Richard Lyons, 1st Viscount Lyons
Historical Figure
Nationality: United Kingdom
Date of Birth: 1817
Date of Death: 1887
Cause of Death: Stroke
Religion: Anglicanism (had begun conversion to Catholicism, but died before completion)
Occupation: Ambassador, Politician
Fictional Appearances:
The Guns of the South
POD: January 17, 1864
Type of Appearance: Direct
Southern Victory
POD: September 10, 1862
Appearance(s): American Front
Type of Appearance: Direct POV (one scene)
Occupation: Ambassador

Richard Bickerton Pemell Lyons, 1st Viscount Lyons, GCB, GCMG, PC, DCL (6 April 1817 - 5 December 1887) was an eminent British diplomat. From 1858 through 1865, Lyons was the British envoy to the United States, and thus observed the American Civil War. During the War, Lyons called upon to safeguard British interests on more than one occasion. Most famously, Lyons helped diffuse the Trent Affair in 1861, which very nearly saw the United States and the United Kingdom at war.

Lyons returned home in 1865. In 1867, he began a 20 year term as envoy to France, which included the tumultuous time of the Franco-Prussian War. Mere weeks after Lyons retired, he died of a stroke, while in the process of preparing to convert to Catholicism.

Lord Lyons in The Guns of the South[]

Lord Lyons received a visit from the victorious Confederate General Robert E. Lee after Lee took Washington City in 1864. Lee informed Lyons of the Confederacy's victory.

Lyons gave voice to Lee's private worries by invoking the unavoidable issue of slavery. He then asked Lee the pointed question: What sort of nation would the Confederate States be? After a minute of thought, Lee replied he couldn't fully say at the moment but it would be one of their own choosing. Lyons accepted this as a good answer.

Lord Lyons in Southern Victory[]

Lord Lyons was the British ambassador to the United States during the War of Secession.

After Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia destroyed George McClellan's Union Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Camp Hill in 1862, then moved on to take Philadelphia, Lord Lyons was ordered by Prime Minister Lord Palmerston to demand on pain of war that US President Abraham Lincoln extend diplomatic recognition to the Confederate States and accept Earl Russell's offer of mediation to end the War of Secession. Lyons did so reluctantly, as he was deeply opposed to slavery. Lincoln, who scarcely attempted to conceal his bitterness from Lyons, asked if a proclamation abolishing the practice, which he was drafting, would dissuade Britain from this course. Lyons told him it would seem too desperate, and Lincoln proceeded to criticise the British aristocracy, saying they felt "A slaveocracy is better'n no 'ocracy at all." Lyons was hurt by this suspicion of his personal motives, as he was himself opposed to slavery. However, duty bound to carry out his government's instructions, he continued to insist that Lincoln comply with Palmerston's ultimatum.[1]

Lyons predicted that the US and CS would one day take their place in the world as "sturdy brothers" and that Lincoln would be remembered as a great statesman for recognising the need to comply with London's demands. History would prove him wrong on both counts. Lincoln countered by predicting that the US would develop alliances with European states and would one day win a victory over not only the CS but Britain and France, which was also supporting the CS. Lyons laughed in his face; the idea of a European power capable of facing both Britain and France seemed absurd. However, already in the same decade Germany was united and emerged as a major new European power; by siding with the Confederacy in the Second Mexican War, Britain and France would drive the US into Germany's arms; and 55 years later, it would be Lincoln's prediction that came to pass with the formation of the Central Powers and their victory in the Great War.

Lincoln remembered Lord Lyons as the last man to whom he had pleaded, until his 1882 meeting with the Republican intelligentsia.[2]


  1. American Front, pgs. 4-9, HC.
  2. How Few Remain, p. 368, HC.