By Webteam - 2nd July 2017 6:05am
Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel, KT, PC was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister from 19 October 1963 to 16 October 1964. He is notable for being the last Prime Minister to hold office while being a member of the House of Lords. His reputation, however, rests more on his two spells as the UK's foreign secretary than on his brief premiership.
Within six years of first entering the House of Commons in 1931, Douglas-Home became parliamentary aide to Neville Chamberlain, witnessing Chamberlain's efforts to preserve peace in the two years before the Second World War. In 1940, he was diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis and was immobilised for two years. By the later stages of the war he had recovered enough to resume his political career, but lost his seat in the general election of 1945. He regained it in 1950, but the following year he left the Commons when he inherited the earldom of Home and thereby became a member of the House of Lords. Under the premierships of Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan he was appointed to a series of increasingly senior posts, including Leader of the House of Lords and Foreign Secretary. In the latter post, which he held from 1960 to 1963, he supported United States resolve in the Cuban Missile Crisis and was the United Kingdom's signatory of the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in August 1963.
In October 1963, Macmillan was taken ill and resigned as Prime Minister. Lord Home was chosen to succeed him. By the 1960s it was unacceptable for a Prime Minister to sit in the House of Lords, and Home renounced his earldom. As Prime Minister, Douglas-Home's demeanour and appearance remained aristocratic and old-fashioned. His understanding of economics was primitive, and he gave his Chancellor, Reginald Maudling, free rein to handle financial affairs. Douglas-Home enjoyed dealing with foreign policy, but there were no major crises or issues to resolve.
The Conservative Party, in office since 1951, had lost standing as a result of a sexual scandal involving a defence minister in 1963, and at the time of Lord Home's appointment as Prime Minister seemed headed for heavy electoral defeat. Home's premiership was the second briefest of the twentieth century, lasting two days short of a year.
After narrow defeat in the general election of 1964, Douglas-Home resigned the leadership of his party, having instituted a new and less secretive method of electing the party leader. From 1970 to 1974 he served in the cabinet of Edward Heath as Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. After the defeat of the Heath government in 1974 he returned to the House of Lords as a life peer and retired from front-line politics.
Born 2nd July 1903 in London, England
Died 9th October 1995 in Coldstream, Scotland
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