George Riddell, 1st Baron Riddell
Background and education
Riddell was born at 2 Stanhope Place, Loughborough Road, Brixton Heath, London, the son of James Riddell, a photographer, and Isabel (née Young). He was educated privately, became a clerk in a solicitor's office, and qualified as a solicitor himself in 1888, taking top place in his final exams.
After making a fortune Riddell left the law and went into the newspaper business. By 1903 he was managing director of the News of the World and also owned other newspapers. A close friend and ally of David Lloyd George, he was knighted in 1909, on the recommendation of H. H. Asquith. During the First World War, he liaised between the government and the press and represented the British press barons at the Paris Peace Conference and later peace conferences. For these services he was created a Baronet, of Walton Heath in the County of Surrey, in 1918 and raised to the peerage as Baron Riddell, of Walton Heath in the County of Surrey, in the 1920 New Year Honours. He appointment almost foundered—he had been secretly divorced in 1900 and that would have disqualified him in the king's view.
Riddell was the author of several books, among them Some Things that Matter (1922), Lord Riddell's War Diary, 1914–1918, and Lord Riddell's Intimate Diary of the Peace Conference and After. He was not impressed by his contemporary, Winston Churchill. On the other hand, he was a close confidant and financial supporter of David Lloyd George from 1908 to 1922. His perceptive diary led John Grigg to say he was "the nearest equivalent to a Boswell in Lloyd George's life". In the summer of 1917, during Lloyd George's first year as prime minister, Riddell assessed his personality:
His energy, capacity for work, and power of recuperation are remarkable. He has an extraordinary memory, imagination, and the art of getting at the root of a matter....He is not afraid of responsibility, and has no respect for tradition or convention. He is always ready to examine, scrap or revise established theories and practices. These qualities give him unlimited confidence in himself.... He is one of the craftiest of men, and his extraordinary charm of manner not only wins him friends, but does much to soften the asperities of his opponents and enemies. He is full of humour and a born actor....He has an instinctive power of divining the thoughts and intentions of people with whom he is conversing. His chief defects are: (1) Lack of appreciation of existing institutions, organisations, and stolid, dull people...their ways are not his ways and their methods are not his methods. (2) Fondness for a grandiose scheme in preference to an attempt to improve existing machinery. (3) Disregard of difficulties in carrying out big projects...he is not a man of detail.
Riddell was twice married:
- Firstly, to Grace Edith Williams in 1888, marriage ended in divorce in 1900.
- Secondly to his cousin Annie Molison Allardice, in 1900.
Riddell kept his divorce secret, until the publisher Sir Hedley Le Bas revealed it in 1915. At the time the social stigma attached to his divorce, where legally he was the guilty party, would have ruled out his elevation to the peerage in 1920. Lloyd George insisted, with press magnates, against the king's wishes. The award of the barony broke through a significant parliamentary convention.
- Morris, A. J. A. "Riddell, George Allardice, Baron Riddell (1865–1934)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/35749. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- George Allardice Riddell, 1st and last Baron Riddell. thepeerage.com
- "No. 28275". The London Gazette. 30 July 1909. p. 5805.
- "No. 30527". The London Gazette. 15 February 1918. p. 2068.
- Grigg, John (2002). "Lloyd George's Boswell" in Lloyd George: war leader, 1916–1918. Penguin Books. pp. 216–25, quote at pp. 220–21. ISBN 0140284273.
- "No. 31712". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1919. p. 1.
- "No. 31761". The London Gazette. 30 January 1920. p. 1258.
- Riddell, George Allardice Riddell. (1922). Some Things That Matter. New York: Reynolds Pub. Co.
- Grigg, John (2003). "Lloyd George's Boswell". Lloyd George: War Leader 1916-1918. Penguin Books. p. 216. ISBN 0140284273.
- Obituary, The Times, 6 December 1934
- McEwen, John M. ed. The Riddell Diaries, 1908-1923 (1986).
- Lord Riddell. Lord Riddells Intimate Diary Of The Peace Conference And After (1933)
- Lord Riddell. More Pages From My Diary 1908–1914 (1934)
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