William and Georgina Cowper-Temple were significant figures in nineteenth-century Britain. William Cowper-Temple, later Lord Mount Temple, was private secretary to one Prime Minister, his uncle Lord Melbourne, and junior minister in the government of his stepfather and probable natural father, Lord Palmerston. He was also groom in waiting to the young Queen Victoria. Through his positions in the Board of Health and the Board of Works, he sought to improve the nation's health and rebuild London. Before his retirement from a long career in the Commons, he famously amended the Education Act in 1870. Cowper-Temple's charismatic wife, Georgina, was also champion of diverse social and moral reforms, and friend to an array of notable Victorian figures. Georgina was John Ruskin's 'Egeria' and 'Isola Bella', his confidante and maternal figure during his tragic relationship with Rose la Touche. Georgina's friends also included the writer George MacDonald, the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Mrs Oscar Wilde - to whom she was an adored 'Motherling'. Admired by other prominent Victorians from Robert Browning to Frances Power Cobbe, she supported causes from antivivisectionism and female sanitary reform to teetotalism and vegetarianism. In the first full-length biography of this distinguished couple, James Gregory explores the Cowper-Temples' varied roles within the Whig-Liberal establishment, philanthropy and social reform. Inspired by evangelicalism, spiritualism and mysticism, the Cowper-Temples were pioneers of Christian ecumenicalism - and sought to modernise the Church, address dire sanitary conditions, advance female education, elevate taste and improve the treatment of animals. This is a fascinating insight into the private lives of two aristocrats who, in partnership, were dedicated to using their powers of influence within ministerial office, family connections and social networks to alleviate the problems of a society in transition.
Reformers, Patrons and Philanthropists
The Cowper-temples and High Politics in Victorian England