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Sir Alec Douglas-Home

politician

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home was born in Mayfair, London, on July 2, 1903, the son of the 13th Earl of Home. He was educated at Eton and went to Christ Church College, Oxford University.

In 1931, Douglas-Home was elected to the House of Commons as a Conservative MP for South Lanark, the first peer to be elected to that body since Lord Salisbury in 1885. As Parliamentary Private Secretary to Neville Chamberlain from 1937 to 1939, Douglas-Home was involved in the negotiations with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. A serious back injury required Douglas-Home to spend two years in a spinal cast, and he subsequently lost his House seat in the 1945 general elections. Douglas-Home was again elected to the House of Commons in 1950, but had to give up his seat when he became 14th Earl of Home, upon the death of his father in 1951, and took a seat in the House of Lords.

In 1951, Prime Minister Winston Churchill appointed Douglas-Home as Minister of State in the Scottish Office, in which he served until 1955. He subsequently served as Minister for Commonwealth Relations under Prime Minister Anthony Eden, 1955-1960; Lord President of the Council, 1957-1960; Foreign Secretary under Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, 1960-1963; and as MP for Kinross and West Perth, 1963-1974.

In 1963, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who was resigning his position, recommended to Queen Elizabeth II that Douglas-Home be called upon to form a new government. However, many within the Conservative Party voiced objections over Douglas-Home not being a member of the House of Commons, from which convention dictated all Prime Ministers should be called. Douglas-Home disclaimed his peerage (making him Sir Alec Douglas-Home) and then won a by-election to gain a seat in the Commons, and was then named Prime Minister by the Queen. He had barely had time to establish a government, however, when the Conservatives lost the 1964 general elections to the Labour Party, by a margin of five seats. He was succeeded as Prime Minister by Harold Wilson.

Douglas-Home served as Leader of the Opposition for nine months, before being succeeded as leader of the Conservative Party by Edward Heath in July 1965. He served as Foreign Secretary under Prime Minister Heath from 1970 to 1974, and then returned to the House of Lords as a life peer, and attended sessions regularly for the rest of his life. He was granted the title Baron Home of the Hirsel of Coldstream in 1974.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel of Coldstream, died in Berwickshire, Scotland, on October 9, 1995.

Douglas-Home's autobiography, The Way the Wind Blows, was published in 1976. His other works include Border Reflections (1979) and Letters to a Grandson (1983). He was married to Elizabeth Hester Alington, with whom he had one son and two daughters; she died in 1990.

SEE ALSO
Winston Churchill
Anthony Eden
Harold Macmillan
Queen Elizabeth II
Harold Wilson

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This page was last updated on September 25, 2017.