Hugh Elliot

Hugh Elliot (6 April 1752 – 1 December 1830) was a British diplomat and then a colonial governor.

Hugh Elliot
Governor of the Leeward Islands
In office
Governor of Madras
In office
Personal details
Born(1752-04-06)6 April 1752
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died1 December 1830(1830-12-01) (aged 78)[1]
Somerset Street, London
Resting placeWestminster Abbey, London
Spouse(s)Charlotte Louisa von Kraut (1778–1783)
Margaret Jones (−1819)
Parent(s)Sir Gilbert Elliot, 3rd Baronet, of Minto
Agnes Dalrymple-Murray-Kynymound

Education and early career

Hugh Elliot was born on 6 April 1752, the second son of Sir Gilbert Elliot, and the younger brother of Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 1st Earl of Minto. His mother was the heiress of Hugh Dalrymple-Murray-Kynynmound. Hugh and Gilbert were educated together, first by private tutor, and later between 1764 and 1766 in Paris, where they were mentored by Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume and where Hugh struck up a friendship with Count Mirabeau. In 1768, at the age of 16, Hugh entered Christ Church, University of Oxford, but left after only two years to complete his military education at Metz.

After that, at the still young age of 18, Hugh Elliot took a commission in the Russian army as an officer, and fought in the campaign against the Turks in the Balkans. According to family papers, at one point Elliot was forced to swim in the Danube holding on to the tail of a horse ridden by a Cossack.

Diplomatic career

At 21, largely through his father's influence, he took up a diplomatic post as the British Minister Plenipotentiary to the Duchy of Bavaria. Four years later, he was named as the British ambassador to Frederick the Great in Prussia. He developed a reputation as a great social wit, but worked hard to defeat the entreaties of American diplomats during the American Revolutionary War (including, allegedly, at one point stealing the American dispatch box and copying its contents).

In Berlin he married his first wife, Charlotte von Kraut, but when she committed adultery he challenged her lover to a duel. He himself was wounded in the duel, but received a written apology from his protagonist. The scandal was to later haunt him during his career, and is most often cited as the reason why, despite an exceptional career in the diplomatic service, he never received the customary knighthood.

Elliot then served in Copenhagen 1782–1791, during which time his reputation soared as he was credited for stopping war between Sweden and Denmark, and for helping Gustav III reintroduce absolutism in Sweden. Shortly after arriving at Copenhagen, he heard reports of the continued infidelity of his wife, who had remained in Berlin with their daughter. He decided that he would not allow their child to stay with her mother, and managed to personally carry out an abduction of her from Berlin, and bring her back to Copenhagen with him.[2]

In 1792, Elliot was named as British ambassador to the Electorate of Saxony in Dresden. Shortly prior to that he married his second wife, Margaret Jones, who was 20 years his junior.

In 1803 Elliot was sent to Naples which was then the capital of the Kingdom of Naples, where he survived in tempestuous circumstances until his recall in 1806. After his recall, the family endured a period of considerable financial hardship when no postings were found for the diplomat for a period of three years but upon the death of Lord Lavington, Elliot was appointed to serve as Governor of the Leeward Islands in the British West Indies from 1809 to 1814.

Elliot was a noted abolitionist. Whilst Governor of the Leeward islands, he was reported to be the driving force behind the arrest, trial and execution of Arthur Hodge for the murder of a slave in the British Virgin Islands. His brother-in-law, William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland presented the bill which would become the Slave Trade Act 1807 before the House of Lords.

In 1814, he was made a Privy Counsellor. From 1814 to 1820, Elliot was Governor of Madras.


Elliot married twice:[3]

1) in 1778 divorced 1783, Charlotte von Kraut with one daughter

  • Isabella Elliot (married George Payne 1810, died 1826)

2) in c 1792, Margaret Jones (died 2 March 1819), with nine children:

  • Theodore Henry Elliot (died 2 April 1842)
  • Emma Elliot (died 10 August 1866), who married Sir Thomas Hislop, 1st Baronet
  • Edward Francis Elliot (died 11 June 1866)
  • Caroline Elliot
  • Hugh Maximilian Elliot (cir 1798 – died 1 January 1826 Calcutta, India[4])
  • Harriet Agnes Elliot (died 17 April 1845), who married Admiral Sir James Hanway Plumridge MP.[5]
  • Gilbert Elliot (17 Mar 1800 – 11 August 1891)
  • Charles Elliot (1801-9 Sep 1875)
  • Thomas Frederick Elliot (15 Jul 1808 – 12 February 1880), secretary to the Government Commission upon Emigration in 1831–1832 and Agent General for Emigration from 1837 to 1840.[6][7]

It has been asserted in several that the ill-fated vessel Lady Elliot (and, afterwards, Lady Elliot Island in Queensland), had been named after Margaret Elliot,[8] but the ship was more likely named after Anna Maria Elliot, the wife of Hugh Elliot's brother, Gilbert, who was Governor-General of India between 1807 and 1813 and also 1st Earl of Minto. Hugh was not knighted or heir to any title of British nobility, and Margaret therefore had no title Anna Maria (later Lady Elliot) was the daughter of Sir George Amyand, 1st Baronet.[9]

Death and legacy

Elliot died at his home in Somerset Street, London on 1 December 1830 shortly after retiring to bed, and was buried, with his brother, at Westminster Abbey[1]

See also


  1. "Gilbert and Hugh Elliot". Westminster Abbey. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  2. Chr. B. Reventlow (ed.), En Dansk Statsmands Hjem omkring Aar 1800, volume 1, Copenhagen, 1902, p. 80-81. The letters of countess Sophie Reventlow in Danish.
  3. Scott, H. M. "Elliot, Hugh". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/8664. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. The Quarterly Oriental Magazine, Review & Register , December 1825 issue records among deaths "At Calcutta on the 1st of January at the house of Richard Hunter, esq. in Chowringhee, Hugh Maximilian Elliot, esq. fourth son of the Right Honorable Hugh Elliot, late Governor of Fort William"
  5. "Victorian Royal Navy: James Hanway Plumridge". Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  6. Hayden, Albert A. "Thomas Frederick Elliot". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 5 December 2020. This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966
  7. "Emigration from the United Kingdom" (PDF). Journal of the Statistical Society of London. 1 (3): 156-157. July 1838. doi:10.2307/2337910. JSTOR 2337910 via JSTOR.
  8. "Lady Elliot Island, QLD". Aussie Towns. 5 September 2018. Retrieved 5 December 2020.
  9. Yarrow, Stephen. "Naming Australia's Coastline". Pocket Oz Guide to Australia. Retrieved 5 December 2020.


  • The Hanging of Arthur Hodge, John Andrews (ISBN 0-7388-1931-X)
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