Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the
Hirsel, KT, PC (2 July 1903 – 9 October 1995), 14th Earl of Home from 1951
to 1963, was a British Conservative politician, and served as Prime
Minister of the United Kingdom for a year from October 1963 to October
1964 (as Sir Alec Douglas-Home). He was the last member of the House of
Lords to be appointed Prime Minister and the only Prime Minister to
renounce his peerage to leave the House of Lords and contest a by-election
to enter the House of Commons. He was also the only Prime Minister to have
played first class cricket and the first British Prime Minister to have
been born in the 20th century.
Douglas-Home was born in Mayfair,
London, England, the eldest of seven children born to Charles, Lord
Dunglass, (the oldest son of the 12th Earl of Home) and Lady Lilian
Lambton, daughter of Frederick Lambton, 4th Earl of Durham. His mother was
the great-great-granddaughter of the reforming Prime Minister Charles
Grey, 2nd Earl Grey. After his father's succession to the Earldom in 1918
he held the courtesy title Lord Dunglass. One of his brothers was the
dramatist William Douglas-Home.
Home was educated at Eton College
and Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated with a Third Class Honours
MA in Modern History in 1925. At Eton, his contemporaries included Cyril
Connolly, who later described him as "a votary of the esoteric Eton
religion, the kind of graceful, tolerant, sleepy boy who is showered with
all the laurels, who is liked by the masters and admired by the boys
without any apparent exertion on his part". Connolly famously concluded,
"in the eighteenth century he would have become Prime Minister before he
was 30: as it was he appeared honourably ineligible for the struggle of
life". In 1936 he married Elizabeth Alington, the daughter of Cyril
Alington, who had been Douglas-Home's headmaster at Eton. They had four
children, Caroline, Meriel, Diana and David.
He was elected as a
Unionist MP for South Lanark in 1931 – a position he held until 1945.
Douglas-Home was the first peer to be elected as a Member of Parliament
since Lord Salisbury in 1895. Douglas-Home became a Conservative MP in
1950 for Lanark – a post he held until 1951. From 1963 to 1974,
Douglas-Home was MP for Kinross and West Perth.
From 1937 to 1939,
Douglas-Home was the private personal secretary of Neville Chamberlain. He
spent two years of the war incapacitated due to a back injury when he had
to wear a spinal cast. In 1951, when the Conservatives won the general
election, Douglas-Home was recommended to Winston Churchill as Minister
for Scotland. Churchill replied with “Never heard of him”. Regardless of
this, Churchill appointed Douglas-Home Minister of Scotland – a post he
held until 1955.
Under Anthony Eden, Douglas-Home was brought into
the cabinet as Minister for Commonwealth Relations. He held this post for
five years when Macmillan appointed him as Foreign Secretary in 1960.
Douglas-Home held this post until 1963.
In October 1963, Harold
Macmillan resigned as Prime Minister. Many were surprised when Macmillan
recommended to the Queen that she call Douglas-Home to appoint a cabinet
as Prime Minister. He had to disclaim his peerage to serve in the House of
Commons and he became Sir Alec Douglas-Home. He was 60 years old when he
became Prime Minister and he spent 362 days at the helm and served Kinross
and West Perth as its MP.
He was Prime Minister for one year and
lost the October 1964 election to Labour’s Harold Wilson by just five
seats. He served as Leader of the Opposition for nine months and was
succeeded as leader of the Conservative party by Edward Heath. When he
became Prime Minister in 1970, Heath appointed Douglas-Home Foreign
Secretary in June 1970. He held this position until February 1974. He then
returned to the Lords as a life peer where he attended regularly for
Alec Douglas-Home died on October 9th 1995 in
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