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Alec Douglas-Home: Wikis


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The Right Honourable
 The Lord Home of the Hirsel 

In office
18 October 1963 – 16 October 1964
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by Harold Macmillan
Succeeded by Harold Wilson

In office
16 October 1964 – 28 July 1965
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by Harold Wilson
Succeeded by Edward Heath

In office
20 June 1970 – 4 March 1974
Prime Minister Edward Heath
Preceded by Michael Stewart
Succeeded by James Callaghan
In office
27 July 1960 – 18 October 1963
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Preceded by Selwyn Lloyd
Succeeded by Rab Butler

In office
14 October 1959 – 27 July 1960
Preceded by The Viscount Hailsham
Succeeded by The Viscount Hailsham
In office
29 March 1957 – 17 September 1957
Preceded by The Marquess of Salisbury
Succeeded by The Viscount Hailsham

In office
29 March 1957 – 27 July 1960
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Preceded by The Marquess of Salisbury
Succeeded by The Viscount Hailsham

Born 2 July 1903(1903-07-02)
Mayfair, Westminster, England, United Kingdom
Died 9 October 1995 (aged 92)
The Hirsel, Coldstream, Berwickshire, United Kingdom
Political party Conservative (SUP)
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Douglas-Home
Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford
Profession Member of Parliament
Religion Scottish Episcopal Church

Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel,[1] KT, PC (2 July 1903 – 9 October 1995), 14th Earl of Home from 1951 to 1963, was a British Conservative politician, and served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for a year from October 1963 to October 1964 (as Sir Alec Douglas-Home). He was the last member of the House of Lords to be appointed Prime Minister and the only Prime Minister to renounce his peerage to leave the House of Lords and contest a by-election to enter the House of Commons. He was also the only Prime Minister to have played first class cricket and the first British Prime Minister to have been born in the 20th century.


Early life and Family

Douglas-Home was born in Mayfair, Westminster, England, the eldest of seven children born to Charles, Lord Dunglass, (the oldest son of the 12th Earl of Home) and Lady Lilian Lambton, daughter of Frederick Lambton, 4th Earl of Durham. His mother was the great-great-granddaughter of the reforming Prime Minister Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey. After his father's succession to the Earldom in 1918 he held the courtesy title Lord Dunglass. One of his brothers was the dramatist William Douglas-Home.

Home was educated at Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated with a Third Class Honours MA in Modern History in 1925. He was President of Vincent's Club in 1926. At Eton, his contemporaries included Cyril Connolly, who later described him as "a votary of the esoteric Eton religion, the kind of graceful, tolerant, sleepy boy who is showered with all the laurels, who is liked by the masters and admired by the boys without any apparent exertion on his part". Connolly famously concluded, "in the eighteenth century he would have become Prime Minister before he was 30: as it was he appeared honourably ineligible for the struggle of life".[2] In 1936 he married Elizabeth Alington, the daughter of Cyril Alington, who had been Douglas-Home's headmaster at Eton. They had four children: Caroline, Meriel, Diana and David.

Cricket career

Home was a talented cricketer at school, club and county level, and is the only British prime minister to have played first-class cricket. Amongst others he represented the MCC, Middlesex CCC and Oxford University Cricket Club at first-class level, playing under the name "Lord Dunglass", his title at the time. Between 1924 and 1927, Dunglass played 10 first-class matches, scoring 147 runs at an average of 16.33 and with a best score of 37 not out. As a right-arm fast-medium bowler he took 12 wickets at an average of 30.25 with a best of 3 for 43. Three of his first-class games were internationals against Argentina on the MCC 'representative' tour of South America in 1926-27.

After Douglas-Home had retired as prime minister, he became president of the MCC in 1966. Between 1977 and 1989 he was Governor of I Zingari, the well-known nomadic cricket team.

Member of Parliament

Home became the Scottish Unionist Party Member of Parliament (MP) for Lanark in 1931. His high birth gave him a head start in Parliament, and he served as Parliamentary Private Secretary (1937–1939) to Neville Chamberlain, witnessing at first hand the latter's attempts to stave off World War II through negotiation with Adolf Hitler. Douglas-Home fell gravely ill with spinal tuberculosis in 1938, which kept him immobile on his back for two years and prevented him from taking an active part in World War II.

Home lost his parliamentary seat in the Conservatives' landslide defeat in the 1945 general election, but regained it in 1950. However he was automatically disqualified from the Commons in 1951 when he inherited his father's seat in the House of Lords, becoming the 14th Earl of Home.

Lord Home, as he then was, served not only as Commonwealth Secretary from 1955 during the time of the Suez Crisis but, from 1957, also as Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council (the latter twice; briefly in 1957 and subsequently from 1959). Home traded all three for the Foreign Office in 1960. In 1962, he was created a knight of the Order of the Thistle — the highest Scottish honour and in the personal gift of the Monarch — which entitled him to be styled "Sir" after later renouncing his earldom.

Appointment as Prime Minister

On 18 October 1963, Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan suddenly resigned following prostate trouble from which he feared he would not recover, though ultimately he did make a full recovery and survived another 23 years to live to the age of 92. At the time, the Conservative Party had no formal procedure for selecting a leader, merely a series of confused precedents. The Queen was expected to choose a new Prime Minister on the basis of advice given by the party's elder statesmen.

Home did not originally seek the office of prime minister, being apparently quite content to serve in the House of Lords and hold the office of foreign secretary. But Home was put forth by Macmillan as a compromise candidate, and was persuaded to enter the race.[3] Though Rab Butler, nominally the "Deputy Prime Minister" (officially no such constitutional office then existed, with the title on its rare usages being an honorary one), was the favourite among Conservative MPs, Home was preferred by the elder statesmen, some of whom indicated that they would refuse to serve in cabinet under Butler or the other potential candidate, Quintin Hogg. Macmillan was apparently determined not to allow Butler to succeed him.[3]

Macmillan's resignation took place at the time of the 1963 Conservative Party Conference, which rapidly became something akin to an American political convention as various candidates and their supporters jostled publicly for the position. Following a series of consultations to determine who could command support from across the party and prove the best compromise candidate, Macmillan advised Elizabeth II. Though it was argued that he had no right to advise the Queen as to whom to invite to kiss hands as Prime Minister, and the Queen was under no obligation to accept his advice, the Queen duly invited the Earl of Home to become Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury. Elizabeth II first invited Home to Buckingham Palace for a meeting, and granted him 24 hours to determine whether he could successfully form an administration; Home determined that he could do so.[4]

Home, the first prime minister born in the 20th century, believed it would not be practical to serve as PM from the Lords. It was widely believed that Lord Curzon had not been invited to become prime minister in 1923 because of his seat in the Lords. Using the Peerage Act 1963, which had only been passed earlier in the same year after Tony Benn's campaign to renounce his peerage, Home disclaimed his Earldom and other peerages on 23 October 1963. For the next two weeks he belonged to neither House of Parliament - an extremely uncommon (although not unique) occurrence for a sitting Prime Minister. As "Sir Alec Douglas-Home", he contested a by-election in the safe seat of Kinross & West Perthshire. Home duly won on 8 November 1963, entering the history books as the last peer to become prime minister and the only prime minister to resign from the Lords to enter the Commons.

Defeat and opposition

Linked as it was to the damaged former government's Profumo Affair of 1963, Douglas-Home's tenure as prime minister lasted only one year. The October 1964 general election was won by the Labour Party under the new leadership of Harold Wilson. However, the margin of victory proved narrow and the election thus provided a much sterner test for Wilson than expected. Indeed it was in this campaign that Home made his most famous remark. Wilson kept telling Home that he was not a man of the people, as he was the 14th Earl of Home. Home responded, "as far as the 14th Earl is concerned I suppose that Mr. Wilson, when you come to think of it, is the 14th Mr. Wilson".

Home remained leader of the party until his resignation in July of the following year. At this time, Home himself revised the rules of the Conservative Party to allow the party leader to be henceforth selected by a series of ballots of all Conservative MPs.[5] The resulting leadership election was won by Edward Heath, who defeated Reginald Maudling and Enoch Powell. Over the following six years, Home was notably loyal to Heath, comparing those who questioned his position with impatient gardeners who would keep digging up a tree to gauge its progress by examining its roots.

Return to government

In 1970, Heath became prime minister, Home returned to the post of Foreign Secretary, which was deemed to suit him well. As of 2010, Home is the last former Prime Minister to take a Ministry in someone else's cabinet.


In 1973 Home intimated his intention to retire from Parliament and government at the next general election, but was overtaken by the calling of a snap general election in February 1974. Following the defeat of the Heath government by that of Harold Wilson in 1974, Home retired from front-line politics, standing down from the Commons at the October 1974 election.

In the 1979 Devolution referendum, Home made a high profile statement arguing that an incoming Conservative Government would introduce a better Scottish Assembly. In the event, Margaret Thatcher's government did not do so.

From 1977 to 1980, he chaired the Bilderberg Group meetings (1977–1980), replacing Prince Bernhard.[6]

Personal life

Home was restored to the House of Lords when he accepted a life peerage, becoming known as Baron Home of the Hirsel, of Coldstream in Berwickshire (The Hirsel being his family seat in Berwickshire), and continued to appear in the House of Lords into his nineties. As of 2009, Home ranks as the third-longest-lived British Prime Minister, behind James Callaghan and Harold Macmillan. His autobiography, The Way The Wind Blows, was published in 1976. He was also the author of Peaceful Change (1964) and Border Reflections (1979). His correspondence with his grandson Matthew Darby was published as Letters to a Grandson in 1983.


On his death at The Hirsel in 1995, aged 92, Home was succeeded as Earl of Home by his only son, David Douglas-Home. He also had three daughters, Lady Caroline Douglas-Home DL, Lady Meriel Darby (who married Adrian Darby OBE) and Lady Diana Wolfe Murray (who married James Wolfe Murray).[7]

Attempted kidnapping

In 2008, it was revealed that a plot to kidnap Home in 1964 was foiled by the PM himself. Two left-wing students from the University of Aberdeen had planned to kidnap the PM. Home had even encountered the two students earlier in the day when he gave them £1 for a charity in return for not kidnapping him, which the PM took as a joke. The students tailed his car as he drove to meet a Scottish Minister. They had intended to force his car to crash or block it then kidnap him; however, they lost their nerve. Instead they just decided to go to the home of the couple Home was meeting. Home was alone and when they rang the bell he answered. The kidnappers told Home that they planned to kidnap him. Home's response was to say “I suppose you realise if you do the Conservatives will win the election by 200 or 300.” After packing several things he offered them some beer which the kidnappers accepted and Home convinced them to abandon their plot. Home never spoke of the kidnapping because he did not want to ruin the career of his bodyguard. Home related the story in 1977 to the former Lord Chancellor Quintin Hogg and it is recorded in his diaries.[8][9] In July 2009, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a fictionalised dramatisation of this reported event entitled The Night They Tried to Kidnap the Prime Minister, written by Martin Jameson and starring Tim McInnerny as Alec Douglas-Home.

Titles from birth to death

  • The Hon. Alec Douglas-Home (1903 – 1918)
  • Lord Dunglass (1918 – 1931) [this was a courtesy title]
  • Lord Dunglass, MP (1931 – 1945)
  • Lord Dunglass (1945 – 1950)
  • Lord Dunglass, MP (1950 – 1951)
  • The Rt. Hon. Lord Dunglass, MP (1951)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Home, PC (1951 – 1962)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Home, KT, PC (1962 – 1963)
  • The Rt. Hon. Sir Alec Douglas-Home, KT, PC (1963)
  • The Rt. Hon. Sir Alec Douglas-Home, KT, PC, MP (1963 – 1974)
  • The Rt. Hon. Sir Alec Douglas-Home, KT, PC (1974)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Lord Home of the Hirsel, KT, PC (1974 – 1995)


Home was constantly referred to as 'Baillie Vass' by the satirical magazine Private Eye. This running joke began in 1964 when a provincial newspaper, the Aberdeen Evening Express accidentally used a picture of Home over a caption referring to a baillie called Vass. Private Eye then affected to believe that Home was an impostor whom the newspaper had unmasked, and the magazine maintained this conceit until Home's death.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home's Government, October 1963 – October 1964



  • April 1964: Quintin Hogg becomes Secretary of State for Education and Science. Sir Edward Boyle leaves the Cabinet.


  1. ^ Family name pronounced /ˈhjuːm/
  2. ^ Connolly, Cyril (1938). Enemies of Promise. 
  3. ^ a b The Tarnished Crown, by Anthony Holden, London 1993, Viking Publishers, ISBN 0-670-84624-4, p. 209
  4. ^ Royal: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, by Robert Lacey, Little, Brown publishers, London 2002, ISBN 0-316-85940-0, pp. 215-216.
  5. ^ The Tarnished Crown, by Anthony Holden, London 1993, Viking Publishers, ISBN 0-670-84624-4, p. 211
  6. ^ "Twenty-fifth Bilderberg meeting held". Facts on File World News Digest. May 14, 1977. "Alec Douglas-Home, the former prime minister of Great Britain, chaired the conference, replacing Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, who had previously headed the Bilderberg invitation committee. (Prince Bernhard had resigned all public positions after the 1976 Lockheed scandal.)" 
  7. ^ "Born". Time (magazine). 1964.,9171,940393,00.html. Retrieved 2008-08-04. "To Diana Wolfe-Murray, 23, youngest daughter of Britain's Prime Minister; and James Archibald Wolfe-Murray, 27, executive of Glasgow's James Buchanan Ltd., makers of Black & White Scotch: their first child, a daughter (and first grandchild for 60-year-old Sir Alec); in London." 
  8. ^ "BBC Today Programme". 14 April 2008. Retrieved 2008. "An odd story of the 1964 election never published. Alec (then Prime Minister) was staying with John and Priscilla Tweedsmuir - who had no room for Alec's private bodyguard. He went to the nearest town (Aberdeen?) and John & Priscilla left Alec for a time alone in the house. Knock at the door. Door answered by PM in person. Deputation of left-wing students from Aberdeen University. Said they were going to kidnap Alec. He: "I suppose you realise if you do the Conservatives will win the election by 200 or 300." He asked and received permission to pack a few things & was given 10 mins grace. After that they were offered and accepted beer. John & Priscilla returned and the kidnap project abandoned. The bodyguard swore Alec to secrecy as his job would have been in peril." 
  9. ^ Andrew Pierce (14 April 2008). "How Alec Douglas-Home foiled student kidnappers with beer". Daily Telegraph. "A bungled plot by Left-wing students to kidnap Alec Douglas-Home, the Conservative prime minister, has been revealed for the first time in the coded diaries of Lord Hailsham, the former Lord Chancellor." 


  • Dickie, J. (1964). The Uncommon Commoner: A Study of Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Pall Mall.
  • Douglas-Home, Alec, Sir. (1964). Peaceful Change.
  • Dutton, D. (2006). Alec Douglas-Home (20 British Prime Ministers of the 20th Century), Haus Publishing.
  • Home of the Hirsel, Lord. (1976). The Way the Wind Blows: An Autobiography, London: Collins.
  • Home of the Hirsel, Lord. (1979). Border Reflections, London: Collins
  • Home of the Hirsel, Lord. (1983). Letters to a Grandson, London: HarperCollins.
  • Hughes, E. (1964). Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Housman
  • Thorpe, D.R. (1996). Alec Douglas-Home, Sinclair-Stevenson
  • Young, K. (1971). Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Fairleigh Dickinson

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
George Henry Hall
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
with The Lord Lovat
Succeeded by
Hector McNeil
Preceded by
Margaret Herbison
as Under-Secretary of State for Scotland
Minister of State for Scotland
1951 – 1955
Succeeded by
Tom Galbraith
Preceded by
The Viscount Swinton
Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations
1955 – 1960
Succeeded by
Duncan Sandys
Preceded by
The Marquess of Salisbury
Lord President of the Council
Succeeded by
The Viscount Hailsham
Leader of the House of Lords
1957 – 1960
Preceded by
The Viscount Hailsham
Lord President of the Council
1959 – 1960
Preceded by
Selwyn Lloyd
Foreign Secretary
1960 – 1963
Succeeded by
Rab Butler
Preceded by
Harold Macmillan
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
20 October 1963 – 16 October 1964
Succeeded by
Harold Wilson
Preceded by
Harold Wilson
Leader of the Opposition
1964 – 1965
Succeeded by
Edward Heath
Preceded by
Christopher Soames
Shadow Foreign Secretary
1966 – 1970
Succeeded by
Denis Healey
Preceded by
Michael Stewart
Foreign Secretary
1970 – 1974
Succeeded by
James Callaghan
Preceded by
James Callaghan
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by
Geoffrey Rippon
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Thomas Scott Dickson
Member of Parliament for Lanark
Succeeded by
Thomas Steele
Preceded by
Thomas Steele
Member of Parliament for Lanark
Succeeded by
Patrick Maitland
Preceded by
Gilmour Leburn
Member of Parliament for
Kinross and Western Perthshire

1963Oct 1974
Succeeded by
Nicholas Fairbairn
Party political offices
Preceded by
Harold Macmillan
Leader of the British Conservative Party
Succeeded by
Edward Heath
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
Charles Douglas-Home
Earl of Home
1951 – 1963¹
Succeeded by
David Douglas-Home
Notes and references
1. Home disclaimed his peerage in 1963 in order to be eligible for election in the Commons.


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel (1903-1995) was a British Conservative politician who served one year as Prime Minister. Long service in the governments of the 1950s and as Foreign Secretary led to his emergence as a compromise candidate in the feverish negotiations of 1963, but he narrowly failed to rebuild the Conservatives' popularity enough to win the 1964 general election. Following his resignation as party leader he remained involved in politics and again served as Foreign Secretary under the following government of Edward Heath. Home had inherited the title of Earl of Home in 1951 but disclaimed it in 1963 so that he could be elected to the House of Commons.


  • No, because I do my sums with matchsticks.
  • I suppose, when you come to think of it, he is the fourteenth Mr Wilson.
  • David Butler and Gareth Butler, "Twentieth Century British Political Facts", p. 292.
  • Television interview with Kenneth Harris, 21 October 1963, responding to Wilson (see below).
  • Now you can see me in the flesh, and I don't really look as I'm made to look on television.
  • D.E. Butler and Anthony King, "The British General Election of 1964", p. 147.
  • Remark frequently made during the 1964 general election campaign.


  • Douglas-Home: Can you not make me look better than I do on television? I look rather scraggy, like a ghost.
    Make-up girl: No.
    Douglas-Home: Why not?
    Make-up girl: Because you have a head like a skull.
    Douglas-Home: Doesn't everyone have a head like a skull?
    Make-up girl: No.
  • Michael Cockerell, "Live from Number 10", p. 105.
  • A story told by Douglas-Home about going on television in the 1964 election.
  • There are two problems in my life. The political ones are insoluble and the economic ones are incomprehensible.


  • This is a counter-revolution. After half a century of democratic advance, of social revolution, of rising expectations, the whole process has ground to a halt with a fourteenth Earl.
  • "Labour would reject move to postpone M.P.s' return", The Times, 21 October 1963, p. 6.
  • Harold Wilson speaking at Manchester, 19 October 1963, shortly after Douglas-Home's appointment as Prime Minister.
Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

The Rt Hon Sir Alec Douglas-Home

In office
October 19, 1963 – October 16, 1964
Preceded by Harold Macmillan
Succeeded by Harold Wilson

Born July 2, 1903
Mayfair, London, England
Died October 5, 1995, age 92
Coldstream, Berwickshire, Scotland
Political party Conservative (SUP)
Spouse Elizabeth Hester Alington

Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel (July 2, 1903October 9, 1995) was a prime minister of the United Kingdom.


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