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The Seventh Earl Beauchamp

A Victim of His Times

Peter Raina

The 7 th Earl Beauchamp was a prominent figure in English public life in the years 1900–30, but his career ended in scandal. He was barred from English soil, his reputation was destroyed and his papers were withheld from public view. In this book, Peter Raina uses previously unreleased documents to reassess Beauchamp’s life and legacy.
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.
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Chapter 10: Lord Steward of the Household

Extract

← 176 | 177 →

CHAPTER 10

Lord Steward of the Household

The Lord Steward is an official of the royal household, receiving his appointment from the Sovereign in person. He is always a peer and a privy councillor with a cabinet rank. If the government representative is absent in the House of Lords, the Lord Steward usually steps in to answer for the government. But he may join in the debate of the House on his own. This Earl Beauchamp frequently did.

During the year 1907, the government introduced more bills: a Small Holdings Bill for England, an Evicted Tenants Bill for Ireland, a Small Landholders (Scotland) Bill, and a Land Values (Scotland) Bill. The Conservatives in the Lords again killed the two Scotland bills, and destroyed the other two by moving amendments that mutilated them so much as to render them valueless.1 An answer had to be found to the destructive tactics the Lords were continually employing; and even the King expressed anxiety at the negative attitude of the peers towards the government’s measures.2 The situation had indeed become intolerable. There was now talk among parliamentarians about the composition of the second chamber, and on the possibility of limiting its constitutional powers. A purely hereditary upper chamber with a nine-tenths Conservative majority went against basic democratic principles. No one stirred discontent at this situation with fierier eloquence than that vociferous member of the Campbell-Bannerman ← 177 | 178 → cabinet, David Lloyd George. In a speech...

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