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Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Marquess of Londonderry

7th Marquess of Londonderry

Charles Stewart Henry Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry, KG, MVO, PC, PC (Ire) (13 May 1878 – 10 February 1949), styled Lord Stewart until 1884 and Viscount Castlereagh between 1884 and 1915, was an Anglo-Irish peer and had careers in both Irish and British politics. He is best remembered for his tenure as Secretary of State for Air in the 1930s and for his links with the Appeasement policy towards Nazi Germany.

The eldest son of Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 6th Marquess of Londonderry, and Lady Theresa Susey Helen, daughter of Charles John Chetwynd-Talbot, 19th Earl of Shrewsbury, he was educated at Eton and at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.

Pressured by his parents to stand for election to the House of Commons at the 1906 general election for Maidstone, his relatively unsuccessful career on the depleted Unionist backbenches was broken by a return to the British Army during the First World War. Hitherto reluctant to involve himself like his father in Irish politics, the war prompted him to take up the cause of recruitment in Ireland. With his father's death in 1915 he inherited not only the Londonderry title, but also the immense wealth and status that went with it. His exalted position helped his political career, not least in Ireland, and this in turn brought him favorable attention at Westminster.

After serving on the Irish Convention of 1917–18, Lord Londonderry served on the short-lived Viceroy's Advisory Council, meeting at Dublin Castle in the autumn of 1918. This was followed by his appointment to the Air Council at Westminster in 1919, as part of the postwar coalition government. With only a promotion to Under-Secretary of State for Air in 1920, Londonderry grew frustrated and took advantage of his Ulster connections to join the first Government of Northern Ireland in June 1921, as Leader of the Senate and Minister for Education. At Belfast, he acted as a check on the increasingly partisan and survivalist government of Prime Minister Sir James Craig. Nevertheless, Londonderry's Education Act of 1923 received little in the way of good will from either Protestant or Catholic educational interests, and was amended to the point that its purpose, to secularise schooling in Northern Ireland, was lost.

In 1926, he resigned from the Northern Ireland Parliament and involved himself in the General Strike of that year, playing the role of a moderate mine owner, a stance made easier for him by the relative success of the Londonderry mines in County Durham. His performance earned him high praise, and along with the Londonderrys' role as leading political hosts, he was rewarded by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin with a seat in the Cabinet in 1928 as First Commissioner of Works.
Londonderry was also invited to join the emergency National Government under Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald and Lord President Baldwin in 1931. This was the cause of some scandal as MacDonald's many critics accused the erstwhile Labour leader of being too friendly with Edith, Lady Londonderry.

When the National Government won the 1931 General Election he returned to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Air (Londonderry also held a pilot's licence). This position became increasingly important during his tenure, not least due to the deliberations of the League of Nations Disarmament Conference at Geneva. Londonderry toed the British government's equivocal line on disarmament, but opposed in Cabinet any moves that would risk the deterrent value of the Royal Air Force. For this he was attacked by Clement Attlee and the Labour Party, and thus became a liability to the National Government. In the spring of 1935 he was removed from the Air Ministry but retained in the Cabinet as Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords.

The sense of hurt Lord Londonderry felt at this, and of accusations that he had misled Baldwin about the strength of Nazi Germany's air force, led him to seek to clear his reputation as a 'warmonger' by engaging in diplomacy. This involved visits to senior members of the German Government and the much-discussed visit of Joachim von Ribbentrop, then German Ambassador to the Court of St. James (and later the German foreign minister), to Mount Stewart in the spring of 1936, and subsequent briefings with government officials in London. His high-profile promotion of Anglo-German friendship, in the end, marked him with a far greater slur than that which had led him to engage in appeasement in the first place.

Under attack from anti-Nazis inside and outside Westminster, Lord Londonderry attempted to explain his position by publishing Ourselves and Germany in 1938. After playing, it is said, a marginal role in the resignation of Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister in 1940, he failed to win any favour from his cousin, the new Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, who thought little of his talents. Out of office he produced his memoirs, Wings of Destiny (1943), a relatively short book that was considerably censured by some of his former colleagues.

Lord Londonderry also served as Lord Lieutenant of County Down between 1915 and 1949 and of County Durham between 1928 and 1949 and was Chancellor of the University of Durham and The Queen's University of Belfast. He was sworn of the Irish Privy Council in 1918 and of the British Privy Council in 1925 and appointed a Knight of the Garter in 1919.

On 28 November 1899, Lord Londonderry married the Hon. Edith Helen Chaplin, eldest daughter of Henry Chaplin, 1st Viscount Chaplin, and Lady Florence Sutherland-Leveson-Gower (herself a daughter of the 3rd Duke of Sutherland) and had issue:
  • Lady Maureen Helen Vane-Tempest-Stewart (1900–1942), who married in 1920 the Hon. Oliver Stanley and had issue: (i) Michael Charles Stanley (1921–1990), who married (Aileen) Fortune Constance Hugh Smith and had two sons; and (ii) Kathryn Edith Helen Stanley DCVO (1923–2004), Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Elizabeth II from 1955 to 2002 and who married Sir John Dugdale KCVO (1923–1994) and had two daughters and two sons, one of whom, Henry Dugdale (b. 1963) is married to Litia Mara Dugdale.
  • Edward Charles Stewart Robert Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 8th Marquess of Londonderry (1902–1955)
  • Lady Margaret Frances Anne Vane-Tempest-Stewart (1910–1966), who married in 1934 (div. 1939) Frederick Alan Irving Muntz and in 1952 (div) 1958 as his 3rd wife, Hugh Falkus (1917–1996).
  • Lady Helen Maglona Vane-Tempest-Stewart (1911–1986), who married in 1935 Edward Jessel, 2nd Baron Jessel, and had issue: (i) Hon. Timothy Edward Jessel (1935–1969) who married twice and has issue; (ii) Hon. Camilla Edith Mairi Elizabeth Jessel (b. 1940) who was married and has issue; and (iii) Hon. Joanne Margaret Jessel (b. 1945) who is married and has issue.
  • Lady Mairi Elizabeth Vane-Tempest-Stewart (1921–2009), who married in 1940 (div. 1958) Derek William Charles Keppel, Viscount Bury (1911–1968), eldest son of Walter Keppel, 9th Earl of Albemarle and had issue: (i) Lady Elizabeth Mairi Keppel (b. 1941) who married in 1962 (div.) Alastair Michael Hyde Villiers (1939–2005) and has issue, and in 1980 (div. 1988) Merlin Hanbury-Tracy, 7th Baron Sudeley; and (ii) Lady Rose Deirdre Margaret Keppel (b. 1943) who married Peter Lathrop Lauritzen and has issue.
Lord Londonderry also had an illegitimate daughter with actress Fannie Ward, named Dorothé Mabel Lewis. She first married, in 1918, a nephew of mining magnate Barney Barnato, Capt. Jack Barnato, who died of pneumonia shortly after their wedding. Her second husband, whom she married in 1922, was Terence Plunket, (6th Baron Plunket) and with him she had three sons: Patrick Plunket, current peer Robin Rathmore Plunket, and heir presumptive Shaun Plunket. Lord and Lady Plunket were killed in an airplane crash in 1938.

Having suffered a stroke after a gliding accident a few years after the end of the war, Lord Londonderry died on 10 February 1949 at Mount Stewart, County Down, aged 70.

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