William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Auckland
FRS PC (Ire)
William Eden 1. baron Auckland.jpg
President of the Board of Trade
In office
5 February 1806 – 31 March 1807
Monarch George III
Prime Minister The Lord Grenville
Preceded by The Duke of Montrose
Succeeded by The Earl Bathurst
Personal details
Born 1745 (1745)
Died 28 May 1814 (1814-05-29)
Beckenham, Kent
Nationality British
Spouse(s) Eleanor Elliot
Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford
Eden's daughter Eleanor Agnes, by John Hoppner

William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland PC (Ire), FRS (3 April 1745 – 28 May 1814) was a British statesman and diplomat. The subantarctic Auckland Islands group to the south of New Zealand, discovered in 1806, were named after him.

Background and education

A member of the influential Eden family, Auckland was a younger son of Sir Robert Eden, 3rd Baronet, of Windlestone Hall, County Durham, and Mary, daughter of William Davison. His brothers included Sir Robert Eden, 1st Baronet, of Maryland, Governor of Maryland, and Morton Eden, 1st Baron Henley. He was educated at Durham School, Eton and Christ Church, Oxford,[1] and was called to the bar, Middle Temple, in 1768.

Political career

In 1771 Auckland published Principles of Penal Law, and soon became a recognized authority on commercial and economic questions. In 1772 he took up an appointment as Under-Secretary of State for the North, a post he held until 1778. He was Member of Parliament for Woodstock from 1774 to 1784 and served as a Lord of Trade from 1776 to 1782. In 1778 he carried an Act for the improvement of the treatment of prisoners, and accompanied the Earl of Carlisle as a commissioner to North America on an unsuccessful mission to bring an end to the American War of Independence. During the War, he was head of the British spies in Europe, his budget reaching £200,000 by 1778. He probably oversaw a small group of intelligence collectors for Lord Suffolk. On his return in 1779 he published his widely read Four Letters to the Earl of Carlisle. In 1780 Auckland became Chief Secretary for Ireland, which he remained until 1782, and was admitted to the Irish Privy Council in 1780. He represented Dungannon in the Irish House of Commons between 1781 and 1783 and was Joint Vice-Treasurer of Ireland between 1783 and 1784. While in Ireland he established the National Bank.[2]

Between 1784 and 1793 Auckland was Member of Parliament for Heytesbury. He was sworn of the British Privy Council in 1784 and served as Envoy to France from 1785 to 1787 (on a mission dealing with commerce); he was Ambassador to Spain between 1787 and 1789 and Ambassador to the Netherlands between 1789 and 1793. In 1789 he was raised to the Peerage of Ireland as Baron Auckland and in 1793 he retired from public service, receiving a pension of £2300, and was further honoured when he was made Baron Auckland, of West Auckland in the County of Durham, in the Peerage of Great Britain.

During his retirement in the country at Beckenham, he continued his intimacy with William Pitt the Younger, his nearest neighbour at Holwood House, who at one time had thoughts of marrying his daughter (see below). With Pitt’s sanction he published his Remarks on the Apparent Circumstances of the War in 1795, to prepare public opinion for a peace.[2]

He was later included in Pitt's government as Joint Postmaster General in 1798. He severely criticized Pitt’s resignation in 1801, from which he had endeavoured to dissuade him, and retained office under Henry Addington. This terminated his friendship with Pitt, who excluded him from his administration in 1804 though he increased his pension, but he later and served under Lord Grenville as President of the Board of Trade in the Ministry of All the Talents between 1806 and 1807.[2]

His Journal and Correspondence, published in 1861–1862, throws much light on the political history of the time.[2]


Lord Auckland married Eleanor, daughter of Sir Gilbert Elliot, 3rd Baronet, and sister of Gilbert Eliott, 1st Earl of Minto, in 1776. They had six sons and eight daughters. Their eldest son the Hon. William Eden was Member of Parliament for Woodstock but committed suicide in 1810. His daughter Elizabeth Eden married Francis Osborne, 1st Baron Godolphin. Emily Eden his seventh daughter was a successful poet and novelist. Eleanor Agnes, the eldest daughter, became the subject of intense public interest in 1797 when it was rumoured that she was about to marry William Pitt the Younger, the Prime Minister; when the matter became public however Pitt denied absolutely that he had proposed to Eleanor, much to her father's fury.[3] In 1799 she married Robert Hobart, 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire. Lord Auckland died in May 1814 and was succeeded by his second but eldest surviving son, George, who was created Earl of Auckland in 1839. Lady Auckland died in May 1818.


  1. Lee, Stephen M.; rev. Sinéad Agnew. "Eden, William, first Baron Auckland (1744–1814)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Sept 2004, online edn, May 2009). Retrieved 8 November 2009. Eden was educated at Durham School (1755–8) and Eton College (1758–62) before going up to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1762.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). [https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikisource.org%2Fwiki%2F1911_Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica%2FAuckland%2C_William_Eden "Auckland, William Eden" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Encyclopædia Britannica. 2 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Hague, William William Pitt the Younger Harper Collins 2004

External links

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Hon. William Gordon
John Skynner
Member of Parliament for Woodstock
With: John Skynner 1774–1777
Viscount Parker 1777–1784
Succeeded by
Sir Henry Dashwood, Bt
Francis Burton
Preceded by
Francis Burton
William à Court
Member of Parliament for Heytesbury
1784 – 1793
With: William à Court 1784–1790
Michael Angelo Taylor 1790–1791
The Earl of Barrymore 1791–1793
Charles Ellis 1793
Succeeded by
The Viscount Clifden
Charles Rose Ellis
Parliament of Ireland
Preceded by
Charles O'Hara
Thomas Knox
Member of Parliament for Dungannon
With: Charles O'Hara
Succeeded by
Edmund Sexton Pery
Hon. Thomas Knox
Political offices
Preceded by
Sir Richard Heron, Bt
Chief Secretary for Ireland
1780 – 1782
Succeeded by
Richard FitzPatrick
Preceded by
The Earl of Chesterfield
The Earl of Leicester
Postmaster General
With: The Earl of Leicester 1798–1799
The Baron Gower 1799–1801
Lord Charles Spencer 1801–1804
Succeeded by
The Duke of Montrose
Lord Charles Spencer
Preceded by
The Duke of Montrose
President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by
The Earl Bathurst
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
The Earl of Chesterfield
British Ambassador to Spain
Succeeded by
Alleyne FitzHerbert
Preceded by
Alleyne FitzHerbert
British Ambassador to the Netherlands
Succeeded by
Lord Henry Spencer
Peerage of Ireland
New creation Baron Auckland
Succeeded by
George Eden
Peerage of Great Britain
New creation Baron Auckland
Succeeded by
George Eden