Saturday, 5 June 2021

Pottinger Memorial

Armorial Bearings of Sir Henry Pottinger at St George's Church, Belfast

St George's Church, High Street, Belfast, is directly opposite the Merchant Hotel.

Prior to checking out of the hotel in July, 2011, I paid this elegant Georgian church a visit.

Click to Enlarge

There is a memorial plaque on the wall to Lieutenant-General the Right Honourable SIR HENRY POTTINGER Bt GCB, the first Governor of Hong Kong.

The supporters in Sir Henry's coat-of-arms are a mandarin holding a scroll in his right hand; and a Scinde soldier.

Sir Henry was born on the 25th December, 1789, at the family residence of Mount Pottinger, County Down.

Henry and his two brothers attended Belfast Royal Academy in Academy Street, off Donegall Street, Belfast.

He left, however, at the age of thirteen, when Lord Castlereagh obtained for him a cadetship in the East India Company.

Henry Pottinger rapidly learned the principal languages of East Asia and gained a reputation as an exceptionally experienced soldier and traveller.

Consequently he was rapidly promoted and, in 1840, Lord Palmerston, then Foreign Secretary, appointed him Envoy and Plenipotentiary to the Emperor of China.

Following the Chinese defeat by British forces in the first opium war, Pottinger, in 1842, obliged the Emperor to sign the Treaty of Nanking, in which Hong Kong was ceded to the United Kingdom.

Pottinger became its first governor.

After serving in other colonial posts, Pottinger, his health declining, decided to return to the UK, but he died in Malta in 1856 and was buried in Valetta.

Despite his remarkable achievements, Pottinger was never really accepted by the establishment.

Despite being granted a baronetcy in 1839 (seemingly a hereditary peerage had been considered), his County Down accent was said to have been mocked by some aristocratic English politicians, and such financial rewards as he received were grudgingly conceded.

It was for this reason that, after his death, his brother William had a plaque erected in St George’s Church, Belfast, on which he bitterly lamented the ungracious treatment of Henry, which he attributed to “Hostile Influence” in governing circles.

The marble memorial in the church reads: 
"ON CONCLUDING HIS SUCCESSFUL TREATY WITH CHINA, IN THE YEAR 1842,
HE WAS DESTINED FOR THE PEERAGE
BY HER GRACIOUS MAJESTY QUEEN VICTORIA THE FIRST,
BUT LOST THIS HIGH DISTINCTION THROUGH THE SAME HOSTILE INFLUENCE
WHICH WAS EXERTED IN VAIN TO PREVENT PARLIAMENT REWARDING
HIS EMINENT SERVICES TO THE STATE."

2 comments :

madpierre said...

What ho Belmont!
How's the old head this morning old chap sounded like you were having a few G&T'S last night !

Timothy Belmont said...

Pierre, dear boy, the noble nut was sore when I stirred at 3.30 this morning; had a drink of their bottled water; went back to slumber; and awoke minus a sore head. Not that many Beefeaters! Or Tanquerays, for that matter; I mixed my drink. ;-)