Gerald Balfour, 2nd Earl of Balfour

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About Gerald Balfour, 2nd Earl of Balfour

Gerald William Balfour, 2nd Earl of Balfour PC (9 April 1853 – 14 January 1945), known as Gerald Balfour until 1930, was a British nobleman and Conservative politician.

Background and education

Balfour was the fourth son of James Maitland Balfour, of Whittingehame, Haddingtonshire, and Lady Blanche Cecil, daughter of James Gascoyne-Cecil, 2nd Marquess of Salisbury. Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour, was his elder brother, and Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, his uncle. He was educated at Eton and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he gained 1st Class Honours in the Classical Tripos.

Political career

Balfour sat as Conservative Member of Parliament for Leeds Central from 1885 to 1906. During this time he was a member of Commission on Labour, and Private Secretary to his brother Arthur Balfour, when he was President of the Local Government Board in 1885 to 1886. He later served as Chief Secretary for Ireland from 1895 to 1900, as President of the Board of Trade from 1900 to 1905 and as President of the Local Government Board in 1905. He was admitted to the Irish Privy Council in 1895 and to the British Privy Council in 1905. On retiring from the House of Commons, he was Chairman of the Commission on Lighthouse Administration in 1908, and Chairman of the Cambridge Committee of the Commission on Oxford and Cambridge Universities. He received an Honorary LLD from Cambridge University, and was a Fellow of Trinity. He succeeded his brother Arthur as second Earl of Balfour in 1930 according to a special remainder in the letters patent and took a seat in the House of Lords.


In 1895, Gerald followed his brother, Arthur Balfour, as Chief Secretary of Ireland. He continued the policy of "Constructive Unionism" that was first employed by his brother. "Constructive Unionism" was designed to kill by kindness the idea of Home Rule. Gerald reformed local polictics to bring greater democracy and take power from the landlords. He even opened up voting to women in local elections.