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William Henry Waddington

William Henry Waddington (December 11, 1826 - January 13, 1894) was a French statesman.

He was born at St Remi-sur-l'Avre (Eure-et-Loir), the son of a wealthy Englishman who had established a large spinning factory in France and had been naturalized as a French subject. After receiving his early education in Paris, he was sent to Rugby School, and then to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was second classic and chancellor's medallist, and rowed in the victorious Cambridge eight in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. Returning to France, he devoted himself for some years to archaeological research. He travelled in Asia Minor, Greece and Syria, and his experiences and discoveries were recorded in two Mémoires, crowned by the Institute, and in his Mélanges de numismatique et de philologie (1861). Except for his essay on "The Protestant Church in France," published in 1856 in Cambridge Essays, his remaining works are archaeological. They include the Pastes de I'empire romain, and editions of Diocletian's edict and of Philippe Lebas's Voyage archeologique (1868-1877). He was elected in 1865 a member of the Academic des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres.

After standing unsuccessfully for the départment of the Aisne in 1865 and 1860, Waddington was returned by the constituency at the election of 1871. He was minister of public instruction in the short-lived cabinet of May 19 1873, and in 1876, having been elected senator for the Aisne, he was again entrusted by Dufaure with the ministry of public instruction, with which, as a Protestant, he was not permitted to combine the ministry of public worship. His most important project, a bill transferring the conferment of degrees to the state, was passed by the Chamber, but thrown out by the Senate. He continued to hold office under Jules Simon, with whom he was overthrown on the famous seize mai (16 May, 1877). The triumph of the republicans at the general election brought him back to power in the following December as minister of foreign affairs under Dufaure. He was one of the French plenipotentiaries at the Berlin Congress. The cession of Cyprus to Great Britain was at first denounced by the French newspapers as a great blow to his diplomacy, but he obtained, in a conversation with Lord Salisbury, a promise that Great Britain in return would allow France a free hand in Tunis.

Early in 1879 Waddington succeeded Dufaure as prime minister. Holding office by sufferance of Léon Gambetta, he kept peace between the radicals and the reactionaries till the delay of urgent reforms lost him the support of all parties. He was forced on December 27 to retire from office. He refused an offer to become ambassador in London, and in 1880 was reporter of the committee on the adoption of the scrutin de liste at elections, on which he delivered an adverse judgment. In 1883 he accepted the London embassy, which he continued to hold till 1893, showing an exceptional tenacity in defence of his country's interests. His wife, the American Mary A King, wrote her recollections of their diplomatic experiences--Letters of a Diplomatist's Wife, 1883-1900 (New York, 1903), and Italian Letters.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

Preceded by:
Jules Dufaure
Prime Minister of France
Followed by:
Charles de Freycinet