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 12: Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire
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Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire
Earl Beauchamp was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire in 1911 on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Every county has a Lord Lieutenant, and the office dates from 1557, in the reign of Henry VIII.1 The history of Gloucestershire itself goes back to 1016, when it was recorded that this area constituted a county. The Lord Lieutenant, the Sovereign’s lieutenant, was originally responsible for maintaining local defences and civil order. Later he was expected to command the county militias and, during the Second World War, he took a leading role in organizing the Territorial Army and Home Guard battalions. Until recently, most Lord Lieutenants have been ‘local landowners from the county with large houses and grand titles’. Earl Beauchamp very well fitted in this category. Again the role of a Lord Lieutenant is largely ceremonial. He welcomes the Sovereign, members of the royal family, and visiting heads of state. On these occasions he wears a general officer’s uniform, complete with silver braid and sword.
We can trace the sort of work undertaken by Earl Beauchamp as Lord Lieutenant only on the basis of the records available to us. The documents, a selection of which are displayed below, speak for themselves.2
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