Layard, Sir Austen Henry, 1817-1894, Knight politician, diplomat and archaeologist

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Layard, Sir Austen Henry, 1817-1894, Knight politician, diplomat and archaeologist

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1817 - 1894


Sir Austen Henry Layard was an archaeologist, politician, and diplomat. Beginning in 1845, Layard worked on excavations at Nimrud and Nineveh. His early experiences in the Middle East, and especially Constantinople, shaped his attitude towards the Ottoman Empire and subsequent diplomatic career: Layard's belief that Britain could encourage administrative reform in the Ottoman Empire through energetic diplomacy and capital investment and that Turkey should receive greater support from Britain as a bulwark against Russian influence in the region often brought him into conflict with prevailing government policy. His commitment to the cause of administrative reform in Turkey also led him to establish the Ottoman Bank, of which he remained Chairman until 1861. He briefly held the post as under-secretary of foreign affairs in early 1852.

During the Crimean War, Layard led an extra-parliamentary campaign targeted at family and party influence in government, and helped establish the Administrative Reform Association. In October 1869, Layard was appointed ambassador to Madrid. He and his wife Lady Enid Layard showed sympathy for Spanish Liberals during the Third Carlist War and participated in the escape Francisco Serrano from Madrid in 1873. In March 1877, Layard was appointed Ambassador to Constantinople and, throughout the Russo-Turkish War [1877-78] urged a more aggressively anti-Russian policy. Layard was awarded the GCB in 1878 but was recalled from Constantinople following the return to power of WE Gladstone amidst pessimism about the prospects for reform. Despite his hopes for another diplomatic post, an appointment was not forthcoming and the Layards retired to their home in Venice, Ca Capello. Sir Austen Henry Layard died in July, 1894.

Lady Enid Layard, christened Mary Enid Evelyn Guest, was born on 1st July 1843 at Dowlais House, Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales. She was the third daughter and eighth child of ten born to the industrialist Sir Josiah John Guest, owner of the Dowlais Ironworks, and his wife Lady Charlotte Elizabeth Bertie, only daughter of Albemarle, 9th Earl of Lindsey. In early 1869 when she was aged twenty-five, Enid's older cousin Henry Layard, then aged fifty-one, proposed to her, and they were married on 9th March of the same year. Despite the difference in age, the marriage proved to be a happy one. Lady Layard survived him and died in 1912.


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