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Norman St John-Stevas: Wikis


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Norman Anthony Francis St John-Stevas, Baron St John of Fawsley, PC, FRSL (born 18 May 1929), is a British Conservative politician, author, constitutional expert and barrister. His surname was compounded from his father's (Stevas) and mother's (St John-O'Connor) surnames.



St.John-Stevas was educated at two independent schools, St. Josephs Salesian School in Burwash, East Sussex, and then Ratcliffe College in Leicester. He then read law at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, graduating with first class honours. While at Cambridge, he was President of the Cambridge Union (1950) and won the Whitlock Prize.

He also studied at Christ Church, Oxford where he gained a BCL. While there, he was Secretary of the Oxford Union. He gained his PhD from London and a JSD from Yale. He also studied briefly for the Roman Catholic priesthood at the Venerable English College in Rome.

He was called to the Bar of the Middle Temple in 1952.

Academic career

St John-Stevas was appointed as a Lecturer at Southampton University (1952–1953) and King's College London (1953–1956). He then tutored in Jurisprudence at Christ Church (1953–1955) and Merton College, Oxford (1955–1957). In 1959 he joined The Economist and became its Legal and Political Correspondent.


Having first run as a candidate for a seat in 1951 St John-Stevas was elected as Member of Parliament for Chelmsford, Essex in the 1964 general election, which he held until resigning at the 1987 general election.

In the later stages of Edward Heath's government he was Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Education and Science under Margaret Thatcher and Minister for the Arts (1973–1974).

After the defeat of Heath's government he served as a Member of the Shadow Cabinet from 1974 to 1979, being Shadow Spokesman on Education between 1975 and 1978, and Shadow Leader of the House of Commons between 1978 and 1979.

On the return of the Conservative Party to office after the 1979 general election, he was appointed as Minister for the Arts for a second time from 1979 to 1981 and was simultaneously Leader of the House of Commons and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

It was while he occupied the post of Leader of the House that he is largely credited with the creation of the House of Commons' select committees. These enable backbench MPs to hold ministers to account and are still a force to be reckoned with.

In early 1981, he was the first of the Tory 'wets' to be dismissed from the Cabinet by the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, whom he had previously nicknamed "Tina" for her "there is no alternative" rhetoric. For many years he was a member of the Bow Group.

He stood down from the House of Commons at the General Election of 1987. He was subsequently elevated to the House of Lords as a life peer with the title Baron St John of Fawsley of Preston Capes in the County of Northamptonshire.

Later career

He was Chairman of the Royal Fine Art Commission from 1985 to 1999, which was wracked by controversy. It was hoped that his appointment would revitalise and popularise the commission. Instead, the commission became a mouth piece for Lord St John's own views and preferences (most prominently in the annual Building of the Year award). Lord St John adorned his office with painting from national collections, documents were presented in red boxes and he was served by a chauffeur and ex-civil servants, in accommodation more lavish than that of most secretaries of state: prompting one commentator to comment that "...if he cannot have power, he must have the trappings". This was all criticised in a savage government review by Sir Geoffrey Chipperfield.[1]

His tenure as master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge (1991 to 1996) was equally controversial. He built a new conference centre (the Queen's Building) at the cost of some £8 million, the costs of which were pushed upwards by Lord St John's insistence on re-opening the quarry in Ketton, Rutland to obtain limestone from the same source from which the college's Wren chapel was built.[2] Lord St John maintains his links with Emmanuel, which he uses from time to time as a venue for events of the Royal Fine Art Commission.[3]

Personal life

Lord St John is a prominent Roman Catholic. He is a Patron of the Society of King Charles the Martyr, and Grand Bailiff for England and Wales of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St Lazarus.

Lord St John is noted for his large number of personal affectations, including proffering his hand in papal fashion, lapsing into Latin while speaking, and deliberately mispronouncing modern words.[1] A loyal monarchist, Lord St John enjoys a close relationship with the British royal family[4][5] Soon after elevation to the Lords, photographs of him in purple bedroom slipper appeared in Hello! magazine lounging in the bedroom of his Northampton rectory a signed photograph of the late Princess Margaret prominently displayed. All personal notes were written in purple ink and after his elevation to the Lords, he used only official House of Lords headed stationery.


By Norman St John Stevas

  • Before the Sunset Fades: An Autobiography, Harper Collins (2009)- Forthcoming autobiography
  • The Two Cities, Farrar Straus & Giroux (1984)
  • Pope John-Paul II: His Travels and Mission, Faber & Faber, London (1982)
  • Agonising Choice: Birth Control, Religion and Law, Eyre & Spottiswoode, London (1971)
  • Bagehot's Historical Essays, New York University Press (1966)
  • Law and Morals, Hawthorn Books, New York (1964)
  • The Right to Life, Holt, Rinehart & Winston (1963)
  • Life, Death And The Law, Indiana University Press, (1961)
  • Walter Bagehot A study of his life & thought together with a selection from his political writings, Indiana University Press(1959)

Edited by Norman St John Stevas

  • Bagehot, Walter, St John Stevas, Norman (Editor): The Collected Works of Walter Bagehot: Volumes 1–15, The Economist/ Harvard University Press (1965–1986)


  1. ^ a b "Master of the fine arts of survival. Profile: Lord St John of Fawsley". The Sunday Times: p. 3.3. 26 May 1996.  
  2. ^ Werran GR & Dickson MGT. [ "Prestressed ketton stone perimeter frame: The Queens Building Emmanuel College, Cambridge"]. Retrieved 6 January 2009.  
  3. ^ [|Gledhill, Ruth] (27 November 2008). "Gallery’s masterpiece is a work of faith that should be in church, says Cardinal". The Times. Retrieved 6 January 2009.  
  4. ^ "The Saxe-Coburg Diaries 1996—Part 25". Daily Telegraph. 4 January 2009. Retrieved 6 January 2009.  
  5. ^ Pierce, Andrew (21 August 2001). "People by Andrew Pierce". The Times. Retrieved 6 January 2009.  

External links

Offices held

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Hubert Ashton
Member of Parliament for Chelmsford
1964 – 1987
Succeeded by
Simon Burns
Political offices
Preceded by
The Viscount Eccles
Minister for the Arts
1973 – 1974
Succeeded by
Hugh Jenkins
Preceded by
Harold Lever
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
1979 – 1981
Succeeded by
Francis Pym
Preceded by
Michael Foot
Leader of the House of Commons
1979 – 1981
Preceded by
The Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
Minister for the Arts
1979 – 1981
Succeeded by
Paul Channon
Academic offices
Preceded by
Charles Peter Wroth
Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge
1991 – 1996
Succeeded by
John Ffowcs Williams


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