Edward Thornton, 1st Count of Cacilhas

British diplomat (1766–1852)

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The Count of Cacilhas

Sir Edward Thornton, c. 1799, by Gilbert Stuart
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of Portugal
In office
Preceded by Edward Michael Ward
Succeeded by Sir William à Court
In office
Preceded by Thomas Sydenham
Succeeded by Edward Michael Ward
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary at the Court of Stockholm
In office
Preceded by Diplomatic relations severed due to Sweden’s alliance with France
Succeeded by Viscount Strangford
In office
Preceded by Hon. Henry Pierrepont
Succeeded by Anthony Merry
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States
In office
Preceded by Sir Robert Liston
Succeeded by Anthony Merry
Personal details
Edward Thornton

(1766-10-22)22 October 1766
London, England

Died 3 July 1852(1852-07-03) (aged 85)
Plymouth, England
Spouse .mw-parser-output .marriage-line-margin2px{line-height:0;margin-bottom:-2px}.mw-parser-output .marriage-line-margin3px{line-height:0;margin-bottom:-3px}.mw-parser-output .marriage-display-ws{display:inline;white-space:nowrap}

Wilhelmina Kohp

(after 1812)​

Relations Thomas Thornton (brother)
Children 7
Education Christ’s Hospital
Alma mater Pembroke College, Cambridge
Occupation Diplomat

Sir Edward Thornton, 1st Count of Cacilhas, GCB, PC, FRS (22 October 1766 – 3 July 1852) was a British diplomat, and father of fellow diplomat, Sir Edward Thornton.

Early life[edit]

He was born in London, the third of three sons and two daughters, of William Thornton (1738–1769), and Dorothy (née Thompson) Thornton (d. 1769). His father, who was originally from Hull, East Yorkshire, established himself in London as a prosperous innkeeper and Freeman of the City of London.[1] His mother, as later described by Sir Edward, was “a countrywoman… a native of the… East Riding, of a very respectable family”. Dorothy died three months after the birth of a daughter, and eight months later, William was suddenly taken ill and died soon after, leaving their children orphaned.[2]

Among his siblings was the merchant Thomas Thornton. Being left in the care of a family friend, using his guardian’s connections Thornton was educated at Christ’s Hospital and at Pembroke College, Cambridge.[3]


He became British vice-consul in Maryland in June 1793 and then served as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States from 1800 to 1804.[3] After holding various diplomatic posts in Hamburg and the Hanse Towns, he was then posted to Sweden as Minister-Plenipotentiary in December 1807 with the objective of forming an alliance against Napoleon, returning to England in November 1808. In October 1811 he went again to Sweden (until 1817) on a special mission in HMS Victory and he successfully negotiated treaties of alliance with both Sweden and Russia, both called the Treaty of Örebro. This was the first stage in the creation of an alliance of Northern European States against Napoleon. He negotiated the Treaty of Kiel for the United Kingdom and was present with the prince royal of Sweden (Jean Baptiste Bernadotte) when the allies entered Paris in 1815.[4][5]

He became a member of the Privy council in 1816. He was appointed minister to Portugal in July 1817 and joined the Portuguese court in Brazil. He was ambassador to Portugal from April 1819 to March 1821, when he returned to England. He returned again to Portugal as an ambassador from August 1823 to August 1824 during which time he invested the King of Portugal with the Order of the Garter and assisted the King during the insurrection. The title of Count of Cacilhas in the Portuguese nobility was conferred on Thornton and his heirs, for three generations,[6] by the King of Portugal.[7][8][9]

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in June 1810,[10] appointed GCB in 1822 and retired in August 1824.[3]

Personal life[edit]

In 1812, Thornton married Magdalena Wilhelmina Amalia Kohp of Hanover, a daughter of Joannes Michael Kopf and Caecilia (née Roth) Kohp. Together, they had one daughter and six sons, including:

In retirement he lived in Wembury House, Plymouth, Devon, where he died in 1852. His wife predeceased him, at Wembury, in January 1832.[3]

Honours and legacy[edit]

In 1902, his alma mater, Christ’s Hospital, named one of its boarding houses after him.[3]


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  1. ^ .mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit;word-wrap:break-word}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:”””””””‘””‘”}.mw-parser-output .citation:target{background-color:rgba(0,127,255,0.133)}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-free.id-lock-free a{background:url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/65/Lock-green.svg”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-free a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited.id-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration.id-lock-registration a{background:url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d6/Lock-gray-alt-2.svg”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited a,body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription.id-lock-subscription a{background:url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/aa/Lock-red-alt-2.svg”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4c/Wikisource-logo.svg”)right 0.1em center/12px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:none;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;color:#d33}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{color:#d33}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#2C882D;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right{padding-right:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .citation .mw-selflink{font-weight:inherit}html.skin-theme-clientpref-night .mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{color:#18911F}html.skin-theme-clientpref-night .mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error,html.skin-theme-clientpref-night .mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{color:#f8a397}@media(prefers-color-scheme:dark){html.skin-theme-clientpref-os .mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error,html.skin-theme-clientpref-os .mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{color:#f8a397}html.skin-theme-clientpref-os .mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{color:#18911F}}Sousa, Jose Baptista de (22 February 2018). Holland House and Portugal, 17931840: English Whiggery and the Constitutional Cause in Iberia. Anthem Press. p. 146. ISBN 978-1-78308-758-7. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  2. ^ William Thomas Thornton’s family, ancestry, and early years: Some Findings from recently discovered manuscripts and letters, Mark Donoghue, in History of Political Economy, vol. 40, issue 3, 2008 pp. 516-517
  3. ^ a b c d e Harris, C. A. (2004). “Thornton, Sir Edward, count of Cassilhas in the Portuguese nobility (1766–1852), diplomatist”. In Matthew, H. C. G. (ed.). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/27353. Retrieved 28 July 2023. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ A. N. Ryan, editor, The Saumarez papers, Publications of the Navy Records Society, vol. 110, p. 6 (1968).
  5. ^ Thornton, entry in Nordisk familjebok, vol. 28, 1177-1178 (1919)
  6. ^ Cunha, Vicente de Bragança (1911). Eight Centuries of Portuguese Monarchy: A Political Study. S. Swift. p. 129. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  7. ^ Edward Thornton, Oxford Biography Index entry.
  8. ^ Burke’s Great War Peerage, Burke’s Peerage and Gentry (UK) Ltd, 2008 [a reprint of A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Peerage and Baronetage, 76th edition, ed. Ashworth P. Burke, Harrison & Sons, 1914], p. 2112
  9. ^ William Thomas Thornton’s family, ancestry, and early years: Some Findings from recently discovered manuscripts and letters, Mark Donoghue, in History of Political Economy, vol. 40, issue 3, 2008 pp. 516-517
  10. ^ “Library and Archive Catalogue”. Royal Society. Retrieved 25 October 2010.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ The Titled Nobility of Europe: An International Peerage, Or “Who’s Who”, of the Sovereigns, Princes and Nobles of Europe. Harrison & Sons. 1914. p. 458. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  12. ^ “Obituary”. Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Review. F. Jefferies: 218. 1841. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  13. ^ Venn, John; Venn, John Archibald (15 September 2011). Alumni Cantabrigienses: A Biographical List of All Known Students, Graduates and Holders of Office at the University of Cambridge, from the Earliest Times to 1900. Cambridge University Press. p. 177. ISBN 978-1-108-03616-0. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  14. ^ Webb, Diana; Webb, Tony (26 December 2019). The Anglo-Florentines: The British in Tuscany, 1814-1860. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 980. ISBN 978-1-350-13602-1. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  15. ^ Browning, Elizabeth Barrett (2002). The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Her Sister Arabella. Wedgestone Press. p. 621. ISBN 978-0-911459-29-6. Retrieved 28 July 2023.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by

Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
to the Court of Portugal

Succeeded by

Preceded by

Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
to the Court of Portugal

Succeeded by