Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Sir Gilbert Elliot Bt. MP Earl of Minto (1751-1814) 1800c.

Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA (1769-1830)

Portrait of Sir Gilbert Elliot Bt. MP Earl of Minto (1751-1814), Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA
Pencil and red crayon on paper
18th Century
tondo 6 1/2 inch diameter (sight size)
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Lord Minto had been painted by Lawrence in 1794 (Private Collection), although there is no reason beyond the circumstance of patronage to connect this drawing to that portrait, since this present example is so clearly a finished work in its own right.

Sir Gilbert Elliot is a man whose political career although distinguished might have escaped the notice of all but the student of Parliament, had he not also been made Governor General of India in 1807. Previously he was known for his support of Burke in the unsuccessful prosecution of sir Elijah Impey and in the action against Warren Hastings. His sympathies at this time had been close to those of Charles James Fox, although the French Revolution appalled him, and afterwards he tried both to dissociate himself from Fox and to urge others to do the same. Dilpomatic service beckoned, and for a while he was charged with keeping the Emperor of Austria in the war with Napoleon, although the former's pledge not to make peace without the permission of the King of Great Britain was broken by the Treaty of Luneville in February 1801.

Six years later Elliot found his true calling when he was appointed to be Governor General of India. Mindful no doubt of the many wrongs he had imputed to Sir Elijah Impey, he set about restoring the finances of the East India Company, which were in a particularly grievous state, and restraining behaviour that might seem offensive to the natives. He checked, for example, the excessive proselytising of the missionaries, who expressed their zeal by publishing outrageous libels against the Muslims and Hindus. By these means Elliot increased the means of the East India Company, as well as removing some of its more oppressive aspects. By diplomacy and bargaining with the Native rulers he was also able to exploit internal rivalries to the good of the Company, in his incumbency substantially increasing its territory and its ability to defend that territory against invasion.

In 1813 Elliot was replaced by Lord Moira, a personal friend of the Prince Regent. He was at this point elevated to the peerage as Viscount Melgund and Earl of Minto. He set off for England in May 1814, but never reached his seat at Minto, since he died at Stevenage on June 21st of that year. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.
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