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The Right Honourable
 The Viscount Grey of Fallodon 

In office
10 December 1905 – 10 December 1916
Monarch Edward VII
George V
Prime Minister Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman
H.H. Asquith
David Lloyd George
Preceded by The Marquess of Lansdowne
Succeeded by Arthur Balfour

Born 25 April 1862 (1862-04-25)
London, England
Died 7 September 1933 (1933-09-08)
Fallodon, Northumberland, England
Nationality British
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Dorothy Widdrington (20 October 1885 – 4 February 1906)
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
Profession Member of Parliament
Religion Anglican

Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon KG, PC, FZL, DL (25 April 1862 – 7 September 1933), better known as Sir Edward Grey, was a British statesman.


Family and early life

Grey was the eldest of the seven children of Colonel George Henry Grey and Harriet Jane Pearson, daughter of Charles Pearson. His grandfather Sir George Grey, 2nd Baronet, of Fallodon, was also a prominent Liberal politician, while his great-grandfather Sir George Grey, 1st Baronet, of Fallodon, was the second son of Charles Grey, 1st Earl Grey, and the younger brother of Prime Minister Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey.

Grey attended Temple Grove school from 1873 until 1876. Whilst at the school Grey's father died unexpectedly in December 1874 and his grandfather assumed responsibility for his education sending him to Winchester College in 1876 where his head of house was William Palmer who had been at Temple Grove. Grey would later have official relations with Palmer when, as Lord Selborne, he served as High Commissioner in South Africa.

Grey went up to Balliol College, Oxford in 1880 to read Greats. Apparently an indolent student he was tutored by Mandell Creighton during the vacations and managed a second in Mods. Grey subsequently became even more idle using his time to become university champion at real tennis. In 1882 his grandfather died and he became Sir Edward Grey inheriting an estate of about 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) and a private income.

Returning to Oxford in the autumn of 1883, Grey switched to studying jurisprudence in the belief that it would be an easier option but by January 1884 he had been sent down but allowed to return to sit his finals. Grey returned in the summer and achieved a third.

Grey left university with no clear career plan and in the summer of 1884 he asked a neighbour Lord Northbrook at the time First Lord of the Admiralty to find him serious and unpaid employment. Northbrook recommended him as a private secretary to his kinsman Sir Evelyn Baring the British consul general to Egypt who was attending a conference in London.

Grey had shown no particular interest in politics whilst at university but by the summer of 1884 Northbrook found him very keen on politics and after the Egyptian conference had ended found him a position as an unpaid assistant private secretary to Hugh Childers the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Grey was selected as the Liberal Party candidate for Berwick-upon-Tweed where his Conservative opponent was the sitting member Earl Percy. Grey interrupted his campaign in October 1885 to marry Dorothy Widdrington whom he had met the previous winter.

Early political career

At 23, Grey was returned as the youngest MP in the new House.

Junior office (August 1892 – June 1895)

Grey retained his seat in the 1892 election with a majority of only 442 votes and to his surprise was made Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs by Gladstone (albeit after his son Herbert had refused the post) under Lord Rosebery. Grey would later claim that at this point he had had no special training, nor paid special attention to foreign affairs.[1]

Grey would later date his first suspicions of future Anglo-German disagreements to his early days in office after Germany sought commercial concessions from Britain in the Ottoman Empire in return for support for the British position in Egypt. It was the abrupt and rough peremtoriness of the German action that gave me an unpleasant impression; not, he added, that the German position was at all unreasonable, rather that the method... was not that of a friend.[2] With hindsight, he argued in his memoirs, the whole policy of the years from 1886 to 1904 [might] be criticized as having played into the hands of Germany.[3]

1895 statement on French expansion in Africa

Prior to the Foreign Office vote on 28 March 1895 Grey asked Lord Kimberley (he had replaced Rosebery as Foreign Secretary when he became Prime Minister in 1895) for direction as to how he should answer any question about French activities in West Africa. According to Grey, Kimberley suggested pretty firm language[4]. In fact West Africa was not mentioned but when pressed on possible French activities in the Nile Valley Grey stated that a French expedition would be an unfriendly act and would be so viewed by England[5] According to Grey the subsequent row both in Paris and in Cabinet was made worse by the failure of Hansard to record that his statement referred explicitly to the Nile Valley and not to Africa in general.[6] The statement was made before the dispatch of the Marchand expedition (indeed he believed it might have actually provoked it) and as Grey admits did much to damage future Anglo-French relations.[7]

The Liberal Party lost a key vote in the House of Commons on 21 June 1895 and Grey was amongst the majority in his party that preferred a dissolution to continuing. He seems to have left office with few regrets noting I shall never be in office again and the days of my stay in the House of Commons are probably numbered. We [he and his wife] are both very glad and relieved....[8] The Liberals were heavily defeated in the subsequent General Election although Grey added 300 votes to his own majority.[9]

Foreign Secretary

Portrait of Edward Grey by James Guthrie, circa 1924–1930

Grey was appointed Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, taking office on 10 December 1905, and was then easily returned in the 1906 election. He was to hold office for 11 years to the day, the longest continuous tenure in this office. When Campbell-Bannerman stepped down as Prime Minister in 1907, Grey was one of the two leading candidates to succeed him. The post eventually went to Herbert Asquith, and Grey continuted as Foreign Secretary.


Anglo-Russian Entente 1907

As early as 13 December 1905 Grey had assured the Russian Ambassador Count Alexander Benckendorff that he supported the idea of an agreement with Russia.[10] Negotiations began soon after the arrival of Sir Arthur Nicolson the new British Ambassador in June 1906. In contrast with the previous Conservative government that had seen Russia as a potential threat to the empire, Grey's intention was to re-establish Russia as a factor in European politics[11] on the side of France and Great Britain in order to maintain a balance of power in Europe[12]

Bosnian Crisis 1908

Agadir Crisis 1911

Grey did not welcome the prospect of a renewed crisis over Morocco: he worried that it might either lead to a re-opening of the issues covered by the Treaty of Algeciras or that it might drive Spain into alliance with Germany. Initially Grey tried to restrain both France and Spain but by the Spring of 1911 he had failed on both counts. Grey believed that whether he liked it or not his hands were tied by the terms of the Entente cordiale.

The despatch of the German gunboat Panther to Agadir served to strengthen French resolve and, because he was determined to both protect the agreement with France and also to block German attempts at expansion around the Mediterranean, it pushed Grey closer to France. Grey however tried to calm the situation merely commenting on the abrupt nature of the German intervention and insisting that Britain must participate in any discussions about the future of Morocco.

In cabinet on 4 July Grey accepted that the UK would oppose any German port in the region, any new fortified port anywhere on the Moroccan coast and that Britain must continue to enjoy an 'open-door' for its trade with Morocco. Grey at this point was resisting efforts by the Foreign Office to support French intransigence. By the time a second cabinet was held on 21 July Grey had adopted a tougher position suggesting that he propose to Germany that a multi-national conference be held and that were Germany to refuse to participate we should take steps to assert and protect British interests.[13]

July Crisis

Although his activist foreign policy, which relied increasingly on the Entente with France and Russia, came under criticism from the radicals within his own party, he maintained his position because of the support of the Conservatives for his "non-partisan" foreign policy.

In 1914, Grey played a key role in the July Crisis leading to the outbreak of World War I. His attempts to mediate the dispute between Austria-Hungary and Serbia by a "Stop in Belgrade" came to nothing, owing to the tepid German response. He also failed to clearly communicate to Germany that a breach of the treaty not merely to respect but to protect the neutrality of Belgium — of which both Britain and Germany were signatories — would cause Britain to declare war against Germany. When he finally did make such communication German forces were already massed at the Belgian border and Helmuth von Moltke convinced Kaiser Wilhelm II it was too late to change the plan of attack. Thus when Germany declared war on France (3 August) and broke the treaty by invading Belgium (4 August), the British Cabinet voted almost unanimously to declare war on August 4, 1914.

World War I

Following the declaration of World War I Grey found that British foreign policy was constrained by mainly military events that were outside his control.

Italian entry into the war 1915

Relations with the USA

During the war, Grey, along with the Marquess of Crewe was also instrumental in forcing an initially reluctant ambassador Cecil-Spring Rice to raise the issue of the Hindu-German Conspiracy to the American Government that ultimately led to the unfolding of the entire plot.

Asiatic Turkey

In the early years of the war, Grey negotiated several important secret treaties, promising Russia the Turkish Straits.

Lord Grey.

He maintained his position as Foreign Secretary when the Conservatives came into the government to form a coalition in May 1915, but when the Asquith Coalition collapsed in December of the following year and David Lloyd George became Prime Minister, Grey went into opposition.

In an attempt to reduce his workload he left the House of Commons for the House of Lords in July 1916. becoming Viscount Grey of Fallodon', a title which would become extinct with his death.

Ambassador to the USA

Liberal Leader in the House of Lords

Grey continued to be active in politics despite his near blindness, serving as Liberal Leader in the Lords from 1923 until his resignation on the grounds that he was unable to attend on a regular basis shortly before the 1924 election. He was a member of the Coefficients dining club of social reformers set up in 1902 by the Fabian campaigners Sidney and Beatrice Webb.

Private life

Sporting achievements

Grey represented his College at football and was also an excellent tennis player being Oxford champion in 1883 (and winning the varsity competition the same year) and won the British championship in 1889, 1891, 1895, 1896 and 1898. He was runner-up in 1892, 1893 and 1894 years in which he held office.[14]

Grey was a life-long fisherman publishing a book on his exploits in 1899.[15]

Grey was an avid ornithologist — one of the best known photographs of him shows him with a Robin perched on his hat.


He is probably best remembered for a remark he supposedly made to a friend one evening just before the outbreak of the First World War, as he watched the lights being lit on the street below his office: "The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."[16]

Cover of Recreation by Grey of Falloden, 1920, Houghton Mifflin Company

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ Viscount Grey, Twenty Five Years, 1892-1916 (London, 1925) p.1.
  2. ^ ibid p.10.
  3. ^ ibid p.33.
  4. ^ ibid p.18.
  5. ^ Quoted in ibid p.20.
  6. ^ ibid p.20.
  7. ^ ibid p.21.
  8. ^ E & D Grey, Cottage Book, Itchen Abbas, 1894-1905 (London, 1909) entry of 22/23 June 1985.
  9. ^ Keith Robbins, Sir Edward Grey. A Biography of Lord Grey of Fallodon (London, 1971) p.56.
  10. ^ Beryl Williams, Great Britain and Russia, 1905 to the 1907 Convention p.133, in F.H. Hinsley (ed.), British Foreign Policy Under Sir Edward Grey (Cambridge, 1977)
  11. ^ Quoted in ibid p.134.
  12. ^ Interestingly Grey claimed that to the best of his recollection he had never used the phrase "balance of power", never consciously pursued it as a policy and was doubtful as to its precise meaning. Viscount Grey, Twenty Five Years 1892-1916 (London, 1925) pp.4-5.
  13. ^ Quoted in M.L. Dockrill, British Policy During the Agadir Crisis of 1911 p.276. in F.H. Hinsley (ed.), British Foreign Policy Under Sir Edward Grey (Cambridge, 1977
  14. ^ Keith Robbins, Sir Edward Grey. A Biography of Lord Grey of Fallodon, (London, 1971) pp.15, 55.
  15. ^ Viscount Grey, Fly Fishing, (London, 1899)
  16. ^ Sir Edward Grey, 3rd Baronet Encyclopaedia Britannica Article. Other common versions of the quote are
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
David Milne Home
Hubert Jerningham
Member of Parliament for Berwick-upon-Tweed
1885 – 1916
Succeeded by
Sir Francis Blake
Political offices
Preceded by
James William Lowther
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
1892 – 1895
Succeeded by
George Curzon
Preceded by
The Marquess of Lansdowne
Foreign Secretary
1905 – 1916
Succeeded by
Arthur Balfour
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
The Earl of Reading
British Ambassador to the United States
1919 – 1920
Succeeded by
Sir Auckland Geddes
Party political offices
Preceded by
Robert Crewe-Milnes
Leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Lords
1923 – 1924
Succeeded by
William Lygon
Academic offices
Preceded by
Viscount Cave
Chancellor of the University of Oxford
1928 – 1933
Succeeded by
The Lord Irwin
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Grey of Fallodon
1916 – 1933
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
George Grey
(of Fallodon)
1882 – 1933
Succeeded by
Charles George Grey


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.

Sir Edward Grey, 3rd Bt., 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon (1862-04-251933-09-07) was British Foreign Secretary from 1905 to 1916.



Recreation (1919)

Address at Harvard University (8 December 1919)
  • It is sometimes said that this is a pleasure-seeking age. Whether it be a pleasure-seeking age or not, I doubt whether it is a pleasure-finding age. We are supposed to have great advantages in many ways over our predecessors. There is, on the whole, less poverty and more wealth. There are supposed to be more opportunities for enjoyment: there are moving pictures, motor-cars, and many other things which are now considered means of enjoyment and which our ancestors did not possess, but I do not judge from what I read in the newspapers that there is more content. Indeed, we seem to be living in an age of discontent. It seems to be rather on the increase than otherwise and is a subject of general complaint. If so it is worth while considering what it is that makes people happy, what they can do to make themselves happy, and it is from that point of view that I wish to speak on recreation.
  • Books are the greatest and the most satisfactory of recreations. I mean the use of books for pleasure. Without books, without having acquired the power of reading for pleasure, none of us can be independent, but if we can read we have a sure defence against boredom in solitude.
  • Poetry is the greatest literature, and pleasure in poetry is the greatest of literary pleasures. It is also the least easy to attain and there are some people who never do attain it.
  • There is much poetry for which most of us do not care, but with a little trouble when we are young we may find one or two poets whose poetry, if we get to know it well, will mean very much to us and become part of ourselves... The love for such poetry which comes to us when we are young will not disappear as we get older; it will remain in us, becoming an intimate part of our own being, and will be an assured source of strength, consolation, and delight.
  • Some one, I think it was Isaac Disraeli, said that he who did not make himself acquainted with the best thoughts of the greatest writers would one day be mortified to observe that his best thoughts are their indifferent ones, and it is from the great books that have stood the test of time that we shall get, not only the most lasting pleasure, but a standard by which to measure our own thoughts, the thoughts of others, and the excellence of the literature of our own day.
  • Though I know something about British birds I should have been lost and confused among American birds, of which unhappily I know little or nothing. Colonel Roosevelt not only knew more about American birds than I did about British birds, but he knew about British birds also. What he had lacked was an opportunity of hearing their songs, and you cannot get a knowledge of the songs of birds in any other way than by listening to them.
    We began our walk, and when a song was heard I told him the name of the bird. I noticed that as soon as I mentioned the name it was unnecessary to tell him more. He knew what the bird was like. It was not necessary for him to see it. He knew the kind of bird it was, its habits and appearance. He just wanted to complete his knowledge by hearing the song. He had, too, a very trained ear for bird songs, which cannot be acquired without having spent much time in listening to them. How he had found time in that busy life to acquire this knowledge so thoroughly it is almost impossible to imagine, but there the knowledge and training undoubtedly were. He had one of the most perfectly trained ears for bird songs that I have ever known, so that if three or four birds were singing together he would pick out their songs, distinguish each, and ask to be told each separate name; and when farther on we heard any bird for a second time, he would remember the song from the first telling and be able to name the bird himself.
Colonel Roosevelt liked the song of the blackbird so much that he was almost indignant that he had not heard more of its reputation before. He said everybody talked about the song of the thrush; it had a great reputation, but the song of the blackbird, though less often mentioned, was much better than that of the thrush.
  • Colonel Roosevelt liked the song of the blackbird so much that he was almost indignant that he had not heard more of its reputation before. He said everybody talked about the song of the thrush; it had a great reputation, but the song of the blackbird, though less often mentioned, was much better than that of the thrush. He wanted to know the reason of this injustice and kept asking the question of himself and me. At last he suggested that the name of the bird must have injured its reputation. I suppose the real reason is that the thrush sings for a longer period of the year than the blackbird and is a more obtrusive singer, and that so few people have sufficient feeling about bird songs to care to discriminate.
  • One more instance I will give of his interest and his knowledge. We were passing under a fir tree when we heard a small song in the tree above us. We stopped and I said that was the song of a golden-crested wren. He listened very attentively while the bird repeated its little song, as its habit is. Then he said, "I think that is exactly the same song as that of a bird that we have in America"; and that was the only English song that he recognized as being the same as any bird song in America. Some time afterwards I met a bird expert in the Natural History Museum in London and told him this incident, and he confirmed what Colonel Roosevelt had said, that the song of this bird would be about the only song that the two countries had in common. I think that a very remarkable instance of minute and accurate knowledge on the part of Colonel Roosevelt. It was the business of the bird expert in London to know about birds. Colonel Roosevelt's knowledge was a mere incident acquired, not as part of the work of his life, but entirely outside it.
  • I am not attempting here a full appreciation of Colonel Roosevelt. He will be known for all time as one of the great men of America. I am only giving you this personal recollection as a little contribution to his memory, as one that I can make from personal knowledge and which is now known only to myself. His conversation about birds was made interesting by quotations from poets. He talked also about politics, and in the whole of his conversation about them there was nothing but the motive of public spirit and patriotism. I saw enough of him to know that to be with him was to be stimulated in the best sense of the word for the work of life. Perhaps it is not yet realised how great he was in the matter of knowledge as well as in action. Everybody knows that he was a great man of action in the fullest sense of the word. The Press has always proclaimed that. It is less often that a tribute is paid to him as a man of knowledge as well as a man of action. Two of your greatest experts in natural history told me the other day that Colonel Roosevelt could, in that department of knowledge, hold his own with experts. His knowledge of literature was also very great, and it was knowledge of the best. It is seldom that you find so great a man of action who was also a man of such wide and accurate knowledge. I happened to be impressed by his knowledge of natural history and literature and to have had first-hand evidence of both, but I gather from others that there were other fields of knowledge in which he was also remarkable.
  • Of all the joys of life which may fairly come under the head of recreation there is nothing more great, more refreshing, more beneficial in the widest sense of the word, than a real love of the beauty of the world... to those who have some feeling that the natural world has beauty in it I would say, Cultivate this feeling and encourage it in every way you can. Consider the seasons, the joy of the spring, the splendour of the summer, the sunset colours of the autumn, the delicate and graceful bareness of winter trees, the beauty of snow, the beauty of light upon water, what the old Greek called the unnumbered smiling of the sea.
  • When we are bored, when we are out of tune, when we have little worries, it clears our feelings and changes our mood if we can get in touch with the beauty of the natural world.

Twenty-five Years (1925)

Twenty-Five Years: 1892-1916 (1925)
  • A great European war under modern conditions would be a catastrophe for which previous wars afforded no precedent. In old days nations could collect only portions of their men and resources at a time and dribble them out by degrees. Under modern conditions whole nations could be mobilized at once and their whole life-blood and resources poured out in a torrent. Instead of a few hundreds of thousands of men meeting each other in war, millions would now meet, and modern weapons would multiply manifold the power of destruction. The financial strain and the expenditure of wealth would be incredible. I thought this must be obvious to everyone else, as it seemed obvious to me; and that, if once it became apparent that we were on the edge, all the Great Powers would call a halt and recoil from the abyss.
    • Recalling his thoughts of July 1914 on the prospect of war with Germany.
  • A friend came to see me on one of the evenings of the last week — he thinks it was on Monday, August 3rd. We were standing at a window of my room in the Foreign Office. It was getting dusk, and the lamps were being lit in the space below...My friend recalls that I remarked on this with the words, "The lamps are going out all over Europe: we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."
    • Vol. 2, ch. 18.
    • On his famous remark, in August of 1914, about the impending outbreak of the First World War
    • Various misquotions of this have commonly occurred: The lights are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.
      The lights are going out all over Europe, and we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.
      The lights are going out all over Europe and I doubt we will see them go on again in our lifetime.

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