A Victim of His Times
Born into the aristocracy, Beauchamp was driven by a sense of noblesse oblige and devoted his life to public service. Though some of this was ceremonial, Beauchamp was keen to involve himself in practical politics, where he showed his independence of mind. He joined the Liberals as they pushed through change against obstruction from his own landowning class. He championed Irish Home Rule. In 1914 he opposed entry into the war and lost any chance of promotion. However, he remained deeply loyal to his party even after its split and decline, and worked tirelessly in its cause.
His life touched on great events such as the formation of Australia and, in Britain, the great reforms of 1906–9, the 1911 Parliament Act, the crisis of 1914, the creation of the Irish Free State, the Liberal collapse, the first Labour government and the economic slump. Through all these, he busied himself in party affairs, but one aspect of his private life worked against him and, in a Sophoclean twist, he fell from grace.
This book documents the Earl’s involvement in politics, explores his personality and looks carefully at the issues that brought him down. In the light of this analysis, it is hoped that historians will recognize his significant contribution to the events of his day.
Chapter 1: Early Years
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The roots of the Lygon (or Ligon) family go back to the descendants of Norman knights. The family intermarried with a line that was perhaps French: the Beauchamps (pronounced ‘Beechams’ in English). Between them, the Lygons and the Beauchamps divided up vast acres of agricultural land in Worcestershire over which they claimed ownership. The family records tell us that in 1450, by deed, William Lygon, obtained a manor, called Madresfield in the Malvern Hills. It is described as ‘an island of independence in an ecclesiastical see’. On this ‘island’, over the course of centuries, a huge building was constructed known as Madresfield Court. It was held in demesne by the Lygon family and has been theirs ever since without interruption.
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