Alec Douglas-Home Biography, Life & Interesting Facts Revealed

Alec Douglas-Home Biography

Alec Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel, was a British ‘Conservative’ politician and former prime minister of the United Kingdom. Known for his expertise in foreign affairs, Home initially had no interest in politics, instead excelling in cricket and serving in the Territorial Army. However, his experience in parliament under Neville Chamberlain’s administration paved the way for his successful career. Despite facing opposition and criticism, Home’s controversial appointment as prime minister in 1963 marked a new chapter in the election process. Though his tenure was short, Home justified his appointment and later served at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He passed away in 1995.

Quick Facts

  • British Celebrities Born In July
  • Also Known As: Sir Alec Douglas-Home
  • Died At Age: 92
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Elizabeth Hester Alington
    • Father: Charles Cospatrick Archibald Douglas-Home
    • Mother: Lilian Lambton
    • Siblings: Henry, William Douglas-Home
    • Children: Caroline, David, Diana, Meriel
  • Born Country: England
  • Prime Ministers
  • Political Leaders
  • Political ideology: Conservative (SUP)
  • Died on: October 9, 1995
  • Place of death: Coldstream
  • City: London, England
  • More Facts
  • Education: Christ Church, Oxford

Childhood & Early Life

Born Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home on July 2, 1903, in Mayfair, London, he was the eldest of the seven children born to Lord Dunglass and the Lady Lilian Lambton. His grew up with his brothers, Henry (who later became an ornithologist), William (who became a playwright), and Edward.

Home attended ‘Ludgrove School’ and then joined ‘Eton College.’ He then earned a degree in modern history from ‘Christ Church College,’ Oxford. He played cricket for clubs such as ‘Marylebone,’ ‘Middlesex,’ and ‘Oxford University.’ Home was drafted in the ‘Territorial Army’ and became a lieutenant in the ‘Lanarkshire Yeomanry’ (1924). He was promoted to the position of captain in 1928 and released as a major in 1933.

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Entry into Politics

Home was affected by the prevailing poverty and unemployment near Lanarkshire and thus decided to run for parliament to alter the situation. After a failed attempt at Coatbridge for the 1929 general election, he won as a ‘Conservative’ member from Lanarkshire in 1931. Home had faith in the ‘Conservative Party’s capability of bringing in a revolutionary change in Scotland.

Home served as an official parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to junior minister Anthony Muirhead from the ‘Ministry of Labour’ in 1935 and later to Neville Chamberlain, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Home participated in the events that resulted in World War II after Chamberlain became the prime minister. He supported Chamberlain at the 1938 Munich conference, where the appeasement deal with the German government of Adolf Hitler was signed.

Home’s career seemed to be over when people turned against Chamberlain after the appeasement deal was breached. Home realized that Britain was not in a position to negotiate with a weak military and that Britain required support from the French, who had backed out by then. Additionally, America was not ready for a war. Home served the Chamberlain government until May 2, 1940, when Winston Churchill replaced Chamberlain.

The ‘Army Medical Board’ rejected Home’s military service application when he was supposed to join as an officer of the ‘Lanarkshire Yeomanry,’ at the beginning of World War II. A tubercular hole discovered in his spine made him ineligible for the war. Home resigned but still managed to track the progress of the war in the subsequent 2 years, while recovering from his spinal surgery performed in September 1940. He decided to oppose Joseph Stalin of Russia in case he decided to export communism to other parts of the world.

In July 1943, Home returned to the ‘House of Commons’ as a backbencher of the parliament and eventually came to be known for his expertise in dealing with foreign affairs.

Rise in Politics

In 1945, when the ‘Labour Party’ backed off, Churchill formed a ‘Conservative’ government. Home served as the parliamentary undersecretary at the foreign office of the government. Unfortunately, the ‘Conservatives’ lost office in July 1945. Thus, Home had to leave the ‘House of Commons.’ He came back as the ‘Conservative’ member for Lanark in 1950.

Home succeeded his father (who died in 1951) and became the 14th Earl of Home. He thus entered the ‘House of Lords.’ He became the minister of state for Scotland when Churchill became the prime minister again in October 1951. Churchill nicknamed him “Home Sweet Home.” Anthony Eden replaced Churchill in 1955, and Home was promoted to the position of the secretary of state for ‘Commonwealth’ relations. Despite the promotion, he was sidelined initially. Home, however, rose to prominence when he was roped in to handle the Suez crisis of 1956, which Eden had botched up.

Home’s tenure at the ‘Commonwealth’ was heavily criticized. His advocacy for a multiracial government concerning the Rhodesian independence failed to convince the white minority government.

Home was approached to be the foreign secretary in the new administration of Harold Macmillan in 1960, due to the expectation that he would be easy to dominate. He was still at the ‘Commonwealth Relations Office.’ However, after what he had learned during the appeasement breach in Chamberlain’s government, Home had become tougher against the Soviet. Macmillan, who acted as his administration’s foreign minister, relied on Home’s advice on related matters. When the foreign secretary, Selwyn Lloyd, was declared to be promoted to the ‘Treasury,’ Macmillan appointed Home as the foreign secretary in the ‘Lords.’ The ‘Labour Party’ opposed this decision.

Home, in partnership with Edward Heath, the newly appointed ‘Lord Privy Seal’ and the deputy foreign secretary, worked well, despite their different backgrounds. Home supported Britain’s entry into the ‘European Economic Community’ (EEC), while Heath dealt with the negotiations. As a foreign secretary, Home aided America to end the Cuban Missile Crisis. He signed the 1963 ‘Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.’

Prime Minister

Macmillan recommended Home as his successor after he developed health issues in October 1963. He did not want Butler (the deputy prime and the first secretary of state), one of the candidates, to become the next prime minister. Since there were three senior officials who were supposed to contest the succession and Home was not one of them, it gave the impression that Home’s party had not chosen him democratically. Similarly, Macmillan’s original choice for the post was Lord Hailsham and not Home. However, after he realized that Home was the best choice, Macmillan consulted with the Queen about it, which was against the royal prerogative.

Two of the cabinet members, Enoch Powell and Iain Macleod, rejected Home’s appointment as the next prime minister, and in that attempt, they insisted Butler and the other candidates to follow them. Butler, however, agreed to take over as the foreign secretary, while Powell and Macleod gave up their candidature.

Home had to give up his hereditary title. He even contested in the re-election in his home district. Since domestic policy was not his forté, the opposition attacked his weak point. There was a huge media uproar regarding him being chosen as the next prime minister. Home was declared the new prime minister on October 19, at ‘Buckingham Palace.’ Four days later, he disowned his earldom and other peerages, including the honor of the ”Knight of the Order of the Thistle” (1962), according to the ‘Peerage Act’ of 1963. His title went down from ”Lord” to ”Sir.”

Harold Wilson of the ‘Labour Party’ won the 1964 general elections. Home stepped down as the prime minister after 12 months of service and accepted his inefficiency as a leader. He, however, decided to bring in a change in the election procedure for the prime minister to avoid any more nasty battles in the future. He devised a more transparent electoral process.

Later Life and Death

Home returned to the ‘House of Lords.’ The ‘Conservatives’ came to power in 1970, and he was again appointed in the foreign ministry. He, however, again failed to convince the white minority government leader Ian Smith about the situation in Rhodesia. After the fall of the ‘Conservative’ government in 1974, Home returned to the ‘House of Lords’ and retired in 1992.

After retirement, Home released three books: ‘The Way the Wind Blows’ (1976), ‘Border Reflections’ (1979), and ‘Letters to a Grandson’ (1983). He served as the chancellor of ‘Heriot-Watt University,’ where he received an “Honorary Doctorate” in 1966.

Home was married to Elizabeth Alington (1936) and had four children with her: Caroline, Meriel, Diana, and David. David inherited his earldom in 1995. Home withdrew from public affairs after Elizabeth died in 1990. He died in Coldstream, Scotland, on October 9, 1995.

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