Rufus Isaacs, 1st Marquess of Reading

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Rufus Daniel Isaacs

Birthdate: (75)
Birthplace: 3, Bury Street, City of London, EC3, England
Death: December 30, 1935 (75)
32 Curzon St., London W1, England, United Kingdom
Place of Burial: London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of Joseph Michael Henry Aaron Isaacs and Sarah 'Daniel' Isaacs
Husband of Alice Edith, Marchioness of Reading, GBE and Stella Rufus Isaacs, Baroness Swanborough, GBE
Father of Gerald Isaacs, 2nd Marquess of Reading
Brother of Meyer Albert 'Joseph' Isaacs; Harry Michael Isaacs; Rose - Nelly Isaacs; Frances Sarah Keyzer; Ellen Rebecca 'Joseph' Isaacs and 4 others

Occupation: Barrister, Politician & 1st Marquess of Reading
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Rufus Isaacs, 1st Marquess of Reading,_1st_Marquess_of_Reading

Rufus Daniel Isaacs, 1st Marquess of Reading, GCB GCSI GCIE GCVO PC KC (10 October 1860 – 30 December 1935), was an English lawyer, jurist and politician. Lord Reading was the last Liberal Foreign Secretary. He was the first religiously-practising Jew to be appointed to the British cabinet.


The son of a Jewish fruit merchant at Spitalfields, Rufus Daniel Isaacs was educated at University College School, and then entered the family business at the age of fifteen. In 1876–77 he served as a ships-boy and later worked as a jobber on the stock-exchange, 1880–84. He was called to the Bar, the Middle Temple, in 1887. Lord Reading married Alice Edith Cohen in 1887. Alice, Lady Reading, appointed GBE, was a chronic invalid, who eventually died of cancer in 1927, a year after Reading's viceroyalty ended, after 40 years of marriage. He then married Stella Charnaud, the first Lady Reading's secretary. Stella Isaacs was later made a life peeress as Baroness Swanborough, of Swanborough, County Sussex, and later a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE). His second marriage lasted until his own death in 1935. Isaacs lived at Foxhill House in Earley, adjoining Reading, and was elevated to the Peerage as Baron Reading, of Erleigh in the County of Berkshire, in 1914, and continued to rise in the Peerage: he was created Viscount Reading, of Erleigh in the County of Berkshire, in 1916; Earl of Reading along with the subsidiary title of Viscount Erleigh, of Erleigh in the County of Berkshire, in 1917; and eventually Marquess of Reading in 1926. This is the highest rank in the Peerage reached by a Jew in British history. He was knighted in 1910, made a KCVO in 1911, a GCB in 1915, a GCSI and GCIE in 1921 (upon appointment as Viceroy of India) and a GCVO in 1922.

Lord Reading died in London in December 1935 aged 75. After cremation at Golders Green Crematorium his ashes were buried at the nearby Jewish cemetery.

Legal and political career

Isaacs garnered fame in the Bayliss v. Coleridge libel suit in 1903, and the Whitaker Wright case in 1904. In 1904, he entered the House of Commons as Liberal Party Member of Parliament (MP) for the Reading constituency, a seat he held until 1913. During this period, he served as both Solicitor General and Attorney-General in the government of Herbert Henry Asquith, becoming the first Attorney-General to sit in the Cabinet in 1912. He led for the prosecution in the Seddon poisoning case in 1912 and that same year represented the Board of Trade at the inquiry into the sinking of the RMS Titanic. In 1913, he was made Lord Chief Justice, a position in which he served until 1921.

Isaacs was one of several high-ranking members of the Liberal government accused of involvement in the Marconi scandal. An article published in Le Matin on 14 February 1913 alleged corruption in the award of a government contract to the Marconi Company and insider trading in Marconi's shares, implicating a number of sitting government ministers, including Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer; Isaacs, then Attorney General; Herbert Samuel, Postmaster General; and the Treasurer of the Liberal Party, the Master of Elibank, Lord Murray. The allegations included the fact that Isaacs' brother, Godfrey Isaacs, was managing director of the Marconi company at the time that the cabinet, in which Isaacs sat, awarded Marconi the contract. Isaacs and Samuels sued Le Matin for libel, and as a result, the journal apologised and printed a complete retraction in its 18 February 1913 issue. The factual matters were at least partly resolved by a parliamentary select committee investigation, which issued three reports: all found that Isaacs and others had purchased shares in the American Marconi company, but while the fellow-Liberal members of the committee cleared the ministers of all blame, the opposition members reported that Isaacs and others had acted with "grave impropriety". It was not made public during the trial that these shares had been made available through Isaacs's brother at a favourable price.

In 1918, Isaacs was appointed Ambassador to the United States, a position in which he served until 1919, while continuing at the same time as Lord Chief Justice. In 1921, he resigned the chief justiceship to become Viceroy of India. Although he preferred a conciliatory policy, he ended up using force on several occasions, and imprisoned Mahatma Gandhi in 1922. In MacDonald's National Government in August 1931, he briefly served as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, but stood down after the first major reshuffle in November due to ill-health.

Israel Electric Corporation

Along with Alfred Mond and Herbert Samuel, Isaacs was a founding chairman of the Palestine Electric Corporation, precursor to the Israel Electric Corporation in the British Mandate of Palestine. The Reading Power Station in Tel Aviv, Israel, was named in his honour.

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Rufus Isaacs, 1st Marquess of Reading's Timeline

October 10, 1860
City of London, England
December 10, 1889
Age 29
London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
December 30, 1935
Age 75
London W1, England, United Kingdom
London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom