Sir Edmund John Monson, 1st Baronet, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, PC (6 October 1834 – 28 October 1909), misspelled in some sources as Edward Monson, was a British diplomat who was minister or ambassador to several countries.
Background and education
The Hon. Edmund John Monson was born at Seal, Kent, the third son of William Monson, 6th Baron Monson and Eliza Larken Monson. He was educated at Eton College and then Balliol College, Oxford, graduating in 1855, and was elected as a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford in 1858.
Monson entered the British diplomatic service in 1856 and was posted as an unpaid attaché to the embassy in Paris, where Lord Cowley, the ambassador, called him "one of the best and most intelligent attachés he ever had". This secured him an appointment as private secretary to Lord Lyons, the newly appointed British Ambassador to the United States late in 1858. Monson was trained in the diplomatic service by Lord Lyons, and was a member of the Tory-sympathetic 'Lyons School' of British diplomacy. Monson then transferred to Hanover and later to Brussels as Third Secretary, but left the diplomatic service in 1865 to stand for Parliament, failing to get elected as Member of Parliament for Reigate.
Monson returned to the diplomatic service in 1869, being appointed Consul in the Azores in 1869, Consul-General in Budapest in 1871 and Second Secretary in Vienna; and to other posts, including as a special envoy in Dalmatia and Montenegro in 1876-77.
In 1879, he was sent as minister-resident and consul-general in Uruguay, where he served until 1884. In 1881, during his time there, he married Eleanor Catherine Mary Munro, the daughter of a previous consul-general. In 1884 he became minister to Argentina and Paraguay, but returned to Europe within a year as envoy to Denmark (1884–88) and then to Greece (1888–92).
Shortly after Monson moved to Athens, the United States and Danish governments asked him to resolve a dispute known as the Butterfield Claims that had been running since 1854 and 1855, when two ships belonging to Carlos Butterfield & Co., thought to be carrying war materials to Venezuela, were detained at St Thomas, then a Danish colony. The two governments agreed, "whereas each of the parties hereto has entire confidence in the learning ability and impartiality of Sir Edmund Monson Her British Majesty's Envoy extraordinary and Minister plenipotentiary in Athens", to submit the dispute to his binding arbitration. Monson decided against the United States, but "so satisfied was this [U.S.] government with the judgement of Sir Edmund that it joined Denmark in presenting to him a service of silver plate".
Monson was appointed minister to Belgium in February 1892, but before he had left Athens a political crisis blew up in which King George I used his constitutional authority to dismiss the prime minister, Theodoros Deligiannis, resulting in an election in which Deligiannis lost power. The Times correspondent in Athens commented "It is to be hoped that Sir Edmund Monson, though already appointed to Brussels, may be allowed to remain here for some little time longer. On all sides regrets are expressed that an English diplomatic representative who is so thoroughly acquainted with Greek affairs, and who has gained the sympathy and confidence of all parties, should leave the country at this critical time." However, Monson arrived in Brussels on 25 June.
Monson took over the Paris embassy at a very difficult period in Anglo-French relations. France's colonial expansion had brought it into conflict with Britain in several parts of the world, and the rivalry between the two countries had been embittered by the Egyptian question, as no French government could reconcile itself to the fact that Britain would not leave the Nile. Complaining that French interests in Egypt were being unfairly treated, the French demanded the end of British occupation there. Conflict arose also in Asia (over Siam) and in Africa (over the upper Nile and the middle Niger).
— Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
In July 1898 a French expeditionary forces arrived at Fashoda, in the White Nile state of south Sudan. Two months later a powerful British force arrived to confront them. Both sides were polite but insisted on their right to Fashoda. The crisis might have led to war between Britain and France but was resolved by diplomacy, and the French government ordered its troops to withdraw on 3 November. On 6 December Sir Edmund Monson delivered a speech to the British Chamber of Commerce in Paris including this passage:
I would earnestly ask those who directly or indirectly, either as officials in power, or as unofficial exponents of public opinion, are responsible for the direction of the national policy, to discountenance and to abstain from the continuance of that policy of pin-pricks which, while it can only procure ephemeral gratification to a short-lived ministry, must inevitably perpetuate across the Channel an irritation which a high-spirited nation must eventually feel to be intolerable. I would entreat them to resist the temptation to try to thwart British enterprise by petty manoeuvres ... Such ill-considered provocation, to which I confidently trust no official countenance will be given, might well have the effect of converting that policy of forbearance from taking the full advantage of our recent victories and our present position, which has been enunciated by our highest authority, into the adoption of measures which, though they evidently find favour with no inconsiderable party in England, are not, I presume, the object at which French sentiment is aiming."
The vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce wrote "This passage was obviously inserted under instructions from London. It was a discordant note in the harmony of the speech, and in the French rendering it was toned down with a compliment to M. Delcassé [the foreign minister], whose conciliatory attitude the Ambassador commended with gratitude. It was the only passage which could be called intempestif, the term applied to it in France." However, although Monson's remarks caused a storm in the French press, it blew over and "was the last incident to disturb relations which were destined to assume, before his retirement from the Paris Embassy, a character of exceptional cordiality and confidence. ... Sir Edmund Monson contributed his own not inconsiderable share to the rapprochement between Great Britain and France which finally took shape in the agreements of April 4, 1904, and when he resigned, at the beginning of the following year, the entente cordiale ... was already firmly established."
Edmund Monson was appointed CB in 1878, knighted KCMG in 1886 and promoted to GCMG in 1892. He received the additional honours of GCB in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 1896 and GCVO in 1903 when King Edward VII visited Paris. He was sworn to the Privy Council in 1893 and made a baronet in 1905. The French government awarded him the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour.
Monson's three sons succeeded to the baronetcy in turn. None of them had children and the title became extinct on the death of the third. His second son, Sir Edmund Monson, 3rd Baronet was also a diplomat.
- Bernard Sasso, Monson, Sir Edmund John, first baronet (1834–1909), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008, accessed 17 June 2012
- MONSON, Rt Hon. Sir Edmund John, Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007, accessed 17 June 2012
- Otte, T. G. (2011). The Foreign Office Mind: The Making of British Foreign Policy: 1865 – 1914. pp. 138–139.
- Otte, T. G. (2011). The Foreign Office Mind: The Making of British Foreign Policy: 1865 – 1914. pp. 155–156.
- "No. 22777". The London Gazette. 6 October 1863. p. 4791.
- "No. 7960". The Edinburgh Gazette. 4 June 1869. p. 647.
- "No. 23816". The London Gazette. 9 January 1872. p. 75.
- "No. 24739". The London Gazette. 1 July 1879. p. 4207.
- "No. 25312". The London Gazette. 25 January 1884. p. 378.
- "No. 25430". The London Gazette. 6 January 1885. p. 70.
- "No. 25785". The London Gazette. 10 February 1888. p. 893.
- Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America 1776–1949, page 28 (Google Books)
- Sir E. Monson Dead, New York Daily Tribune, 30 October 1909, page 7 (Library of Congress)
In the passage quoted, "Sir Edward" has been corrected to "Sir Edmund", as he is correctly called elsewhere in the obituary.
- "No. 26258". The London Gazette. 16 February 1892. p. 846.
- The Political Crisis In Greece, The Times, London, 28 March 1892, page 4
- Court Circular, The Times, London, 27 June 1892, page 11
- Court Circular, The Times, London, 23 June 1893, page 10
- "No. 26786". The London Gazette. 16 October 1896. p. 5677.
- Sir E. Monson On Anglo-French Relations, The Times, London, 7 December 1898, page 5
- Thomas Barclay, Thirty years, Anglo-French reminiscences (1876-1906), Houghton Mifflin, New York, 1914, page 157
- Obituary – Sir Edmund Monson, The Times, London, 30 October 1909, page 13
- "No. 24538". The London Gazette. 4 January 1878. p. 51.
- "No. 25592". The London Gazette. 29 May 1886. p. 2635.
- "No. 26314". The London Gazette. 5 August 1892. p. 4425.
- "No. 26743". The London Gazette. 26 May 1896. p. 3123.
- "No. 27560". The London Gazette. 2 June 1903. p. 3526.
- "No. 26425". The London Gazette. 21 July 1893. p. 4126.
- "No. 11690". The Edinburgh Gazette. 17 January 1905. p. 62.