ELLIOT MURRAY KYNYNMOUND, Hon. Gilbert (1782-1859), of Minto, Roxburgh.
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Family and Education
b. 16 Nov. 1782 at Lyons, 1st s. of Sir Gilbert Elliot, 4th Bt.*, by Anna Maria, da. of Sir George Amyand†, 1st Bt. educ. privately by Mr Somerville; Eton 1796-9; Edinburgh Univ. 1801; St. John’s, Camb. 1803. m. 4 Sept. 1806, Mary, da. of Patrick Brydone of Lennel House, Berwick, 5s. 5da. Styled Visct. Melgund 1813-14; suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Minto 21 June 1814; GCB 16 Sept. 1834.
PC 15 Aug. 1832; minister to Prussia 1832-4; first ld. of Admiralty Sept. 1835-Sept. 1841; ld. privy seal July 1846-Feb. 1852; spec. envoy to Switzerland, Sardinia, Tuscany, Rome, Sicily 1847-8.
Capt. Roxburgh militia 1802-5.
As a boy, Elliot went to Corsica where his father was viceroy and he developed an abiding affection for Italy. At the age of 15, he hoped that his father would not have a peerage ‘or any of that nonsense’, but in this he was disappointed. At 17 he was ‘frank, open, manly, ingenuous and remarkably sensible; in short, he promises to fulfil the most sanguine expectations you could have formed of him’, so William Elliot* informed his father. By 1802 he was an admirer of Fox in parliamentary debate, to the pleasure of his father, who regarded public affairs as his ‘natural destination in the end’ and added, ‘The county [Roxburghshire] is a great object but both distant and precarious’.1 It was clear that Elliot would have to wait until the next general election—he was enfeoffed for Roxburgh and for Selkirk on 27 Feb. 1804—as no other seat materialized, though his father thought of Dysart Burghs in January 1805 and applied to Lord Grenville on his behalf in July 1804 and August 1805.2
When Lord Minto took office in the Grenville ministry in February 1806, Elliot’s prospects improved—he was placed at the Board of Control office as pupil companion to his father. On 4 Apr. he set out to canvass Roxburghshire with the assurance of ministerial support, only to be opposed by John Rutherfurd, who gave up the security of his Selkirkshire seat to frustrate Elliot. His father was disappointed in his hope that the 3rd Duke of Buccleuch would compensate Elliot with the offer of Selkirkshire. The only compensatory offer that came was a contingent one, from Lord Lauderdale, of Haddington Burghs, if Henry Erskine were seated elsewhere.3 While Elliot did not decline Roxburghshire until the last minute, to keep up his pretensions his father secured him a seat offered by Lord Clinton to ministers and paid £4,000, terms he thought excessive.4
In his first Parliament Elliot, whose father was now in India, gave a silent support to ministers and voted for Brand’s motion following their dismissal, 9 Apr. 1807. He was disappointed in his hope that Lord Grenville might again secure his return for Ashburton at the ensuing election, but looked to the county, making himself better known there and assisting the ailing Member with county affairs.5 In January 1811, when Alexander Don* emerged as his competitor, Elliot began a successful canvass. In 1812 he was his father’s spokesman with government to prevent them offering him a viscountcy, which the family thought inadequate for his services in India, and subsequently to prevent the offer of a pension, when an earldom was conceded. Meanwhile he had won the contest for Roxburghshire. A political journal he kept from January to June 1812 showed that he took a dim view of the Prince Regent and his government.6
Elliot (now Viscount Melgund) made no mark in his second Parliament, succeeding his father in June 1814. He was in the minority on the vice-chancellor bill, 11 Feb., and voted for Catholic relief, 2 Mar., 13 and 24 May 1813, helping to draw up the ill-fated bill, though privately fearing that the Catholics would spoil their case by ‘obstinacy or intemperance’. He informed his father, 8 Mar. 1813:
I have stood the long nights and bad air of the House of Commons much better than I expected for I certainly had very little reason to hope that either my head or my stomach would allow me to sit out a debate of four nights as I did on Grattan’s motion.
Melgund was prepared to espouse the cause of the Princess of Wales as far as was ‘consistent with public principle and her real interest’.7 Just before vacating his seat, he voted for Morpeth’s motion critical of the Speaker, 22 Apr., for Romilly’s attainder bill, 25 Apr., for Williams Wynn’s motion against the blockade of Norway, 12 May, and against new Corn Laws, 16 May 1814. He was subsequently a Whig diplomat and minister. He died 31 July 1859. Sir Walter Scott described him as ‘a very agreeable, well-informed and sensible man, but he possesses neither the high breeding, ease of manner, or eloquence of his father’.8