This article examines the memoirs written by Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert, fourth earl of Carnarvon, concerning his period as lord lieutenant of Ireland between June 1885 and January 1886, in the brief Salisbury administration. Carnarvon inherited many of the problems of his Liberal predecessor, fifth Earl Spencer, telling Salisbury ‘the day of reckoning in this case will come very rapidly if any unwise promises are made or implied’. Nevertheless he was sympathetic to reform in many different fields, notably home rule, land reform, education and religion. A sensitive politician, Carnarvon penned this memorandum shortly after leaving office in an attempt to uphold his reputation. The memorandum gives a number of insights into Carnarvon’s manoeuvrings in cabinet, and demonstrates the workings of high politics in the late-nineteenth century. It was never published.
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