Reginald McKenna

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The Right Honourable
Reginald McKenna
Reginald McKenna photo.jpg
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
25 May 1915 – 10 December 1916
Monarch George V
Prime Minister H. H. Asquith
Preceded by David Lloyd George
Succeeded by Bonar Law
Home Secretary
In office
24 October 1911 – 27 May 1915
Monarch George V
Prime Minister H. H. Asquith
Preceded by Winston Churchill
Succeeded by Sir John Simon
Personal details
Born (1863-07-06)6 July 1863
Kensington, London[1]
Died 6 September 1943(1943-09-06) (aged 80)
Nationality British
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Pamela Jekyll (d. 1943)
Alma mater Trinity Hall, Cambridge

Reginald McKenna (6 July 1863 – 6 September 1943) was a British banker and Liberal politician. He notably served as Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer during the premiership of H. H. Asquith. His first post under Henry Campbell-Bannerman was as President of the Board of Education. From there he was promoted to the Cabinet as an Imperialist to be First Lord of the Admiralty. As a friend of Asquith his politics were similar; but historians regard his politics as non-Asquithian. By character he was a studious, meticulous and dedicated mathematician. he was noted for paying attention to detail, but was bureaucratic and partisan. McKenna exhibited strong departmental loyalty, yet lacked the wider concern for national interests, typical of the statesmanlike group of Liberal Imperialists. The banker economist was urbane, sociable, and adaptive to more conservative and prudent ideals.[2]

Background and education[edit]

McKenna was the son of William Columban McKenna and his wife Emma, daughter of Charles Hanby.[3] Sir Joseph Neale McKenna was his uncle. McKenna was educated at King's College School and at Trinity Hall, Cambridge.[4] At Cambridge he was a notable rower. In 1886 he was a member of the Trinity Hall Boat Club eight that won the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta.[5] He rowed bow in the winning Cambridge boat in the 1887 Boat Race. Also in 1887 he was a member of the Trinity Hall coxless four that won the Stewards' Challenge Cup at Henley.

Reginald McKenna by Leslie Ward (Vanity Fair caricatures) entitled "In the winning crew"

Political career[edit]

McKenna was elected at the 1895 general election as Member of Parliament (MP) for North Monmouthshire. He served in the Liberal governments of Campbell-Bannerman and Asquith as President of the Board of Education, First Lord of the Admiralty (1908–11), and Home Secretary.

As Chancellor of the Exchequer in Asquith's coalition government, he opposed the introduction of conscription, and retired into opposition upon the fall of Asquith at the end of 1916.

McKenna oversaw the issue of the Second War Loan in June 1915, at an interest rate of 4.5%. The government also pledged that if they issued War Loan at even higher interest (as they did with the 5% issue of 1917), holders of the 4.5% bonds might also convert to the new rate. His predecessor David Lloyd George criticised McKenna in his memoirs for increasing the interest rate from the 3.5% of the 1914 War Loan at a time when investors had few alternatives and might even have had their capital "conscripted" by the government. Not only did the change ultimately increase the nation's interest payments by £100 million/year but it meant interest rates were higher throughout the economy during the post-war depression.[6] Compared to France, the British government relied more on short-term financing in the form of treasury bills and exchequer bonds during World War I; Treasury bills provided the bulk of British government funds in 1916.[7]

McKenna duties[edit]

In September 1915, he introduced a 3313% levy on luxury imports in order to fund the war effort. This excluded commercial vehicles, which were needed for the war. The tax, which became known as the "McKenna Duties", was intended to be temporary but lasted for 41 years until it was finally axed in 1956. It was briefly waived between August 1924 and June 1925, then extended on 1 May 1926 to cover commercial vehicles.[8]

He lost his seat in the 1918 general election and became Chairman of the Midland Bank. In 1922, the new Prime Minister Andrew Bonar Law hoped to persuade him to come out of retirement and serve once again at the Exchequer, but he refused, and remained in private life. The following year Law's successor Stanley Baldwin repeated the request and McKenna was more agreeable. However he wished to enter Parliament as MP for the City of London and neither of the incumbent MPs would agree to vacate in order to make room. As a result McKenna declined.


McKenna was married in 1908 to Pamela Jekyll (who died November 1943), younger daughter of Sir Herbert Jekyll, KCMG (brother of landscape gardener Gertrude Jekyll) and his wife Lady Agnes Jekyll, née Graham.[3][9] They had two sons – Michael (died 1931) and David, who married Lady Cecilia Elizabeth Keppel (born 12 April 1910, died 16 June 2003), a daughter of Walter Keppel, 9th Earl of Albemarle in 1934.

Reginald McKenna died in London on 6 September 1943, and was buried at Mells, Somerset (the home of his old friend Sir John Horner). His wife died two months later, and is buried beside him at Mells. McKenna was a regular client of Sir Edwin Lutyens who designed the Midland Bank headquarters in Poultry, London, and several branches. Pamela McKenna was a high society hostess whose dinner parties charmed Asquith at their Lutyens built townhouse in Smith Square. Lutyens the unofficial imperial-government architect built several homes for McKenna, and the political classes, as well as his grave.[10]

His nephew Stephen McKenna was a popular novelist who published a biography of his uncle in 1948.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "McKenna, Reginald" - Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. ^ S McKenna, Reginald McKenna, 1863-1943 (1948); R Jenkins, The Chancellors (1998), 158-206.
  3. ^ a b Lundy, Darryl (14 August 2009). "Rt. Hon. Reginald McKenna". Retrieved 10 October 2011. [unreliable source]
  4. ^ "McKenna, Reginald (MKN882R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  5. ^ R C Lehmann "The Complete Oarsman
  6. ^ Lloyd George, David (1938). War Memoirs Volume I. London: Odhams Press. pp. 73–4. 
  7. ^ Horn, Martin (2002). Britain, France, and the financing of the First World War. McGill-Queen's Press. p. 82. ISBN 9780773522947. 
  8. ^ "Motoring Taxes". British Motor Manufacturers (1894-1960). Retrieved 8 October 2011. 
  9. ^ Details of the Jekyll family and BBC: Making History: Sir Herbert Jekyll. Retrieved 4 December 2007. Sir Herbert's elder daughter Barbara married as her 2nd husband, Field Marshal Lord Freyberg; her grandson holds the peerage today.
  10. ^ Jenkins, R, The Chancellors, (Macmillan, 1998), 192-193.


External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Thomas Phillips Price
Member of Parliament for North Monmouthshire
Constituency abolished
Political offices
Preceded by
Victor Cavendish
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Walter Runciman
Preceded by
Augustine Birrell
President of the Board of Education
Succeeded by
Walter Runciman
Preceded by
The Lord Tweedmouth
First Lord of the Admiralty
Succeeded by
Winston Churchill
Preceded by
Winston Churchill
Home Secretary
Succeeded by
Sir John Simon
Preceded by
David Lloyd George
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Andrew Bonar Law
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Bernard M. Baruch
Cover of Time Magazine
3 March 1924
Succeeded by
Warren S. Stone