- Alec Douglas-Home
The Right Honourable
The Lord Home of the Hirsel
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom In office
18 October 1963 – 16 October 1964
Monarch Elizabeth II Preceded by Harold Macmillan Succeeded by Harold Wilson Leader of the Opposition In office
16 October 1964 – 28 July 1965
Monarch Elizabeth II Prime Minister Harold Wilson Preceded by Harold Wilson Succeeded by Edward Heath Foreign Secretary In office
20 June 1970 – 4 March 1974
Prime Minister Edward Heath Preceded by Michael Stewart Succeeded by James Callaghan In office
27 July 1960 – 18 October 1963
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan Preceded by Selwyn Lloyd Succeeded by Rab Butler Lord President of the Council In office
14 October 1959 – 27 July 1960
Preceded by The Viscount Hailsham Succeeded by The Viscount Hailsham In office
29 March 1957 – 17 September 1957
Preceded by The Marquess of Salisbury Succeeded by The Viscount Hailsham Leader of the House of Lords In office
29 March 1957 – 27 July 1960
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan Preceded by The Marquess of Salisbury Succeeded by The Viscount Hailsham Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations In office
7 April 1955 – 27 July 1960
Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden
Preceded by The Earl of Swinton Succeeded by Duncan Sandys Personal details Born 2 July 1903
Mayfair, Westminster, England
Died 9 October 1995(aged 92)
The Hirsel, Coldstream, Berwickshire, Scotland
Nationality British Political party Conservative (SUP) Spouse(s) Elizabeth Douglas-Home Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford Profession Member of Parliament Religion Scottish Episcopal Church
Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel, KT, PC (surname pronunciation; dug-ləss-hyoom; 2 July 1903 – 9 October 1995), known as The Earl of Home from 1951 to 1963 and as Sir Alec Douglas-Home from 1963 to 1974, was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from October 1963 to October 1964.
He is the last member of the House of Lords to be appointed Prime Minister. In order to become Prime Minister, he chose to disclaim his peerage and contest a by-election to enter the House of Commons. He is also the only Prime Minister to have played first class cricket. He was the first Prime Minister since Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman (1836–1908) not born during the reign of Queen Victoria.
Early life and family
Douglas-Home was born in Mayfair, Westminster, England, the eldest of seven children born to Charles, Lord Dunglass, (the oldest son of the 12th Earl of Home) and Lady Lilian Lambton, daughter of Frederick Lambton, 4th Earl of Durham. His mother was the great-great-granddaughter of the reforming Prime Minister Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey. After his father's succession to the Earldom in 1918 he held the courtesy title Lord Dunglass. One of his brothers was the dramatist William Douglas-Home.
Douglas-Home was educated at Ludgrove School, followed by Eton College and Christ Church at the University of Oxford, where he graduated with a Third Class Honours BA degree in Modern History in 1925 and later proceeded MA. He was President of Vincent's Club in 1926. At Eton, his contemporaries included Cyril Connolly, who later described him as "a votary of the esoteric Eton religion, the kind of graceful, tolerant, sleepy boy who is showered with all the laurels, who is liked by the masters and admired by the boys without any apparent exertion on his part". Connolly famously concluded, "in the eighteenth century he would have become Prime Minister before he was 30: as it was he appeared honourably ineligible for the struggle of life".
Life and career
Douglas-Home was a talented cricketer at school, club and county level, and is the only British prime minister to have played first-class cricket. Amongst other clubs, he represented the MCC, Middlesex CCC and Oxford University Cricket Club at first-class level, playing under the name "Lord Dunglass", his title at the time. Between 1924 and 1927, Douglas-Home played 10 first-class matches, scoring 147 runs at an average of 16.33 and with a best score of 37 not out. As a right-arm fast-medium bowler he took 12 wickets at an average of 30.25 with a best of 3 for 43. Three of his first-class games were internationals against Argentina on the MCC 'representative' tour of South America in 1926–27.
Member of Parliament
Douglas-Home became the Scottish Unionist Party Member of Parliament (MP) for Lanark in 1931. His high birth gave him a head start in Parliament, and he served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Neville Chamberlain from 1937 to 1939, witnessing first-hand the latter's attempts to stave off World War II through negotiation with Adolf Hitler. Douglas-Home fell gravely ill with spinal tuberculosis in 1938, which kept him immobile on his back for two years and prevented him from taking an active part in World War II.
Home lost his parliamentary seat in the Conservatives' landslide defeat in the 1945 general election, but regained it in 1950. He was automatically disqualified from the Commons in 1951, and stepped down as MP, when he inherited his father's seat in the House of Lords, becoming the 14th Earl of Home.
Lord Home, as he then was, served not only as Commonwealth Secretary from 1955 during the time of the Suez Crisis but, from 1957, also as Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council (the latter twice; briefly in 1957 and subsequently from 1959). Home traded all three for the Foreign Office in 1960. In 1962, he was created a knight of the Order of the Thistle, the highest Scottish honour and in the personal gift of the Monarch, which entitled him to be styled "Sir" after later disclaiming his earldom.
Appointment as Prime Minister
On 18 October 1963, Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan suddenly resigned following prostate trouble from which he feared he would not recover (though ultimately he lived another 23 years). Macmillan was also facing a serious political crisis over the Profumo Affair, when his Secretary of State for War Sir John Profumo had had to resign shortly before, over allegations of patronizing the prostitute Christine Keeler who had Soviet naval attache / spy Yevgeny Ivanov as another client.
At the time, the Conservative Party had no formal procedure for selecting a leader, merely a series of informal soundings among MPs and senior party figures. Queen Elizabeth II was expected to choose a new Prime Minister on the basis of advice given her by the party's elder statesmen.
Douglas-Home did not originally seek the office of Prime Minister, being apparently quite content to serve in the House of Lords and hold the office of Foreign Secretary. Home was put forth by Macmillan as a compromise candidate and was persuaded to enter the race. Though Rab Butler, effectively the "Deputy Prime Minister" (officially no such constitutional office then existed, with the title on its rare usages being an honorary one), was the favourite among Conservative MPs, Home was preferred by the elder statesmen, some of whom indicated that they would refuse to serve in Cabinet under Butler or the other potential candidate, Quintin Hogg. Macmillan was apparently determined not to allow Butler to succeed him.
Macmillan's resignation took place at the time of the 1963 Conservative Party Conference, which became something akin to an United States presidential nominating convention, as various candidates and their supporters competed publicly for the position. Following a series of consultations to determine who could command support from across the party and prove the best compromise candidate, Macmillan advised Queen Elizabeth II. Although it was argued that he had no right to advise the Queen as to whom to invite to kiss hands as Prime Minister, and the Queen was under no obligation to accept his advice, the Queen duly invited the Earl of Home to become Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury. The Queen first invited Home to Buckingham Palace for a meeting and granted him 24 hours to determine whether he could successfully form an administration. Home determined that he could do so.
Douglas-Home believed it would not be practical to serve as Prime Minister from the Lords. It was widely believed that Lord Curzon had not been invited to become prime minister in 1923 because of his seat in the Lords. Using the Peerage Act 1963, which had only been passed earlier in the same year after Tony Benn's campaign to disclaim his peerage, Home disclaimed his Earldom and other peerages on 23 October 1963. For the next two weeks he belonged to neither House of Parliament, a very unusual occurrence for a sitting Prime Minister. As "Sir Alec Douglas-Home", he contested and won a by-election in the safe seat of Kinross & West Perthshire.
Defeat and opposition
Linked as it was to the damaged former government's Profumo Affair of 1963, Douglas-Home's tenure as prime minister lasted only one year. The October 1964 general election was won by the Labour Party under the new leadership of Harold Wilson. The margin of victory proved narrow and the election thus provided a much sterner test for Wilson than expected. Indeed it was in this campaign that Home made his most famous remark. Wilson kept telling Douglas-Home that he was not a man of the people, as he was the 14th Earl of Home. Douglas-Home responded, "as far as the 14th Earl is concerned I suppose that Mr. Wilson, when you come to think of it, is the 14th Mr. Wilson".
Home remained leader of the party until his resignation in July of the following year. At this time, Douglas-Home himself revised the rules of the Conservative Party to allow the party leader to be selected by a series of ballots of all Conservative MPs. The resulting leadership election was won by Edward Heath, who defeated Reginald Maudling and Enoch Powell. Over the following six years, Douglas-Home was notably loyal to Heath, comparing those who questioned his position with impatient gardeners who would keep digging up a tree to gauge its progress by examining its roots.
Return to government
In 1970, Heath became prime minister, and Douglas-Home returned to the post of Foreign Secretary. As of 2011[update], he is the last former Prime Minister to take a Ministry in someone else's Cabinet.
In 1973, Douglas-Home announced his intention to retire from Parliament and government at the next general election but was overtaken by the calling of a snap general election in February 1974. Following the defeat of the Heath government by Harold Wilson in 1974, Douglas-Home retired from front-line politics and stood down from the Commons at the October 1974 election.
In the Scottish devolution referendum, 1979, Douglas-Home made a high profile statement arguing that an incoming Conservative Government would introduce a better Scottish Assembly. In fact, Margaret Thatcher's government introduced no Assembly at all for Scotland, instead repealing the legislation that resulted from the referendum.
Douglas-Home was restored to the House of Lords when he accepted a life peerage, becoming known as Baron Home of the Hirsel, of Coldstream in the County of Berwick. The Hirsel was his family seat in Berwickshire, and he continued to appear in the House of Lords into his nineties. As of 2009[update], Douglas-Home ranks as the third-longest-lived British Prime Minister, behind James Callaghan and Harold Macmillan. His autobiography, The Way The Wind Blows, was published in 1976. He was also the author of Peaceful Change (1964) and Border Reflections (1979). His correspondence with his grandson Matthew Darby was published as Letters to a Grandson in 1983.
He was succeeded as Earl of Home by his only son, David Douglas-Home. He also had three daughters, Lady Caroline Douglas-Home DL, Lady Meriel Darby (who married Adrian Darby OBE) and Lady Diana Wolfe Murray (who married James Wolfe Murray).
A plot to kidnap Home in April 1964 was foiled by the Prime Minister himself. Two left-wing students from the University of Aberdeen planned to kidnap him. Home met the two students in public and gave them £1 for a charity in return for not kidnapping him, which he took as a joke. The students followed his car, intending to force it to crash or block it, and then kidnap the Prime Minister. They lost their nerve and instead went to the house of John and Priscilla Buchan, where Home was staying. He was alone at the time and answered the door, where the students told him that they planned to kidnap him. Home responded, "I suppose you realise if you do, the Conservatives will win the election by 200 or 300." After packing several things, he offered the kidnappers some beer, which they accepted. Home eventually convinced them to abandon their plot.
Home never publicly spoke of the kidnapping because he did not want to ruin the career of his bodyguard but told the story in 1977 to the former Lord Chancellor Quintin Hogg, who recorded it in his diaries.
Titles from birth to death
- The Hon. Alec Douglas-Home (1903–1918)
- Lord Dunglass (1918–1931, 1945–1950)
- Lord Dunglass, MP (1931–1945, 1950–1951)
- The Rt Hon. Lord Dunglass, MP (1951)
- The Rt Hon. The Earl of Home, PC (1951–1962)
- The Rt Hon. The Earl of Home, KT, PC (1962–1963)
- The Rt Hon. Sir Alec Douglas-Home, KT (1963, 1974)
- The Rt Hon. Sir Alec Douglas-Home, KT, MP (1963–1974)
- The Rt Hon. The Lord Home of the Hirsel, KT, PC (1974–1995)
Douglas-Home was constantly referred to as 'Baillie Vass' by the satirical magazine Private Eye. This running joke began in 1964 when a provincial newspaper, the Aberdeen Evening Express accidentally used a picture of Douglas-Home over a caption referring to a baillie called Vass. Private Eye then affected to believe that Douglas-Home was an impostor whom the newspaper had unmasked, and the magazine maintained this conceit until his death.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home's Government, October 1963 – October 1964
- Sir Alec Douglas-Home: Prime Minister
- Lord Dilhorne: Lord Chancellor
- Quintin Hogg: Lord President of the Council
- Selwyn Lloyd: Lord Privy Seal
- Reginald Maudling: Chancellor of the Exchequer
- Rab Butler: Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
- Henry Brooke: Secretary of State for the Home Department
- Sir Keith Joseph: Minister of Housing and Local Government
- Peter Thorneycroft: Secretary of State for Defence
- Julian Amery: Minister of Civil Aviation
- Ernest Marples: Minister of Transport
- Frederick Erroll: Minister of Power
- Edward Heath: Secretary of State for Industry, Trade, and Regional Development and President of the Board of Trade
- Duncan Sandys: Secretary of State for the Colonies and Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations
- Sir Edward Boyle: Minister of Education
- Anthony Barber: Secretary of State for Health
- John Boyd-Carpenter: Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster-General
- Joseph Godber: Minister of Labour
- Geoffrey Rippon: Minister of Public Works
- Christopher Soames: Minister of Agriculture
- Michael Noble: Secretary of State for Scotland
- Lord Blakenham: Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
- Bill Deedes: Minister without Portfolio
- Lord Carrington: Minister without Portfolio, Leader of the House of Lords
- April 1964: Quintin Hogg became Secretary of State for Education and Science. Sir Edward Boyle left the Cabinet
Alec Douglas-Home shares a common ancestor (Charles Grey, 1st Earl Grey) with a previous Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Anthony Eden. Charles Grey is Alec's great-great-great-grandfather and Anthony's great-great-grandfather; this makes the two Prime Ministers 3rd cousins once removed.
Ancestors of Alec Douglas-Home 32. Rev. Alexander Home, 9th Earl of Home 16. Alexander Home, 10th Earl of Home 33. Abigail Brown Ramey 8. Cospatrick Douglas-Home, 11th Earl of Home 34. Henry Scott, 3rd Duke of Buccleuch (= #36) 17. Lady Elizabeth Montagu-Scott 35. Lady Elizabeth Montagu (= #37) 4. Charles Douglas-Home, 12th Earl of Home 36. Henry Scott, 3rd Duke of Buccleuch (= #34) 18. Henry James Montagu-Scott, 2nd Baron Montagu of Boughton 37. Lady Elizabeth Montagu (= #35) 9. Hon. Lucy Elizabeth Montagu-Scott 38. Archibald James Edward Douglas, 1st Baron Douglas of Douglas 19. Hon. Jane Margaret Douglas 39. Lady Lucy Graham 2. Charles Douglas-Home, 13th Earl of Home 40. Charles Grey, 1st Earl Grey (= #100, #116) 20. Lt.-Col. Hon. William Grey 41. Elizabeth Grey 10. Cpt. Charles Conrad Grey 42. Gen. William Shirreff 21. Maria Shirreff 43. 5. Maria Grey 44. 22. Maj. Turner Macan 45. 11. Caroline Nesbit Macan 46. 23. 47. 1. Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home 48. William Henry Lambton 24. John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham 49. Lady Anne Barbara Frances Villiers 12. George Lambton, 2nd Earl of Durham 50. Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (= #58) 25. Lady Louisa Elizabeth Grey 51. Hon. Mary Elizabeth Ponsonby (= #59) 6. Frederick Lambton, 4th Earl of Durham 52. James Hamilton, Viscount Hamilton 26. James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Abercorn 53. Lady Georgina Gordon 13. Lady Beatrix Frances Hamilton 54. John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford 27. Lady Louisa Russell 55. Lady Georgina Gordon 3. Lady Lillian Lambton 56. John Bulteel 28. John Crocker Bulteel 57. Elizabeth Perring 14. John Bulteel 58. Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (= #50) 29. Lady Elizabeth Grey 59. Hon. Mary Elizabeth Ponsonby (= #51) 7. Beatrix Bulteel 60. 30. Lt.-Col. unknown Parsons 61. 15. Euphemia Emily Parsons 62. 31. 63.
- ^ Family name pronounced // hyoom
- ^ Connolly, Cyril (1938). Enemies of Promise.
- ^ "1986: Harold Macmillan dies". BBC News. 29 December 1986. http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/december/29/newsid_2547000/2547307.stm.
- ^ a b The Tarnished Crown, by Anthony Holden, London 1993, Viking Publishers, ISBN 0-670-84624-4, p. 209
- ^ Royal: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, by Robert Lacey, Little, Brown publishers, London 2002, ISBN 0-316-85940-0, pp. 215–216
- ^ The Tarnished Crown, by Anthony Holden, London 1993, Viking Publishers, ISBN 0-670-84624-4, p. 211
- ^ "Twenty-fifth Bilderberg meeting held". Facts on File World News Digest. 14 May 1977. "Alec Douglas-Home, the former prime minister of Great Britain, chaired the conference, replacing Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, who had previously headed the Bilderberg invitation committee. (Prince Bernhard had resigned all public positions after the 1976 Lockheed scandal)"
- ^ London Gazette (24 December 1974) Issue 46441 pp 1–2
- ^ 
- ^ 
- ^ "Born". Time. 20 March 1964. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,940393,00.html. Retrieved 4 August 2008. "To Diana Wolfe-Murray, 23, youngest daughter of Britain's Prime Minister; and James Archibald Wolfe-Murray, 27, executive of Glasgow's James Buchanan Ltd., makers of Black & White Scotch: their first child, a daughter (and first grandchild for 60-year-old Sir Alec); in London"
- ^ "BBC Today Programme". 14 April 2008. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/reports/misc/hailsham_20080414.shtml. Retrieved 2008.
- ^ Andrew Pierce (14 April 2008). "How Alec Douglas-Home foiled student kidnappers with beer". London: Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1585069/How-Alec-Douglas-Home-foiled-student-kidnappers-with-beer.html. "A bungled plot by Left-wing students to kidnap Alec Douglas-Home, the Conservative prime minister, has been revealed for the first time in the coded diaries of Lord Hailsham, the former Lord Chancellor"
- Dickie, J. (1964) The Uncommon Commoner: A Study of Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Pall Mall.
- Douglas-Home, Alec, Sir (1964) Peaceful Change
- Dutton, D. (2006) Alec Douglas-Home (20 British Prime Ministers of the 20th Century), Haus Publishing
- Home of the Hirsel, Lord (1976) The Way the Wind Blows: An Autobiography, London: Collins
- Home of the Hirsel, Lord (1979) Border Reflections, London: Collins
- Home of the Hirsel, Lord (1983) Letters to a Grandson, London: HarperCollins.
- Hughes, E. (1964) Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Housman
- Thorpe, D.R. (1996) Alec Douglas-Home, Sinclair-Stevenson
- Young, K. (1971) Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Fairleigh Dickinson
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Alec Douglas-Home
- Lord Dunglass (Alec Douglas-Home) CricketArchive
- Lord Dunglass (Alec Douglas-Home) Cricinfo
- Sir Alec Douglas-Home profile on the 10 Downing Street website
- Prime Ministers in the Post-War world: Alec Douglas-Home, lecture by D. R. Thorpe at Gresham College, 24 May 2007 (available for download as an audio or video file)
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