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 17: Maintaining the Liberal Cause in the House of Lords
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Maintaining the Liberal Cause in the House of Lords
David Lloyd George tricked Asquith out of office at the beginning of December 1916, and took over the premiership himself on 7 December. The course of events that led to Asquith’s resignation has been ably, and in detail, described elsewhere.1 Many who had worked closely with Asquith, or were in one form or another devoted to him, mourned his departure. When Asquith placed his resignation in the King’s hands on 5 December, the King himself recorded how he ‘accepted’ it ‘with great regret’. It was ‘a great blow to me’, the King entered in his diary.2 Margot Asquith, the Prime Minister’s wife felt ‘shocked and wounded by the meanness, ingratitude and lack of loyalty shown’ to him. ‘My husband,’ she wrote, ‘fell on the battle-field surrounded by civilians and soldiers whom he had fought for, and saved; some of whom owed him not only their reputations and careers, but their very existence.’3 Earl Beauchamp expressed the loss to the nation in a private letter to Asquith:4
Madresfield Court, Malvern
10 xii 16
My dear Mr Asquith,
I cannot forbear inflicting a letter upon you in order to say how deeply I regret – for the country’s sake – yr resignation. You were & are still the man in whom most Englishmen believed. The difficulties have been caused – not for the first time ← 331...
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