The son of the 3rd Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl, he succeeded as 4th Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl in the Peerage of Ireland and 2nd Baron Kenry in the Peerage of the United Kingdom on the death of his father in 1871.
Dunraven was educated at Christ Church, Oxford. After serving some time as a lieutenant in the 1st Life Guards, a cavalry regiment, he became, at age 26, a war correspondent for the London newspaper The Daily Telegraph and covered the Abyssinian War. In this capacity, he shared a tent with Henry Stanley of the New York Herald.
Dunraven then became a special correspondent for a “big London daily” during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870–71. He reported the Siege of Paris, saw the Third Carlist War and war in Turkey, and probably the Russo-Turkish War. Dunraven witnessed both the signing of the Treaty of Versailles which ended the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, and later the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.