Quin, Windham Thomas Wyndham- (1841–1926), 4th earl of Dunraven , politician and sportsman, was born 12 February 1841 at Adare, Co. Limerick, son of Edwin Richard Windham Wyndham-Quin (qv) (1812–71), 3rd earl of Dunraven, and his wife Augusta (née Goold; d. 1866), daughter of Thomas Goold (qv). His parents’ marriage was disrupted by his father's conversion to catholicism, while his mother remained determinedly protestant. Wishing to secure his heir's conversion, the 3rd earl sent the boy to Rome to be educated by tutors, forbidding him any communication with his mother. Lord Adare (as he was known till he inherited the earldom) acquired an abiding religious scepticism, though he remained a nominal member of the Church of Ireland; he believed his father penalised him financially for refusing to convert.
After further education by a tutor in Paris, he entered Christ Church, Oxford, in 1858. His university career was undistinguished. After graduating in 1861, he joined the first life guards; he witnessed the 1867 Fenian rising in Limerick and was aide-de-camp to the lord lieutenant in 1868. In 1867 he observed the Anglo–Abyssinian war as correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, and in 1870–71 he reported the Franco–Prussian war from the German side for the same newspaper; he was the only person present at Versailles for both the proclamation of Wilhelm I as emperor of Germany in 1871 and the signing of the peace treaty in 1919. In 1867–9 Adare participated in the seances conducted by the celebrated medium Daniel Dunglas Home; his account, Experiences with D. D. Home in spiritualism (1869), is regarded as a spiritualist classic, though Adare did not maintain this interest. On 29 April 1869 he married Florence Elizabeth (1841–1916), second daughter of Lord Charles Lennox Kerr; they had three daughters. On his father's death (6 October 1871) he inherited the family titles and estates.
From 1871 for sixteen consecutive years Dunraven undertook annual hunting trips in the western United States and Canada; his guides included Buffalo Bill Cody. He was one of the first explorers of Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming, and described his experiences on one such expedition in The great divide: travels in the Upper Yellowstone in the summer of 1874 (1876). Dunraven Road, Peak, Lake, and Pass in Yellowstone National Park are all named after him. He acquired (by such means as forged applications and using ‘men of straw’ to secure government land grants) a 15,000 acre Colorado hunting preserve, Estes Park. Conflict with homesteaders over water rights and an influx of tourists meant that he never visited it after 1884, though he retained ownership of it into the early twentieth century; it became Rocky Mountain National Park in 1915. Dunraven thus acquired a villainous image in western lore.
Yachting was one of Dunraven's principal pastimes. In 1893 and 1895 he raced for the America's Cup in purpose-built yachts, Valkyrie II and Valkyrie III. The second contest ended acrimoniously when Dunraven publicly accused the New York yacht club of bias in the keeping of the course; the club expelled him.
Dunraven initially followed his father into the Liberal Party but soon fell under Disraeli's influence. He was fiercely pro-Turkish during the ‘Bulgarian atrocities’ campaign of 1877–8. In 1881 he founded the Fair Trade League. He argued that Britain should avoid European involvement and consolidate the empire through a protectionist ‘imperial Zollverein’. He was Lord Randolph Churchill's closest ally and produced ‘tory democrat’ manifestos urging conservatives to use ‘the protective power of the state’ to help the poor. Dunraven was under-secretary of state for the colonies in 1885–6 and 1886–7. His ministerial career ended when he resigned in sympathy with Churchill (who stepped down as chancellor of the exchequer after quarrelling with the government). The two men subsequently ran a joint stable of racehorses; Winston Churchill commented that ‘their partnership was more notable at Newmarket than Westminster’. Dunraven was an intimate associate of Lady Randolph Churchill.
Dunraven's state paternalism defined the national community by excluding such groups as Jewish immigrants. In 1886 he founded the Society for the Suppression of the Immigration of Destitute Aliens, succeeded in 1891 by the Association for the Prevention of the Immigration of Destitute Aliens. The house of lords commission on sweated labour, which he organised and chaired, 1888–90, had anti-Semitic undertones (though it also helped to establish a ministry of labour). Dunraven represented Wandsworth on the London county council from 1895 to 1900. He fought in the South African war as a captain in the city of London imperial light yeomanry, was invalided out with dysentery, and received the queen's medal with two clasps; he served as lieutenant colonel in the London imperial yeomanry, 1901–4.
The Dunravens’ principal income derived from coal mines in Glamorgan (acquired by marriage in the early nineteenth century). Dunraven served on Glamorganshire county council, 1899–1902, and was president of the South Wales Tariff Reform League from 1903. The wealth provided by their Welsh mining interests allowed the Dunravens to develop Adare as a model village, acquiring a reputation as benevolent landlords. Dunraven spent more time at Adare than his predecessors: he encouraged local industries, sponsored tobacco-growing, and built a cigarette factory (accidentally burnt down in 1916); he sought to improve Irish fisheries through creating hatcheries, ran a racehorse stud at Adare, and founded Adare Manor golf club. He represented Croom on Limerick county council 1899–1905, chairing the council's finance committee.
During the 1880s Dunraven was associated with the group of landlords, led by his brother-in-law Arthur Smith-Barry (qv), who underwrote resistance to land agitation. In the 1890s he and many of these associates agitated jointly with nationalists against alleged over-taxation of Ireland. In 1902–3 he took a leading role (encouraged by the chief secretary George Wyndham (qv)) in negotiations between landlord and tenant representatives leading to the 1903 Wyndham Land Act.
Dunraven came to believe that negotiation between moderate nationalists and unionists could solve the Irish question through devolution, with a federal settlement as the long-term objective. This accorded with his own lasting belief in imperial federation. He founded the Irish Reform Association (26 August 1904), centred on fifteen to twenty moderate landlords who had engineered the land conference that resolved the land question. He prepared a scheme of devolution, assisted by the under-secretary, Sir Antony MacDonnell (qv), which enraged Ulster unionists, and led to Wyndham's resignation as chief secretary in 1905. Dunraven pursued settlement by consent through the All-for-Ireland League founded by William O'Brien (qv), the principal advocate of conciliation on the nationalist side; Redmondites called him a Svengali manipulating O'Brien. The Dunraven–O'Brien alliance was strained by Dunraven's 1915 advocacy of conscription, but the two men remained friends.
On the outbreak of war Dunraven bought a steam yacht and equipped it as a hospital transport ship; he commanded it in the English channel and the Mediterranean, and was awarded an OBE for his service. He was nominated to the Irish Convention in 1917–18, and worked with southern unionists for a compromise with Redmondism. He seconded ratification of the Anglo–Irish treaty in the house of lords, and became a member of the first Free State senate, though he was inactive due to age and ill health. He died 14 June 1926 at his home, 22 Norfolk Street, Park Lane, London.
Dunraven's historical reputation in Ireland is generally positive owing to his crucial involvement in the land conference and his pursuit of compromise with moderate nationalists. His paternalism, however, was underwritten by grubby dealings elsewhere and his visionary projects often succumbed to self-centred petulance (fuelled by gout). Horace Plunkett (qv), chronically hostile to Dunraven because of their rivalry over Daisy, Lady Fingall (qv), provides a shrewd assessment. ‘He really loves Ireland in his own way; but he loves himself more.’
The estate papers of the Dunraven family are at the University of Limerick. There is some correspondence between Dunraven and Lord Randolph Churchill in the Randolph Churchill papers at Churchill College, Cambridge. Letters from Dunraven to William O'Brien are in the William O'Brien papers, NLI.