William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp
|The Right Honourable
The Earl Beauchamp
KG KCMG KStJ PC
|Lord Beauchamp as Governor of New South Wales in 1900|
|First Commissioner of Works|
3 November 1910 – 6 August 1914
|Prime Minister||H. H. Asquith|
|Preceded by||Lewis Vernon Harcourt|
|Succeeded by||The Lord Emmott|
|Lord President of the Council|
16 June 1910 – 3 November 1910
|Prime Minister||H. H. Asquith|
|Preceded by||The Viscount Wolverhampton|
|Succeeded by||The Viscount Morley of Blackburn|
5 August 1914 – 25 May 1915
|Prime Minister||H. H. Asquith|
|Preceded by||The Viscount Morley of Blackburn|
|Succeeded by||The Marquess of Crewe|
|Lord Steward of the Household|
31 July 1907 – 16 June 1910
|Prime Minister||Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman
H. H. Asquith
|Preceded by||The Earl of Liverpool|
|Succeeded by||The Earl of Chesterfield|
|Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms|
18 December 1905 – 31 July 1907
|Prime Minister||Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman|
|Preceded by||The Lord Belper|
|Succeeded by||The Lord Denman|
|20th Governor of New South Wales|
18 May 1899 – 30 April 1901
|Preceded by||The Viscount Hampden|
|Succeeded by||Sir Harry Rawson|
|Born||20 February 1872|
|Died||14 November 1938
New York City, United States
|Spouse(s)||Lady Lettice Grosvenor (1876-1936)|
|Alma mater||Christ Church, Oxford|
William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp KG, KCMG, KStJ, PC (20 February 1872 – 14 November 1938), styled Viscount Elmley until 1891, was a British Liberal politician. He was Governor of New South Wales between 1899 and 1901, a member of the Liberal administrations of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and H. H. Asquith between 1905 and 1915 and leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Lords between 1924 and 1931. When political enemies threatened to make public his homosexuality he resigned from office to go into exile. Lord Beauchamp is generally supposed to have been the model for Lord Marchmain in Evelyn Waugh's novel, Brideshead Revisited.
Background and education
Beauchamp was the eldest son of Frederick Lygon, 6th Earl Beauchamp, by his first wife, Lady Mary Catherine, daughter of Philip Stanhope, 5th Earl Stanhope. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, where he showed an interest in evangelism, joining the Christian Social Union.
Beauchamp succeeded his father in the earldom in 1891 at the age of 18, and was mayor of Worcester between 1895 and 1896. A progressive in his ideas, he was surprised to be offered the post of Governor of New South Wales in May 1899. Though he was good at the job, and enjoyed the company of local artists and writers, he was unpopular in the colony due to a series of gaffes and misunderstandings, most notably over his reference to the 'birthstain' of Australia's convict origins. His open association with the high church and Anglo-Catholicism caused increased perturbation in the Evangelical Council. In Sydney, William Carr Smith, rector of St James' Church was his chaplain. Beauchamp returned to Britain in 1900, saying that his duties had failed to stimulate him.
In 1902, Beauchamp joined the Liberal Party and the same year he married Lady Lettice Mary Elizabeth Grosvenor, daughter of Victor Grosvenor, Earl Grosvenor. When the Liberals came to power under Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman in December 1905, Beauchamp was appointed Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms and was sworn of the Privy Council in January 1906. In July 1907 he became Lord Steward of the Household, a post he retained when H. H. Asquith became Prime Minister in 1908. He entered the cabinet as Lord President of the Council in June 1910, a post he held until November of the same year, when he was appointed First Commissioner of Works. He was again Lord President of the Council from 1914 to 1915. However, he was not a member of the coalition government formed by Asquith in May 1915. Lord Beauchamp never returned to ministerial office but was Liberal Leader in the House of Lords from 1924 to 1931, supporting the ailing party with his substantial fortune.
Other public appointments
Lord Beauchamp was made Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire in 1911, carried the Sword of State at the coronation of King George V, was made Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports in 1913 and a Knight of the Garter in 1914. He was also Chancellor of the University of London and a Six Master (Governor of RGS Worcester).
In 1931, Lord Beauchamp was "outed" as homosexual. Although Beauchamp's homosexuality was an open secret in parts of high society, and one that his political opponents had refrained from using against him despite its illegality, Lady Beauchamp was oblivious to it, and professed a confusion as to what homosexuality was when her husband's was revealed. He had numerous affairs at Madresfield and Walmer Castle, with his partners ranging from servants to socialites, and including local men.
In 1930, while on a trip to Australia, it became common knowledge in London society that one of the men escorting him, Robert Bernays, a member of the Liberal Party, was a lover of his. It was reported to King George V and Queen Mary by his Tory brother-in-law, the Duke of Westminster, who hoped to ruin the Liberal Party through Beauchamp, as well as Beauchamp personally due his private dislike of Beauchamp. Homosexuality was a criminal offence at the time, and the King was horrified, rumoured to have said that "I thought men like that shot themselves". The King had a personal interest in the case, as his sons Henry and George had visited Madresfield in the past. George was then in a relationship with Beauchamp's daughter Mary, and this was cut off by her father's outing.
After sufficient evidence had been gathered by the Duke, Beauchamp was made an offer to separate from his wife Lettice (without a divorce), retire on a pretence, and then leave the country. Beauchamp refused and, shortly afterwards, the Countess Beauchamp obtained a divorce. There was no public scandal, but Lord Beauchamp resigned all his offices except that of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and went into exile on the continent (fearing arrest if he did not), briefly contemplating suicide.
Lord Beauchamp is generally supposed to have been the model for Lord Marchmain in Evelyn Waugh's novel, Brideshead Revisited. In his 1977 book, Homosexuals in History, historian A. L. Rowse suggests that Beauchamp's failed appointment as Governor of New South Wales was the inspiration for Hilaire Belloc's satirical children's poem, Lord Lundy which has as its final line a command from his aged grandfather "Go out and govern New South Wales!". Nevertheless, says Rowse, "Lord Lundy's chronic weakness was tears. This was not Lord Beauchamp's weakness: he enjoyed life, was always gay."
On 26 July 1902, Lord Beauchamp married Lady Lettice Grosvenor, daughter of Victor Grosvenor, Earl Grosvenor, and Lady Sibell Lumley, and granddaughter of the 1st Duke of Westminster. They had three sons and four daughters:
- William Lygon, 8th Earl Beauchamp (3 July 1903 – 3 January 1979), the last Earl Beauchamp. His widow, Mona, née Else Schiewe, died 1989.
- Hon. Hugh Patrick Lygon (2 November 1904 – 19 August 1936, Rothenburg, Bavaria), said to be the model for Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited.
- Lady Lettice Lygon (16 Jun 1906–1973) who married 1930 (div. 1958) Sir Richard Charles Geers Cotterell, 5th Bt. (1907–1978) and had issue.
- Lady Sibell Lygon (10 October 1907 – 31 October 2005) who married 11 February 1939 (bigamously) and 1949 (legally) Michael Rowley (d. 19 September 1952), stepson of her maternal uncle the 2nd Duke of Westminster.
- Lady Mary Lygon (12 February 1910 – 27 September 1982) who married 1937 (div) HH Prince Vsevolod Ivanovich of Russia, and had no issue.
- Lady Dorothy Lygon (22 February 1912 – 13 November 2001)  who married 1985 (sep) Robert Heber-Percy (d. 1987) of Faringdon, Berkshire. They had no issue.
- Hon. Richard Edward Lygon (25 December 1916 – 1970) who married 1939 Patricia Janet Norman; their younger daughter Rosalind Lygon, now Lady Morrison (b. 1946), inherited Madresfield Court in 1979.
Lady Beauchamp died in 1936, aged 59, estranged from all her children except her youngest child. Lord Beauchamp died of cancer in New York City, aged 66. He was succeeded in the earldom by his eldest son, William.
Of the Earl's seven children, all but the second son Hugh (who was homosexual) married, but only two left issue.
- thepeerage.com William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp
- "Beauchamp, seventh Earl (1872–1938)", Australian Dictionary of Biography
- Paula Byrne (9 August 2009). "Sex scandal behind Brideshead Revisited". The Times (London). Retrieved 10 August 2009.
- "CanonN W. I. Carr Smith". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW: National Library of Australia). 5 July 1930. p. 19. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
- The London Gazette: . 23 January 1906.
- The London Gazette: . 9 January 1906.
- The London Gazette: . 30 July 1907.
- The London Gazette: . 21 June 1910.
- The London Gazette: . 8 November 1910.
- The London Gazette: . 4 August 1914.
- "Glasgow University jubilee" The Times (London). Friday, 14 June 1901. (36481), p. 10.
- A. L. Rowse, Homosexuals in History (1977), pp. 222-223 ISBN 0-88029-011-0
- Mulvagh, Jane (24 May 2008). "Evelyn Waugh: a blueprint for Brideshead". The Daily Telegraph.
- "Lady Sibell Rowley" (obituary) Daily Telegraph, 16 November 2005.
- "Obituaries: Lady Dorothy Heber Percy". Daily Telegraph. 17 Nov 2001.
- "The scandal that shook Brideshead. "..back in England Lady Beauchamp was even more isolated. Estranged from all her children, save for Dickie, she led a pitiful existence: alone, confused, ill and in thrall to her bullying brother. Lady Beauchamp's children never made peace with her. She died in 1936, five years after her husband's flight. She was only 59."
- Cameron Hazlehurst, 'Beauchamp, seventh Earl (1872–1938)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, Melbourne University Press, 1979, pp 235–236.
- Peter Rivendell. William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp. Retrieved 10 June 2008.
- "Beauchamp, William Lygon, 7th Earl". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). 1922.
- (Lady) Selina Hastings. "Country house high jinks". Review of Jane Mulvagh's book, published 4 June 2008. Retrieved 10 June 2008. Article includes a portrait of the 7th Earl circa 1920 with five of his seven children (his eldest and youngest son are apparently missing; all four daughters and his favourite son Hugh are in the portrait).
- Portrait of the 7th Earl (1899), by Sir Leslie Ward for Vanity Fair. Retrieved 10 June 2008.
- Article on Lygon's influence on the plot for Brideshead Revisited
- David Dutton, "William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp (1872-1938)", Journal of Liberal History, Issue 23, Summer 1999, p.18]
- E David (ed.) Inside Asquith's Cabinet, John Murray, London, 1971
Mulvagh, Jane. Madresfield: The Real Brideshead. Doubleday, London, 2008. ISNB 978-0-385-606772-8