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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 18: Liberal Leader in the House

Extract

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CHAPTER 18

Liberal Leader in the House

The Liberal leadership in the House of Lords

There was another problem that earned Earl Beauchamp’s attention, as he strove to defend the Liberal cause. It concerned party discipline and the official Liberal leadership in the House of Lords. The Earl was not himself leader: from 1923 Earl Grey fulfilled this task – but the elder statesman was losing his sight and had become tired and somewhat disinterested, since he was unable to read all the official documents. He seldom showed up in the Lords, and often the work there was entirely left to Beauchamp. Some action needed to be taken. We trace correspondence over the problem back to 1919 and follow it through:

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