He was the son of Henry, the 1st earl of Mulgrave (1755-1831) and great-grandson of Sir Constantine Henry Phipps (1656-1723). He studied at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, then sat for the family borough of carborough when he attained his majority. However after dissenting from the family politics, such as by speaking in favour of Catholic emancipation, he resigned his seat and lived in Italy for two years. On his return in 1822 he was elected for Higham Ferrers and made a considerable reputation by political pamphlets and by his speeches in the house. He was returned for Malton at the general election of 1826, becoming a supporter of Canning. He was already known as a writer of romantic tales, The English in Italy (1825); in the same year he made his appearance as a novelist with Matilda, and in 1828 he produced another novel, Yes and No.
He succeeded his father as earl of Mulgrave in 1831. He was sent out as governor of Jamaica and was afterwards appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1835--1839). He was created the first marquess of Normanby on June 25, 1838, and held successively the offices of colonial secretary and home secretary in the last years of Lord Melbourne’s ministry. While Secretary of State for the Colonies, he wrote a letter of instructions to William Hobson, in which the government's policy for the sovereignty of New Zealand was set out.
From 1846 to 1852 he was ambassador at Paris, and from 1854 to 1858 minister at Florence. The publication in 1857 of a journal kept in Paris during the stormy times of 1848 (A Year of Revolution), brought him into violent controversy with Louis Blanc, and be came into conflict with Lord Palmerston and Mr Gladstone, after his retirement from the public service, on questions of French and Italian policy. He died in London on July 28, 1863.
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