Hugh Elliot

Hugh Elliot

:"This article is about the 19th century colonial governor. For the noted ornithologist, see Hugh Elliott"Hugh Elliot (1752–1830) was a British diplomat snf then a colonial governor.

Hugh Elliot was born in 1752, the second son of Sir Gilbert Elliot, and the younger brother of Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 1st Earl of Minto. Hugh and Gilbert were educated together, first by private tutor, and later between 1764 and 1766 in Paris, where they were mentored by Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume and where Hugh struck up a friendship with Count Mirabeau. In 1768, at the tender age of 16, Hugh entered Oxford University, but left after only two years to complete his military education at Metz.

After that, at the still young age of 18, Hugh Elliot took a commission in the Russian army as an officer, and fought in the campaign against the Turks in the Balkans. According to family papers, at one point Elliot was forced to swim in the Danube holding on to the tail of a horse riden by a Cossack.

At 21, largely through his father's influence, he took up a diplomatic post as the British Minister Plenipotentiary to the Duchy of Bavaria. Four years later, he was named as the British ambassador to Frederick the Great in Prussia. He developed a reputation as a great social wit, but worked hard to defeat the entreaties of American diplomats during the American Revolutionary War (including, allegedly, at one point stealing the American dispatch box and copying its contents).

In Berlin he married his first wife, but when she committed adultery he challenged her lover to a duel. He himself was wounded in the duel, but received a written apology from his protagonist. The scandal was to later haunt him during his career, and is most often cited as the reason why, despite an exceptional career in the diplomatic service, he never received the customary knighthood.

Elliot then served in Copenhagen for seven years, during which time his reputation soared as he was credited for stopping war between Sweden and Denmark, and for helping to restore Gustav III to the Swedish throne.

In 1792 Elliot was named as British ambassador to the Electorate of Saxony in Dresden. Shortly prior to that he married his second wife, Margaret, who was 20 years his junior. Margaret was to bear him eleven children, who would all survive to adulthood, a rarity in the day.

In 1803 Elliot was sent to Naples which was then the capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, where he survived in tempestuous circumstances until his recall in 1806. After his recall, the family endured a period of considerable financial hardship when no postings were found for the diplomat for a period of three years.

But upon the death of Lord Lavington, Elliot was appointed to serve as Governor of the Leeward Islands in the British West Indies from 1809 to 1814.

Elliot was a noted abolitionist. Whilst Governor of the Leeward islands, he was reported to be the driving force behind the arrest, trial and execution of Arthur Hodge for the murder of a slave in the British Virgin Islands. His brother-in-law, Lord Auckland presented the bill which would become the Slave Trade Act 1807 before the House of Lords.

Lady Elliot Island in Queensland, Australia is named for the Governor's wife.

ee also

*Earl of Minto


* "The Hanging of Arthur Hodge", John Andrews (ISBN 0-7388-1931-X)

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