Lewis Vernon Harcourt, 1st Viscount Harcourt

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Right Honourable
The Viscount Harcourt
Lewis Harcourt MP.jpg
Lewis Harcourt MP
First Commissioner of Works
In office
10 December 1905 – 3 November 1910
Monarch Edward VII
George V
Prime Minister Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman
H. H. Asquith
Preceded by The Lord Windsor
Succeeded by The Earl Beauchamp
In office
25 May 1915 – 10 December 1916
Monarch George V
Prime Minister H. H. Asquith
Preceded by The Lord Emmott
Succeeded by Sir Alfred Mond, Bt
Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
3 November 1910 – 25 May 1915
Monarch George V
Prime Minister H. H. Asquith
Preceded by The Earl of Crewe
Succeeded by Andrew Bonar Law
Personal details
Born 31 January 1863 (1863-01-31)
Nuneham Courtenay, Oxfordshire
Died 24 February 1922 (1922-02-25)
Brook Street, London
Nationality British
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Mary Ethel Burns (d. 7 January 1961); 4 children

Lewis Vernon Harcourt, 1st Viscount Harcourt PC (born Reginald Vernon Harcourt; 31 January 1863 – 24 February 1922) was a British Liberal Party politician who held the Cabinet office of Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1910 to 1915. His nickname was "Loulou".

Lord Harcourt by Harry Furniss


Harcourt was born in Nuneham Courtenay, Oxfordshire, the only surviving son of politician Sir William Vernon Harcourt and his first wife Lady Theresa Lister. He was originally christened with the name Reginald, in honour of his father's university friend Reginald Cholmondeley, but when George Cornewall Lewis died just over two months after, he was rechristened with the name Lewis.[1] He never knew his mother who died only a day after giving birth to him. His only sibling, Julian Harcourt, had died the previous year. He was educated at Eton.

Political career[edit]

Harcourt was private secretary to his father when the latter served as Home Secretary from 1880 to 1885. He was Liberal Member of Parliament for Rossendale, Lancashire, from 1904 to 1916 and served as First Commissioner of Works in Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's 1905 ministry (included in the cabinet in 1907) and in H. H. Asquith's cabinet between 1908 and 1910 and again between 1915 and 1916. In this role he authorised the placement in Kensington Gardens of the Peter Pan statue, sculpted by George Frampton, erected on 1 May 1912. Between 1910 and 1915 he was Secretary of State for the Colonies under Asquith. Harcourt received an honorary DCL degree from Oxford University, and was raised to the peerage as Viscount Harcourt, of Stanton Harcourt in the County of Oxford, in 1917.[2]

Other public appointments[edit]

Harcourt acted as a trustee for the British Museum, Wallace Collection, the London Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery, which now contains his portrait.

Port Harcourt[edit]

Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers state in southern Nigeria, is named after him. When the port was established in 1912, there was much controversy about the name it should receive. In August 1913, the Governor–General of Nigeria, Sir Frederick Lugard wrote to Harcourt, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, "in the absence of any convenient local name, I would respectfully ask your permission to call this Port Harcourt", to which the Secretary of State replied, "It gives me pleasure to accede to your suggestion that my name should be associated with the new Port."[3]

Lord Rosebery[edit]

Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery served as Liberal Prime Minister from 1894–1895 (after William Ewart Gladstone's fourth term and before Lord Salisbury's third).[citation needed] His main rival was Harcourt's father William. Loulou's attempts to have his father appointed were so fervent that many Liberal politicians criticised him. He helped to wreck Rosebery's administration, wrongly believing that his father would then succeed to the premiership. However, the Liberal Party was instead thrown into opposition for 10 years, and Harcourt was despised by Rosebery for the remainder of his life.[citation needed]

Queen Victoria[edit]

Harcourt's diaries contain a report that one of Queen Victoria's chaplains, Reverend Norman Macleod, made a deathbed confession repenting of his action in presiding over Queen Victoria's marriage to her servant, John Brown. Little credence is given to this report, in view of the many years which would have passed from the time of the "marriage" until Harcourt recorded it.[4][5]

Private life[edit]

Harcourt was known as a sexual predator attracted to both sexes. He attempted to rape Dorothy Brett, the daughter of Lord Esher, and followed this by an attempt to seduce his son. Dorothy Brett wrote of him that "it is so tiresome that Loulou is such an old roué. He is as bad with boys as with girls ... he is simply a sex maniac. It isn't that he is in love. It is just ungovernable Sex desire for both sexes". His behaviour was known and tolerated in certain private quarters, however, after attempting to seduce a 12-year-old boy (Edward James, who grew up to become a great collector of surrealist and other contemporary art), the boy's mother began making the matter public. Harcourt committed suicide by taking an overdose of a sedative[6] at his London home in Brook Street on 24 February 1922, aged 59.[7]

Marriage and children[edit]

On 1 July 1899, Harcourt married Mary Ethel, daughter of Anglo-American banker Walter Hayes Burns and his wife Mary Lyman (née Morgan), a sister of J.P. Morgan. Through her, the family acquired the famous 'Harcourt emeralds'.[8]

Lady Harcourt, Viscountess Harcourt was named a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in 1918. She died 7 January 1961.

The couple had four children:

  • Doris Mary Thérèse Harcourt (30 March 1900 – 1981);[9] married Alexander Baring, 6th Baron Ashburton; their elder son was John Baring, 7th Baron Ashburton
  • Olivia Vernon Harcourt (5 April 1902 – 2 August 1984); married Hon. John Mulholland (d. 1948); 1 son, 2 daughters[10]
  • William Edward Harcourt, 2nd Viscount Harcourt (1908–1979)
  • Barbara Vernon Harcourt (1905–1961);[11] married Robert Jenkinson (1900–1970; later divorced); 3 children; named OBE on 19 May 1961



  • Blake, Robert; Nicholls, Christine Stephanie (1986). The Dictionary of National Biography, (ninth Supplement) 1971–1980. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198652083. 
  • Viscount Lewis Harcourt Harcourt (2006). Loulou: selected extracts from the journals of Lewis Harcourt (1880–1895). Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. ISBN 9780838641033. 


  1. ^ Roy Jenkins, "The Chancellors", Macmillan, 1998, p. 45.
  2. ^ See Viscount Harcourt for a separate holder of this title
  3. ^ Okafor, S.O. (January 1973). "The Port Harcourt Issue: A Note on Dr Tamuno's Article" (PDF). African affairs. Royal African Society (Oxford University Press) 72 (286): 74. 
  4. ^ Lamont-Brown, Raymond (December 2003). "Queen Victoria's 'secret marriage'". Contemporary Review. 
  5. ^ See John Brown (servant) for a fuller discussion re Queen Victoria)
  6. ^ "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Oxforddnb.com. Retrieved 30 August 2013. 
  7. ^ Matthew Parris, Kevin Maguire, Great parliamentary scandals: five centuries of calumny, smear and innuendo, Robson, 2004; ISBN 1-86105-736-9, p. 88
  8. ^ "Magnificent antique emerald and diamond tiara". Christies. 
  9. ^ Lundy, Darryl. "Doris Mary Thérèse Harcourt". The Peerage. [unreliable source?]
  10. ^ "The Hon Mrs J. Mulholland" (obituary), The Times, 4 August 1984, p. 8.
  11. ^ Lundy, Darryl. "Barbara Vernon Harcourt". The Peerage. [unreliable source?]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir William Mather
Member of Parliament for Rossendale
Succeeded by
Sir John Henry Maden
Political offices
Preceded by
The Lord Windsor
First Commissioner of Works
Succeeded by
The Earl Beauchamp
Preceded by
The Earl of Crewe
Secretary of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by
Andrew Bonar Law
Preceded by
The Lord Emmott
First Commissioner of Works
Succeeded by
Sir Alfred Mond, Bt
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Harcourt
Succeeded by
William Edward Harcourt