Spring-Rice Collection

Scope and Content

The bulk of the collection, some 300 items, comprises correspondence of Rt Hon. Thomas Spring-Rice (1790-1866), 1st Baron Monteagle of Brandon, and his two sons, Stephen (1814-1865) and Charles (1819-1870). His sons served in the Board of Customs and the Foreign Office respectively. The letters are varied in content and, in addition to the information they contain about the family itself, provide many valuable comments on political and economic events at home and abroad, and on the troubles in Ireland in the 1840s. Among the letters is a lengthy epistle from Macaulay to Monteagle, written in August 1834 from India, dealing with party politics and parliamentary affairs.

A further 200 letters were exchanged between Monteagle's grandsons, Cecil and Stephen Spring-Rice, and the latter's wife Julia, 1873-1902.

The collection also contains over 400 letters, papers, newspaper cuttings and photographs relating to Julia's father, Sir Peter Fitzgerald (1808-1880), 19th Knight of Kerry, and fifty letters of his son Sir Maurice (1844-1916), 20th Knight. The material dates mainly from the 1870s and 1880s, when Sir Maurice was equerry to Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught. Among the correspondents are Prince Arthur, William Gladstone, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, Dean of Westminster, and Lord Lansdowne. The papers provide useful insights into court and society life, and contemporary political events.

There is also material relating to the Marshall family, to whom the Spring-Rice family were related by Lord Monteagle's second marriage.

Administrative / Biographical History

Two members of the Spring-Rice family were particularly prominent in nineteenth-century public life. The Rt Hon. Thomas Spring-Rice (1790-1866), 1st Baron Monteagle of Brandon, was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1835 to 1839 and Comptroller General from 1839 to 1865, and Sir Cecil Arthur Spring-Rice (1858-1918) was an important diplomat in the early twentieth century.

Thomas Spring-Rice was an active liberal politician in the first half of the nineteenth century. He represented Limerick as MP from 1820 to 1832 and Cambridge from 1832 to 1839, when he was raised to the peerage. A consistent whig, he was knowledgeable about Irish affairs and in the early part of his career a popular member of the House of Commons. He served as Secretary to the Treasury during Lord Grey's administration, 1830-1834, and as Secretary of State for War in Lord Melbourne's first administration. In 1835 he failed to be elected Speaker of the House of Commons, but he did join Melbourne's new government as Chancellor of the Exchequer, serving from 1835 to 1839. His tenure of this office saw him lose some of his earlier popularity, due to a series of budget deficits. In 1839, he was ennobled, and although he served as Comptroller-General from 1839 to 1865, his political career was effectively over. He died in 1866.

Thomas Spring-Rice married twice: firstly to Theodosia Perry, daughter of the Earl of Limerick, with whom he had eight children, and who died in 1839; and secondly, to Marianne Marshall in 1841. His eldest son, Stephen (1814-1865), predeceased him, and he was succeeded by his grandson, Thomas Spring-Rice.

Source: Ellis Archer Wasson, 'Rice, Thomas Spring, first Baron Monteagle of Brandon (1790-1866)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press - http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/26179.

Sir Cecil Arthur Spring-Rice (1858-1918) was the second son of the Hon. Charles Spring-Rice, Monteagle's second son. He entered the Foreign Office in 1882, serving in various capacities in Washington, Berlin, Constantinople, Teheran and St Petersburg, before becoming ambassador to Sweden in 1908, and to the United States of America in 1913. His skilful handling of affairs in the United States during the First World War won him much praise, especially after the Americans entered the War on the Allied side in 1917. In 1904 Spring-Rice married Florence Lascelles (daughter of Sir Frank Lascelles), with whom he had one son and one daughter. He was also an amateur poet and the author of the hymn 'I vow to thee my country'. He died shortly after relinquishing the ambassadorship to Washington on 14 February 1918.

Source: H.C.G. Matthew, 'Rice, Sir Cecil Arthur Spring- (1859-1918)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -' http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/36224.

Access Information

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The bulk of the collection was donated to the John Rylands Library between February and June 1957 by Mrs Charles Booth (née Spring-Rice) of Ulverscroft, Leicestershire. Eng MS 1285 was given by Mrs Booth in December 1962. Eng MS 1286 numbers 1-10 were purchased by the Library from Winifred A. Myers (Autographs) Ltd in 1958 (Catalogue 1, Spring 1958, item 304).


Description compiled by Jo Klett, project archivist, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography articles on Thomas Spring-Rice, Cecil Arthur Spring-Rice and Sir Peter Fitzgerald.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1952-1970 (English MSS 1187-1190, 1284-1286).

Separated Material

The papers of Thomas Spring-Rice, 1st Baron Monteagle, are widely dispersed. Some remain in private ownership. Among the papers in public repositories, the most significant holdings are:

  • British Library, Manuscript Collections: correspondence with Charles Babbage, 1835-47 (ref.: Add MSS 37189-201 passim); correspondence with W.E. Gladstone, 1852-65 (ref.: Add MSS 44372-406  passim); correspondence with Lord Holland, 1833-44 (ref.: Add MS 51573); letters to Macvey Napier, 1830-46 (ref.: Add MSS 34614-25 passim); correspondence with Sir Robert Peel, 1818-49 (ref.: Add MSS 40275-602 passim);
  • National Library of Ireland: correspondence and papers, 1810-66 (ref.: MSS 532-73, 11140, 13345-413);
  • National Library of Scotland, Manuscript Collections: miscellaneous correspondence, 1815-66 (ref.: MS 2225).

Papers of Stephen Spring-Rice may also be found at:

  • Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives: letters from Edward FitzGerald, 1843-64 (ref.: Add.7750);
  • University of York, Borthwick Institute for Archives: miscellaneous family correspondence, 1836-62 (ref.: MIRFIELD).

Papers of Sir Cecil Spring-Rice may also be found at:

  • Cambridge University, Churchill Archives Centre: diplomatic and personal correspondence and papers, 1874-1918 (ref.: CASR);
  • The National Archives: miscellaneous correspondence, 1903-18 (ref.: FO 800/241-2).

Many papers relating to the Fitzgerald family, Knights of Kerry, remain in private ownership. Others may be found at: 

  • Public Record Office of Northern Ireland: the FitzGerald (Knights of Kerry) Papers (refs: MIC/639 and T/3075);
  • National Library of Ireland: deeds and papers, 18th-19th centuries.