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Edward Knatchbull-Hugessen, 1st Baron Brabourne

Edward Hugessen Knatchbull-Hugessen, 1st Baron Brabourne PC (29 April 1829 – 6 February 1893), known as E. H. Knatchbull-Hugessen, was a British Liberal politician. He served as Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department under Lord Russell in 1866 and under William Ewart Gladstone from 1868 to 1871 and was also Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies under Gladstone from 1871 to 1874. In 1880 he was elevated to the peerage as Baron Brabourne.

The Lord Brabourne

Edward Knatchbull-Hugessen Vanity Fair 11 June 1870.jpg
"A promising apprentice". Knatchbull-Hugessen M.P. as caricatured by Ape (Carlo Pellegrini) in Vanity Fair, June 1870.
Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
In office
25 May 1866 – 26 June 1866
Prime MinisterThe Earl Russell
Preceded byHon. Thomas Baring
Succeeded byThe Earl Belmore
In office
10 December 1868 – 11 January 1871
Prime MinisterWilliam Ewart Gladstone
Preceded bySir Michael Hicks-Beach, Bt
Succeeded byGeorge Shaw-Lefevre
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
14 January 1871 – 17 February 1871
Prime MinisterWilliam Ewart Gladstone
Preceded byWilliam Monsell
Succeeded byJames Lowther
Personal details
Born29 April 1829 (1829-04-29)
Died6 February 1893 (1893-02-07) (aged 63)
Political partyLiberal
Spouse(s)(1) Anna Maria Elizabeth Southwell (d. 1889)
(2) Ethel Mary Walker
Alma materMagdalen College, Oxford

Background and educationEdit

Born Edward Hugessen Knatchbull, he was the younger son of Sir Edward Knatchbull, 9th Baronet, who twice served as Paymaster-General, and his second wife Fanny Catherine Knight, who was a niece of author Jane Austen. In 1849 he assumed by Royal licence the additional surname of Hugessen, which was the maiden surname of his father's mother. Knatchbull-Hugessen was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was President of the Oxford Union.

Political careerEdit

In 1857 Knatchbull-Hugessen was elected Member of Parliament for Sandwich, a seat he would hold until 1880.[1] He served as a Lord of the Treasury under Lord Palmerston from 1859 to 1860, as Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs under Lord Russell in 1866 and under Gladstone from 1868 to 1871 and as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies under Gladstone from 1871 to 1874.[2] He was admitted to the Privy Council in 1873[3] and raised to the peerage as Baron Brabourne, of Brabourne in the County of Kent, in 1880.[4]

Literary workEdit

Though forgotten and unread today, Knatchbull-Hugessen wrote many well-known short stories of fantasy and faery. He produced a book or two of these stories each year from 1869 to 1894. Some sources on his life, such as Encyclopaedia of Fantasy say 12 such books. Others, such as Oxford Reference, say 15. The collections were popular and commercial successes in the Christmas book market, and his publishers illustrated them with the leading illustrators of their time such as Gustav Doré and Richard Doyle. Far from being the blandly moralistic fare of the later Victorian period, The Times newspaper noted that his stories... "are of a very high order; light and brilliant narrative flow from his pen, and is fed by an invention as graceful as it is inexhaustible." He was widely likened by the reviewers to masters of the fairy-tale such as Grimm and Andersen, and his prolific output of the tales even led a critic at The British Quarterly Review to question his dedication to his job at the Colonial Office... "We should like to know whether Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen maintains his intercourse with the fairies of the Colonial Office. If so, what department of office duty is specially favourable to them; whether, too, they come when Parliament breaks up, or whether their visits are intermittent all the year round."[5]

In a letter of 1971, J. R. R. Tolkien recalled that, as a small child, his bedtime reading was the fairy stories of Knatchbull-Hugessen. He recalled especially being read one story of an ogre who catches his dinner by disguising himself as a tree.[6]

Brabourne also edited the first edition of the novelist Jane Austen's letters, published in 1884. This edition included about two-thirds of her surviving letters, and was dedicated to Queen Victoria. He inherited the letters after his mother's death in December 1882.[7]


He died on 6 February 1893 at Smeeth Paddocks, and was buried in St Mary the Virgin Churchyard at Smeeth, Kent, on 9 February.[8]


He was twice married: first, on 19 October 1852, at St. Stephen's, Hertfordshire, to Anna Maria Elizabeth, younger daughter of the Rev. Marcus Richard Southwell, vicar of that church, by whom he had two sons and two daughters:[8]

Lady Brabourne died on 2 May 1889, and on 3 June 1890 Lord Brabourne remarried Ethel Mary Walker, daughter of Colonel Sir George Gustavus Walker.[8] They had two children:

Lord Brabourne was succeeded by his eldest son from his first marriage, Edward.

Styles of addressEdit

  • 1829-1857: Mr Edward Knatchbull-Hugessen
  • 1857-1873: Mr Edward Knatchbull-Hugessen MP
  • 1873-1880: The Right Honourable Edward Knatchbull-Hugessen MP
  • 1880-1893: The Right Honourable The Lord Brabourne PC


  1. ^ Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "S" (part 2)
  2. ^ Kidd, Charles, Williamson, David (editors). Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage (1990 edition). New York: St Martin's Press, 1990,[page needed]
  3. ^ "No. 23961". The London Gazette. 25 March 1873. p. 1645.
  4. ^ "No. 24847". The London Gazette. 25 May 1880. p. 3173.
  5. ^ The British Quarterly Review, 1873
  6. ^ The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature, Oxford University Press, 2015.
  7. ^ Austen, Jane & Lord Brabourne, Letters of Jane Austen; Bentley, 1884 (reissued by Cambridge University Press 2009, ISBN 978-1-108-00338-4)
  8. ^ a b c Rae 1901.

  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainRae, William Fraser (1901). "Knatchbull-Hugessen, Edward Hugessen". Dictionary of National Biography (1st supplement). London: Smith, Elder & Co.

External linksEdit