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 16: Lord President of the Council
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Lord President of the Council
Earl Beauchamp and the war
We do not have records of Earl Beauchamp’s attitude to the war, as it progressed. A decade-and-a-half previously, while he was in Australia, Lady Tennyson and he had exchanged letters revealing their heartache over family members who had fallen in the South African War. In the years 1914–18, almost every family in England was to experience the same.
The Earl had opposed entry into the war and had failed in this endeavour. He had relinquished the post he held as a way of saying he did not want to be part of the business of war. Yet, by nature, he was an intensely loyal man and his main loyalties lay towards the Liberal party, which had achieved such great things in the years before this great catastrophe. A man of peace, Earl Beauchamp continued to work hard in the capacity left to him – as Lord President of the Council.
The office of Lord President of the Council
The office of the Lord President of the Council is a cabinet post, filled by the Prime Minister. The holder is by convention a member of one of the Houses of Parliament, usually a statesman whose advice in the cabinet is desired, but who is ‘unwilling or unable to undertake heavy administrative ← 317 | 318 → work’.1 His duties are not department-specific, but he may undertake...
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