Robert Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe
|The Most Honourable
The Marquess of Crewe
KG PC FSA
Robert Offley Ashburton Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe
|Lord President of the Council|
25 May 1915 – 10 December 1916
|Prime Minister||H. H. Asquith|
|Preceded by||The Earl Beauchamp|
|Succeeded by||The Marquess Curzon of Kedleston|
10 December 1905 – 12 April 1908
|Prime Minister||Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman|
|Preceded by||The Marquess of Londonderry|
|Succeeded by||The Lord Tweedmouth|
|Leader of the House of Lords|
14 April 1908 – 10 December 1916
|Prime Minister||H. H. Asquith|
|Preceded by||The Marquess of Ripon|
|Succeeded by||The Earl Curzon of Kedleston|
|Lord Lieutenant of Ireland|
18 August 1892 – 29 June 1895
|Prime Minister||The Earl of Rosebery|
|Preceded by||The Earl of Zetland|
|Succeeded by||The Earl Cadogan|
|Born||Robert Offley Ashburton Milnes
12 January 1858
|Died||20 June 1945(aged 87)|
|Spouse(s)||(1) Sibyl Graham (d. 1887)
(2) Lady Margaret Primrose
|Alma mater||Trinity College, Cambridge|
Robert Offley Ashburton Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe KG PC FSA (12 January 1858 – 20 June 1945), known as The Lord Houghton from 1885 to 1895 and as The Earl of Crewe from 1895 to 1911, was a British Liberal politician, statesman and writer.
Background and education
Robert Offley Ashburton Milnes was born at 16 Upper Brook Street, Mayfair, London, the only son of Richard Monckton Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton, by his wife the Hon. Annabella Crewe, daughter of John Crewe, 2nd Baron Crewe, and was educated firstly at Winton House, near Winchester, and then Harrow. He went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating in 1880.
A Liberal in politics, Milnes became Assistant Private Secretary to Lord Granville in April 1883 when Granville was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. In an 1884 by-election he was the losing Liberal candidate at Barnsley. As Baron Houghton he was made Liberal whip in 1885. In January 1886 he was made a Lord-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria during the Third Gladstone ministry, and remained a Home Ruler.
Prepared for ministerial success, a severe blow was struck to a burgeoning political career: his wife Sybil Marcia, daughter of Sir Fred Frederick Graham, 3rd baronet of Netherby, whom he had married on 3 June 1880, died suddenly in September 1887, still only thirty years old. He was determined to get over this personal tragedy by studying agriculture at Cirencester. However, he was prevented by illness from pursuing his studies. Leaving England, he travelled to Egypt where the Stray Verses were written in a somewhat mournful lament at his great loss. Further melancholy hit hard when his eight-year-old son and heir Richard died in 1890.
Returning to Houghton in 1892, he was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in the Liberal Government of 1892–1895, in which his old friend Lord Rosebery eventually became Prime Minister. John Morley served as Chief Secretary.
On the death of his uncle, Hungerford Crewe, 3rd Baron Crewe, he inherited vast estates of nearly 50,000 acres in four counties, and assumed the same year the additional surname of Crewe by royal licence on 8 June 1894. From 17 July 1895 he took a changed name of Crewe-Milnes with creation as Earl of Crewe, in the County Palatine of Chester.
On 20 April 1899, he married an eighteen-year-old society beauty, Lady Mary Etienne Hannah Primrose, daughter of the former Prime Minister Lord Rosebery.
The Boer War broke out only months later in October. Crewe remained a leader of the conciliators who to the last tried to find a negotiated settlement with President Kruger. He began to grow apart from his father-in-law's Liberal imperialism, advocating a gradualist "step-by-step" policy of containment of the situation. But the war soon escalated with Crewe finding himself isolated. He was not much of an orator, but had skills in administration, proving an efficient organizer. He became increasingly influential with Henry Campbell-Bannerman and the Radicals. He made a personal friend out of H. H. Asquith, who was his political mainstay in the round of intrigues that intensified during the lead up to the First World War. A close confidante he was appointed as an aide on almost every committee. From 1905 to 1908 he was Lord President of the Council in the Liberal government. The Lords, dominated by Tory Peers, were hostile to Asquith's proposed reforms. They wrecked the Education Bill of 1906, while Crewe stood out as the main defender of the Cabinet's policy. In response to pleas from Campbell-Bannerman he assumed the role of cross-party convenor. Crewe was a moderate in all things. He deplored Lloyd George's rabble-rousing Limehouse Speech in the east end of London in 1909 that called for destruction of the class system. By the same token he found it unacceptable for die-hard Tories and Unionists to continue to block legislation.
Although Elgin reassured him of Churchill's friendliness among Liberals, Crewe was in for a rude shock: he had succeeded the orientalist Lord Elgin as Secretary of State for the Colonies, and in May 1908 an angry exchange of letters challenged his credentials as a new cabinet minister, which Churchill claimed came direct from the Prime Minister. Crewe could be haughty and coldly disapproving: alike to Grey he took a dim view of Lloyd George's 'people's budget'. In spite of Churchill's opposition to it in a minority of the cabinet, it was Crewe's job to steer it through the Lords. In his capacity as Leader of the House of Lords he played a key role in bringing the Parliament Act 1911 (depriving the Lords of its veto) to the floor of the house and eventually onto the statute book. Asquith valued him highly as a colleague, for his common sense and sound judgment rather than any exceptional brilliance. But when Churchill circulated a memorandum proposing the abolition of the Lords in 1910, Crewe remained essentially whiggish and cautious, blocking any attempt to change the bicameral relationship. He sat on the Constitutional Conference Commission set up on 16 June 1910 during the crisis following Edward VII's death. The inconclusive outcome of the January 1910 election, which increased Unionist representation in the Commons, caused a wide-ranging debate on the constitutional implications of the Lords' powers. The new King, George V, to obviate a stalemate agreed to create 500 new peers, should the Liberals win the December 1910 election. Crewe was present at the discussions as one of the Inner Sanctum in the cabinet. He had previously taken a more right-wing position with Asquith arguing for reform of the membership of the Upper House, rather than of its customary powers. Crewe was selected to face leading Tory Lord Cromer, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, in negotiation of the provisions of the Veto bill, which would give a whip hand to an elected Commons.
It was his colonial responsibilities from September 1910 as part of his terms as Secretary of State for India (1910–11 and 1911–15), for which he gained the hoped for promotion in the peerage. The Delhi Durbar was an invention of his genius for organization, designed to the last detail for the first British monarch in history to pay a visit to India. In that post, he was responsible for the removal of the capital of India from Calcutta to Delhi, and the reunion of the two Bengals under a Governor-in-Council, as well as commissioning the architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens for his outstanding visionary grand design of New Delhi. He was further honoured in 1911 when he was created Earl of Madeley, in the County of Stafford, and Marquess of Crewe.
In at least one of Asquith's famed cabinet lists 1913–14, Crewe was at the top; but other ministers, like Churchill, were more thrusting at pushing themselves forward for promotion. Crewe was widely respected for his administrative competence, efficiency and personal intelligence. Crewe served as Lord President of the Council again from May 1915, topping the Asquithian cabinet rankings, and working closely with Lloyd George on currency and exchange rate stabilisation in the budget. His home at Crewe House, Curzon Street in Mayfair became a centre for war propaganda.
In 1916 he was appointed briefly as President of the Board of Education, and may have been useful in the post-war educational sector, but the coalition split in December. He remained as ever, an Asquithian, declining office under Lloyd George, and after his resignation he continued to lead the independent Liberal opposition in the House of Lords. He took the largely honorific title of Chairman of London County Council. He maintained a leading role in the education sector, serving as Chairman of the Governing Body of Imperial College London (1907–22), President of the Board of Education (1916) and Chancellor of Sheffield University. He was later Ambassador to France appointed by Bonar Law from October (1922–28). As Ambassador to France, he launched a fund for the creation of a British Institute in Paris, which has since developed into the University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP). He had a very brief ten week stint as Secretary for War in MacDonald's National Coalition from August 1931, but did not hold office after the general election. The Samuelite Liberals withdrew over free trade from the National Coalition in 1932. From 1936 and throughout the Second World War Crewe was leader of the Independent Liberals in the House of Lords.
What's the matter with the public-speaker?
He did not much like public speaking, but that was probably because he contrasted sharply with Lloyd George's firebrand delivery and populist demagogy. Crewe himself tended to hesitate too long time with "pregnant pauses", as his speech became stilted. He was above all fastidious in the royal tradition of Charles I. Edwin Montagu, the Jewish cabinet minister, claimed somewhat sardonically, that one of his female constituents died of boredom listening to the Marquess. His father-in-law, Lord Rosebery, had been Liberal Leader six years before he himself became Leader in the House of Lords of that party. Rosebery thought Crewe a reliable politician but a poor speaker. When it was announced to him that his daughter, the Marchioness of Crewe, was in labour, Rosebery is said to have quipped, "I hope that her delivery is not as slow as Crewe's". Always at ease in London High Society, Crewe hosted the dinner party at which Winston Churchill met Clementine Hozier.
A radical Liberal, Crewe voiced his support during his time in Parliament for numerous reforms, including old-age pensions, an eight-hour day for miners, and meal provisions for schoolchildren. In November 1905, Crewe had written to (then) Party leader Henry Campbell-Bannerman of the need for innovative reform on the part of the Liberals, noting that
More than ever before, the Liberal Party is on its trial as an engine for securing social reforms, - taxation, land, housing, etc. It has to resist the I.L.P. claim to be the only friend of the workers. Can it do this and attempt Home Rule as well?
During the Liberal party crises of 1886, 1909–11, and 1916, he stayed loyal to the party. He was also said to have acknowledged the damage the First World War did to liberalism. When he died the 4th Marquess of Salisbury described Crewe as "the best of the whig statesmen". One historian believed his whiggery was more temperamental than ideological. Reserved and stiff upper-lipped by nature he sought compromise by mediation attempting to negotiate a middle way. His meetings were often spontaneous and informal, but dominated by an aristocratic clique: Lloyd George recalled how in 1912 Crewe had tried at Deeside to resolve Ulster's longstanding problems with Bonar Law over a round of golf.
Crewe inherited his father's literary tastes, and published for public consumption Stray Verses in 1890, besides other miscellaneous literary work, including Gleanings from Béranger (privately printed in 1889), much of which translated. He also wrote a biography on his father-in-law, Lord Rosebery, published in 1931, roundly criticised by Churchill as pedestrian, but which was well received in other quarters. A war poem, A Harrow Grave in Flanders—which touches on the theme of "what might have been"—was published in several anthologies during and following World War I. Lord Crewe was the last of the Liberal grandees at the end of Empire. He was essentially by character a Victorian, but this showed in his austere reverential writings that took few risks with the material.
Crewe married twice. In 1880, he married Sibyl Marcia Graham (1857–1887), daughter of Sir Frederick Graham, 3rd Baronet, of Netherby in the County of Cumberland. They had three daughters and one son, who died as a child:
- Lady Annabel Crewe-Milnes (1881–1948). She married twice. In 1903, she married Arthur O'Neill (1876–1914), later Ulster Unionist MP for Mid Antrim. Their third son, Terence O'Neill, was to become Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. Her second marriage was to Hugh Dodds to whom she bore two sons, the writer Quentin Crewe and Colin Crewe. 
- Hon. Richard Charles Rodes Milnes (1882–1890), died in childhood.
- Lady Celia Hermione Crewe-Milnes (1884–1985), twin with her sister Cynthia. She married Sir Edward Clive Milnes-Coates, 2nd Baronet.
- Lady Helen Cynthia Crewe-Milnes (1884–1968). Twin with her sister Celia. She married the Hon. George Charles Colville (1867–1943) and was mother of Sir John Colville who served as a Private Secretary to Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee.
In 1899, more than a decade after his first wife's death, the 41-year-old Crewe married again. At eighteen years of age, the bride was around the same age as Crewe's eldest daughter. She was Lady Margaret Etienne Hannah (Peggy) Primrose, daughter of the 5th Earl of Rosebery. They had two children, a son and a daughter, and again the son died in childhood. The children were:
- Richard George Archibald John Lucian Hungerford Crewe-Milnes, Earl of Madeley (1911–1922),
- Lady Mary Evelyn Hungerford Crewe-Milnes (1915–2014), first wife of the 9th Duke of Roxburghe.
Lord Crewe died in June 1945, aged 87. As he had no surviving male heir his titles became extinct.
Styles of address
- 1858–1863: Mr Robert Milnes
- 1863–1885: The Hon Robert Milnes
- 1885–1886: The Rt Hon The Lord Houghton
- 1886–1892: The Rt Hon The Lord Houghton FSA
- 1892–1895: The Rt Hon The Lord Houghton PC FSA
- 1895–1908: The Rt Hon The Earl of Crewe PC FSA
- 1908–1911: The Rt Hon The Earl of Crewe KG PC FSA
- 1911–1922: The Most Hon The Marquess of Crewe KG PC FSA
- 1922–1928: His Excellency The Most Hon The Marquess of Crewe KG PC FSA
- 1928–1945: The Most Hon The Marquess of Crewe KG PC FSA
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
Robert Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe
- "Milnes, the Hon. Robert Offley Ashburton (MLNS875RO)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Crewe, Robert Offley Ashburton Crewe-Milnes, 1st Earl of". Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 432.
- Davis, John. Milnes, Robert Offley Ashburton Crewe-, marquess of Crewe (1858–1945), in: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (September 2004; January 2008), Oxford University Press, retrieved 23 January 2009
- Jenkins, Churchill, p. 153.
- Jenkins, p. 159.
- Jenkins, op cit., p. 165.
- Jenkins, op cit., pp. 168–9.
- Jenkins, op cit., p. 189.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Crewe, Robert Offley Ashburton Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of". Encyclopædia Britannica. 30 (12th ed.). London & New York. p. 772.
- "Sir Robert Offley Ashburton Crewe-Milnes, 1st and last Marquess of Crewe". The Peerage. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
- "Crewe, Marquess of (UK, 1911 - 1945)". Cracroft's Peerage. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
- Asquith letters to Lady Venetia Stanley; Jenkins, op cit., p. n229.
- Jenkins, The Chancellors, pp. 193, 206.
- Pope-Hennesey, p.150; David, pp. 120–1.
- Pope-Hennessey, p. X.
- Leo McKinstry, Rosebery; Statesman in Turmoil.
- Smith, Neil (1972). "Social reform in Edwardian liberalism: the genesis of the policies of national insurance and old age pensions, 1906-11 - Durham e-Theses". Durham E-Theses. Retrieved 9 August 2015.
- Walter Runciman
- Lord Crewe's Speeches
- Lord Crewe's Speeches 2
- Lord Crewe's Speeches 3
- Lancashire and the New Liberalism
- Pope-Hennessey, p. 54.
- Jenkins, Churchill, pp. 447–8.
- New York Libraries (Feb 1919) p. 161
- The London Gazette: . 19 August 1892.
- Pope Hennessy, James (1955). Lord Crewe, 1858–1945. The Likeness of a Liberal. London: Constable & Co.
- Packer, Ian (1998). Brack et al., eds. "The Marquess of Crewe". Dictionary of Liberal Biography. Politico's.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Robert Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe.|
- "Milnes, Robert Offley Ashburton Crewe", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.