Sydney Buxton, 1st Earl Buxton

Sydney Charles Buxton, 1st Earl Buxton, GCMG, PC (25 October 1853 – 15 October 1934) was a radical British Liberal politician of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[1][2]

The Earl Buxton

Sydney Buxton, 1st Earl Buxton.jpg
2nd Governor-General of South Africa
In office
MonarchGeorge V
Prime MinisterSouth African:
Louis Botha
Jan Smuts
H. H. Asquith
David Lloyd George
Preceded byThe Viscount Gladstone
Succeeded byPrince Arthur of Connaught
President of the Board of Trade
In office
14 February 1910 – 11 February 1914
MonarchEdward VII
George V
Prime MinisterH. H. Asquith
Preceded byWinston Churchill
Succeeded byJohn Burns
Postmaster General
In office
MonarchEdward VII
Preceded byThe Lord Stanley
Succeeded byHerbert Samuel
Personal details
Born(1853-10-25)25 October 1853
London, England, UK
Died15 October 1934(1934-10-15) (aged 80)
Newtimber, West Sussex, England, UK
Political partyLiberal
Spouse(s)Constance Mary Lubbock (1882–1892; her death); 3 children
Mildred Anne Smith (1896–1934; his death); 3 children
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge
ProfessionMember of Parliament
Sydney Buxton circa 1895
Sydney Charles Buxton by Leslie Ward, 1907

Background and educationEdit

Buxton was the son of Charles Buxton[3] and grandson of social reformer Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, 1st Baronet. His mother was Emily Mary, daughter of the physician and traveller Sir Henry Holland, 1st Baronet. He was born in London and educated at Clifton College and Trinity College, Cambridge,[4] and was a member of the London School Board from 1876 to 1882.

Political careerEdit

In 1880, Buxton became prominent in political circles by the publication of his Handbook to the Political Questions of the Day, a work which eventually went through 11 editions. That same year, he ran for Parliament for Boston, but lost. However, he became an MP in 1883 by winning a by-election in Peterborough. He was defeated in the 1885 general election, but returned to Parliament the very next year, representing Poplar. He would represent this constituency in Parliament until 1914.[1]

From 1892–95, Buxton served as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. In 1905, he earned his first Cabinet post, that of Postmaster-General. In this capacity he introduced such services as penny postage to the United States, the Canadian magazine post, and cheap postage for the blind. In 1910, Buxton was named President of the Board of Trade; in this position he oversaw the passage or amendment of many trade and commerce laws. Upon the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912, he asked Lord Loreburn, the Lord Chancellor, to appoint a commission of inquiry into the disaster. This commission eventually came to be headed by Lord Mersey.[1]

In February 1914, Buxton was appointed Governor-General of South Africa, and on 11 May of that year he was raised to the peerage as Viscount Buxton, of Newtimber in the County of Sussex.[5] A revolt by the South African populace on the outbreak of the First World War temporarily threatened his safety, but the country's Prime Minister, General Louis Botha, immediately attached South Africa to Britain. Thereafter, Buxton and Botha formed an effective partnership, planning and executing South African actions in the war, including the invasion of the neighbouring German colony of South West Africa. Buxton travelled widely throughout South Africa, and endeared himself to the people. Upon his retirement in 1920, the people demonstrated their affection for him. He continued his interest in South African affairs after returning to England, serving as president of the African Society from 1920–33.[citation needed]

He was created Earl Buxton on 8 November 1920,[6] and continued to be a member of the Liberal Party, often supporting his close friend and colleague Sir Edward Grey. In his later years, he had to undergo amputation of his leg due to a knee injury sustained earlier in his life.

He died at Newtimber on 15 October 1934.[1]


Buxton was twice married, firstly in 1882 to Constance Mary Lubbock (died 1892), second daughter of Lord Avebury, and secondly in 1896 to Mildred Anne Smith, elder daughter of Hugh Colin Smith, Governor of the Bank of England, of Mount Clare, Roehampton, a sister of the banker Vivian Smith and of Aubrey Smith, RN, who later became an admiral.[1]

By his first wife, he had two sons and one daughter, of whom the sons both died in his lifetime. By his second wife, he had one son and two daughters, of whom the son and the elder daughter died in his lifetime.[1]


By his first wife, Constance Mary Lubbock (d. 3 November 1892):[7]

  • Charles Sydney Buxton (26 May 1884 – 31 August 1911); died unmarried. He proposed marriage to Octavia Wilberforce (1888–1963), a descendant of the reformer, but she refused him.
  • Kenneth Sydney Buxton (4 September 1886 – 27 August 1894); died in childhood, aged seven.
  • Lady Phyllis Sydney Buxton (17 April 1888 – 27 January 1942), later Lady Phyllis Ponsonby OBE; married 23 September 1918 Rev. Canon Maurice George Jesser Ponsonby, MC, DL, JP (10 September 1880 – 27 February 1943), a grandson of the 2nd Baron De Mauley, had 5 children, of which two (Elizabeth and Mary) have descendants

By his second wife, Mildred Anne Smith DBE JP (1866–1955):[7]

  • Lady Doreen Maria Josepha Sydney Buxton (29 November 1897 – 28 July 1923), a fraternal twin; married 24 January 1918 Charles Alfred Euston Fitzroy, a scion of the dukes of Grafton. She died aged 25, shortly after the birth of her third child. After her death, her husband remarried. His second wife, Lucy Eleanor Barnes (died 1943), was a first cousin of his first wife through her Buxton mother, in 1924. Twice widowed, he married, thirdly, in 1944. He succeeded to the dukedom in 1936 when a young cousin, the 9th Duke of Grafton, was killed in a motoring race.
  • Denis Bertram Sydney Buxton (29 November 1897 – 9 October 1917), a fraternal twin; killed in action, aged 19, Passchendaele, as a Second Lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards. At the time of his death, he was his father's only surviving son and heir to his titles. The location of his grave is unknown and he is commemorated on Panel Nine of the Tyne Cot Cemetery, a memorial bearing the names of some 35,000 men of the British and New Zealand forces who have no known grave, nearly all of whom died between August 1917 and November 1918.
  • Lady Alethea Constance Dorothy Sydney Buxton (2 August 1910 – 25 July 2004); married Venerable Peter Charles Eliot, TD, MBE (30 October 1910 – 1995), son of Edward Granville Eliot (himself grandson of the 3rd Earl of St Germans) and Clare Louise Phelips, on 12 July 1934. They had no issue, and Lady Alethea died aged 93 in 2004.

Since all his sons died unmarried in his lifetime, his titles became extinct at his death. Earl Buxton was survived by his second wife Mildred (died 1955) and his youngest daughter Lady Althea Eliot (died 2004), and by eight grandchildren including the future Duke of Grafton (1919–2011).


  • Handbook to Political Questions of the Day (1880).
  • Mr. Gladstone's Irish Bills (1886).
  • Finance and Politics: An Historical Study, 1783–1885. Volume I and Volume II (1888).
  • Mr. Gladstone as Chancellor of the Exchequer (1901).
  • Fishing and Shooting (1902).
  • The Arguments on either side of the Fiscal Question (1903).
  • General Botha (1924).


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Earl 0f Buxton, 80, Is Dead In England. Liberal Was Member of Last Gladstone Government and Long in Parliament. Held South African Post. As Governor, Dealt With Revolt of Boers. Introduced Penny Post for United States". New York Times. 16 October 1934.
  2. ^ Profile,; accessed 8 April 2016.
  3. ^ "Clifton College Register" Muirhead, J.A.O. p19: Bristol; J.W Arrowsmith for Old Cliftonian Society; April, 1948
  4. ^ "Buxton, Sydney (BKSN872SC)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  5. ^ "No. 28830". The London Gazette. 12 May 1914. p. 3835.
  6. ^ "No. 32122". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 November 1920. pp. 10979–10980.
  7. ^ a b Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knighthood (107 ed.). Burke's Peerage & Gentry. p. 622. ISBN 0-9711966-2-1.

External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Hampden Whalley
John Wentworth-FitzWilliam
Member of Parliament for Peterborough
With: Hon. John Wentworth-FitzWilliam
Succeeded by
John Wentworth-FitzWilliam
Preceded by
Henry Green
Member of Parliament for Poplar
Succeeded by
Alfred Yeo
Political offices
Preceded by
Baron Henry de Worms
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by
The Earl of Selborne
Preceded by
Lord Stanley
Postmaster General
Succeeded by
Herbert Samuel
Preceded by
Winston Churchill
President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by
John Burns
Preceded by
The Viscount Gladstone
Governor-General of South Africa
Succeeded by
Prince Arthur of Connaught
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Earl Buxton
New creation Viscount Buxton