Lewis Harcourt, 1st Viscount Harcourt

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The Viscount Harcourt

Lewis Harcourt MP.jpg
Lewis Harcourt MP
First Commissioner of Works
In office
10 December 1905 – 3 November 1910
MonarchEdward VII
George V
Prime MinisterSir Henry Campbell-Bannerman
H. H. Asquith
Preceded byThe Lord Windsor
Succeeded byThe Earl Beauchamp
In office
25 May 1915 – 10 December 1916
MonarchGeorge V
Prime MinisterH. H. Asquith
Preceded byThe Lord Emmott
Succeeded bySir Alfred Mond, Bt
Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
3 November 1910 – 25 May 1915
MonarchGeorge V
Prime MinisterH. H. Asquith
Preceded byThe Earl of Crewe
Succeeded byBonar Law
Personal details
Born(1863-01-31)31 January 1863
Nuneham Courtenay, Oxfordshire
Died24 February 1922(1922-02-24) (aged 59)
Brook Street, London
Political partyLiberal
Spouse(s)Mary Ethel Burns (m. 1899-1922; his death); 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 post of Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1910 to 1915. Lord Harcourt's nickname was "Loulou".

Lord Harcourt by Harry Furniss


Harcourt was born at Nuneham Courtenay, Oxfordshire, the only surviving son of politician Sir William Vernon Harcourt and his first wife 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 elder brother, Julian Harcourt, had died the previous year. He was educated at Eton.

He inherited the lordships of the manor of Stanton Harcourt, Nuneham Courtenay, North Hinksey, Coggs, Northmoor and Shifford in Oxfordshire. He was also a Knight of Malta.[2]

Political career[edit]

Harcourt was private secretary to his father, Sir William, 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 (appointed to Cabinet in 1907) and to 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 from Oxford University, and was raised to the peerage as Viscount Harcourt, of Stanton Harcourt in the County of Oxford, in 1917.[3]

During the debate over Chancellor David Lloyd George's proposed "People's Budget" Harcourt was amongst its foremost critics, with Roy Jenkins noting that he was “the most inveterate in obstructing his proposals, while posing all the time as an ardent Radical.”[4]

Other public appointments[edit]

Harcourt acted as a Trustee of the British Museum, Wallace Collection, the London Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery, which has a portrait of him.[citation needed]

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, that "in the absence of any convenient local name, I would respectfully ask your permission to call this Port Harcourt". The Secretary of State replied, "It gives me pleasure to accede to your suggestion that my name should be associated with the new Port".[5]

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). 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 Lord Rosebery for the remainder of his life.

Queen Victoria[edit]

Harcourt's diaries contain a report that one of Queen Victoria's chaplains, Revd 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.[6][7]

Sexual predator[edit]

Harcourt was known as a sexual predator attracted to both sexes. He attempted to rape Dorothy Brett, the daughter of Lord Esher and then attempted 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 criminal perversion was known and tolerated in certain private quarters. When later, however, he attempted to rape 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.[8]


Faced with public exposure, Harcourt committed suicide by taking an overdose of a sedative[9] at his London home in Brook Street on 24 February 1922, aged 59.[8]

Marriage and children[edit]

Mrs. L. V. Harcourt, ca 1911

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'.[10]

His wife Mary, Viscountess Harcourt, was appointed a Lady of Grace of the Order of St John and then Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in 1918; she died 7 January 1961.[citation needed]

Lord and Lady Harcourt had four children:

  • Doris Mary Thérèse Harcourt (30 March 1900 – 1981); married Alexander Baring, 6th Baron Ashburton: their elder son John succeeded as 7th Baron Ashburton
  • Olivia Vernon Harcourt (5 April 1902 – 2 August 1984); married The Hon. John Mulholland (d. 1948); 1 son, 2 daughters; named CVO in 1958[11]
  • Barbara Vernon Harcourt (1905–1961); married Robert Jenkinson (1900–1970; later divorced); 3 children; named OBE on 19 May 1961.
  • William Edward Harcourt, 2nd Viscount Harcourt (1908–1979)

See also[edit]


  • 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. ^ www.burkespeerage.com
  3. ^ See Viscount Harcourt for a separate holder of this title
  4. ^ Mr Balfour's Poodle; Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
  5. ^ Okafor, S.O. (January 1973). "The Port Harcourt Issue: A Note on Dr Tamuno's Article" (PDF). African Affairs. Royal African Society. 72 (286): 74.
  6. ^ Lamont-Brown, Raymond (December 2003). "Queen Victoria's 'secret marriage'". Contemporary Review. Archived from the original on 26 April 2009.
  7. ^ See John Brown (servant) for a fuller discussion re Queen Victoria
  8. ^ a b Matthew Parris, Kevin Maguire, Great parliamentary scandals: five centuries of calumny, smear and innuendo, Robson, 2004; ISBN 1-86105-736-9, pg. 88
  9. ^ "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Oxforddnb.com. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  10. ^ "Magnificent antique emerald and diamond tiara". Christies.
  11. ^ "The Hon Mrs J. Mulholland" (obituary), The Times, 4 August 1984, p. 8.

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
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