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The Lord Brougham and Vaux

1778 - 1868

Lord High Chancellor of the United Kingdom


Portrait © National Portrait Gallery, London - see page footer

Portrait of Lord Brougham and Vaux

A life to be proud of

Henry Peter Brougham, first Baron Brougham and Vaux, born 19th September 1778, Edinburgh, Scotland,  died 7th May 1868, Cannes, France.

The first Lord Brougham, founder of modern day Cannes, slave trade abolitionist, designer of the Brougham carriage, prominent lawyer, writer, scientist and radical orator. A colourful character with a strong personality and charisma who rose to prominence because of his defence of the then, Princess Caroline, later Queen Caroline, from her husband George IV, who essentially wanted to divorce her.

Born the son of Henry Brougham (1742 - 1810) and Elanora Syme (1750 - 1839) in St Andrew's Square, Edinburgh on 19th September 1778. He was a weak child and suffered from putrid fever. Educated at Edinburgh High School and at 14 went to Edinburgh University, where he studied Humanities and Philosophy. It was here that he acquired his interest and skill in public speaking. A writer and scientist, he helped to found the The Edinburgh Review in 1802. He benefited from the culture of Edinburgh.

Political Career

In 1803, with his sights set on higher things, he moved to London, where his legal career set off as he was now called to the bar. His interest in politics was stirred and in 1807 he was put in charge of the Whigs press campaign for the General Election. He was rewarded with a seat in the House representing Camelford. He was an astute politician and quickly became a renowned speaker in the House, highly respected for his quick and intelligent tongue.

In 1812 he lost his seat, but returned in 1815 where he represented Winchelsea.

In 1819 he married Mary Anne Spalding (nee Eden). Brougham's colourful and charming character made up for the absence of handsome features, which enabled him within months of their marriage to be breaking his vows.

The King wanted a divorce from Queen Caroline, who he hated and feared had committed adultery. The very public legal battle in 1820 saw Lord Brougham successfully defend the Queen from this challenge leading to him becoming a national figure.

In 1830, Henry Peter was made Lord Chancellor where he was made Baron Brougham, the first of 2 peerages bestowed upon him.

Brougham became a member of the Abolitionists fighting hard to finally end slavery. The bill saw an end to the slave trade, but not to slavery itself. The Abolitionists wanted Slavery abolished altogether and in 1833, shortly after the death of the former prime minister William Wilberforce, the act was passed. The Buxton Memorial, now located in Victoria Gardens in London, commemorates the antislaverywork of Buxton, Lord Brougham.

A fierce politician he played a very active part in a number of areas, including education where he wanted to see this extended to all with the Public Education Act. He was a dominant member of a education select committee where he uncovered abuses in private educational administration. This led to an Act setting up a commission of investigation - this was the in essence the start of the modern day Charity Commission. He wanted to see the reform of the political system, the unjust proportion of seats with few voters (rotten constituencies), while others were truly unrepresentative for the population. He also wanted to see the under representation of seats from Scotland and Ireland addressed. As Lord Chancellor he steered through the great 1832 Reform Bill tripling the electorate.

He wasn't always popular. There were those who disliked him - Lord Byron for example who Brougham criticised in the Edinburgh Review , and the Duke of Wellington. He had wanted a constitutency in Westmorland, home to his family seat, but strong rivalry between him and other Westmorland estate owners, particularly Lord Lowther, was bitter and although coming close, losing by just 64 votes in 1820, he never got his home seat. As Lord Chancellor he often had a difficult time, he got depressed and family upset with his brothers was a common occurrence.

After 5 years in office, the now less popular Henry Peter Brougham lost his position as Lord Chancellor as the new Prime Minister, Peel, gave the job to Charles Pepys. The loss of office depressed Lord Brougham immensely.


In 1834 Lord Brougham set out with his daughter for Genoa in Italy. However, an outbreak of cholera meant his route was blocked and he had to wait in Cannes for the quarantine order to be lifted. While staying at the Auberge Pinchinat he toured the small fishing port and its surrounding areas. He was hooked. He fell in love with the 'delightful climate of Provence, its clear skies and refreshing breezes' as he described it.

He bought a tract of land overlooking the sea and built Chateau Eleonore for his daughter in about 1836. Unfortunately, his daughter died in 1839 and he decided to make the chateau his own. His high profile and prominent presence attracted others to the area. In 1836 he supported the building of the port. Cannes started to become fashionable as the English Gentry visited Lord Brougham. Later the Russians heard of the popularity and followed. Elegant and luxurious homes were built as Cannes became a sought after destination. Large hotels sprung up such as the Grande on the sea front to cater for the tourists. The first trains rolled into Cannes station in 1863; for many years Lord Brougham had campaigned for the building of a railway along the Cote d'Azur.

On the centenary of his birth, the citizens of Cannes built a statue to mark Lord Brougham's role in founding modern day Cannes. The statue in Lord Brougham Square near the sea front, remains today. Cannes has many memories to Lord Brougham with street names and hotels named after him. To mark the 150th celebrations of Cannes a special plaque was unveiled to Lord Brougham.


Later Life

In 1848 Lord Brougham unsuccessfully applied for French citizenship and for a seat in the French National Assembly.

Back home, away from Westminster, he continued to work on the Brougham carriage which grew in popularity, both here in the UK and in the United States. He supported the railway-building project in the Eden Valley. A man of many opinions, his writing never stopped, including his many thoughts, books and autobiography. He entertained at Cannes and Brougham - Gladstone was a regular visitor to Brougham Hall and King Louise-Phillippe of France visited on one occasion. In 1854 Lord Henry Peter buys nearby High Head Castle. In 1859 Lord Brougham was elected Chancellor of Edinburgh University. 

In his old age, Henry Peter became difficult to live with. His health and memory fading, he sometimes showed examples of his early genius, but these occasions became few and far between. His influence in political life had waned, and he was left to write his autobiography.

It was in Cannes that Lord Brougham died in May 1868 while on a visit with his family. His brother decided he should be buried there rather than be brought back to England. His funeral took place on the 10th May and his committal 2 weeks later, on the 24th, in a plot of land given by the Cannes Mayor and council, in the cemetery. A statue of Lord Brougham, by sculpture Paul Lienard, was erected in the centre of Cannes on 19th December 1879 to mark his personal contribution to the thriving tourist spot.

To mark 150 years since Lord Brougham's first arrival in Cannes, a stone plaque was laid in Lord Brougham Square by Princess Alexandra and the Deputy Mayor of Cannes, in October 1984

Brougham carriage.jpg

Brougham Carriage

85-92 Cadillac Brougham

Lord Brougham wanted to build a carriage that was free from the formal coachman, groom and two horses. He designed a vehicle with 4 wheels for one horse. His approach to Sharp and Bland coach builders was rejected on the grounds that it would not be popular. He subsequently went to Robinson and Cook who built the first Brougham carriage.

The Brougham carriage became very popular with gentry and royalty of the day. The Studebaker brothers adopted the carriage design in the United States selling it to the rich and famous including Presidents, such as Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevolt.

A motorised version was created and was very popular. The first Brougham cars were electric.  They took their name from the Brougham carriage as the friver sat out front, with the passengers in an enclosed cabin behind.  General Motors, Ford and other manufacturers adopted the Brougham name for their cars, aprticulalry in the United States,  as it became synonymous with quality and elegance.  'Brougham' often being the name used for their top trim level.  Rolls Royce adopted the Brougham name for a number of their early models.

Examples of the original horse drawn carriage still form part of collections at Buckingham Palace, Castle Howard in Yorkshire and Littlecote in Berkshire.  The motorised Brougham's are now collectors items mainly in the US with many examples still around.

Header Portrait.  
Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Lord and Vaux by Sir Thomas Lawrence
oil on panel, 1825
NPG 3136
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Licenced for use on this website by Creative Commons Licence 3.0

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