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Known as Lord Lincoln until he inherited the dukedom in 1851, Henry was educated at Eton and then Oxford. Almost immediately after completing his degree in 1832, the young earl embarked upon a career in politics, becoming M.P. for South Nottinghamshire (1832-1846) and later for the Falkirk Burghs (1846-1851).
Public office quickly followed. In 1834 Lincoln was made a Lord of the Treasury. It was to be a short-lived appointment, but it marked the first in a long line of public offices. He became First Commissioner of Woods and Forests, Chief Secretary for Ireland and Secretary of State for War and the Colonies at various dates between 1841 and 1864. Of particular note was his resignation from the War Office in 1855 in the wake of disastrous actions in the Crimea. Immediately following his resignation he departed on a tour of the Crimea, wishing to see the situation there for himself.
The 5th Duke was a political ally and friend of numerous leading politicians and statesmen. He had a lasting bond with Sir Robert Peel, and was extremely close to William Gladstone, his contemporary at Oxford. Indeed, he encouraged his father, the 4th Duke, to give Gladstone his first parliamentary seat - for the borough of Newark, Nottinghamshire. This was evidence of his political influence operating at a local as well as at a national level, where he has come to be regarded as one of the most effective colonial secretaries of the 19th century.
Newcastle's personal life was unfortunately rife with unhappiness. His marriage was fraught with difficulties and ended in divorce in 1850. His relationship with his father was strained, particularly in later life as the political beliefs of father and son became increasingly divergent, as were his relationships with most of his children.
In 1832 he married Lady Susan Hamilton Douglas (1814-1889), only daughter of the 10th Duke of Hamilton and they had five children:
- Henry Pelham Alexander, later 6th Duke (1834-1879)
- Edward William (1836-1907)
- Arthur (1840-1870) officer in Royal Navy and M.P. for Newark
- Albert Sidney (1845-1884)
- Susan Charlotte Catherine (d 1875) married 1860 Lord Adolphus Vane Tempest
Their marriage was not a success and they were divorced in 1850 after a considerable scandal as his wife, who was considered by some to be mentally unstable, eloped and had an illegitimate child (Horatio Walpole) by Lord Horatio Walpole (later 4th Earl of Oxford). She later remarried in 1860 M. Jean Alexis Opdebeck of Brussels.
- The 5th Duke's papers are part of the Newcastle (Clumber) Collection held in the Department of Manuscripts and Special Collection and include extensive political, estate and personal correspondence.
- Details of collections held elsewhere are available through the National Register of Archives
- Martineau, John, The Life of Henry Pelham, Fifth Duke of Newcastle 1811-1864 (London, 1908)
- Munsell, F. Darrell, The Unfortunate Duke: Henry Pelham, 5th Duke of Newcastle (Columbia, Mo., 1985)
- Surtees, V., A Beckford Inheritance, The Lady Lincoln Scandal (Salisbury, 1977)
- Eldridge, Colin C., The Colonial Policy of the 5th Duke of Newcastle 1859-1864 Nottingham University Thesis, 1966)