Clan Bruce: Lords of Elgin

Figure 1.-- This French CDV shows James Bruce, 8th Lord Elgin with his son Victor Alexander, 9th Lord Elgin. We are not sure where and when the portrait was taken. Victor was born in Montreal (1849). He looks to be about 7 years old here. They came back to Britain (1854), so it could have been in London, or perhaps a trip to Paris about 1856. Victor ears a Highland kilt outfit with black military jacket and kilt. The kilt looks to be plain and not done in the Bruce plaid. The outfit is complted with knee socks and strap shoes. The studio was Disderi in Paris. Disferi was the French Daguerreotypist who perfected the CDV. This was one of the prtraits he took for sale to people who were colleting images of the notable people of the day.

The Bruce Clan provided a long series of the Lords of Elgin. Different Lord Elgins played an important role in British imperial history. The served in many position from an early point in the buildig of the Empire after the loss of the amerucan colonies. James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin was especially important, filling many important assignments (1811-63). He played an important role in the Second Opium War, somethinh that he was not proud of. Other Bruce's played more minor, but still interesting roles in colonial policy.

Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl (1766-1841)

Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin and 11th Earl of Kincardine was boen (1766). He was a Scottish nobleman, army officer, politican, and diplomat, during the French Revolution and Napoleonic era. He served in a series of importnt diplomatic posts. He is primarily known to history, however, for the removal of the marble freeze sculptures (the Elgin Marbles) from the Parthenon. He did this during hisiplomatic mision to the Port (Ottoman Sultan). He had 12 children, five children (four girls and a boy) from his first marriage. There were eight children from his seond marriage. He was apparently impoverished by the purchase of the Elgin Marbles. They were acquired at considerable expense, but the British government paid him only a fraction of the cost. His son James suceeded his father as Earl.

James Bruce, 8th Earl (1811-63)

James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin and 12th Earl of Kincardine was borm (1811). He was a Scottish nobelman and British diplomt and colonial administrator. No individual in British imperial history filled so many important empire posts. James was the son of the 7th Earl of Elgin and 11th Earl of Kincardine and his second wife. James was educated at Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford, graduated with a first in Classics (1832). While at Oxford, he became friends with William Ewart Gladstone who ironically would become the foremost critic of empire. Bruce was elected at the 1841 general election as a Member of Parliament for Southampton, but the election was declared void on petition and he did not participate in the ensuing by-ection. Instead, the Govrnment appointed him Governor of Jamaica (1842). Next he was appointed Governor General of Canada (1847). He served as Governor General of the Province of Canada playing an important role in beginning the move toward dominion status. He then served as High Commissioner in charge of opening trades with China and Japan. He served as High Commissioner in China during the Second Opium War. After overseeing repeated attacks on China, he ordered the destruction of the Old Summer Palace in Beijing (1860). He was, however, not a supporter of the British policy on forcing opium on the Chinese. He carried out his orders, but wrote privately to his wife, concerning the artillery bombing of Guangzhou (Canton), "I never felt so ashamed of myself in my life." Finally he served as Viceroy of India only about a decade after the foundation of the Raj (1862). He was the first Viveroy to use Peterhoff, Shimla as the official residence. He died soonafter of a heart attack while crossing a swinging rope and wood bridge over the river Chadly (1863). He was buried in the churchyard of St. John in the Wilderness in Dharamshala. Elgin's married Elizabeth-Mary Cumming-Bruce (1841). She died soon after the birth of a second daughter (1843). He then married Lady Mary-Louisa Lambton, a daughter of John Lambton, the 1st Earl of Durham. Their son Victor Alexander suceeded his father as Earl.

Victor Alexander Bruce, 9th Earl (1849-1917)

Victor Alexander Bruce, 9th Earl of Elgin, 13th Earl of Kincardine was born in Montreal, Canada while is father was Governor General (1849). Victor was educated at Glenalmond, Eton, and Balliol College, Oxford. He entered politics as a Liberal, but with decidly conservative instincts. He serving as Treasurer of the Household and as First Commissioner of Works under Primeminister William Gladstone a boyhood friend of his father (1886). He was appointed Viceroy of India, largely because of his father's reputation (1894). He did not enjoy the experience. He had no taste for pomp and ceremony. More importantly, he madevno notable reforms in the Raj at a time of considerable change and did little to meet India's needs. Britain allowed substantial pres freedom and Indians were beginning to question British rule. Serios famine occurrd in India. Famine was nothing new to India, but part of the justification of British ruke was a modern, efficent administrtion. And while British rule cotrary to the claims of Indian politicns did not cause the famine, Bruce as Viceroy did not sucessfully deal with the ctisus. He later admitted that up to 4.5 million Indians died. He return to England and some years later was chosen by Primeminister Arthur Balfour to conduct an investigative enquiry into the conduct of the jut concluded Boer War (190203). The resulting Elgin Commission was the first such inquiry of its kind in the long history of the British Empire and its many wars. The Commission went to South Africa. They took oral evidence from men who had actually fought the battles. It valued the lives of the fallen and considered the feelings of mourning relatives. Notably it was the first time that the British Army took note of the testimony of enlisted soldiers and not just the officers. The Liberals were returned to power (1905). Elgin became Secretary of State for the Colonies and interestingly Winston Churchill was his Under-Secretary. As in India he pursued conservative policies. He resisted the settlement of the South African question proposed by Prime Minister Campbell-Bannerman designed to treat the defeated Boers geberously. He was not offered a post in the next government by Prime Minister Asquith. Elgin decided to withdraw from public life (1908). He married twice. First to Lady Constance Mary, daughter of James Carnegie, 9th Earl of Southesk (1876). They had six sons and five daughters. After Lady Elgin's death (1909), Lord Elgin married Gertrud Lilian, daughter of William Sherbrooke and widow of Frederick Charles Ashley Ogilvy (1913). They had one son: Bernard. Lord Elgin died at the family estate in Dunfermline (1917). He was succeeded by his eldest son, Edward, from his first marriage.


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Created: 1:25 AM 5/23/2016
Last updated: 1:25 AM 5/23/2016