Thomas Leverton Donaldson was an anti-gothicist who was the first Secretary of the Institute (RIBA) and, at the time of Scott’s election, was its Secretary for Foreign Correspondence. He considered himself to be the founder of the Institute and on a table of precedence, which he drew up, placed himself at the top. He was Professor of Architecture at University College, London, between 1841 and 1864, and later the Dean of the College. He had produced some half-hearted attempts at Gothic Revival buildings but he was in reality a classical scholar, with his literary efforts far outweighing the number of buildings that he produced. He came into conflict with Scott over the designs for the Foreign Office and particularly with Scott’s correspondence published in The Times, which nearly saw Scott’s gold medal being withdrawn. As Scott said:
Professor Donaldson was so irate at my letter in The Times, which he considered to reflect on English architects in general, that he proposed moving the Institute to reverse the recommendation of their council to award me the annual Royal Medal of the Institute, & was only dissuaded from attempting to inflict that gratuitous dishonour upon me by strong remonstrances.
Donaldson’s motion is not even mentioned in the minutes of the RIBA meeting, but his second thoughts, and that is probably all they were, about awarding the medal to Scott badly upset the ultra-sensitive Scott. Donaldson, as the upholder of professionalism, must have been concerned over Scott’s disparaging remarks about other living architects. Scott later discovered that Donaldson was ‘Lord Palmerstons private backer up with architectural lore!’ Donaldson had carried out work for Palmerston at Broadlands, his country house in Hampshire in 1854, and in 1859 he dedicated his book, Architecture Numismatica, to Palmerston, ‘the enlightened advocate of classical architecture’. So it is somewhat surprising if Scott was unaware of Donaldson’s connections with Palmerston, as he obviously knew him well, and may have obtained work through him at St. Albans. As he said, Donaldson ‘had been my introducer to the Institute and to the Graphic Society and had for many years acted in a very friendly way to me’. He felt badly betrayed to discover that the person whom he thought was his friend was actually helping Palmerston to oppose his Foreign Office design. Donaldson thereafter remained hostile to Scott.