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 21: Exile
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Earl Beauchamp was still Leader of the Liberal peers in the House of Lords when he went into exile. Later, he would resign from such state offices as Warden of the Cinque Ports and Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire and also from the chancellorship of London University. But the House of Lords did not yet provide any such option. As a hereditary peer, he was obliged to be a member of the House of Lords until his death. However, he could resign from the leadership of his party which he had taken on in the Lords. This he did in a letter to Lloyd George1 shortly before his departure from England. Lloyd George replied, saying how sorry he was to hear that the Earl was ‘suffering from cardiac fatigue’ and assuring him that ‘a period of comparative rest’ was essential for his recovery. The Liberal party, Lloyd George wrote, had ‘come to rely so much upon your ready and very effective help in all our difficulties’. However, he hoped that ‘you will consider your health as first and foremost, so that that you may have a full chance of an early restoration to complete vigour’.2
Beauchamp was also obliged to make appropriate arrangements for his absence from the House of Lords. With this in mind, he approached the Marquess of Reading, a senior Liberal peer:
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