Katharine Elliot, Baroness Elliot of Harwood
|The Right Honourable
The Baroness Elliot of Harwood
15 January 1903
Mayfair, London, England
|Died||3 January 1994
Hawick, Roxburghshire, Scotland
|Spouse(s)||Walter Elliot (1888-1958) (m. 1934)|
Born Katharine Tennant in 1903, she was the daughter of the Scottish industrialist and politician, Sir Charles Tennant, Bt. (then seventy-nine years old) and his second wife, Marguerite Miles, daughter of Colonel Charles William Miles, MP and was cousin of Sir Philip Miles . As a child, she played in the nursery of 10, Downing Street, the home of her much older half-sister, Margot Asquith, the wife of then Prime Minister, H. H. Asquith.
Tennant was educated at home by governesses, then at Abbot's Hill School and finally in Paris. She was presented at court to George V as a debutante but later stated 'I was more interested in politics than parties' and grew up with strong Liberal ideals. Later studying at the London School of Economics, she was also an accomplished violinist, organist, equestrienne, golfer and fluent in French.
On 2 April 1934, Tennant married Walter Elliott, a Conservative MP and Minister for Agriculture. Her husband was the son of a livestock auctioneer and she became an expert in trading farm animals and agricultural equipment. A donation of one shilling was also given by almost every farmer in Britain towards a wedding present, from which she purchased a tractor.
Elliot then became involved in Conservative affairs, wrote speeches for, and campaigned in elections for, her husband, as well as promoting his enactment of the Milk Marketing Board. Still in touch with her Liberal roots, she favoured prison reform and was an opponent of capital punishment. From 1939-49, Elliot was chair of the National Association of Mixed Clubs and Girls' Clubs (later known as Youth Clubs UK) and she sat on the Home Office advisory committee on the treatment of offenders from 1946–62, during which time she visited every prison in the kingdom. She also served on the advisory committee on child care in Scotland from 1956–65, was chair of the Conservative Women's National Committee from 1954–57 and was chair of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations from 1956-67. She became the first chair of the Consumer Council in 1963. On three occasions, in 1954, 1956 and 1957, she was a member of the UK delegation to the United Nations and in the absence of ministers during the Suez crisis in 1956, she made a speech denouncing the Soviet invasion of Hungary during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. She was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1946, awarded the Grand Silver Cross of the Order of Merit of Austria in 1963.
Following the death of her husband in 1958, Elliot took over from him as chair of the family auctioneering firm and stood in his place as parliamentary candidate of Glasgow Kelvingrove, but lost by a narrow margin of votes to Mary McAlister.
Knighthood and ennoblement
In 1958, Elliot was promoted as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire and created Baroness Elliot of Harwood, of Rulewater in the County of Roxburgh. As one of the initial four women who were created peers under the Life Peerages Act 1958, she was the first peeress to speak in the House of Lords, the first peeress to propose the loyal address and the first peeress to pass a private bill through the House (which was at the request of Margaret Thatcher from the House of Commons, making the bill the first to be taken through both houses by women).
At the State Opening of Parliament in November 1993, Elliot tripped over her parliamentary robes and fell as she left the House of Lords. She was taken to hospital and died at Hawick Cottage Hospital near her Scottish home of Harwood, on 3 January 1994, aged ninety. She was buried at Hobkirk parish church on 8 January and a service of thanksgiving was held in her memory at the Church of St. Margaret, Westminster, on 14 April.
- Linklater, Magnus (2004). "Elliot (née Tennant), Katharine, Baroness Elliot of Harwood (1903–1994)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2007-09-13.