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 2: A Seat in the House of Lords
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A Seat in the House of Lords
As a hereditary peer, Beauchamp was automatically entitled to a seat in the House of Lords after the death of his father. Having come of age on 20 February 1893, he sat in the House for the first time on 14 March 1893 as 7th Earl Beauchamp.1 However, while he remained at Oxford, he did not have time to participate in the Lords’ debates. All this changed after his expulsion from Christ Church in 1894: he became involved in public affairs. First of all, in 1895, he secured for himself the office of Mayor of Worcester. Here he was following the family tradition, since the Beauchamps had been active in Worcestershire local politics for decades. The young Mayor – he was twenty-three – had little difficulty in coping up with his new duties, and he fulfilled them with dedication. But he stayed in this office for only a year. In June 1897 Beauchamp retired from being Mayor of Worcester. He sent a letter of thanks to the ‘Citizens and Children of Worcester’. And so did Lady Mary Lygon, his sister:2
I must write a line to say how much touched and delighted I am by your very kind and generous thought in giving me such a delightful token of your goodwill and affection. I shall certainly wear it, and it will remind me every day of the happy time when I was...
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