Robert Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon (1897 - 1977) MP

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Nicknames: "a.k.a Sir Anthony Eden"
Birthplace: Bishop Auckland, Durham, England
Death: Died in Alvediston, Salisbury,Wiltshire, England
Occupation: 1st Earl of Avon / Prime Minister of Great Britain / 1st Viscount Eden / Awarded Military Cross, Prime Minister
Managed by: Ric Dickinson
Last Updated:

About Robert Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon

Robert Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon, KG, MC, PC (12 June 1897 – 14 January 1977) was a British Conservative politician, who was Prime Minister from 1955 to 1957. He was also Foreign Secretary for three periods between 1935 and 1955, including during the Second World War. Eden's worldwide reputation as an opponent of appeasement, a 'Man of Peace', and a skilled diplomat was overshadowed in the second year of his premiership by his handling of the Suez Crisis of 1956, which critics across party lines regarded as an historic setback for British foreign policy, signalling the end of British predominance in the Middle East. In the post-war years, Eden was a protagonist of the change in British policy on war criminal trials, which was perhaps best symbolised by his signature under the pardon conceded to the German Field Marshal Albert Kesselring on 24 October 1952. He is generally ranked among the least successful British Prime Ministers of the twentieth century, although two broadly sympathetic biographies (in 1986 and 2003) have gone some way to redressing the balance of opinion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Eden -------------------- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Eden

There has been credible speculation for many years that Eden's father was the politician and man of letters George Wyndham, whom he resembled in appearance and speech, and with whom his mother was rumoured to have had an affair.

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Robert Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon's Timeline

1897
June 12, 1897
Bishop Auckland, Durham, England
1897
Durham - Robert Anthony Eden
1923
1923
Age 25
1924
1924
Age 26
1930
1930
Age 32
1952
1952
Age 54
1977
January 14, 1977
Age 79
Alvediston, Salisbury,Wiltshire, England

<Archive obituary>

The Times January 15, 1977

THE EARL OF AVON

A brilliant foreign secretary whose premiership ended prematurely

The Earl of Avon, KG, PC, MC, who, as Sir Anthony Eden was Prime
Minister from April 1955 to January 1957 died yesterday at the age of
79.

His long, distinguished, and seemingly serene political career was
extinguished in a violent storm of hostile criticism. It had been one
of his cares to insulate foreign policy as much as possible from the
rancour of partisan politics. So successful was he in this that he was
regarded with unusual trust and respect by his opponents in Parliament
and in other lands. Yet his policies in the Middle East in October and
November 1956, provoked the most bitter public controversy of recent
years. Neither his health nor his reputation survived it. He resigned
from office a very sick man with, it was generally thought, his policy
in ruins. The noise of his sudden and precipitous fall obscured for a
time the high services he had long rendered to the nation and to the
cause of world peace. But when the dust has settled they will stand
out as clearly as before.

As a young man, first in charge of League of Nations affairs and then
from December 1935, as Foreign Secretary, he became for many a symbol
of firm and upright principle against an inglorious international
background. To one man, Sir Winston Churchill, "there seemed one
strong young figure standing up against long dismal drawling tides of
drift and surrender, of wrong measurements and feeble impulses." And
when the news of Eden's resignation in 1938 came to him, "I must
confess that my heart sank and the dark waters of despair overwhelmed
me." During the war, for most of which Eden was Foreign Secretary
again, and much of his work was overshadowed by the unfolding of
strategy and he himself by the giant personality of his Prime
Minister. After 1945 he practice of constructive opposition helped to
ensure the continuity and strength of British policy. Then, in his
third term at the Foreign Office his diplomatic experience and flair
were deployed to the full. His annus mirabilis was 1954. The year
brought a solution to the Trieste problem, and end to the fighting in
Indo-China, and consolidation of western European defence after its
disruption had been threatened by the French rejection of the European
Defence Community. In these three achievements Eden diplomacy, now
patient, now swift to action, was paramount.

When at long last he succeeded Sir Winston Churchill in the spring of
1955 the stage seemed to be set for another still more honoured act of
his career. He had the rare success to which his personal popularity
was no small contribution, to increase the Government's representation
at the general election in May. Yet 20 months later he was not only
out of office but out of politics.

His weakness as Prime Minister flowed in part from the same qualities
which had made him a good - indeed a great - Foreign Secretary. He had
the power to become absorbed in a subject, to worry away at it to the
exclusion of everything else until he had brought some reason out of
chaos. From his first days as a minister, when in 1934 he was made
rapporteur in the dispute between Yugoslavia and Hungary which
followed the assassination of King Alexander, he brought this capacity
for hard work and concentration into play on many occasions. There
seemed to be almost a sense of relief in Eden's mind when Nasser's
seizure of the canal presented him with another familiar challenge.
But his personal involvement in the Suez affair led him to be less
than frank with his colleagues, with his allies, and with the public
than a Prime Minister should be if he wishes to retain their trust,
let alone - and this was something Eden always cared deeply about -
their affection.

The Rt Hon Sir Robert Anthony Eden, KG, PC, MC, Earl of Avon and
Viscount Edenm born on June 12, 1897, came of old North Country stock,
with a history of public service on both sides. His father, Sir
William Eden, was a quick tempered eccentric, who combined devotion to
hunting and shooting with a passion for the French Impressionists. His
mother, a daughter of Sir William Grey, was renowned for her beauty.
To one parent Anthony Eden owed a love of pictures, to the other good
looks.

He was educated at Eton, which he left in 1915, at the age of 18, to
join the King's Royal Rifle Corps. Serving on the Western Front, he
was promoted captain, was awarded the MC, and when the war ended was
acting as brigade-major. In 1919 he entered Christ Church, Oxford,
where he read oriental languages under Margoliouth and Dewhurst and
took a first class in Arabic and Persian.

In 1923 he married Miss Beatrice Beckett, daughter of Sir Gervase
Beckett. There were two sons of the marriage.

Eden first stood for Parliament in 1922, when he unsuccessfully
contested the Labour seat at Spennymoor. In the 1923 election he was
successful as Conservative candidate for Warwick and Leamington,
defeating the Countess of Warwick (wife of the 5th earl), who stood
for Labour, and he held the same seat until his resignation.

Eden's association with foreign affairs began in 1926, when he became
Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary (Sir Austen
Chamberlain). When the National Government came into power in 1931,
Eden was made Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. In 1932 he first
attended the Assembly of the League of Nations as a British delegate,
and began the period of service and championship of the League which
made his reputation in Britain.
On January 1, 1934, he was promoted to be Lord Privy Seal, continuing
to devote himself primarily to the League and disarmament. It was as
advocate for new British disarament proposals that, a month later, he
visited Paris, Berlin and Rome. This European journey gave Eden a
chance to meet the two dictators who were to be adversaries for the
next 10 years.

Hitler, new to power, was relatively subdued. A year later when Eden
saw him in company with John Simon, the Foreign Secretary, he was
fulminating against the Russian bogy. Eden moved on the Moscow alone
making the first call by a British Minister since the Revolution. In
June 1935, Baldwin took over from MacDonald and a reluctant Eden
continued his duties under a new chief Sir Samuel Hoare, though the
title of his office was changed to Minister for League of Nations
Affairs and he was, at the age of 37, given a seat in the Cabinet.
This uncomfortable duplication, which amounted to having two Ministers
in the same Government responsible for foreign affairs, was much
criticised at the time but was not destined to last long.

The Abyssinian crisis was blowing up, and one of Eden's first tasks in
his new post was to pay another visit to Rome in an effort to buy off
Mussolini by offering him territorial concessions in Abyssinia, which
in its turn was to be compensated by cession of the port of Zeila in
British Somaliland. Eden himself was not enthusiastic about the plan,
and Mussolini understandably even less so. Neither this meeting nor
the efforts of the League Council, in which Eden took a prominent
part, slowed up preparations for the war on which Mussolini had long
before decided. When the bombs began dropping on Abyssinia sanctions
were imposed on Italy by the League, but there were few in the British
or French governments who, like Eden, were prepared to accept their
full implication. The fiasco of the Hoare-Laval Pact followed.
Ironically, as Hoare himself was incapacitated by a skating tumble in
Switzerland at the time when the terms of the pact became known, it
fell to Eden to defend them in the House of Commons, though his own
first wish on hearing them had been to resign. In fact, inevitably, it
was Hoare who, on December 18, resigned and Eden who four days later
succeeded him as Foreign Secretary.

The two years and two months during which Eden first held office were
a time of gathering gloom on all sides. Hitler's reoccupation of the
Rhineland, Mussolini's victory in Abyssinia, the Spanish civil war and
foreign intervention, and Japan's penetration of China were some
aspects of the world crisis with which he was called upon to deal. No
Foreign Secretary would have found them easy. Eden's task was greatly
complicated because he was a young man in an old Cabinet, most of
whose members lacked his knowledge, percipience, and courage. Baldwin,
who spoke little in Cabinet or outside on international topics, gave
him broad support. With Neville Chamberlain, who succeeded Baldwin in
May 1937, his relations were more complex.

The policy of appeasement carried on largely by Chamberlain himself in
collaboration with his confidants - inside and outside the Cabinet -
Lord Halifax (Lord Privy Seal) and Sir Horace Wilson, who had been
installed in Number Ten in the role of special adviser - cut across
Eden's own endeavours. These were summed up in a note he dictated in
September 1937: "There are those who say that at all costs we must
avoid being brought intoopposition with Germany, Japan and Italy. This
is certainly true, but it is not true that the best way to avoid such
a state of affairs is continually to retreat before all three of
them."

It was over negotiations with one of them, Mussolini, that the break
came. Chamberlain was determined to open talks with the Italian
dictator, and rightly regarded Eden as an obstacle to his plans. On
February 19, 1938, Eden resigned.
There were many who hoped that, after his resignation, Eden would take
the lead of all those in all parties who shared his belief that
Chamberlain's policy of appeasement meant disaster. This he refused to
do, but he came to preside over regular meetings of 20 or 30
like-minded Conservative MPs, including: Duff Cooper, L.S. Amery,
Harold Macmillan, and Lord Cranborne (later Marquess of Salisbury),
who had been his Under Secretary and had resigned with him. The mass
of Conservatives showed no sympathy with his views, or with him for
dividing the party over them. This breach with the mainstream of the
party was never wholly healed.

When war broke out in September 1939, Eden was recalled to the
Government as Secretary of State for the Dominions, but without a seat
in the War Cabinet. This position was remedied when Churchill formed
his coalition government in May 1940, and Eden became not only
Secretary of State for War but also, at first by tacit understanding,
and later with official recognition, the acknowledged successor of
Churchill should he disappear.

The seven months that Eden spent at the War Office were a critical
time for his country and a satisfying time for Eden himself. The
evacuation from Dunkirk, the reconstruction of the Army in England,
the creation of the Home Guard, and the reinforcement of Middle East
Command, were all fields where a wrong decision could have brought
catastrophe. Eden was a powerful advocate for the generals - Dill,
Brooke, Wavell - in whom he had confidence but whose abilities were,
in Churchill's eyes, unproved. Wavell's desert victories in December
1940, were a personal justification for Eden.

On succeeding Halifax at the Foreign Office, the first part of the
world to claim his attention was the Balkans. Greece was successfully
resisting Mussolini's invasion, but Hitler threatened to come to his
ally's help. In the middle of February 1941, Eden, accompanied by the
CIGS, Field Marshal Sir John Dill, flew out to see what aid could be
given Greece and whether neutral Turkey and Yugoslavia could not be
persuaded to form, with the backing of Britain, a united Balkan front
against the Axis. The decision on how and when to intervene in Greece
was one which Eden and Dill had to take on the spot. Like a decisions
which lead to defeat it has been much criticised. Eden, however,
remained convinced that it was right. To have left unaided another
country covered by British guarantee would have been a base act.
Moreover, though Turkey remained outside the battle, the Yugoslav coup
d'etat of March 27, which, on Eden's instructions, the British
Ambassador in Belgrade (Sir Ronald Campbell) had been authorized to
encourage, upset Hitler's timetable. The subsequent Balkan campaign
delayed the attack on Russia by more than five weeks.

In December Eden went to Moscow to resume acquaintance with Stalin,
now a comrade in arms.

Among a host of running controversies two, in particular, lay heavy on
him from beginning to end. These were, argument with the Russian
government over the Poles, and with the American Government over the
French. Both involved Eden in frequent clashes with his own Prime
Minister. For the Polish Government in Exile, first of Hitler's
victims, he fought energetically in London, Moscow, and at the
three-power conferences of Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam. He did not wish
"to throw the poor Poles to the Russian wolves", but as the Red Armies
pushed west, there was little he could do to prevent the subjugation
of Poland and the rest of eastern Europe.

Neither Churchill nor Roosevelt viewed de Gaulle in the same light as
Eden to whom it fell on general occasions - over the Darlan affair,
for example, and the recognition of the French Committee of National
iberation - to point out the dangers of underestimating de Gaulle's
authority for the future role of France.

It was over France that relations between Eden and Churchill became
most strained, and there were times when both even gloomily
contemplated the possibility of rupture. These moments never lasted
long, but the public which saw in Eden only the loyal lieutenant of a
dominant leader- and it must be added, the public which has confined
its reading to Churchill's own memoirs - necessarily ignored the
hidden arguments.

Eden had been at Churchill's right hand through all the major wartime
conferences - Teheran, Casablanca, Quebec, Cairo, Moscow, Washington,
Yalta, Potsdam - as well as visiting Moscow and Washington by himself.
At Christmas 1944, he accompanied Churchill to Athens in an attempt to
contain the civil war in which British troops had been compelled to
intervene, and after four days of intense negotiations all parties,
except the communists, agreed to accept Archbishop Damaskinos as
Regent and to submit the question of the return of the King to a vote.
This settlement, bitterly attacked by the left wing of the Labour
party and by many Americans, was defended in the Commons by Eden in a
speech showing more than his usual pugnacity.

By the time the war in Europe was clearly drawing to a close, and
though Eden was obliged to take an increasingly pessimistic view of
Russian intentions he had equally to plan the machinery of postwar
cooperation. In May 1945, he led the British delegation to San
Francisco where final shape was given to the Charter of the United
Nations. "Whether we like it or not," he told assembled delegates, "we
are now one another's neighbours...Either we must find the way to
order our relations with justice, or we shall soon head for another
world war. Our work here may represent the world's last chance."

At home the political parties were becoming restive. Labour left the
coalition, and Eden remained as Foreign Secretary in the Caretaker
Government which was to carry on the nation's business until the
general election of July 5. But in May, for the first time since the
beginning of the war, his health failed him. A duodenal ulcer was
diagnosed, and he was out of action during the election campaign,
apart from one broadcast speech delivered just after he had heard the
news that his elder on, Simon, a pilot officer in the RAF, was missing
believed killed, in Burma. Such a breakdown was scarcely surpising. In
addition to the work of his Ministry, and the constant travelling it
involved (at a time when air travel was still rough and hazardous), he
had beena member of the War Cabinet, of the small Defence Committee
(both of which meant fitting in with "the exhausting eccentricity of
hours dear to the Prime Minister") and, from November 1942, Leader of
the House of Commons.

Eden recovered sufficiently to go with Churchill and Attlee - who had
wisely been invited - to Potsdam. They returned after 10 days to hear
the results of the general election declared on July 26. These
results, which swept the Conservatives out and Labour into power,
possibly surprised - and certainly disappointed - Eden less than many
Conservtaives. He was tired by five years of "work and yet more work"
and saddened by his personal loss. He felt defeat more for Churchill
than for his party or for himself. However, he kept his customary
large majority at Warwick and Leamington, while refusing the King's
offer of the Garter. Bevin succeeded him as Foreign Secretary - a
choice of which he thoroughly approved - and Eden, the Labour
Government having squashed the proposal that he should become first
Secretary-General of the United Nations, withdrew into six years of
opposition.

During this period he played a part scarcely less important, though
less publicized, than that of some of his colleagues, in refurbishing
the Conservative Party. Whent he election in the autumn of 1951
returned Churchill and the Conservatives to power by a narrow
majority, Eden again became Foreign Secretary and Deputy Prime
Minister.

It was a world still ruled by the Cold War. The conflicts in Korea and
Indo-China were unresolved, and Britain her own special troubles in
Iran, where relations had been broken off following Moussadek's
nationalisation of the oil industry, and Egypt where a corrupt
monarchy and its ineffectual servants, in a bid to recover popularity,
had just denounced the Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936, which had been
one of the more durable achievements of Eden's first period of office.

His first journey, however, undertaken only a few days after assuming
office, was to the sixth session of the United Nations General
Assembly in New York. It was the first of these gatherings he
attended, and he listened with pained amazement to one of Vyshinsky's
tirades against the West. In his own deliberately muted reply, which
had considerable effect, he called for a fresh start in international
relations by taking up limited problems, starting with the small ones
and then gradually broadening the area of agreement. His next
attention was Europe, where the project for a European Defence
Community was running into difficulties. Eden was no more prepared
than had been his Labour predecessors to take part in any sort of
European federation. His opposite number in Paris, Robert Schuman,
explained that he was unlikely to be able to get the French Assembly
to approve the EDC unless it was accompanied by a firm guarantee from
Britain.

After Churchill and Eden had talked in Washington with President
Truman and his Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, as well as with
Eisenhower at Nato headquarters, it was agreed to give an Anglo-FRench
undertaking against any thtreat "to the integrity or unity of the
Community". He went to Paris in May 1952, for the issue of this
declaration and for the simultaneous signature of the EDC treaty and
the contractual agreements whereby German regained control of her own
affairs. The pattern of Eden's diplomacy was in this way illustrated -
intimate association with America, close cooperation with France, and
the reintegration of Germany within a precise European framework -all
this, it was hoped, enabling the west to negotiate from strength a
working agreement with Russia.

In August that year Eden, who had two years before obtained a divorce
from his first wife on the grounds of desertion (she died in 1957),
married Clarissa, daughter of the late Major John Spencer Churchill.
She was a niece of the Prime Minister.

Another step in which Eden made step by step consultation with the
United States his guiding rule was the oil dispute with Iran.
Hitherto, he felt, Moussadek had been able to play off the British and
Americans against each other, exploiting the fears of the latter,
whatever his shortcomings might be, he was the last bulwark against
communism. Eden advocated firmness, while probing around all the time
for any opening that might lead to a new diplomatic initiative. As
things turned out, it was due mainly to action on the spot by the Shah
and the Americans and to his own folly that Moussedek fell from power
in August 1953. But subsequent efforts to pick up the pieces and get
the oil flowing again also required much skill and patience.

The year 1953 brought an altered world. Eden's old friend, General
Eisenhower, was installed in the White House, and in March Stalin
died. Whatever these changes might mean Eden was, by a buffet of fate,
unable to profit from them. For some time he had been suffering from
internal pains. In the previous summer he had jaundice. That April his
condition worsened. He underwent two operations, the first on April 9
and the second 20 days later, for chronic inflammation of the gall
bladder and for the removal of fluid which later exacerbated that
condition. These gave no real improvement, and on the advice of his
doctors he was flown to Boston where on June 7 Dr Cattell, who had
made a lifetime study of this surgery, performed a third and
successful operation.

In all he was out of action for six months, not returning for work
until October 5. While he was still absent, Churchill suffered a
stroke. Mr Butler and Lord Salisbury held the fort for their sick
superiors, and these were in full vigour again when, on December 2,
they met with Eisenhower and Dulles in Bermuda for a meeting with the
Russians. January 4, 1954, was fixed as the time, and Berlin was the
place, for the meeting. Molotov, Dulles, Bidault and Eden were the
four foreign ministers involved, and the future of Germany the main
theme. The to-and-fro of argument coverted familiar ground but
produced no positive results. The western proposals, which were
presented by the British spokesman and so became known as "the Eden
Plan", provided for free elections in both halves of Germany, followed
by the calling of a National Assembly and the signature of a peace
treaty. Such a plan was inevitably more calculated to impress the
Germans than persuade the Russians, and no amount of argument would
convince Molotov that it was not a device whereby the whole of
Germany, instead of only part, would be linked to a defensive
organization that was not embattled against communism.

One agreement that was reached in Berlin was to hold a further
conference at Geneva on Indo-China and Korea, where France was
fighting a losing war against the communist Vietminh. Eight years of
hostilities had drained her of money and manpower, and now the strong
garrison at Dien Bien Phu was beleaguered. The Americans were
contemplating massive air strikes from naval carriers as a means of
giving support to the French and preventing the over-running of all
south -east Asia by communism, which they forsaw as a consequence of a
French collapse. Eden was alarmed both by the diagnosis and the
proposed remedies. He feared the American intervention would lead to
parallel action by the Chinese, and a world war thus be in the making.
The Geneva Conference began on April 26 and dragged on until the end
of July, when armistice agreements were signed for Laos and Cambodia
as well as for Vietnam. The result was a compromise, both sides
staying more or less put in their existing positions, and as such
unpopular in many places, particularly in America. But if politics are
the art of the possible it was a successful compromise, credit for
which should be shared between the new French Premier, Pierre
Mendes-France, who showed himself willing to grasp the nettle, and
Eden, who displayed ingenuity and persistence throughout.

No sooner was this hurdle behind him when he had to face another. By
the end of August the EDC was dead, killed by a vote in the French
Assembly. Western policy, has it had evolved over the past three
years, seemed to be in ruins, and the time ripe for that "agonising
reappraisal" of American policy which Dulles had threatened the winter
before if the French failed to ratify EDC. It fell to Eden to pick up
the bits. He reached the conclusion that there was now no alternative
to the entry of Germany into Nato, with safeguards. These, he thought
- and the idea came to him, as so many other good ones have done, in
the bath - could be based on the Brussels Treaty of 1936, which had
been primarily designed to meet the same fears of German aggression
which were responsible for France's new hesitations. Once the
invention had been produced the next thing was to sell it. Speed was
of the essence, and having put the suggestion to Washington, but
without waiting for an answer, he flew in quick succession to
Brussels, Bonn and Rome, ending up in Paris, where serious objections
were most likely to be met. His five days' canvassing tour was
entirely successful; America was favourably impressed by Eden's
brilliant initiative and its results, and the outcome was the
summoning to London at the end of September of a Nine Power
Conference, attended by the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany,
United States, Britain, Belgium, Italy, Canada, Holland and
Luxembourg. Eden, who had been elected chairman, was able to announce,
to the immense surprise and gratification of those present, his
Government's willingness to maintain on the mainland of Europe the
effective strength of the United Kingdom forces currently assigned to
the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe - four divisions and a tactical
air force - or whatever SAC EUR regarded as its equivalent, and
undertook not to withdraw these forces against the wishes of the
majority of the Brussels Treaty Powers (subject only to the
understanding that an acute overseas emergency might oblige withdrawal
without prior consultation). Among the other points agreed was an
undertaking by France, Britain and the United States to end the
occupation of Germany, the admission of Germany and Italy to an
enlarged Brussels Treaty system, the admission of Germany to Nato, and
Germany's promise voluntarily to limit her production of arms.

The conference was acknowledged to be a great personal success for
Eden - the result of his vigorous initiative and skilful diplomacy.
Further recognition was to come - on October 20 the Queen created him
a Knight of the Garter.

By the end of October the Trieste dispute, which had poisoned
relations between Italy and Yugoslavia since the end of the war, had
been settled. Eden's part in this, though effective, had been minor,
but he necessarily played a leading part in the second settlement
signed on October 19, whereby British troops were finally wqithdrawn
from the Suez Canal area in exchange for a civilian base which could
be reactivated in the event of war or the threat of war. This
agreement was bitterly assailed by the "Suez group" in the
Conservative party and by the Muslin Brotherhood in Egypt, but was
welcomed by the mass of opinion in both countries.

Nasser spoke with as much hope as Eden of the new area of friendly
cooperation that seemed to be opening. Certainly at the end of 1954
Egypt was not one of the remaining clouds in an international sky
which, thanks largely to Eden's efforts, looked bluer than for a long
time.

The long expected transfer of power took place in the new year. On
April 6, 1955, Churchill resigned and Eden kissed hands as Prime
Minister. He was 57, and the man he was replacing 80. He could
reasonably hope for a good innings, if his health held out and he
retained the confidence of his party and people.

The main doubts heard at this time were whether his training had not
been too specialized. Did he, in spite of the speeches he had with
increasing frequency been making about the property-owning democracy,
really understand the domestic problems of an industrial nation? Would
he, after 30 years as a negotiator and 15 as crown prince, be able to
generate the authority which must go with leadership?

The first big decision he had to make proved his judgement sound.
Although Parliament was only in its fourth year, he decided to ask the
Queen for a dissolution and at the election held on May 26 the
conservatives increased their overall majority in the Commons from 17
to 60. During the election campaign Eden followed up the proposal
which, for two years or more, had been so dear to Churchill, of a
Heads of Government meeting with Russia, "a supreme effort to see
whether more progress can be made with the main differences between
east and west". The Russians proved willing, and rendevouz was fixed
for Geneva in July. Eisenhower, Bulganin, Eden, and Edgar Faure (who
was at that time Premier of France) spent five days going over the
familiar ground of German reunification, European security, and
disarmament. No agreements were reached, but in private discussion the
two sides became more directly aware of their common abhorrence of
war. At any rate, the atmosphere was genuinly cordial, and the "spirit
of Geneva" was subsequently to be invoked, more as a form of
incantation than policy whenever international tempers grew hot.

On the international front Eden's touch as Prime Minister was less
sure. He never managed to give the impression of understanding
economics, though he spoke much of the dangers of inflation. In 1955
there were in effect three Budgets, the last of which, introduced by
Mr Butler on October 26, relied in the familiar and unpopular
restraints on expenditure such as rises in indirect taxation and a
curb on loans to local authorities.

Eden and his Foreign Secretary, Mr Selwyn Lloyd, sailed for America on
January 25, 1956, for talks with President Eisenhower and Mr Dulles.
Eden was worried by the communists' beating of the anti-colonial drum,
for instance during the visit to India by Bulganin and Krushchev. Nor
did he like the look of things in the Middle East, where Nasser's arms
deal with Czechoslovakia had just been concluded. He hoped to see a
common declaration of purpose by the two governments which would show
the world that the west had its own message to give. In fact the
talks, though friendly as usual, produced no striking results, and
when they turned to the affairs of the Middle East showed an ominous
divergence of approach.

Three months later he acted a host to the Russian leaders, Bulganin
and Krushchev, whome he had invited at the time of the Geneva summit
conference. They stayed for 10 days and in the course of many talks on
many subjects Eden told his guests bluntly that Britain depended on
her Middle East oil supplies and would fight to keep them. He beleived
this warning was remembered when the world stood on the brink later in
the year.

But Eden's leadership had, by now, become the subject of some doubts
among his own followers. Disappointment at the lack of success of the
Geneva Summit, continued disorders in Cyprus and the Middle East, and
the continued underlying weakness of the economy all conspired to give
an air of uncertainty to the Prime Minister's actions.

The test was soon to come. On July 26 following the withdrawal of an
offer by America, Britain and the World Bank, to finance the High Dam
at Aswan, Nasser proclaimed to a deliriously cheering crowd in
Alexandria the nationalisation of the Suez Canal Company. The news
reached Eden while he was entertaining to dinner at No 10 King Faisal
of Iraq and his Prime Minister, Nuri al-Said, Nasser's old adversary.
As Eden saw it, here was a challenge to international legality as
flagrant and far-reaching as Hitler's reoccupation of the Rhineland.

Twenty years earlier the lesson had been ignored; now there would be
no excuses. Nasser had to be stopped, if necessary by force, and if
necessary by Britain alone. The first task, however, was to consult
with friendly governments, particularly those of France and the United
States. The French, who hasd become convinced that Nasser's aid to the
Algerian rebels was the greatest obstacle to a successful conclusion
of the war there, were willing and eager - indeed, they would have
been prepared for immediate military action, had that been possible,
and the necessary forces been ready, which they were not. The American
Government, on the other hand, was horrified by the prospect of force,
and Dulles, when he flew into London on August 1 (Nasser's speech had
caught him in Peru) took a cautious and legal view. Nevertheless, he
said that "a way had to be found to make Nasser disgorge." These
words, said Eden, "rang in my ears for months."

Unfortunately for Eden these were not the only words Dulles had to say
on the subject. Indeed, during the weeks of continuous negotiation
that followed it was the uncertainties of America's attitude that
caused Eden as much anguish as anything else. First came a conference
in London attended by 22 nations principally concerned with the use
ofthe Canal. This opened on August 16, and at its end, when 18 of the
nations had supported a declaration calling for future operation of
the Canal to be in the hands of an international board, Eden was able
to telegraph to Eisenhower thanking him for "the outstanding quality"
of Dulles's speeches and his "constructive leadership": the resolution
of the conference was taken to Cairo by a mission headed by the
Australian Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, and there unavailingly
explained to Nasser.

On September 7 the Menzies talks in Cairo broke down, and Eden told
Washington that Britain might wish within twenty four hours to
announce the decision to go to the Security Council. Dulles could not
support the proposal. In its place he produced a new idea - a "User's
Club", of as many of the London conference powers as possible, who
would sail their ships together through the Canal, employing their own
pilots, collecting duties and passing on just proportion of them to
Egypt. Eden was prepared to like the scheme, more particularly because
it was an American one. He was also prepared to sell it to the French,
who by then were impatiently pressing for military action. Yet it was
clear that if the Club was to mean anything the users would, if
necessary, have to back their rights with force. This Eden assumed,
and his whole edifice came crashing to the ground when on September
12, Dulles announced that for their part the United States did "not
intend to shoot our way through" the Canal. "It would be hard", Eden
wrote in his memoirs, "to imagine a statement more likely to cause
maximum allied disunity and disarray."

Though the case against Nasser was argued at the Security Council the
British and French Governments were from this point forward
increasingly concerned with military preparations. After the fighting
was over there was much debate over the extent of which - if at all -
Eden was aware of the secret consultations that had been going on
between the French and the Israelis who, as the situation in the
Middle East deteriorated and Nasser's build up of arms progressed, had
been planning a preventive war. The charge of collusion was denied by
Eden and other Government spokesmen. Nevertheless, M. Pineau, who at
that time was French Foreign Minister, subsequently stated that he
broached the question of collaboration with the Israelis to Eden on
September 24, that Eden "showed a great deal of interest", and
subsequently approved a written agreement by which Israel would attack
in Sinai, the RAF would attack the Egyptian Air Force on the ground,
and an Anglo-French ultimatum to both Israelis and Egyptians would
call on them to withdraw from the Canal, which would then be the scene
of intervention by the Anglo-French expeditionary force.

Whatever may be the unpublished British version of events, this in
fact was the pattern which unfolded during the last days of October.
Israel mobilized on October 27, and her troops entered Egyptian
territory on the evening of October 29. The same afternoon Eden
informed the House of Commons of the ultimatum being delivered to both
sides, and explained his Government's purpose as being "to separate
the belligerents and to guarantee freedom of transit through the Canal
by ships of all nations.

The Labour Opposition, which which immediately after Nasser's act of
nationalization had been no less resolute for action than the
Conservatives, had swung away from any endorsement of force, and now
assailed the Government with a bitterness of feeling seldom seen in
the Commons since the days of the Irish debates. On November 1 the
uproar was so great that the Speaker had to take the unusual course of
suspending the sitting for half an hour.

Meanwhile, as bombing of the Egyptian airfields continued and the
invasion fleet sailed eastwards from Malta, feverish efforts, led by
Canadian Foreign Minister Lester Pearson, were being made at the
United Nations headquarters to arrange a ceasefire and to create an
international force to move into the area. At dawn on November 5
British and French parachutists were dropped on Port Said. At midnight
on November 6 while they were still only half way to their objectives
at Ismailia a ceasefire came into effect.

Eden was to claim many things for the Suez intervention - that it had
prevented a war from spreading, that it had forced the United Nations
to act, that it had exposed Russian plans in the Middle East, and that
it reinforced peace. His critics countered that the Canal was blocked,
the oil pipelines blown up, the Commonwealth on the point of
breakdown, the remains of British influence in the Middle East
destroyed, and the British and American Governments barely on speaking
terms. In spite of all this, Eden never faltered in his conviction
that his policy had been right. "I thought and think that failure to
act would have brought the worst of consequences," he wrote in his
memoirs, "just as I think the world would have suffered less if Hitler
had been resisted on the Rhine." He was confident the verdict of the
future would bear him out. Whatever this may be, Suez, like Munich,
has passed into the folk-lore of historical place-names.

The strain of these weeks on Eden had been immense, but he appeared
to have survived it, and on November 9 he gave a vigorous defence of
his action at the Lord Mayor's Banquet.

But Suez had exacted a severe toll on his health. Though he hoped that
a three week winter holiday in Jamaica would restore him to fitness
his recurring abdominal symptoms continued to give cause for concern.
Eventually on January 9 in the new year he tendered his resignation as
Prime Minister. Shortly afterwards he resigned his seat for Warwick
and Leamington which constituency he had represented since he first
entered the House of Commons, at the age of 26, in 1923. Thus ended
his parliamentary career, which had lasted for 33 years, during 18 of
which he had held high office.

From 1960 Eden began to publish his memoirs - Full Circle, Facing the
Dictators, and The Reckoning, and extracts of these volumes appeared
in The Times.

In the summer of 1961 an earldom was conferred upon Eden. It was
customary for an earldom to be offered to a retiring Prime Minister
but, for reasons of health, Eden had not felt he could accept the
honour in 1957. He is succeeded by his surviving son, Viscount Eden.

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