Philip Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Most Honourable
The Marquess of Lothian
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]

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."[13] He felt initial sympathy for Germany over the Treaty of Versailles, so at first he favoured appeasement, stating in 1936, just after Germany reclaimed the Rhineland, that he would support no sanctions to remove the Germans from 'their own back garden'.[14] 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'.[15]

In September 1939, Lothian was appointed Ambassador to the United States,[16] a post he held until his death the following year. He was sworn of the Privy Council in August 1939[17] and made a Knight of the Thistle in November 1940.[18]

Just before his final illness, Lothian is credited with helping marshal American support for economic aid to the United Kingdom. He told a group of American reporters at La Guardia Airport in New York that Britain was essentially bankrupt and needed massive amounts of U.S. aid to continue fighting Germany. 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. Lothian's statement helped force President Franklin Roosevelt's hand in responding to British appeals by proposing the Lend-Lease Program to aid Britain.[19]

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.[20]


  1. ^ ""> Philip Henry Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian
  2. ^ J.R.M. Butler, Lord Lothian, London : Macmillan, 1960, pp.2-4.
  3. ^ =""
  4. ^ J.R.M. Butler, Lord Lothian, London : Macmillan, 1960, p.9.
  5. ^ J.R.M. Butler, Lord Lothian, London : Macmillan, 1960, p.175 and ch.X passim.
  6. ^ ""
  7. ^ The London Gazette: no. 31841. p. 3872. 30 March 1920.
  8. ^ Who's Who, 1935, London : A. & C. Black, 1935, p. 2030
  9. ^ ""
  10. ^ The London Gazette: no. 33716. p. 3147. 15 May 1931.
  11. ^ The London Gazette: no. 33748. p. 5616. 28 August 1931.
  12. ^ ""
  13. ^ The Times, 26 June 1933, page 8.
  14. ^ J.R.M. Butler, Lord Lothian, London : Macmillan, 1960, pp.213.
  15. ^ J.R.M. Butler, Lord Lothian, London : Macmillan, 1960, p.227.
  16. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34727. p. 7493. 7 November 1939.
  17. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34653. p. 5535. 11 August 1939.
  18. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34989. p. 6489. 12 November 1940.
  19. ^ Olson, Lynne, "Those Angry Days", Random House, 2013
  20. ^ J.R.M. Butler, Lord Lothian, London : Macmillan, 1960, pp.152-3.


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
Succeeded by
Rab Butler
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sir Ronald Lindsay
British Ambassador to the United States
Succeeded by
The Viscount Halifax
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
Robert Kerr
Marquess of Lothian
Succeeded by
Peter Kerr