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Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, KG, PC (7 May 1847 – 21 May 1929) was a Britishmarker Liberal statesman and Prime Minister, also known as Archibald Primrose (1847–1851) and Lord Dalmeny (1851–1868).

Early life

Rosebery was born in his parents' house in Charles Street, Londonmarker, on 7 May 1847. At the time of his birth he was styled Archibald Philip Primrose. His father was Lord Dalmeny, heir to The 4th Earl. Lord Dalmeny was MP for Stirlingmarker from 1832 to 1847 and served as First Lord of the Admiralty under Lord Melbourne. Rosebery's mother was Wilhelmina, a daughter of The Earl Stanhope. His father died on 23 January 1851 and from then on he was styled Lord Dalmeny. In 1854 his mother married The Duke of Cleveland. The relationship between mother and son was very poor. Dalmeny attended preparatory schools in Hertfordshiremarker and Brightonmarker.


Dalmeny attended Etonmarker between 1860 and 1865. Whilst there, he participated in debates and attracted the unrequited interest of William Johnson Cory, not just because of his remarkable intellect but also sexually.


Dalmeny was educated at Christ Church, Oxfordmarker, from 1865 until 1869. This would mean that from 1880 until 1902, the three Prime Ministers of that period – Gladstone, Salisbury and Rosebery – all went to both Eton and Christ Church. A prominent figure on the turf for 40 years, Dalmeny bought a horse, Ladas, in 1868. A rule banned undergraduates from owning horses, and when he was found out, he was offered a choice: sell the horse or give up his studies. He chose the latter.

The 1870s

His grandfather having died in 1868, Dalmeny became Earl of Rosebery. This did not entitle him to sit in the House of Lordsmarker, as the title is part of the old Peerage of Scotland, from which 16 members (representative peers) were elected to sit in the Lords for each session of Parliament. However, in 1828 Rosebery's grandfather had been created 1st Baron Rosebery in the Peerage of the United Kingdom; this did entitle Rosebery to sit in the Lords like all peers of the United Kingdom.

Rosebery toured the United Statesmarker in 1873. He was pressed to marry Mary Fox, the illegitimate daughter of Baron Holland by a French maid; Baroness Holland, a daughter of the Earl of Coventry, adopted Mary. However, Mary, who was only sixteen, declined and later married a Prince of Liechtenstein.

His three aims

Rosebery is reputed to have said that he had three aims in life: to win the Derby, to marry an heiress, and to become Prime Minister. He managed all three (the saying may be an after-the-fact invention).

Personal life after 1878


In 1878, Rosebery married Hannah, only child of the Jewish banker Baron Mayer de Rothschild, and the greatest English heiress of her day. Her father had died in 1874 and she had inherited the bulk of his estate.

They were married in the Board of Guardians in Mount Street, London, on 20 March 1878, when he was 31 and she 27. Later that day, the marriage was blessed in a Christian ceremony in Christ Church, Down Street, Piccadillymarker. In January, Rosebery had said to a friend that he found Hannah "very simple, very unspoilt, very clever, very warm-hearted and very shy...I never knew such a beautiful character." Both Queen Victoria's son the Prince of Wales and her cousin, the army commander George, Duke of Cambridge attended the ceremony. Hannah's death in 1890 from typhoid, compounded by Bright's disease, left him distraught.

It was speculated that he intended to marry the widowed Princess Helena, Duchess of Albany, who was married to Queen Victoria's 4th son, Prince Leopold.

It was also speculated that he was bisexual. Like Oscar Wilde, he was hounded by John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry for his association with one of Queensberry's sons — Francis Douglas, Viscount Drumlanrig who was his private secretary.


Rosebery had four children with Hannah: Margot Asquith said that Rosebery loved to play with his children.


Rosebery was the owner of twelve houses. By marriage, he acquired: With his fortune, he bought:
  • A shooting lodge at Carrington in Midlothianmarker
  • A Georgian villa at Postwick in Norfolk
  • In 1897 he bought Villa Delahante in Posillipo, overlooking the Bay of Naplesmarker, currently residence of the President of the Italian Republic, still known as "Villa Rosebery".
  • 38 Berkeley Square, London.
  • The Durdans, Epsommarker, where he died in 1929.
As Earl of Rosebery, he was laird of: He rented:

Earlier political career

At Eton, Rosebery notably attacked Charles I of England for his despotism, and went on to praise his Whig forebears - his ancestor, James Stanhope, 1st Earl Stanhope, was a minister to George I of Great Britain.

Benjamin Disraeli often met with Rosebery in the 1870s to attract him to his party, but this proved futile. Disraeli's major rival, William Ewart Gladstone, also pursued Rosebery, with considerable success. As part of the Liberal plan to get Gladstone to be MP for Midlothian, Rosebery sponsored and largely ran the Midlothian Campaign of 1879. He based this on seeing a presidential election in the USA. Gladstone spoke from open-deck trains, and gathered mass support. In 1880 he was duly elected Member for Midlothian and returned to the Premiership.

Foreign Secretary

First period in office (1886)

Rosebery served as Foreign Secretary in Gladstone's brief third ministry, 1886.

Rosebery served as the first chairman of the London County Council, set up by the Conservatives in 1889. Rosebery Avenue in Clerkenwell is named after him.

He served as President of the first day of the 1890 Co-operative Congress.

Foreign Secretary (1892–1894)

Rosebery's second period as Foreign Secretary predominantly involved quarrels with Francemarker over Uganda. To quote his hero Napoleon, Rosebery thought that "the Master of Egypt is the Master of India"; thus he pursued the policy of expansion in Africa.

Rosebery helped Gladstone's Second Home Rule Bill in the House of Lords; nevertheless it was defeated overwhelmingly in the autumn of 1893. The first bill, in 1886, had been defeated in the House of Commons.

Prime Minister

Rosebery became a leader of the Liberal Imperialist faction of the Liberal Party, and in Gladstone's third (February to July 1886) and fourth (August 1892 to March 1894) administrations, Rosebery served as Foreign Secretary. When Gladstone retired in 1894, Rosebery succeeded him as Prime Minister, much to the disgust of Sir William Harcourt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the more left-wing Liberals. Rosebery's selection was largely because Queen Victoria disliked most of the other leading Liberals.

Rosebery's government was largely unsuccessful. His designs in foreign policy, such as expansion of the fleet, were defeated by disagreements within the Liberal Party, while the Unionist-dominated House of Lords stopped the whole of the Liberals' domestic legislation. The strongest figure in the cabinet was Rosebery's rival Harcourt. He and his son Lewis were perennial critics of Rosebery's policies.

According to his biographer Robert Rhodes James, Rosebery rapidly lost interest in running the government. In the last year of his premiership, Rosebery was increasingly haggard: he suffered insomnia due to the continual dissension in his Cabinet. There were two future prime ministers in the Cabinet, Home Secretary Herbert Asquith, and Secretary of State for War Henry Campbell-Bannerman.

The "defeat" that led to his resignation was peculiar. A bill to increase the government budget for the purchase of cordite for explosives was defeated by a relatively small number of votes. Rosebery then surprised everyone by declaring that this vote was a vote of no confidence, thereby dissolving the government. On 21 June 1895, Rosebery resigned, and was succeeded by Unionist leader Lord Salisbury. The Unionists won a crushing victory in the 1895 general election, and held power for ten years (1895-1905) under Salisbury and Arthur Balfour.

Later life

Rosebery resigned as leader of the Liberal Party on 8 October 1896, to be succeeded by Harcourt, and gradually moved further and further from the mainstream of the party, although a much-trailed speech at Chesterfield in 1900 was expected to mark his return to active politics. He supported the Boer War and opposed Irish Home Rule, a position that prevented him from participating in the Liberal government that returned to power in 1905. In his later years, Rosebery turned to writing, including biographies of Lord Chatham, Pitt the Younger, Napoleon, and Lord Randolph Churchill. Another one of his passionate interests was the collecting of books.

The last years of his political life saw Rosebery become a purely negative critic of the Liberal governments of Campbell-Bannerman and Asquith. His crusade "for freedom as against bureaucracy, for freedom as against democratic tyranny, for freedom as against class legislation, and … for freedom as against Socialism" was a lonely one, conducted from the cross-benches in the Lords. He did join the die-hard unionist peers in attacking Lloyd George's redistributive People's Budget in 1909, but stopped short of voting against the measure for fear of bringing retribution upon the Lords. The crisis provoked by the Lords' rejection of the budget encouraged him to reintroduce his resolutions for Lords reform, but they were lost with the dissolution of parliament in December 1910. After assaulting the "ill-judged, revolutionary and partisan" terms of the 1911 Parliament Bill, which proposed to curb the Lords' veto, he voted with the government in what proved to be his last appearance in the House of Lords. This was effectively the end of his public life, though he made several public appearances to support the war effort after 1914 and sponsored a "bantam battalion" in 1915. Though Lloyd George offered him "a high post not involving departmental labour" to augment his 1916 coalition, Rosebery declined to serve.

The last year of the war was clouded by two personal tragedies—his son Neil's death in Palestine in November 1917 and Rosebery's own stroke a few days before the armistice. He regained his mental powers, but his movement, hearing, and sight remained impaired for the rest of his life. His sister, Constance, described his last years as a "life of weariness, of total inactivity, & at the last of almost blindness"; John Buchan remembered him in his last month of life, "crushed by bodily weakness" and "sunk in sad and silent meditations". Rosebery died at The Durdans, Epsommarker, Surreymarker, on 21 May 1929, to the accompaniment—as he had requested—of a gramophone recording of the Eton boating song. Survived by three of his four children, he was buried in the small church at Dalmenymarker.

When Rosebery died in 1929 his estate was probated at £1,500,122 3s. 6d.; ( £62,693,299.71 in modern values) he was thus the richest Prime Minister ever, followed by Salisbury, then by Palmerston.

A southern suburb of Sydneymarker, Australia, is named Rosebery, after the Earl. A major street, Dalmeny Avenue, runs through the area.

Professional sport

Thoroughbred horse racing

As a result of his marriage to Hannah de Rothschild, Rosebery acquired Mentmore Towers and Mentmore stud near Leighton Buzzardmarker that had been built by Mayer Amschel de Rothschild. Rosbery would build another stable and stud near Mentmore Towers at Crafton, Buckinghamshiremarker, called Crafton Studmarker.

Rosebery's horses won at least one of each of the five English Classic Races. Among the most famous were Ladas who won the 1894 Epsom Derby, Sir Visto who did it again in 1895, and Cicero in 1905.


Rosebery also developed a keen in interest in association football and was an early patron of the sport in Scotland. In 1882 he donated a trophy, the Rosebery Charity Cup, to be competed for by clubs under the jurisdiction of the East of Scotland FA. The competition lasted over 60 years and raised thousands of pounds for charities in the Edinburghmarker area.

Rosebery also became Honorary President of the national Scottish Football Association, with the representative Scotland national team occasionally forsaking their traditional dark blue shirts for his traditional racing colours of primrose and pink. This occurred 9 times during Rosebery's lifetime, most notably for the 1900 British Home Championship match against England, which the Scots won 4–1.


Rosebery unveiled the statue of Robert Burns in Dumfriesmarker on 6th April 1882.

A keen collector of fine books, his library was sold on 29 October 2009 at Sothebys, New Bond Street.

Lord Rosebery's government, March 1894 – June 1895


  • May 1894: James Bryce succeeds A.J. Mundella at the Board of Trade. Lord Tweedmouth succeeds Bryce at the Duchy of Lancaster, remaining also Lord Privy Seal.

See also


  1. Michael Matthew Kaylor, Secreted Desires: The Major Uranians: Hopkins, Pater and Wilde (2006)
  2. Lord Rosebery to marry a Princess?, New York Times, 11 July 1901.
  3. Murray, Douglas 'Bosie: A Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas' ISBN 0 340 76770 7
  4. The Times, 16 February 1910
  5. R. R. James, Rosebery: a biography of Archibald Philip, fifth earl of Rosebery (1963), p. 469.
  6. R. O. A. Crewe-Milnes, Lord Rosebery, (1931), vol. 2. p. 51.
  7. Rhodes James, p. 485.


  • Rosebery: Statesman in Turmoil by Leo McKinstry ISBN 0-7195-5879-4

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