the first international exhibition held at Sydney. In 1881 he entertained Princes Albert Edward and George (afterwards King George V) of Wales, while on their tour round the world in the Bacchante. To Loftus's suggestion was due the sending of a New South Wales contingent of troops to the Sudan expedition in 1884.

After his return home he wrote at Linden House, Leatherhead, his ‘Diplomatic Reminiscences’ (1837–62, 2 vols. 1892; second series, 1862–99, 2 vols. 1894). The personal element in these is small, and the chronological order is not always precise. Without literary pretensions, the reminiscences have few rivals among later English records as a continuous narrative of diplomatic life and letters extending over more than forty years. He died at Englemere Wood Cottage, near Ascot, the house of his sister-in-law, Lady Eden, on 7 March 1904. He was buried at Frimley.

Loftus married at Fulham, London, on 9 Aug. 1845, Emma Maria (d. 1902), eldest daughter of Admiral Henry Francis Greville, C.B. He had issue three sons and two daughters. His elder daughter, Evelyn Ann Francis, died at Berlin on 28 Sept. 1861, and in her memory her parents began the building of the English church at Baden-Baden, which was completed with the aid of the Empress Augusta and Mrs. Henry Villebois. The eldest son, Henry John, joined the diplomatic service, and the third, Montagu Egerton, M.V.O., is British consul at Cherbourg.

[The Times, 10 March 1904; Loftus's Diplomatic Reminiscences (with portrait); H. Kohl, Anhang zu den Gedanken u. Erinnerungen von Fürst Bismarck, i. 126; Lord Fitzmaurice, Life of Lord Granville, 2 vols. 1905; Memoirs and Letters of Sir Robert Morier, 2 vols. 1911; Count Vitzthum von Eckstädt, London, Gastein und Sadowa, Stuttgart, 1899, 2 series, 1892–4; Burke's Peerage; private information.]

A. W. W.