Francis Napier, 10th Lord Napier

Francis Napier, 10th Lord Napier and 1st Baron Ettrick, KT, PC (15 September 1819 – 19 December 1898) was a Scottish polyglot, diplomat and colonial administrator. He served as the British Minister to the United States from 1857 to 1859, Netherlands from 1859 to 1860, Russia from 1861 to 1864, Prussia from 1864 to 1866 and as the Governor of Madras from 1866 to 1872. He also acted as the Viceroy of India from February to May 1872.

The Lord Napier
Portrait of Francis Napier, 10th Lord Napier in 1866
Viceroy of India
In office
24 February 1872  3 May 1872
MonarchQueen Victoria
Preceded bySir John Strachey
As Acting Viceroy
Succeeded byThe Lord Northbrook
Governor of Madras Presidency
In office
27 March 1866  19 February 1872
Preceded bySir William Thomas Denison
Succeeded byAlexander John Arbuthnot
As Acting Governor
Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Russia
In office
Preceded byJohn Crampton
Succeeded byAndrew Buchanan
Personal details
Born(1819-09-15)15 September 1819
Thirlestane Castle, Selkirkshire, United Kingdom
Died19 December 1898(1898-12-19) (aged 79)
Florence, Kingdom of Italy
SpouseAnne Jane Charlotte Manners
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge

Francis Napier was born on 15 September 1819 to William Napier, 9th Lord Napier and had his early education through private tutors. He joined the Trinity College, Cambridge in 1835 but did not complete his graduation. Instead, he mastered foreign languages and served as a diplomat in foreign missions. In 1866, he was appointed Governor of Madras and served from 1866 to 1872. On the assassination of the Earl of Mayo, the then Viceroy of India in February 1872, Napier was appointed to act temporarily as the Viceroy of India and served from February to May 1872. Napier returned to the United Kingdom in July 1872 and in his later life, chaired the Napier Commission. Napier died at Florence, Italy on 18 December 1898 at the age of 79.

Napier was made a Knight of the Thistle in 1864. In 1872, he was created Baron Ettrick in the Peerage of the United Kingdom in recognition of his services in India.

Early life and education

Francis Napier was born on 15 September 1819 to William John Napier, the 9th Lord Napier of Merchistoun and his wife, Elizabeth Cochrane-Johnstone at Thirlestane Castle in Selkirkshire. He was the eldest son of the couple.

Napier had his early education in private and was schooled at Saxe-Meiningen. He joined Trinity College, Cambridge in 1835 but did not complete his graduation. However, he acquired a knowledge of a few foreign languages under the tutorship of one Rev. Walter Patterson. Napier became the 10th Lord Merchistoun on the death of his father William John Napier on 11 October 1834.

Diplomatic career

Due to his fluency in multiple languages, Napier's lack of educational qualifications was overlooked and he entered the diplomatic service in 1840. He was appointed to the British embassy at Vienna and later, Constantinople, where he served as an attaché. In 1848, Napier was appointed Secretary of the British delegation at Naples. He served as the Acting Ambassador for a period of eighteen months in Naples, when Italy was embroiled in the Sicilian insurrection.

After his experience in Naples, he found time to publish a book assessing contemporary painters in Naples.[1] An aristocratic haughtiness regarding the local populace infuses his writing, dismissing the skills of more than one artist, and in reactionary fashion, the revolutionary instincts of the masses. In the preface, he writes:

It was the fortune of the author to hold a diplomatic employment at the Court of Naples, during a period in which the appropriate pastimes of that pleasant city were discarded for the illusions and regrets of political change. These transactions, of which the melancholy issue is notorious, were of a nature to engross and often to darken the thoughts of one, who had an intimate knowledge and a foreboding view of the revolutionary drama; the resources of society were limited by the suspicions and passions which altered and envenomed the conversation even of cultivated men; and the author was induced, alike by necessity and taste, to expend his relaxation and recover his serenity in the study of the local Arts.

Notes on Modern Painting at Naples, 1850

Napier's handling of affairs as acting ambassador in Naples impressed the then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Lord Palmerston. He was posted to the British embassy at St Petersburg, where he became a close confidante of Tsar Alexander II. After serving short, satisfactory terms at the British embassies at St Petersburg and Constantinople, Napier was appointed envoy extraordinaire and minister plenipotentiary to the United States and served from 1857 to 1859. Napier's tenure in Washington was soon mired in controversy. The abolitionist Charles Sumner and elements of the Northern press accused the British minister of being a pro-slavery partisan. More damaging still in the eyes of the British government was the claim that he had taken upon himself to declare in conversations that Britain recognized the Monroe Doctrine, when all the British governments till then had repudiated it. Critics at the Foreign Office accused him of "giving up everything the United States can wish for, even before they ask it", which for them explained Napier's immense popularity with Washington's influential residents. He was recalled and given the less sensitive post of minister to the Netherlands.[2] Napier served there from 1859 to 1861 and in Prussia from 1864 to 1866. He was then appointed Governor of Madras in 1866 and served from 27 March 1866 to 19 February 1872.

Governor of Madras

Napier Bridge in Chennai
Napier Museum in Tiruvananthapuram

As soon as Napier took office as the Governor of Madras, he was faced with a severe famine in Ganjam District. He took the services of Florence Nightingale whom he had known in Constantinople. Napier undertook many major irrigation schemes during his tenure.[3] The Pennar Dam was completed during his tenure and two other irrigation works, the Rushikulya Dam in Ganjam and the Mullaperiyar Dam were conceived during his tenure.

Despite being at odds with different viceroys over financial issues throughout his tenure, Napier was able to resolve disputes in an amicable manner due to the friendly relations he had with Sir John Lawrence and well as his successor, Richard Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo. When the Earl of Mayo was assassinated in the Andamans on 8 February 1872, Napier was designated to act as the Viceroy of India and he served for a short time before being relieved by Lord Northbrook. For his creditable performance as Governor of Madras, Napier was created Baron Ettrick of Ettrick in the peerage of the United Kingdom.[4]

Lord Napier by Lowes Dickinson

In 1869, Napier constructed the Napier Bridge across the Coovum River in Chennai.[5] The Napier Park in Chennai[6] and the Napier Museum in Trivandrum, Travancore were set up in his memory. Between 1866 and 1872,[7] he had partially restored the Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal as well, which was earlier demolished considerably by Grandson of King Thirumalai Nayak.

In addition there is a surgical ward in Stanley Medical College Hospital in Chennai, named in his honor. The ward was originally built with the help of donations by the Governor Napier.

Later life and death

At the end of his term as acting Viceroy of India, Napier returned to the United Kingdom and acted as the President of the Social Science Association during its meetings at Plymouth and Glasgow in October 1874.[8] During this time, Napier also served in the London School Board.[8]

Lord Napier continued, both in England and in Scotland, to take great interest in social questions. He was the chairman of the Napier Commission[8](the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Condition of Crofters and Cottars in the Highlands and Islands) which was appointed in 1883 and reported in 1884.[3]

Napier died in Florence, Italy on 19 December 1898 at the age of 79.[8]


Napier was appointed to Privy Council in 1861 and made a Knight of the Thistle in 1864.


Napier married Anne Jane Charlotte (1824–1911) on 2 September 1845. The couple had four sons.[9]

  • William Napier, 11th Lord Napier (1846–1913)
  • John Scott (1848–1928)
  • R. N. Basil (1850–1874)
  • Mark Francis (1852–1919)


The New York Times gives a short physical description of Napier on his appointment as Viceroy of India.

Lord Napier is sixty-two years old, considerably above middle size, strong, healthy, with calm, handsome face, gray hair and whiskers, an early riser, very often a late goer to bed, gifted with inexhaustible energy, tact common sense and acuteness of judgement.[10]


  1. Napier, Lord Francis (1855). Notes on Modern Painting at Naples.. West Strand, London: John W. Parker and Son. pp. I.
  2. Brian Jenkins, Lord Lyons, A Diplomat in An Age of Nationalism and War, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2014, pp. 85–89.
  3. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Napier and Ettrick, Francis Napier, Baron" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 19 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 177.
  4. "GREAT BRITAIN.; The American Squadron Protest of English Catholics Against Italy's Coorse to the Pope-Governor-General of India" (PDF). The New York Times. London. 17 July 1872.
  5. "Special lighting on Napier Bridge". The Hindu. Chennai. 29 July 2010.
  6. Illustrated guide to the South Indian Railway: including the Mayavaram-Mutupet, and Peralam-Karaikkal railways. Higginbotham's. 1900. pp. 18.
  7. "Welcome to Madurai - Tourism". Archived from the original on 22 April 2012. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  8. "BARON NAPIER IS DEAD.; He Was at One Time British Minister to This Country" (PDF). The New York Times. 19 December 1898.
  9. "The Royal Household in Scotland". Burke's Landed Gentry of Scotland. Burke's Peerage. p. 1104.
  10. "LORD NAPIER.; The Next Ruler for the Eastern Empire of Britain His Record What May be Expected of Him" (PDF). The New York Times. 17 February 1872.
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