HARRIS, James (1746-1820), of Salisbury, Wilts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



20 Nov. 1770 - 1774
1780 - 19 Sept. 1788

Family and Education

b. 21 Apr. 1746, o. surv. s. of James Harris. educ. Salisbury Cathedral sch.; Winchester 1757-62; Merton, Oxf. 1763; Leyden; Grand Tour (France, Holland, Prussia, Poland) 1766-8.  m. 28 July 1777 Harriet Maria, da. of Sir George Amyand, 1st Bt., 3s. 2da.  K.B. 24 Feb. 1779; suc. fa. 22 Dec. 1780; cr. Baron Malmesbury 19 Sept. 1788; Earl of Malmesbury 29 Dec. 1800.

Offices Held

Sec. of embassy in Spain 1768-71, chargé d’affaires 1769-71, minister 1771-2; envoy to Prussia 1772-6; ambassador to Russia 1776-83; P.C. 3 Sept. 1784; envoy to Holland 1784-8, ambassador 1788-9; on special mission to Prussia and Holland 1793-4; on mission to Brunswick to negotiate the marriage of the Prince of Wales 1794-5; ambassador to France to negotiate peace 1796-7.


James Harris was the foremost diplomat of his age, and his membership of the House of Commons during most of this period was purely nominal. He was appointed to his first diplomatic post by Lord Shelburne in 1768, at the request of his father, who, though in opposition, was on friendly terms with Shelburne.1 As chargé d’affaires at Madrid he won a great reputation by his handling of the Falkland Islands crisis. In 1770 he had been returned at Christchurch on the interest of his father’s cousin, Edward Hooper, but it is doubtful whether he ever took his seat in his first Parliament.

He was not a candidate in 1774, but in 1780 was returned again while absent in St. Petersburg. He came home in September 1783, and the next few months seem to have been the only time when he attended the House of Commons. He was a follower of Fox; but such was his standing as a diplomat that he was appointed by Pitt to the critical post at The Hague. On being raised to the rank of ambassador in 1788 he was created a peer.

He died 21 Nov. 1820.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Jas. Harris sen. to Shelburne, 9 June 1768, and Ld. Hyde to Shelburne, 7 Sept. 1768, Lansdowne mss.