Henry Matthews, 1st Viscount Llandaff


Henry Matthews, 1st Viscount Llandaff

Henry Matthews, 1st Viscount Llandaff, PC (January 13, 1826 - April 3, 1913) was a British Conservative politician and statesman. Born in Ceylon, where his father was a puisne judge of the Supreme Court, Matthews was educated at the University of Paris, graduating in 1844, before going on to study at the University of London, from which he graduated successively BA and LLB. In 1850, he was called to the bar, and practised on the Oxford circuit before becoming secretary to the Earl Marshal in 1864, a position he held for five years.

At the bar, Matthews made a good name for himself, being especially noted for examination of witnesses. Most famous was his cross examination of Sir Charles Dilke in a famous divorce case, which essentially destroyed Dike's political career and launched that of Matthews.

Matthews was made a Queen's Counsel in 1868, shortly before he was elected Member of Parliament for Dungarvan. He described himself as an 'Independent Liberal and Conservative'. He was a Roman Catholic and supported the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland; he was vaguely sympathetic to the Home Rule movement, but this could not prevent his defeat by a Home Rule candidate in the 1874 General Election. He then revised his views on politics and revived his political career as a Conservative in Britain, but in the circumstances of the struggle over Gladstone's Home Rule Bill, his previous position meant that he was distrusted by strong Unionists.

Matthews inherited property from several relatives, which left him financially independent. Indeed, upon his death in 1913, his estate was valued at almost £260,000.

He returned to Parliament as Conservative member for Birmingham East in 1886, and was immediately appointed as Home Secretary in Lord Salisbury's second government. Queen Victoria reportedly demanded his inclusion after his advocacy destroyed the career of Charles Dilke.

Matthews' tenure of the office was notable more for its administrative success than for political achievement. He was thought 'too clever' and his aloof and 'somewhat foreign' manner made it difficult for him to command the House of Commons. In 1887, he gave a seemingly flippant response in the House to a genuine question about the mistaken arrest of Miss Cass, who was accused of prostitution, which resulted in the Government's defeat on the issue. Despite his personal opposition to capital punishment Matthews was criticised for allowing Israel Lipski to hang. He was Home Secretary throughout the Whitechapel Murders of 1888 to 1891, some of which are attributed to Jack the Ripper.

Matthews continued as Home Secretary until the Liberals returned to power in 1892. When the Conservatives took power again in 1895, Victoria was again keen for him to take office but opposition within the Conservative Party prevented it; instead he was ennobled as Viscount Llandaff, of Hereford in the County of Hereford. He died unmarried at the age of 87 at his London home. He was buried at Clehonger, Herefordshire, near Belmont Abbey.

Viscount Llandaff was closely associated with the campaign which resulted in the building of Westminster Cathedral.


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  • Viscount Llandaff — The title Viscount Llandaff, of Hereford in the County of Hereford, was created in 1895 in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, for Henry Matthews, the former Home Secretary, and became extinct upon his death in 1913.Viscounts Llandaff (1895… …   Wikipedia

  • Matthews (surname) — This page lists notable people with the surname (that is, family name) Matthews. For a list of notable people with the surname Matthew (without s), see Matthew (surname). For a list of notable people with the surname Mathews (with only one t ),… …   Wikipedia

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