Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby

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The Earl of Derby

17th Earl of Derby.jpg
Secretary of State for War
In office
10 December 1916 18 April 1918
Monarch George V
Prime Minister David Lloyd George
Preceded by David Lloyd George
Succeeded by The Viscount Milner
In office
24 October 1922 22 January 1924
Monarch George V
Prime Minister Bonar Law
Stanley Baldwin
Preceded by Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, Bt
Succeeded by Stephen Walsh
Ambassador to France
In office
Monarch George V
Preceded by The Viscount Bertie of Thame
Succeeded by The Lord Hardinge of Penshurst
Personal details
Edward George Villiers Stanley

(1865-04-08)8 April 1865
St James's Square, Westminster, London
Died4 February 1948(1948-02-04) (aged 82)
Knowsley Hall, Lancashire
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Lady Alice Montagu
(d. 1957)
Garter-encircled shield of arms of Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby Shield of Arms of Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby, KG, GCB, GCVO, TD, KStJ, PC, JP.png
Garter-encircled shield of arms of Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby

Edward George Villiers Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby, KG , GCB , GCVO , TD , PC , JP (4 April 1865 – 4 February 1948), styled Mr Edward Stanley until 1886, then The Hon Edward Stanley and then Lord Stanley from 1893 to 1908, was a British soldier, Conservative politician, diplomat, and racehorse owner. He was twice Secretary of State for War and also served as British Ambassador to France.

Territorial Decoration military medal of the United Kingdom

The Territorial Decoration (TD) was a military medal of the United Kingdom awarded for long service in the Territorial Force and its successor, the Territorial Army. This award superseded the Volunteer Officer's Decoration when the Territorial Force was formed on 1 April 1908, following the enactment of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907, which was a large reorganisation of the old Volunteer Army and the remaining units of militia and Yeomanry. However, the Militia were transferred to the Special Reserve rather than becoming part of the Territorial Force. A recipient of this award is entitled to the letters "TD" after their name (post-nominal).

Privy Council of the United Kingdom Formal body of advisers to the sovereign in the United Kingdom

Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council of the United Kingdom or just the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. Its membership mainly comprises senior politicians who are current or former members of either the House of Commons or the House of Lords.

Conservative Party (UK) Political party in the United Kingdom

The Conservative Party, officially the Conservative and Unionist Party, sometimes informally called the Tories, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom. The governing party since 2010, it is the largest in the House of Commons, with 312 Members of Parliament, and also has 249 members of the House of Lords, 4 members of the European Parliament, 31 Members of the Scottish Parliament, 11 members of the Welsh Assembly, eight members of the London Assembly and 8,916 local councillors.


Background and education

Derby was born at 23 St James's Square, London, the eldest son of Frederick Stanley (later the 16th Earl of Derby), by his wife Lady Constance Villiers. Frederick Stanley was the second son of Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby, who was three times Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Villiers was the daughter of the Liberal statesman George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon. Edward Stanley was educated at Wellington College, Berkshire.

St Jamess Square square in the City of Westminster, London

St James's Square is the only square in the exclusive St James's district of the City of Westminster. It has predominantly Georgian and Neo-Georgian architecture and a garden in the centre. For its first two hundred or so years it was one of the three or four most fashionable residential multi-owner estates in London. It is now home to the headquarters of a number of well-known businesses, including BP and Rio Tinto Group; to four private members' clubs, the East India Club, the Naval and Military Club, the Canning Club, and the Army and Navy Club; to the High Commission of Cyprus; and to the London Library. Also based in the square is the premises of the think tank Chatham House. A principal feature of the square is an equestrian statue of William III erected in 1808.

Frederick Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby 19th and 20th-century British politician and Governor General of Canada

Frederick Arthur Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby,, styled as Hon. Frederick Stanley from 1844–86 and as Lord Stanley of Preston between 1886–93, was a Conservative Party politician in the United Kingdom who served as Colonial Secretary from 1885 to 1886 and the sixth Governor General of Canada from 1888 to 1893. An avid sportsman, he built Stanley House Stables in England and is famous in North America for presenting Canada with the Stanley Cup. Stanley was also one of the original inductees of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby British Prime Minister

Edward George Geoffrey Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby, was a British statesman, three-time Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and, to date, the longest-serving leader of the Conservative Party. He was known before 1834 as Edward Stanley, and from 1834 to 1851 as Lord Stanley. He is one of only four British prime ministers to have three or more separate periods in office. However, his ministries each lasted less than two years and totalled three years and 280 days.

Military career

Stanley initially received a lieutenant's commission in a militia unit, the 3rd Battalion, King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment), on 4 May 1882, and then joined the Grenadier Guards as a lieutenant from 6 May 1885 [1] until 3 April 1895, when he resigned his commission. [2] He was seconded as aide-de-camp to the Governor General of Canada, his father, between 8 August 1889 [3] and 1891. He was again seconded from his regiment on 10 July 1892, to take his seat in the House of Commons. [4]

The Militia of the United Kingdom were the military reserve forces of the United Kingdom after the Union in 1801 of the former Kingdom of Great Britain and Kingdom of Ireland. The militia was transformed into the Special Reserve by the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907. For the period before the creation of the United Kingdom, in the home nations and their colonies, see Militia.

Kings Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster)

The King's Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster) was a line infantry regiment of the British Army. It served under various titles and fought in many wars and conflicts, including both World War I and World War II, from 1680 to 1959. In 1959, the regiment was amalgamated with the Border Regiment to form the King's Own Royal Border Regiment.

Grenadier Guards infantry regiment of the British Army

The Grenadier Guards is an infantry regiment of the British Army. It can trace its lineage back to 1656 when Lord Wentworth's Regiment was raised in Bruges to protect the exiled Charles II. In 1665, this regiment was combined with John Russell's Regiment of Guards to form the current regiment, known as the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards. Since then, the regiment has filled both a ceremonial and protective role as well as an operational one. In 1900, the regiment provided a cadre of personnel to form the Irish Guards; while later, in 1915 it also provided the basis of the Welsh Guards upon their formation.

On 11 January 1899, he was commissioned a lieutenant in the reserve of officers, [5] and on 17 May, was made honorary colonel of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. Lord Stanley served on the staff in the Second Boer War, and was appointed Chief Press Censor at Cape Town, graded as assistant adjutant-general, on 18 January 1900. He accompanied Lord Roberts' headquarters as Press Censor when he left Cape Town, [6] and was mentioned in despatches of 31 March 1900 by Roberts for his "tact and discretion" in that role. [7] He was subsequently appointed Roberts' private secretary on 25 July 1900. [8] and was again mentioned in despatches of 2 April 1901 for his "thorough knowledge of men and affairs". [9] He was appointed honorary colonel of the 6th (Militia) Battalion, Manchester Regiment on 24 December 1902, [10] and of the 4th and 5th Territorial Force Battalions of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on 18 June 1909 and 17 May 1899 respectively. [11]

The Bolton Rifles, later the 5th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, was a volunteer unit of the British Army from 1859 until 1967. It served on the Western Front during the First World War, and in the Far East during the Second World War, when one battalion was captured at the Fall of Singapore.

Second Boer War war between two Boer Republics (South African Republic and Orange Free State) and the United Kingdom

The Second Boer War was fought between the British Empire and two Boer states, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State, over the Empire's influence in South Africa. It is also known variously as the Boer War, Anglo-Boer War, or South African War. Initial Boer attacks were successful, and although British reinforcements later reversed these, the war continued for years with Boer guerrilla warfare, until harsh British counter-measures brought the Boers to terms.

Cape Town Capital city of the Western Cape province and legislative capital of South Africa

Cape Town is the oldest city in South Africa, colloquially named the Mother City. It is the legislative capital of South Africa and primate city of the Western Cape province. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality.

Political career

Derby entered Parliament for Westhoughton in 1892, and served under Lord Salisbury as a Lord of the Treasury between 1895 and 1900 and under Salisbury and later Arthur Balfour as Financial Secretary to the War Office between 1901 and 1903. In October 1903 he entered the cabinet as Postmaster General, a post he held until the government fell in December 1905. He lost his seat in the 1906 general election. In 1908 he succeeded his father in the earldom and took his seat in the House of Lords.

Westhoughton was a parliamentary constituency in Lancashire, England. Centred on the former mining and cotton town of Westhoughton, it returned one Member of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury British politician

Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury,, styled Lord Robert Cecil before the death of his elder brother in 1865, Viscount Cranborne from June 1865 until his father died in April 1868, and then the Marquess of Salisbury, was a British statesman, serving as Prime Minister three times for a total of over thirteen years. A member of the Conservative Party, he was the last Prime Minister to head his full administration from the House of Lords.

Arthur Balfour British Conservative politician and statesman

Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour, was a British statesman and Conservative Party politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1902 to 1905. As Foreign Secretary under David Lloyd George, he issued the Balfour Declaration in November 1917 on behalf of the cabinet.

In August 1914 Lord Derby organised one of the most successful recruitment campaigns to Kitchener's Army in Liverpool. Over two days, 1500 Liverpudlians joined the new battalion. Speaking to the men he said: "This should be a battalion of pals, a battalion in which friends from the same office will fight shoulder to shoulder for the honour of Britain and the credit of Liverpool." Within the next few days three more pals battalions were raised in Liverpool. In October 1915, as Director-General of Recruiting, he instituted the Derby Scheme, a halfway-house between voluntary enlistment and conscription (which the Government was reluctant to adopt). It was not sufficiently successful in spite of the fact that the execution of Nurse Edith Cavell by the Germans on 12 October 1915 was used in recruitment rallies and conscription followed in 1916.

Kitcheners Army initially, an all-volunteer army formed in the United Kingdom

The New Army, often referred to as Kitchener's Army or, disparagingly, as Kitchener's Mob, was an (initially) all-volunteer army of the British Army formed in the United Kingdom from 1914 onwards following the outbreak of hostilities in the First World War in late July 1914. It originated on the recommendation of Herbert Kitchener, then the Secretary of State for War to raise 500,000 volunteers. Kitchener's original intention was that it would be formed and ready to be put into action in mid-1916, but circumstances dictated its use before then. The first use in a major action came at the Battle of Loos.

Derby Scheme

The Derby Scheme was introduced during World War I in Britain in the autumn of 1915 by Herbert Kitchener's new Director General of Recruiting, Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby (1865–1948), after which it was named. The scheme would demonstrate whether British manpower goals could be met by volunteers only, or if conscription was necessary.

Conscription Compulsory enlistment into national or military service

Conscription, sometimes called the draft, is the compulsory enlistment of people in a national service, most often a military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names. The modern system of near-universal national conscription for young men dates to the French Revolution in the 1790s, where it became the basis of a very large and powerful military. Most European nations later copied the system in peacetime, so that men at a certain age would serve 1–8 years on active duty and then transfer to the reserve force.

In July 1916 Derby returned to the government when he was appointed Under-Secretary of State for War by H. H. Asquith, and in December 1916 he was promoted to Secretary of State for War by David Lloyd George. In this position he was a strong supporter of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff Sir William Robertson and of the Commander-in-Chief of the BEF, Field Marshal Haig. Haig privately had little respect for him, writing to his wife (10 January 1918) that Derby was “like the feather pillow, bear(ing) the mark of the last person who sat on him” and remarking that he was known in London as the “genial Judas”. [12] Robertson's biographer writes that during the crisis over Robertson's removal Derby "made himself ridiculous" by asking everyone, including the King, whether or not he should resign, and then in the end not doing so, only to be removed from the War Office a few weeks later. [13]

In April 1918 he was made Ambassador to France, which he remained until 1920. In April 1921 he was sent secretly to Ireland for talks with Éamon de Valera, and it is likely that these talks paved the way for the truce which in turn led to the Anglo-Irish Treaty. He again served as Secretary of State for War under Bonar Law and Stanley Baldwin from 1922 to 1924. Derby was made a CB in 1900, [14] sworn of the Privy Council in 1903, KCVO in 1905 [15] and a GCVO in 1908, Knight of the Garter in 1915, GCB in 1920.

Other public positions

Derby was Lord Mayor of Liverpool between 1911 and 1912. He served as honorary president of the Rugby Football League, and donated a cup for the French authorities to use for a knock-out competition, much as his father had done for ice hockey with the Stanley Cup. This is now known as the Lord Derby Cup. He was also, from 1929 to 1945, the chairman of the Pilgrims Society, becoming their president, until his death in 1948. Derby served as East Lancashire Provincial Grand Master of Freemasonry from 1899 until his death. [16] He also held the post of Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire between 1928 and 1948.

Horse racing

The Epsom Derby was named after the 12th Earl while The Oaks was named after the 12th Earl's house near Epsom. Derby followed in the family tradition and was one of the most prominent owner breeders during the first half of the 20th century. Among his stables' important wins were:

Amidst great fanfare that included making the cover of TIME, in 1930 the 17th Earl visited Louisville, Kentucky with Joseph E. Widener where he was the honoured guest of Churchill Downs president Col. Matt Winn at the 56th running of the Kentucky Derby.

His biggest achievement though was his breeding of the horse Phalaris. Phalaris was a champion sprinter and a stallion par excellence responsible for establishing the most dominant sire line in Europe and later, the United States through his four sons – Sickle, Pharamond, Pharos and Fairway.


Lord Derby married Lady Alice Maude Olivia Montagu, daughter of William Montagu, 7th Duke of Manchester and Louisa von Alten, and step-daughter of the leading Liberal politician Lord Hartington, at the Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks, London, on 5 January 1889. They had three children together. Two of them, Edward, Lord Stanley and Oliver, achieved the rare distinction of sitting in the same Cabinet between May and October 1938 until Edward's death. Their daughter, Lady Victoria, married the Liberal politician Neil James Archibald Primrose and, after his death in World War I, married the Conservative politician Malcolm Bullock.

Lord Derby died February 1948 at the family seat of Knowsley Hall, Lancashire, aged 82. His other country seat was Coworth Park at Sunningdale in Berkshire. He was succeeded in the earldom by his grandson, Edward. He is buried at St Mary's Church, Knowsley. [17] The Countess of Derby died in July 1957.

Many good stories are told of Lord Derby, including the following, which is surely apocryphal not least because he was a man of utter probity. He was spotted by a steward feeding one of his horses shortly before the start of a race. When challenged, His Lordship explained the substance was sugar, and promptly ate a lump himself to show that it was innocuous. 'Keep the creature on a tight rein until a furlong out, then let him have his head, He'll do the rest'. His Lordship added, almost as an afterthought: ‘If you hear anything coming up behind you, don’t worry and don’t turn round, it will only be me’.

A county directory of 1903 describes Coworth House as ‘an ancient building standing in a thickly wooded park’. As Derby also owned Knowsley Hall in Lancashire, his principal country-seat, and a magnificent London town-house in Stratford Place, St James's, Coworth tended to be occupied only during Ascot race meetings. The Derby landholdings in 1833 consisted of some seventy thousand acres in Lancashire, Cheshire, Flintshire, Surrey and Kent, but not a single acre in Derbyshire. The Landholding produced a rent-roll of £163,273 p.a.

Coworth House continued with Lord Derby until his death in 1948. It then became the home of his widow, Alice Stanley, Countess of Derby (1862–1957), the youngest daughter of William Montagu, 7th Duke of Manchester, and a lady-in-waiting to her friend, Queen Alexandra. Lady Derby died here Wednesday 24 July 1957, aged ninety-four. A month later her former home was advertised for sale in The Times; and at this or a subsequent date was converted to use as a Roman Catholic convent school. The next owner is thought to have been Vivian 'White' Lloyd who died in 1972.

Screen portrayals

Lord Derby was portrayed by Frank Middlemass in an episode of the 1981 TV miniseries Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years .


  1. "No. 25467". The London Gazette . 5 May 1885. p. 2041.
  2. "No. 26612". The London Gazette . 2 April 1895. p. 1997.
  3. "No. 25959". The London Gazette . 30 July 1889. p. 4095.
  4. "No. 26310". The London Gazette . 26 July 1892. p. 4250.
  5. "No. 27041". The London Gazette . 10 January 1899. p. 151.
  6. "No. 27207". The London Gazette . 3 July 1900. p. 4126.
  7. "No. 27282". The London Gazette . 8 February 1901. p. 845.
  8. "No. 27226". The London Gazette . 4 September 1900. p. 5464.
  9. "No. 27305". The London Gazette . 16 April 1901. p. 2601.
  10. "No. 27508". The London Gazette . 23 December 1902. p. 8845.
  11. Army List.
  12. Sheffield & Bourne 2005 p372
  13. Bonham-Carter 1963, p351
  14. "No. 27306". The London Gazette . 19 April 1901. p. 2696.
  15. "No. 27818". The London Gazette . 18 July 1905. p. 4981.
  16. History of East Lancashire Provincial Grand Lodge Archived 21 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine retrieved 14 November 2008
  17. "Liverpool Daily Post". 5 February 1948.

Books Used for Citations

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Frank Hardcastle
Member of Parliament for Westhoughton
Succeeded by
William Wilson
Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph Powell Williams
Financial Secretary to the War Office
Succeeded by
William Bromley-Davenport
Preceded by
Austen Chamberlain
Postmaster General
Succeeded by
Sydney Buxton
New office Chairman of the Joint War Air Committee
Succeeded by
The Earl Curzon of Kedleston
as President of the Air Board
Preceded by
Harold Tennant
Under-Secretary of State for War
Succeeded by
Ian Macpherson
Preceded by
David Lloyd George
Secretary of State for War
Succeeded by
The Viscount Milner
Preceded by
Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, Bt
Secretary of State for War
Succeeded by
Stephen Walsh
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
The Viscount Bertie of Thame
British Ambassador to France
Succeeded by
The Lord Hardinge of Penshurst
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Lord Shuttleworth
Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire
Succeeded by
The Earl Peel
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Frederick Stanley
Earl of Derby
Succeeded by
Edward Stanley

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