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Special Collections

Introduction to the Palmerston Archive

The semi-official correspondence and papers of the third Viscount Palmerston totals some 40,000 items, covering the whole of his ministerial career from 1809 until his death as Prime Minister in 1865.

Arrangement of the archive

The papers remained at Broadlands after Palmerston's death, passing successively to his widow, to her second son the Hon William Cowper (later Baron Mount Temple), and to her grandson, the Hon Evelyn Ashley. Evelyn Ashley had been one of Palmerston's private secretaries and had, after the death of Lord Dalling in 1872, compled the official Life of Palmerston.

Evelyn Ashley was succeeded in 1907 by his son Wilfrid (from 1932 Lord Mount Temple), who took a considerable interest in the archive adding to them by purchase. In the 1930s Lord Mount Temple allowed Sir Charles Webster, the diplomatic historian, access to the material. After the Second World War, Lady Mountbatten, employed Mrs Georgiana Blois to work on the papers.

In 1960, on the death of Lady Mountbatten, the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts (HMC) was asked to advise on the care and cataloguing of the manuscripts. The papers were sorted and listed by Lieutenant Colonel R P F White and Miss F Ranger and by 1969 a finding list was available. This was revised and index added to produce the HMC 'Report of the political and semi-official correspondence and papers of Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston 1806-1865' (unpublished typescript, 1983).

Considerable re-arrangement of the manuscripts had taken place after the Second World War, making it impractical to reconstruct in the HMC cataloguing process to reconstruct the Foreign Office material into an arrangement by country. Instead, Palmerston's correspondence was brought together into an alphabetical series of General Correspondence (GC); this now accounts for three-quarters of the collection. But the Royal Correspondence (RC) and Miscellaneous and Patronage Correspondence (MPC), the latter of which maktes up Pamerston's Foreign Office patronage files, 1836-41, have been placed in separate sequences. Among the papers arranged by subject, draft despatches and memoranda on foreign affairs have been kept in alphabetical order by the country to which they relate.

Material acquired

Papers not originally part of the Palmerston personal archive have become incorporated into the semi-official papers that were catalogued by the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts (HMC). There are letters from Lady Palmerston's papers, including correspondence with Princess Lieven complementary to that in the British Library (Add MSS 45555-45556) and correspondence of Palmerston's brother Sir William Temple. Letters from Palmerston to Andrew Doyle and Sir John Easthope of the Morning Chronicle, which are mainly originals, were retuirned to Broadlands at some later date.

Correspondence to Lord John Russell from William IV, Palmerston, Sir Herbert Taylor and others was purchased by Wilfrid Ashley through Messrs Sotherans in 1917. Ashley also acquired Russell-Melbourne correspondence from the same source. Correspondence to Lord Melbourne now in the Palmerston Archive might have been passed by Melbourne to Palmerston; other correspondence, might have strayed from the Melbourne Papers.

In 1978 the Broadlands Archive Trustees were able to purchase and restore to the Palmerston Archive thirty contemporary copies of letters from Lord Palmerston to Lord Granville, British ambassador in Paris, 1831. The letters, which had been used in Bulwer's Life of Palmerston published in 1870, had presumably gone astray on their way back from the printer.


There have been a number of printed editions of papers of Lord Palmerston. Some of the principal editions are listed below:

Covers the periods 1784-1830 (volume 1) and 1803-41 (volume 2).

MS62 Broadlands Archives

Learn more about other collections in the Broadlands archives and download catalogues for the extensive range of archival and photographic materials.

Archive Catalogue

Search the Epexio Archive Catalogue for catalogue descriptions of Palmerston's semi-official political papers and family correspondence.

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