1902 Encyclopedia > Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin

Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin
Scottish soldier, diplomat and art connoisseur

THOMAS BRUCE, SEVENTH EARL OF ELGIN (1766-1841), was born July 20, 1766, and succeeded his brother in the Scotch earldoms of Elgin and Kincardine when only seven years of age. He was educated at Harrow and West-minster, and, after studying for some time at the university of St Andrews, he proceeded to the Continent, where he prosecuted the study of international law at Paris, and of military science in Germany. When his education was completed he entered the army, in which he rose to the rank of general. His chief attention was, however, devoted to diplomacy. In 1792 he was appointed envoy at Brussels, and in 1795 envoy extraordinary at Berlin; and from 1799 to 1802 he was envoy extraordinary at the Porte. It was during his stay at Constantinople that he formed the purpose of removing from Athens the celebrated sculptures now known as the Elgin Marbles. His doing so was censured by some as vandalism, and doubts were also expressed as to the artistic value of many of the marbles; but he completely vindicated himself in a pamphlet published in 1810, and entitled Memorandum on the Subject of the Earl of Elgin's Pursuits in Greece. In 1816 the collection was purchased by the nation for £36,000, and placed in the British Museum, the outlay incurred by Lord Elgin having been more than £50,000. Lord Elgin was a Scotch representative peer for fifty years. He died at Paris, November 14, 1841.

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