Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 7th Marquess of Salisbury

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The Most Honourable
The Marquess of Salisbury
KCVO PC DL
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil 2013.JPG
Chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire
Incumbent
Assumed office
7 October 2005
Preceded by The Lord MacLaurin of Knebworth
Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords
In office
2 May 1997 – 3 December 1998
Leader John Major
William Hague
Preceded by The Lord Richard
Succeeded by The Lord Strathclyde
Leader of the House of Lords
Lord Privy Seal
In office
20 July 1994 – 2 May 1997
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by The Lord Wakeham
Succeeded by The Lord Richard
Member of Parliament
for South Dorset
In office
3 May 1979 – 11 June 1987
Preceded by Evelyn King
Succeeded by Ian Bruce
Personal details
Born (1946-09-30) 30 September 1946 (age 67)
Political party Conservative
Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford

Robert Michael James Gascoyne-Cecil, 7th Marquess of Salisbury, KCVO PC DL (born 30 September 1946), is a British Conservative politician. During the 1990s, he was Leader of the House of Lords under his courtesy title of Viscount Cranborne. Lord Salisbury lives in one of England's largest historic houses, Hatfield House, which was built by an ancestor in the early 17th century, and he currently serves as Chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire.

Early life[edit]

Robert Michael James Gascoyne-Cecil was born on 30 September 1946 as the eldest child and first-born son of Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 6th Marquess of Salisbury. His younger brother was the journalist Lord Richard Cecil who was killed covering the conflict in Rhodesia.

Lord Cranborne attended Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford and became a merchant banker before going to work on the family estates.

Political career[edit]

House of Commons[edit]

Lord Cranborne was selected, unexpectedly, as Conservative candidate for South Dorset in 1976, where his family owned lands, despite the presence of several former MPs on the shortlist. He spoke at the 1978 Conservative Party conference to oppose sanctions on Rhodesia. He won the seat in the 1979 general election, the seventh consecutive generation of his family to sit in the Commons, and in his first speech urged Ian Smith to stand aside in favour of Abel Muzorewa.

He attracted a general reputation as a right-winger, especially on matters affecting the Church of England, but confounded this reputation when he co-wrote a pamphlet in 1981 which said that the fight against unemployment ought to be given more priority than the fight against inflation. He took an interest in Northern Ireland, and when Jim Prior announced his policy of 'Rolling Devolution', resigned an unpaid job as assistant to Douglas Hurd.

Lord Cranborne became known as an anti-communist through activities in support of Afghan refugees in Pakistan in the early 1980s, and sending food parcels to Poland. (In fact until the early years of the 21st century a charity shop was run on his Hatfield estate which was solely to raise money for this cause and also to fund Polish orphanages.) He was involved in efforts to fund the Afghan resistance. His strong opposition to any involvement by the Republic of Ireland in Northern Ireland led him to oppose the Anglo-Irish Agreement and contributed to his decision to retire from the House of Commons in 1987.

House of Lords[edit]

After the 1992 General Election, John Major utilised a writ of acceleration to call Lord Cranborne up to the House of Lords in one of his father's junior titles. Thus, Lord Cranborne was summoned to Parliament as Baron Cecil of Essendon (his father's most junior dignity),[1] though continued to be known by his courtesy style of Viscount Cranborne. This is the last time a writ of acceleration has been issued, and because of the provisions of the House of Lords Act of 1999, abolishing the automatic right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords, any future use of the writ of acceleration is highly unlikely.

He served for two years as a junior defence minister before being appointed as Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords in 1994. Funding for opposition parties in the House of Lords, known as Cranborne Money, began during his leadership. When Major resigned to fight for re-election as Conservative Party Leader in July 1995, Lord Cranborne led his re-election campaign. He was recognised as one of the few members of the Cabinet who were personally loyal to Major, but continued to lead the Conservative Peers after Labour won the 1997 General Election.

When the new Prime Minister Tony Blair proposed the removal of the hereditary element in the House of Lords, Lord Cranborne negotiated a pact with the government to retain a small number (later set at ninety-two) of hereditary peers for the interim period. For the sake of form this amendment was formally proposed by Lord Weatherill, Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers. However, Lord Cranborne gave his party's approval without consulting the Leader, William Hague, who knew nothing and was embarrassed when Blair told him of it in the House of Commons. Hague then sacked Lord Cranborne, who accepted his error, saying that he had "rushed in, like an ill-trained spaniel".

All former Leaders of the House of Lords who were hereditary peers accepted Life Peerages to keep them in the House in 1999. Lord Cranborne, who had received the title Baron Gascoyne-Cecil, of Essendon in the County of Rutland,[2] remained active on the backbenches, until the House adopted new rules for declaration of financial interests which he believed were too onerous. He took 'Leave of Absence' on 1 November 2001.[3] He was therefore out of the House when he succeeded his father as 7th Marquess on 11 July 2003.

In January 2010, Lord Salisbury and Owen Paterson hosted secret talks at Hatfield House, involving the Democratic Unionist Party, the Ulster Unionist Party and the Conservative Party. These talks prompted speculation that the Tories were attempting to create a pan-unionist front to limit Sinn Féin and the Social Democratic and Labour Party in the General Election of 2010.[4]

In September 2012, Lord Salisbury in his role as Chairman of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Foundation was knighted by The Queen and became a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.[5]

Other interests[edit]

He is a Deputy Lieutenant of Hertfordshire and the current President of the Friends of the British Library.[6]

Marriage and children[edit]

In 1970, aged 23, he married Hannah Stirling, niece of Lt Col Sir David Stirling (a co-founder of the SAS) and a descendant of the Lords Lovat, Scottish Catholic aristocrats. The marriage was initially opposed by his family, in most part because she is a Roman Catholic.

During the 1970s, Lord and Lady Cranborne had two sons and three daughters (including twins), of whom the two elder daughters are married. Until recently, they lived at Cranborne Manor, Dorset. The family seat is Hatfield House, once home to Queen Elizabeth I of England which was given the family by James I of England in exchange for the Cecil family house Theobalds. Lord Salisbury's family is very wealthy, owning land in Dorset, Hertfordshire and London, as well as heirlooms at Hatfield House. The 7th Marquess ranked 325th in the Sunday Times Rich List 2008, with an estimated wealth of £250m in property.

The Marquess of Salisbury's heir is his elder son Robert Edward "Ned" William Gascoyne-Cecil, Viscount Cranborne (b. 1970). He was a page of honour to the Queen from 1983 to 1986.[7] The heir is currently unmarried, though he does have an illegitimate daughter born in 2001.[8] The younger son Lord James has recently married[9] and fathered one son, Thomas Richard James (b 2009).[10]

Titles[edit]

  • Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, Esquire (1946–1947)
  • The Hon. Robert Gascoyne-Cecil (1947–1972)
  • Viscount Cranborne (1972–1979)
  • Viscount Cranborne MP (1979–1987)
  • Viscount Cranborne (1987–1994)
  • The Rt Hon. Viscount Cranborne (1994–2003)
  • The Most Hon. The Marquess of Salisbury, PC (2003–2012)
  • The Most Hon. The Marquess of Salisbury, KCVO, PC (2012–present)

Ancestry[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The London Gazette: no. 52911. p. 7756. 5 May 1992. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  2. ^ The London Gazette: no. 55676. p. 12466. 23 November 1999. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  3. ^ "Marquess of Salisbury". House of Lords. Retrieved 16 April 2011. 
  4. ^ McDonald, Henry (2010-01-26). "Northern Ireland power-sharing talks enter second day". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  5. ^ "The 2012 Diamond Jubilee Honours List". royal.gov.uk. Retrieved 17 September 2012. 
  6. ^ "Biographies". Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  7. ^ Guardian "The Young Rich" 11 April 1999 http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/1999/apr/11/theyoungrich4
  8. ^ Debrett's Peerage 2008.
  9. ^ The Times, Announcements 2007.
  10. ^ Google Groups — Peerage News

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Evelyn King
Member of Parliament for South Dorset
1979–1987
Succeeded by
Ian Bruce
Political offices
Preceded by
The Lord Wakeham
Leader of the House of Lords
1994–1997
Succeeded by
The Lord Richard
Lord Privy Seal
1994–1997
Party political offices
Preceded by
The Lord Wakeham
Leader of the Conservative Party in the House of Lords
1994–1998
Succeeded by
The Lord Strathclyde
Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil
Marquess of Salisbury
2003–present
Incumbent
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil
Baron Cecil
(Writ in acceleration)

1992–present
Incumbent