31 August 2019

Four Irish politicians
in 19th century Corfu:
3, George Nugent-Grenville

Church ruins in the centre of Coru’s old town … George Nugent-Grenville, Lord Nugent of Carlanstown, became Governor of the Ionian Islands in 1832 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Four Irish politicians and administrators played key roles in shaping 19th century political life in Corfu: Sir Richard Church (1784-1873) from Cork; Sir Charles Napier (1782-1853) from Celbridge, Co Kildare; George Nugent-Grenville (1789-1850) from Co Westmeath, 2nd Baron Nugent of Carlanstown; and John Young (1807-1876) from Balieborough, Co Cavan, later Lord Lisgar.

The Irish general and poet Lord Nugent was a Philhellene and an early member of the London Greek Committee. He was among the British governors of the Ionian Islands, and was the Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands from 1832 to 1835.

George Nugent Grenville, who was born on 31 December 1789, was a younger son of George Nugent-Temple, 1st Marquess of Buckingham. His mother, Lady Mary Elizabeth Nugent, was the only daughter and heiress of Robert Craggs Nugent (1709-1788) of Carnalstown, Co Meath, who became Viscount Clare in 1766 and the Earl Nugent in 1776.

Lady Mary was made a member of the Irish peerage in her own right in 1800 as Baroness Nugent of Carlanstown, with the stipulation that the title would pass to her son as an Irish peer when she died. When she died in 1813, George became the 2nd Baron Nugent of Carlanstown, Co Meath.

At one time, the family’s estates in Co Westmeath, Co Longford and Co Clare totalled 15,991 acres. Nugent was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, and in 1810 received the honorary degree of DCL from Oxford.

He was a Whig MP for Buckingham (1810-1812), a rotten borough controlled by the Grenville family. As an Irish peer from 1812, he could still sit in the British House of Commons, and he was an MP for Aylesbury (1812-1832).

Nugent became one of the Lords of the Treasury in 1830, but he resigned this position and his seat in the House of Commons in August 1832 when he was appointed the Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands.

As Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, Nugent entertained a visiting King Otho of Greece in the Solomos family villa in Zakynthos.

It may have been at the Solomos villa in Zakynthps that Nugent introduced Eliza-Dorothea Tuite, from Nenagh, Co Tipperary, to Count Giovanni Salomos or Solomos of Zakynthos. They were married in 1838, giving the Irish Philhellenes an interesting family connection with Dionysios Solomos, author of Hymn to Liberty, the Greek national anthem.

Nugent remained the High Commissioner in Corfu for three years, living at the Palace in Corfu. He was rewarded with being made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, an order associated particularly with Corfu.

When he returned, was defeated twice when he stood for his former Commons seat of Aylesbury (1837, 1839) and again in 1843 when he stood for Southampton. But he was returned for Aylesbury in 1847, and held the seat until he died in 1850.

In politics, Nugent was a Radical Whig and a strong supporter of Queen Caroline of Brunswick. He visited Spain as a partisan of the Spanish Liberals against the Carlists, advocated the abolition of capital punishment, and supported a measure for the further repeal of Penal Laws. He died on 26 November 1850.

Meanwhile, Eliza and Giovanni settled in the Greater Athens area, and both were buried from Saint Paul’s Anglican Church in Athens.

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