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Alleyne FitzHerbert (1753-1839), later 1st Baron St. Helens, gained his forename from his maternal great-grandfather Thomas Alleyne, unfashionably (in today's terms) the owner of a large sugar producing estate in Barbados. He was educated at Derby School from 1763 to 1766, but then proceeded to Eton before going up to St. John's Cambridge where he took his degree in 1774 and where he made the acquaintance of the poet Thomas Gray, who wrote of him to Mason: "the little FitzHerbert is come as pensioner to St. John's, and seems to have all his wits about him."
Thereafter, FitzHerbert went on the Grand Tour through France and Italy, building up a fine collection of works of art and manuscripts and honing his connoisseurship in the process. In February 1776 FitzHerbert was in Naples, where he was visited by his literary and radical older cousin, Brooke Boothby (1744-1824), later 6th Bt. and a friend of Rousseau. In Italy he crossed paths with Joseph Wright, whose lawyer father was a friend of William FitzHerbert. The Derby artist is said to have painted Alleyne, but the portrait does not survive for, two decades later on 16 July 1797, his house in London was destroyed by fire. "He has lost," wrote the newly created Lord Minto, "Every scrap of paper he ever had. Conceive how inconsolable that loss must be to one who has lived his life. All his books, many fine pictures prints and drawings in great abundance, are all gone". Whilst Minto's account specifies only documents, others aver that many of his other possessions were lost too. Yet, as this sale so richly attests, FitzHerbert was able to begin amassing a fresh collection. Nor was his loss quite as drastic as Lord Minto implies, for a number of items would seem to pre-date the fire. It may be they were lodged elsewhere, or in store; either way they are precious survivals from his more youthful phase.
Alleyne became a friend of explorer George Vancouver, who named Mount St. Helens,in what is now Washington,after him. In 1777 he entered the diplomatic service. His brief was to try and bring about a peace with France and Spain which had joined with the American colonies in the American Revolutionary War. Not only did he, working entirely behind the scenes, bring about the coup of a lifetime by obtaining exceptionally favourable terms, but in the same negotiations he also successfully laid the foundation of the final peace treaty with the American colonists. This was largely thanks to his excellent relations with the British American envoy to Paris, Benjamin Franklin, whose own links with Lunar Society luminaries John Whitehurst (1713-1788) and Dr. Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) - both of whom lived in Derby and knew his family well - were exceptionally close ,
His role in the Treaty of Paris brought him rapid promotion, and he was sent as envoy extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Catherine the Great of Russia in 1783 to 1788, appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland and a member of the Privy Council(Great Britain & Ireland) in 1787, serving in the former position until 1789. He was Minister plenipotentiary to Spain from 1790 to 1794 and became Lord of the Bedchamber to George III from 1802. Fitzherbert quickly became fond of the king and his family and developed a close friendship with Princess Elizabeth, seventeen years his junior, who described him as a ‘dear and invaluable saint’. Elizabeth wrote to Lady Harcourt in 1808 expressing that it ‘is always holiday with me when [Lord St. Helens] is here, for I love him to my heart and may say it...There is no man of my acquaintance I love so well, and his kindness to me is never varied, and that is a thing I never forget. His advice is my rudder, his approbation my delight.’(1)
(1) F. Fraser, Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III, (London, 2012)
|Height||5.50 cm||(2.17 inches)|