Philip Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian

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The Most Honourable
The Marquess of Lothian
KTCHPCDL
Ker.svg
Arms of the Marquess of Lothian.
British Ambassador to the United States
In office
June 1939 – December 1940
Preceded by Sir Ronald Lindsay
Succeeded by The Viscount Halifax
Personal details
Born (1882-04-18)18 April 1882
London, United Kingdom
Died 12 December 1940(1940-12-12) (aged 58)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Nationality British
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Unmarried
Alma mater New College, Oxford
Religion Christian Science

Philip Henry Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian, KTCHPCDL (18 April 1882 – 12 December 1940), known as Philip Kerr until 1930, was a British politician, diplomat and newspaper editor. He was private secretary to Prime Minister David Lloyd George between 1916 and 1921. After succeeding a cousin in the marquessate in 1930, he held minor office from 1931 to 1932 in the National Government headed by Ramsay Macdonald. From 1939 until his death in December 1940 he was Ambassador to the United States.

Background and education[edit]

Kerr was born in London, UK, the eldest son of Major-General Lord Ralph Kerr, third son of John Kerr, 7th Marquess of Lothian. His mother was Lady Anne Fitzalan-Howard, daughter of Henry Fitzalan-Howard, 14th Duke of Norfolk, by the Honourable Augusta Mary Mina Catherine Lyons, daughter of Vice-Admiral Edmund Lyons, 1st Baron Lyons. He was a nephew of Edmund FitzAlan-Howard, 1st Viscount FitzAlan of Derwent, and a great-nephew of Richard Lyons, 1st Viscount Lyons.[1] He was educated at the The Oratory School, Birmingham, Cardinal Newman's foundation, from 1892 to 1900 [2] and New College, Oxford.[3] Kerr took a First in Modern History in 1904 and in the same year tried unsuccessfully for an All Souls fellowship.[4]

Public life[edit]

Kerr served in the South African government from 1905 to 1910 and was a member of what was called "Milner's Kindergarten". This was a group of colonial officers who deemed themselves reformist rather than an actual political faction. They believed the colonies should have more say in the Commonwealth. By the standards of the era they were liberal, but most of them only had an interest in elevating the status of white colonials, rejected independence, and had a paternalistic view of non-whites. Kerr became more liberal on these issues than his counterparts, admiring Mohandas Gandhi and trying, if not entirely succeeding, to be more progressive than them on racial issues.[5] He returned to the United Kingdom in 1910 to found and edit the Round Table Journal. In 1916, he was appointed David Lloyd George's private secretary[6] and was active in the Paris Peace Conference.[citation needed] For these services he was appointed a Companion of Honour (CH) in March 1920.[7]

Kerr was a director of United Newspapers from 1921 to 1922[8] and secretary to the Rhodes Trust from 1925 to 1939. In March 1930 he succeeded his cousin in the marquessate and entered the House of Lords.[9] In May of the following year he was made a Deputy Lieutenant of Midlothian.[10] After the formation of the National Government in August 1931, Lothian was appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster by Ramsay Macdonald.[11] In November of the same year he became Under-Secretary of State for India, a post he held until 1932, when he was replaced by Rab Butler.[12]

Appeasement[edit]

Lothian believed that Germany had been treated unfairly and harshly by the Treaty of Versailles and after its signing he became a steadfast advocate of revising the Treaty in Germany's favour throughout the 1920s until the 1930s, a policy known as appeasement. One of his biographers, Alex May, states that in the 1930s Lothian became "prominent and eventually notorious as an ‘appeaser’".[13] Claud Cockburn claimed Lothian was part of the Cliveden set of appeasers and the cartoonist David Low drew him as one of the "Shiver Sisters" dancing to Adolf Hitler's tune.[13]

Speaking on 24 June 1933, at Gresham's School, Lothian said "There probably never was a time of more uncertainty in the world than today. Every kind of political and economic philosophy is seeking approbation, and there is every kind of uncertainty about social and personal habits."[14]

Lothian claimed that Nazi Germany did not want to "incorporate other races into itself...[Nazism is a] national movement against internal disunity". He also claimed that with the Franco-Soviet alliance encircling Germany and deprived of an alliance with Austria-Hungary, the Polish corridor and many of her pre-1914 fortresses, Germany was weakened strategically and had good reason to pursue rearmament.[15] Nazi repression of domestic enemies, Jews and Social Democrats, was in Lothian's view "largely the reflex of the external persecution to which Germans have been subjected since the war".[16] He favoured a meeting between Hitler and British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, for British policy to be less pro-French and claimed that the League of Nations could only be restored if Germany was given "a square deal in Central Europe".[17]

In January 1935 and May 1937 he travelled to Germany to meet Adolf Hitler. On returning to Britain after the first meeting, Lothian proclaimed that "Germany does not want war and is prepared to renounce it absolutely...provided she is given real equality".[13] After Germany militarised the Rhineland in March 1936, Lothian famously remarked that it was no more than the Germans walking into "their own back garden" and that he would not support sanctions against her for doing so.[18] In May he wrote to Lloyd George that "If we join or drift into the anti-German group, we shall have world war. The only way to peace is justice for Germany [and] a German solution of the Austrian problem".[19] A month later he wrote to Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden: "Personally I believe that, if we assist Germany to escape from encirclement to a position of balance in Europe, there is a good chance of the 25 years of peace of which Hitler spoke".[20] After his second visit to Hitler, Lothian wrote a memorandum to Neville Chamberlain:

I am sure that the idea that by strengthening the military combination against Germany and continuing relentlessly the economic pressure against her, the régime in Germany can be moderated or upset is an entire mistake...The German people are determined by some means or other to recover their natural rights and position in the world equal to that of the great powers. If they feel driven to use force in power-diplomacy or war, they will do so with a terrifying strength, decision and vehemence. Moreover, because they are now beginning to think that England is the barrier in the way, they are already playing with the idea that...they may have to look for support...to Italy and Japan, if they are to achieve their aims.[21]

At the 1937 Imperial Conference, Lothian strongly urged the Dominion Prime Ministers to proclaim their support for Britain giving no commitments in Europe.[13] After Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement with Hitler in 1938, Lothian expressed relief and said that Chamberlain had done "a marvellous job...[he is] the only man who steadfastly refused to accept the view that Hitler and the Nazis were incorrigible and would understand nothing but the big stick".[22]

However, he later changed his mind after Hitler's violation of the Munich Agreement and occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939. 'Up until then it was possible', he wrote to a friend T.W. Lamont on 29 March 1939, 'to believe that Germany was only concerned with recovery of what might be called the normal rights of a great power, but it now seems clear that Hitler is in effect a fanatical gangster who will stop at nothing to beat down all possibility of resistance anywhere to his will'.[23]

Ambassador to the United States[edit]

In September 1939, Lothian was appointed Ambassador to the United States,[24] a post he held until his death the following year. He was sworn of the Privy Council in August 1939[25] and made a Knight of the Thistle in November 1940.[26]

On 19 July Hitler in a speech put out peace feelers to Britain. Without seeking permission from the British government, Lothian asked Malcolm Lovell (an American Quaker in touch with the Germans) to inquire what terms were on offer to "a proud and unconquered nation". However on 22 July the Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax delivered a speech rejecting the offer.[27] Harold Nicolson wrote in his diary that "Lothian claims that he knows the peace terms and they are most satisfactory. I am glad to say that Halifax pays no attention to this".[28]

Just before his final illness, Lothian is credited with helping marshal American support for economic aid to the United Kingdom. After he arrived at La Guardia Airport, New York on 23 November 1940, he reportedly told the assembled journalists: "Well, boys, Britain's broke; it's your money we want".[29] The near-bankruptcy of the United Kingdom had been a closely guarded secret, and Lothian went well beyond Prime Minister Winston Churchill's instructions in divulging it. These remarks caused a sudden drop in international confidence in sterling and were exploited by German propaganda. Lothian's statement helped force President Franklin Roosevelt's hand in responding to British appeals by proposing the Lend-Lease Program to aid Britain.[30]

Lothian's sudden death came at a crucial stage in Anglo-American relations. There was a widespread expectation in the American press that his successor as British Ambassador in Washington would be Edward, Duke of Windsor, who had recently taken up the appointment of Governor of the Bahamas.[31] The Duke's sometimes erratic behaviour had caused Lothian difficulties in the final months of his life and the Washington appointment went to the Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax.

Personal life[edit]

The Kerr family were staunch members of the Roman Catholic Church. Kerr himself considered becoming a priest or monastic at times, but in adulthood he became disillusioned with the faith. His close friendship with Nancy Astor led to their both converting to the Church of Christ, Scientist together. The reaction of his family to this eventually led to his support of anti-Catholicism. Devoted to the very end to the religion to which he had converted, he died in Washington, D.C. in December 1940, aged 58, having refused medical treatment as a Christian Scientist. He never married and left no heirs, so the marquessate was inherited by his first cousin, Peter Kerr. He bequeathed Blickling Hall to the National Trust.[32]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "thepeerage.com">thepeerage.com Philip Henry Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian
  2. ^ J. R. M. Butler, Lord Lothian (London: Macmillan, 1960), pp. 2-4.
  3. ^ ="thepeerage.com"
  4. ^ Butler, p. 9.
  5. ^ Butler, p. 175 and ch. X passim.
  6. ^ "thepeerage.com"
  7. ^ The London Gazette: no. 31841. p. 3872. 30 March 1920.
  8. ^ Who's Who, 1935, London : A. & C. Black, 1935, p. 2030
  9. ^ "thepeerage.com"
  10. ^ The London Gazette: no. 33716. p. 3147. 15 May 1931.
  11. ^ The London Gazette: no. 33748. p. 5616. 28 August 1931.
  12. ^ "thepeerage.com"
  13. ^ a b c d Alex May, ‘Kerr, Philip Henry, eleventh marquess of Lothian (1882–1940)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2011, accessed 15 July 2015.
  14. ^ The Times, 26 June 1933, page 8.
  15. ^ Maurice Cowling, The Impact of Hitler. British Politics and British Policy 1933-1940 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), pp. 133-134.
  16. ^ Butler, p. 206.
  17. ^ Cowling, p. 134.
  18. ^ Butler, p. 213.
  19. ^ Cowling, p. 134.
  20. ^ Cowling, p. 134.
  21. ^ Cowling, p. 134.
  22. ^ Butler, p. 226.
  23. ^ Butler, p. 227.
  24. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34727. p. 7493. 7 November 1939.
  25. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34653. p. 5535. 11 August 1939.
  26. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34989. p. 6489. 12 November 1940.
  27. ^ Andrew Roberts, ‘The Holy Fox’: The Life of Lord Halifax (London: Phoenix, 1997), pp. 249-250.
  28. ^ Roberts, p. 250.
  29. ^ Butler, p. 307.
  30. ^ Olson, Lynne, "Those Angry Days", Random House, 2013
  31. ^ Ziegler, Philip. King Edward VIII. p. 464. ISBN 0-00-637726-2. 
  32. ^ Butler, pp. 152-153.

Bibliography[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
The Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
August–November 1931
Succeeded by
J. C. C. Davidson
Preceded by
The Lord Snell
Under-Secretary of State for India
1931–1932
Succeeded by
Rab Butler
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sir Ronald Lindsay
British Ambassador to the United States
1939–1940
Succeeded by
The Viscount Halifax
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
Robert Kerr
Marquess of Lothian
1930–1940
Succeeded by
Peter Kerr