VISCOUNT RICHARD LYONS
With Paris under German siege, Britain's ambassador to France writes
to his aunt from Bordeaux. Lyons had figured prominently in the diplomacy of the
American Civil War.
Autograph Letter signed: "Your affectionate Nephew/Lyons", 1
page, 5x7½. Embassy of England, Bordeaux (France), 1871 January 3.
On black bordered mourning paper to "Dearest Aunt". In full:
"Your letter (without any date) enclosing the order to the L. C. & D.
[the London, Chatham & Dover Railway] Directors arrived yesterday,
and I send today the order signed to Joslings [?]." Accompanied by
envelope addressed in an unknown hand to Mrs. Maxine [last name obscured by
postmark], Dinard, France, bearing postmark of Arundel (England). Richard
Bickerton Pernell Lyons (1817-1887) entered the British diplomatic service in
1838. During the US Civil War, Lyons was British Minister [i. e., ambassador]
to the U.S. Although convinced until late in the conflict that the Southern
secession would succeed, he worked to avoid war between the US and Britain, and
was notably successful in helping to defuse the Trent Affair, triggered by
the US seize of Confederate envoys Mason and Slidell from a British ship in
1862. Queen Victoria held Lyons in high regard, and wanted him to remain
in Washington, but ill health compelled his return to London in 1864. From
1867 until 1887, Lyons held another crucial post: ambassador to France. As he
wrote this letter, the Franco-Prussian War was ending in a German victory, with
Paris under siege and about to surrender. The War marked the end of the
French Second Empire and the proclamation of the German Empire, with Wilhelm I
as Kaiser of a newly unified Germany. Lyons was made a Viscount in 1881. His
death in 1887 pre-empted plans to make him an Earl and appoint him Foreign
Secretary. Lyons was a widower, his wife Augusta having died in 1852, which
explains his use of black-bordered mourning paper. Further research would be
required to identify the "beloved aunt" to whom he was writing. His father, Sir
Edmund Lyons, had 17 siblings. Multiple notches in edges. Toned and creased.
Multiple mailing folds. Otherwise, fine condition.
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VISCOUNT RICHARD LYONS
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