Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel
|Also Known As:||"Alec Douglas-Home", "Sir Alec"|
|Birthplace:||Mayfair, Westminster, Greater London, UK|
|Death:||Died in Coldstream, Berwickshire, UK|
Son of Charles Cospatrick Archibald Douglas-Home, 13th Earl of Home; Charles C A Douglas-Home, 13th Earl of Home; Lillian Countess of Home and Lillian Lambton
|Occupation:||Tory Prime Minister|
|Managed by:||Michael Lawrence Rhodes|
Historical records matching Alec Douglas-Home, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
<private> Darby (Douglas-Home)child
About Alec Douglas-Home, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel, KT, PC (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 and to become Prime Minister, he had to disclaim his peerage and contested a by-election to enter the House of Commons. He is also the only Prime Minister to have played first class cricket and the first Prime Minister to have been born in the 20th century.
Sir Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel, KT, PC (2 July 1903 – 9 October 1995), 14th Earl of Home from 1951 to 1963, was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from October 1963 to October 1964 (as Sir Alec Douglas-Home). He is the last member of the House of Lords to be appointed Prime Minister and the only Prime Minister to renounce his peerage to leave the House of Lords and contest a by-election to enter the House of Commons. He is also the only Prime Minister to have played first class cricket and the first Prime Minister to have been born in the 20th century.
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
Education 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 MA in Modern History in 1925. 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 In 1936 he married Elizabeth Alington, the daughter of Cyril Alington, who had been Douglas-Home's headmaster at Eton. They had four children: Caroline, Meriel, Diana and David.
Cricket 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.
After Douglas-Home had retired as prime minister, he became president of the MCC in 1966. Between 1977 and 1989 he was Governor of I Zingari, the well-known nomadic cricket team.
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. However, he was automatically disqualified from the Commons in 1951 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 renouncing 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. 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. However, 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 renounce 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. However, 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, Douglas-Home returned to the post of Foreign Secretary. As of 2010[update], he is the last former Prime Minister to take a Ministry in someone else's cabinet.
Retirement 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 1979 devolution referendum, Douglas-Home made a high profile statement arguing that an incoming Conservative Government would introduce a better Scottish Assembly. In actuality, Margaret Thatcher's government did not do so.
From 1977 to 1980, he chaired the Bilderberg Group meetings, replacing Prince Bernhard.
Personal life 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.
Death On his death at The Hirsel in 1995, aged 92, Douglas-Home 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).
Attempted kidnapping 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. However, 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.
In July 2009, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a dramatisation of the event entitled The Night They Tried to Kidnap the Prime Minister, written by Martin Jameson and starring Tim McInnerny as Home.
- 'Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel1
- 'M, #10759, b. 2 July 1903, d. 9 October 1995
- Last Edited=22 Apr 2011
- Consanguinity Index=0.42%
- ' Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel was born on 2 July 1903.3 He was the son of Charles Cospatrick Archibald Douglas-Home, 13th Earl of Home and Lady Lillian Lambton.3 He married Elizabeth Hester Alington, daughter of Very Rev. Cyril Argentine Alington and Hon. Hester Margaret Lyttelton, on 3 October 1936.3 He died on 9 October 1995 at age 92 at The Hirsel, Coldstream, Berwickshire, Scotland.3
- ' Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel usually went by his middle name of Alec.4 He was educated at Eton College, Windsor, Berkshire, England.3 He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford University, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England.3 He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) (Conservative) for Lanarkshire between October 1931 and June 1945.3 He gained the rank of Major in the service of the Lanarkshire Yeomanry, Territorial Army Reserve.3 He held the office of Parliamentary Private Secretary between 1935 and 1940, to Rt. Hon. Neville Chamberlain.3 He held the office of Deputy Lieutenant (D.L.) of Berwickshire in 1944.3 He held the office of Joint Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign Affairs between May 1945 and July 1945.3 He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) (Conservative) for Lanarkshire between February 1950 and July 1951.3 He was invested as a Privy Counsellor (P.C.) in 1951.3 He succeeded to the title of 4th Baron Douglas of Douglas, co. Lanark [U.K., 1875] on 11 July 1951.3 He succeeded to the title of 19th Lord Home [S., 1473] on 11 July 1951.3 He succeeded to the title of 14th Earl of Home [S., 1605] on 11 July 1951.3 He succeeded to the title of 14th Lord Dunglas [S., 1605] on 11 July 1951.3 He held the office of Secretary of State, Scottish Office between October 1951 and April 1955.3 He held the office of Secretary of State, Commonwealth Relations between April 1955 and July 1960.3 He held the office of Lord President of the Council between January 1957 and September 1957.3 He held the office of Lord President of the Council between October 1959 and July 1960.3 He was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Law (LL.D.) by Oxford University, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, in 1960.3 He held the office of Deputy Lieutenant (D.L.) of Lanarkshire in 1960.3 He held the office of Foreign Secretary between July 1960 and 1963.3 He was invested as a Knight, Order of the Thistle (K.T.) in 1962.3 He held the office of Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury between 19 October 1963 and 16 October 1964.4 On 23 October 1963 he disclaimed his titles for life.3 He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) (Conservative) for Perthshire and Kinross-shire between November 1963 and 1974.3 He held the office of Foreign Secretary between 1970 and 1974.3 He held the office of Chancellor of the Order of the Thistle between 1973 and 1992.3 He was created Baron Home of the Hirsel, of Coldstream in Berwickshire [U.K. Life Peer] on 19 December 1974.1 He was invested as a Knight, Order of the Thistle (K.T.).1 He held the office of Justice of the Peace (J.P.) for Berwickshire.3
- ' He succeeded Harold Macmillan as Conservative Prime Minister in 1963 but lost a year later to Harold Wilson. He stepped down as the leader of the Conservative Party and was replaced by Edward Heath. To quote from his obituary in the Daily Telegraph, "Alex Home was the most courteous and considerate of men, ever accessible, always ready to undertake even a minor speaking engagement, known for his charm, sagacity and wit."5
- 'Children of Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel and Elizabeth Hester Alington
- 1.Lady Lavinia Caroline Douglas-Home3 b. 11 Oct 1937
- 2.Lady Meriel Kathleen Douglas-Home+3 b. 27 Nov 1939
- 3.Lady Diana Lucy Douglas-Home3 b. 18 Dec 1940
- 4.David Alexander Cospatrick Douglas-Home, 15th Earl of Home+6 b. 20 Nov 1943
- 1.[S134] Heraldic Media Ltd., online http://www.cracroftspeerage.co.uk/, Patrick Cracoft-Brennan (Cracroft Peerage Database v5.2), downloaded 1 November 2006.
- 2.[S300] Michael Rhodes, "re: Ernest Fawbert Collection," e-mail message to Darryl Roger Lundy, 8 February. Hereinafter cited as "re: Ernest Fawbert Collection."
- 3.[S37] Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 2, page 1950. Hereinafter cited as Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition.
- 4.[S130] Wikipedia, online http;//www.wikipedia.org. Hereinafter cited as Wikipedia.
- 5.[S1] S&N Genealogy Supplies, S&N Peerage CD., CD-ROM (Chilmark, Salisbury, U.K.: S&N Genealogy Supplies, no date (c. 1999)). Hereinafter cited as S&N Peerage CD.
- 6.[S37] Charles Mosley, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition, volume 2, page 1948.