Samuel John Gurney Hoare

(1880—1959) politician

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(b. London, 24 Feb. 1880; d. London, 7 May 1959)

British; Foreign Secretary 1935, Home Secretary 1937–9; Bt. 1915, Viscount Templewood 1944 The son of a baronet and member of an old Norfolk farming family, Hoare was educated at Harrow and New College, Oxford, where he graduated with a double first. At the age of 23 he was appointed assistant private secretary to the Secretary for the Colonies and at 26 tried to get elected to the House of Commons. He was elected as Conservative MP for Chelsea in 1910. His first ministerial post came twelve years later, when the Lloyd George coalition collapsed. He was appointed secretary of State for Air, a post he was to hold in the succeeding parliament (1924–9). In 1931 he was promoted to be Secretary of State for India and handled the passage of the India Bill effectively, despite attacks from critics on the Conservative benches.

In 1935 he was appointed Foreign Secretary. His tenure of the office was short-lived. In need of rest, he went to Switzerland. On the way, he visited French Foreign Minister Laval and negotiated the Hoare–Laval Pact which, following the attack on Abyssinia by Italy, conceded two-thirds of the country to Italy. The pact came in for immediate attack by MPs and threw the Cabinet into confusion. Hoare, still in Switzerland, broke his nose while skating. At a meeting of the Conservative backbench Foreign Affairs Committee, Sir Austen Chamberlain attacked the pact and declared, ‘gentlemen do not behave in such a way’. According to Harold Macmillan ‘that settled it’. Hoare was forced to resign and the Cabinet repudiated the Pact. Hoare made a dignified resignation speech and was brought back into government the following year (1936) as First Lord of the Admiralty and then, in 1937, was appointed Home Secretary, a post in which he took a particular interest in penal reform. In September 1939 he was made Lord Privy Seal and included in the War Cabinet. A close supporter of Neville Chamberlain, he was not kept on in government when Churchill succeeded to the premiership. Instead he was shipped off as ambassador to Spain, a sensitive post in which he served until 1944. On his return, he was created Viscount Templewood and spent several years holding a range of offices in public and voluntary bodies.

An able minister until broken by the Hoare–Laval Pact, Hoare suffered from an element of poor judgement and never fully recovered from the affair. Reflecting his problems, he titled his memoirs Nine Troubled Years.

Subjects: British History — Politics.

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