Edward St. John James Neale, CB, (1812-1866) was the Uncle of William Neale, Lydia's husband. He had an eventful life at the forefront of British diplomacy and trade expansion during the Victorian era and - though difficult to do adequate justice to his story in one page - it is worth briefly describing some highlights in the life of an extraordinary man.

 

Edward, the son of Daniel Neale and Elizabeth Buchanan, was born on 2 November, 1812, and christened on 6 May, 1813, at Fort St. George, Madras, India. At the age of 13, he left Madras - on 29, January, 1826 - aboard the 'Coldstream', bound for London, to continue his education in England - living with relatives at the Neale family London base in Sloane Street, Chelsea.

Upon completion of his studies, now aged 19, he joined the Liberation Army of Portugal, which was composed mainly of British troops fighting to restore the constitutional monarchy of Portugal. He was present in command of a Company in every action in which the British contingent in the service of Portugal were engaged during the campaigns of 1833 and 1834.

In July 1835, soon after the accomplishment of their aims in Portugal, many of the British transferred to the British Auxiliary Legion in Spain - Edward amongst them. He was appointed Aide de Camp to Brigadier-General Sir Charles Shaw who had fought at Waterloo, and had commanded a regiment in Portugal. The Legion took part in many actions, and Edward, as well as receiving the prestigious Royal Military Order of St. Ferdinand, was decorated by the Queen of Spain, for "gallantry in the attack on the enemy's lines in front of St. Sebastian, on the 5th of May, 1836".   He rose swiftly through the ranks, and on January 19, 1837 became a Lieut. Colonel. He was 24 years old.

 

The attack on the town of Irun, Spain, in which Edward took part

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In May 1837, Edward retired from the Legion, and was sent to Serbia, where he was attached to the Consulate-General for 2 years, taking sole charge of it for 8 months of that time. Having demonstrated his diplomatic skills in this way, he was made Vice-Consul of Alexandretta in Turkey in February 1841, and Consul of Varna in Bulgaria, in March 1847.

Edward was married in Brussels on 22 December, 1846 to Adelaide, the youngest daughter of the late Henry Sewell, previously a colleague of his father in the Madras Civil Service. The couple subsequently had 3 children, Adelaide Eliza, Henry St. John, and William Lowry Buchanan.

1853 saw the commencement of the Crimean War between Russia on the one hand, and Britain, France and Turkey on the other. During the first months of the war, Edward was attached to the Turkish Headquarters Staff, assessing the state and condition of the Turkish Army - then returned to Bulgaria. The National Register of Archives contains a considerable amount of correspondence between Edward and Stratford Canning (British Ambassador to Turkey) and Lord Raglan. The 36 letters exchanged with Lord Raglan were during 1854-5 when Raglan was commanding General of the British troops engaged in the Crimea War. Varna - where Edward was the senior British diplomatic representative - was the principal Royal Navy base for the campaign, and also Headquarters of the British Army, so he would have been at the very centre of activity, both military and political.
After the eventual Allied victory, Edward spent 2 more years in Bulgaria, before serving as Consul in Greece, and later in Bosnia.

On January 3, 1860, Edward was appointed to the prestigious position of Secretary (second-in-command) to the new British Legation to China. Originally, the Legation was based in Shanghai, and on August 18, 1860, the city was attacked by rebel forces during the Taiping Rebellion against the Chinese Government. The British and French troops then present in Shanghai were requested by the Chinese Government to assist in defending the city, and the Shanghai Volunteer Corps - a militia force composed of many nationalities - was placed under Edward's command, to defend the barricades erected at the end of every street in the huge International Settlement area of the city.

 Western powers had fought two wars against China in the preceding years, and as part of an 1858 settlement, China had agreed to allow Western Legations in the closed city of Peking. However, when the emissaries went there they were attacked, and some murdered - including the 2 British envoys, who were under a flag of truce. British forces accordingly marched on Peking, and burned the seat of Chinese Government, the vast (3.5km2 ) Old Summer Palace complex. It was in this atmosphere that on March 26, 1861, Edward entered Peking in the company of the British Minister, Frederick Bruce, their aides, and a detachment of Sikh cavalry, to set up the first British Legation in the city.
The Legation was to be housed in a Chinese nobleman's palace, and Edward's first task was to supervise 500 Chinese artisans in the refurbishment of the many buildings in the large palace compound.

(Note: This palace was to serve as the home of the British presence in Peking for almost 100 years. During the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 it became a stronghold in which around 900 foreign residents of many nationalities took shelter. Extended after the Rebellion, it was the largest foreign Embassy in China until it was closed in 1959, in favour of more modern accommodation in a new Diplomatic Quarter of the city. The Royal Coat of Arms which Edward had had his workmen construct was too large for the new Embassy, and was taken to Hong Kong - where it looked down on meetings of the Legislative Council in Government House for many decades.)

 

One of the hundreds of buildings in the Old Summer Palace complex

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having served for 2 years in China, Edward was chosen as Secretary to the British Legation to Japan. This Legation had been established for 3 years under an agreement with the ruling Shogun, but contact with foreigners had been opposed from the start by the Samurai class, members of which had attacked the Legation the previous year, killing 2 consular officials, and seriously wounding the then Secretary. The Legation had subsequently withdrawn from its base at the Tozenji Temple in Edo (now Tokyo) to the trading port of Yokohama - and the head of the Legation, Sir Rutherford Alcock, had set off for Europe with a Japanese delegation. This left Edward in charge of all British diplomatic activity in Japan for the next 2 years. One of Edward's early decisions was to return to Edo, and Edward arrived there with his staff in June 1862. No sooner had he settled in, than a Samurai assassin made an attempt on his life, getting all the way to his bedroom door and killing the 2 Marines on guard there before being beaten off. As it is the responsibility of a host nation to provide the primary protection for foreign diplomatic staff, the British were understandably furious with the Japanese Government, and demanded an indemnity of £10,000 for the attack.

 

The Tozenji Temple, Edo (now Tokyo), home of the British Legation, where an attempt was made on Edward's life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A good deal of the information about Edward's activities in Japan come from the released correspondence between the head of the American Legation, and Washington. Although the American President, Abraham Lincoln, was doubtless preoccupied with the Civil War raging in his country at the time, he would still have been very aware of Edward from the almost daily references to him in American communications. These despatches also detailed the cultural differences between the Japanese and their foreign guests. In Japan, the warrior occupied the top rank in society, whilst the merchant occupied the lowest. Foreign merchants - especially those of some substance - had considerable difficulty grasping this concept, and it led to clashes. On November 14, 1862, a British merchant called Richardson, was riding with 3 companions along a road on the outskirts of Yokohama, when they came across a procession coming the other way. It was Simadzu Saboolo, father of the Prince of Satsuma, a powerful warlord, with a 1,000 strong retinue, and the Richardson party moved to the side of the road in an attempt to pass. The Samurai guards were incensed that the merchants had not dismounted in respect, and attacked the party, killing Richardson, and seriously wounding 2 others. This incident, unbeknownst to the country's warlords, was the beginning of the end for their dominance in Japan.

Edward, and the rest of the foreign community, were incandescent with rage over the Richardson incident, and immediately lodged both complaints and demands with the Japanese Government. Amongst the demands Edward made on behalf of the British Government was an appropriate apology, and the payment of £100,000. Of the warlord, he demanded £25,000, and the execution of the culprits. The Japanese Government, for their part, agreed to these demands, but asked for time to pay the reparations, whilst the Prince of Satsuma refused to discuss the matter. Over the next few months, Edward continued to press the Japanese, until after a great deal of prevarication the Government paid. The warlord, however, continued to refuse. Eventually, having lost patience, Edward called for warships to be sent from China, and proceeded with them to Satsuma, where they bombarded the Prince's main stronghold of Kagoshima - leaving the town burning, and 3 of the warlord's ships sunk.

 

The British fleet, with Edward aboard the flagship, bombard Kagoshima

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although the Japanese had fired back, and inflicted some damage on the British fleet, this action convinced the Prince - one of the most powerful warlords in Japan - of the superiority of Western arms, and led to him embracing Western ways and technologies. He subsequently paid compensation for the Richardson murder, and undertook to punish the perpetrators. Although there was some discussion in Parliament about the severity of this punitive expedition, Edward was awarded a CB for pressing Britain's case and bringing the dispute to a successful conclusion.

 

A hand-coloured photograph, taken by Felice Beato, of the four Samurai envoys sent by the Prince of Satsuma to negotiate with Edward on payment of reparations for the Richardson murder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around the middle of 1864, Edward returned home, never to return. He was in poor health, which was doubtless contributed to by the strains and tensions of the preceding 2 years. After he left Japan, the chain of events he had helped set in motion with the attack on Kagoshima continued. Further warlords came into conflict with the Western powers, and were defeated, and by 1868 their grip on Japan had been broken. The Emperor, who for two centuries had been little more than a figurehead, was restored to power, and set about the modernisation of the country on Western lines, and with Western help. The Samurai culture and feudal system had been brought to an end.

Back in London for his first home-leave since his posting to Bosnia 7 years previously, Edward leased and furnished a house at 5, Prince's Square, Bayswater, and settled down to a period of rest and recuperation. However, after only a few weeks - on the 10th of August, 1864 - he was summoned to the Foreign Office and informed that his services were once again required in Japan, and that he should return at the end of the following month. He prepared to do so but his doctor intervened and forbade him to travel until his health had been restored.

On the 21st of April, 1865, presumably refreshed but still not strong, Edward was appointed to the relatively stress-free Legation in Athens for four months, before taking on the more arduous post of British Charge d'Affaires and Consul General to Ecuador. However, his return to duty was premature and he suffered a relapse, dying at the Legation House in Quito on the 11th of December, 1866, with his son Henry in attendance

His proposed burial in Quito generated enormous controversy. The diplomatic corps, members of the Ecuadorian Congress, and the entire army garrison of Quito made up the funeral cortege, which crossed the city through crowds of interested bystanders. No practising Protestant - as Edward was - had ever been buried in Ecuador throughout it's history, and as the cortege attempted to pass through a monastery to some Government owned land behind, the Papal Nuncio and Bishop of Quito, accompanied by monks, blocked its path. Chaos ensued, only resolved when the accompanying soldiers tore down a wall next to the monastery, and the cortege proceeded across a field to the burial site.

Thus Edward became the first non-Catholic ever to be buried in Ecuador. It was intended to be a temporary resting place until the body could be returned to England, but when the American Minister to Ecuador died eight months later Edward was still there and the American was laid next to him with much ceremony.