Born at Thirlestane Castle in the Borders, Francis Napier entered the Diplomatic Service and held several important postings, including the ambassadorship to St Petersburg and subsequently Berlin. In these posts Napier established a great reputation, and was highly regarded by both the Russian Emperor and the King of Prussia. In 1866, the date of this portrait, Napier was appointed Governor of Madras. From the beginning Napier took a great interest in developing public works, such as irrigation. He also famously corresponded with Florence Nightingale and her ideas helped form his plans for improvement of public health in India. In 1872 he temporarily assumed the duties of Viceroy of India, but he was ultimately passed over for the post and returned to Scotland for an active retirement.