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Useful Notes / Viscount Melbourne

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William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne PC FRS (15 March 1779 24 November 1848) was, as well as being a Prime Minister, a mentor to Queen Victoria. His time in office was noted for foreign policy events such as the Upper Canada rebellion (and, in response, the two Canadas being united under a single authority for the first time) and a joint international intervention against Muhammad Ali of Egypt to prevent his conquest of Syria (some Arabs are still bitter about that). The United States nearly went to war with the UK due to the turmoil in Canada, but luckily this was narrowly avoided.

The city of Melbourne in Australia, established during his premiership, was named after him.

Prehaps the thing that some people remember him worst for is what he did during the Merthyr Rising of 1831. He led the government response, under The Earl Grey, and was determined that at least one rebel should be executed, arranging false testimony against Dic Penderyn. They planted witnesses who said they saw him stab a soldier. In 1874 it was discovered that another man named Ianto Parker had stabbed the soldier and then fled to America fearing capture by the authorities and that the witness James Abbott had been testifying under the orders of Lord Melbourne.

His wife, Lady Caroline Lamb, had an affair with the poet Lord Byron (after famously describing him as "mad, bad, and dangerous to know") but later reconciled with her husband.

Spelled his name "Melburne", but nobody else even at the time did, so this seems to be a personal quirk. Also a Third-Person Person in his letters to the Queen, but that was the standard protocol of the day for a minister writing to a monarch. Was regarded as something of a Disco Dan when (on the Queen's advice) he took to powdering his hair to hide signs of age, a fashion which was then several decades out of date.

Viscount Melbourne in fiction

  • He is depicted reasonably accurately in The Young Victoria (in which he is played by Paul Bettany) as a man who helped and advised the young princess and later monarch well and mostly to her best interests, but who, as politicians do, also used the closeness of their relationship for his own political ends at the same time.
  • He is portrayed by Rufus Sewell in Victoria. This depiction is not especially accurate as to some major points (the series seems to make him younger than he actually was, and also posits a quasi-romantic relationship with the young queen that almost certainly did not exist), but is reasonably accurate in the tenor of the advice Melbourne gave Victoria and her reliance on him before marrying Prince Albert.