Claude Maxwell MacDonald

Colonel The Right Honourable
Sir Claude Maxwell MacDonald

Sir Claude MacDonald, c. 1900
Personal details
Born 12 June 1852
Morar, Gwalior India
Died 10 September 1915 (aged 63)
London, England, UK
Spouse(s) Ethel Armstrong MacDonald (m. 1892–1915; his death)
Parents James Dawson and Mary Ellen Macdonald
Education Royal Military College, Sandhurst
Occupation Soldier, diplomat

Colonel Sir Claude Maxwell MacDonald, GCMG, GCVO, KCB, PC (12 June 1852 – 10 September 1915) was a British soldier and diplomat, best known for his service in China and Japan.[1]

Early life

MacDonald was born to a high-ranking officer in the British Army,[2] and was educated at Uppingham School and Sandhurst. He was commissioned into the 74th Foot in 1872. He thought of himself as a 'soldier-outsider', as regards the Foreign Office.


MacDonald’s early career was in Africa. He served in the 1882 Anglo-Egyptian War, and served as military attaché to Sir Evelyn Baring from 1884–85. From 1887–89 he was consul-general at Zanzibar, and then served some years as consul-general at Brass in the West African Oil Rivers Protectorate,[3] where in 1895 he was an observer of the rebellion of King Koko of Nembe.[4] He retired from the British Army in 1896.[2]

China and Korea

In 1896, MacDonald was appointed British minister to Qing Dynasty Empire of China. He was simultaneously the British Minister to the Empire of Korea in 1896 through 1898.[5]

MacDonald caricatured by Spy for Vanity Fair, 1901

In China, MacDonald obtained a lease at Weihaiwei, and obtained railway contracts for British syndicates. He was instrumental in securing the Second Peking Convention, by which China leased to Britain the New Territories of Hong Kong.[3] MacDonald secured a 99-year lease only because he thought 'it was good as forever'.[6] This and the contrasting lease-in-perpetuity of Kowloon created some problems in the negotiations for the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.

The Macartney-Macdonald Line

In 1899 MacDonald was the author of a Diplomatic Note which proposed a new demarcation of the border between China and British India in the Karakoram and Kashmir, now known as the Macartney-MacDonald Line, which still forms the basis of the border between China and Pakistan.[7]

As a military man, MacDonald led the defence of the foreign legations in 1900 which were under siege during the Boxer Rebellion, and he worked well with the Anglophile Japanese Colonel Shiba Goro.


MacDonald was appointed Consul-General for the Empire of Japan in October 1900.[8] He presided over the Tokyo Legation in years of harmony between Britain and Japan (1900 to 1912), swapping posts with Sir Ernest Satow who replaced him as Minister in Peking. On 30 January 1902, the first Anglo-Japanese Alliance was signed in London between the Foreign Secretary Lord Lansdowne and Hayashi Tadasu, the Japanese Minister.

MacDonald's grave in Brookwood Cemetery

MacDonald was still in Tokyo when the alliance was renewed in 1905 and 1911. He became Britain's first ambassador to Japan when the status of the legation was raised to an embassy in 1905. The first British Ambassador to Japan was appointed in 1905. Before 1905, the senior British diplomat had different titles: (a) Consul-General and Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, which is a rank just below Ambassador. MacDonald was made a Privy Councillor in 1906. [9] He died in London of heart failure in 1915.[10] He is buried with his wife in Brookwood Cemetery.

Ethel, Lady MacDonald

In 1892, Claude Maxwell MacDonald wed Ethel (1857–1941), daughter of Major W. Cairns Armstrong; they remained married until his death in 1915. Named to the RRC and a Member of the Executive Committee of the Overseas Nursing Association, Lady MacDonald was named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in her own right in 1935.[11]

Selected works

In a statistical overview derived from writings by and about MacDonald, OCLC/WorldCat encompasses roughly 10+ works in 20+ publications in 2 languages and 300+ library holdings.[12]

This is a dynamic list and may never be able to satisfy particular standards for completeness. You can help by expanding it with reliably sourced entries.


See also


  1. Nish, Ian. (2004). British Envoys in Japan 1859–1972, pp. 94–102.
  2. 1 2 Kowner, Historical Dictionary of the Russo-Japanese War, p. 214.
  3. 1 2 Dictionary of National Biography
  4. Sir W. Geary, Nigeria under British Rule (1927), pp. 194–96
  5. Korean Mission to the Conference on the Limitation of Armament, Washington, D.C., 1921–22. (1922). Korea's Appeal p. 32., p. 32, at Google Books
  6. Preston, Diana. The Boxer Rebellion. Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2000, ISBN 0802713610, pg. 370.
  7. Mohan Guruswamy, Mohan, "The Great India-China Game",, 23 June 2003.
  8. The London Gazette: no. 27263. p. 81. 4 January 1901. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  9. The London Gazette: no. 27978, page 8967: 21 December 1906
  10. Diana Preston, page 333, "A Brief History of the Boxer Rebellion", ISBN 1-84119-490-5
  11. Edith, Lady MacDonald, named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire,; accessed 5 March 2016.
  12. WorldCat Identities Archived 30 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine.: Profile: Sir Claude Maxwell MacDonald (1852–1915)
  13. MacDonald, Claude M. (1900). Reports from Her Majesty's minister in China respecting events at Peking: Presented to both houses of Parliament by command of Her Majesty, December 1900. Volume 364 of Cd. (Great Britain. Parliament). H.M. Stationery Office. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  14. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 27337. p. 4915. 24 July 1901.


External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Claude Maxwell MacDonald.
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
William Nelthorpe Beauclerk
as Chargé d'affaires
British Minister to China
Succeeded by
Sir Ernest Satow
Preceded by
Sir Nicholas O'Conor
British Minister to Korea
Succeeded by
John Jordan
as Chargé d'affaires
Preceded by
Sir Ernest Satow
British Minister to Japan
Succeeded by
as Ambassador to Japan
Preceded by
as Minister to Japan
British Ambassador to Japan
Succeeded by
Sir Conyngham Greene
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/26/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.