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Portrait Miniature of Prime Minister Viscount Palmerston, aka ‘The Mongoose’
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Portrait Miniature of Prime Minister Viscount Palmerston, aka ‘The Mongoose’

Circa 1855

Measurements: Oval: 56mm x 46mm



Watercolour. The sitter shown is shown looking slightly left and wearing morning dress. Contained within a gilt metal oval mount surmounted by a finely chased gilt metal viscount’s coronet, the whole within a in a glazed rectangular ebonised frame. Overall: 15cm (6in) x 13.5cm (5.25in).

Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, K.G., G.C.B., P.C., (1784- 1865) served twice as prime minister and was in government office almost continuously from 1807 until his death in 1865. Popularly nicknamed ‘Pam’ and ‘The Mongoose’, he began his parliamentary career as a Conservative and ended it as a Liberal. Educated at Edinburgh University and St John’s College, Cambridge, he was one of the three officers the St John's College unit of volunteers that mustered to oppose French invasion after the declaration of war in 1803. He was also appointed Lieutenant-Colonel Commander of the Romsey Volunteers.

He served successively as: Secretary at War (1809-28); Foreign Secretary (1830-41 and 1846-51); Home Secretary (1853-5) and Prime Minister (1855-8 and 1859-65). He is best remembered for his direction of British foreign policy through a period when the United Kingdom was at the height of its power. His vigorous policy of intervention made him one of the greatest Victorian statesman and among the most powerful figures in European politics. He passed various social reforms but opposed electoral ones. When public discontent over the Crimean War brought the government down in 1855, Palmerston was found to be, despite the Queen's distrust of him, the only Prime Minister who could sustain a majority in Parliament. He had two periods in office, 1855–1858 and 1859–1865, before dying at almost 81, a few months after winning a general election with an increased majority. He remains, to date, the last Prime Minister to die in office.

Historians consider him one of the greatest foreign secretaries, for his handling of great crises, his commitment to the balance of power that made Britain the deciding voice in many controversies, his analytic skills, and his commitment to British interests. His policies regarding India, Italy, Belgium and Spain had long-term impact, while his policies toward France, the Ottoman Empire, and the United States proved more ephemeral. Nicknamed Mongoose for for his tenacious elimination of enemies, he mastered public opinion by stroking British nationalism.