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Arthur Balfour

Arthur Balfour British Conservative politician and statesman

British Conservative politician and statesman
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro British Conservative politician and statesman
Countries United Kingdom
Occupations Politician Writer Philosopher
Type Literature Philosophy Politics
Gender male
Birth 25 July 1848, Whittingehame, East Lothian, Scotland, United Kingdom
Death 19 March 1930, Surrey, South East England, England, United Kingdom (aged 81 years)
Politics Conservative Party
Father: James Maitland Balfour
The details

Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour, KG, OM, PC, FRS, DL (/ˈbælfər/; 25 July 1848 – 19 March 1930) was a British Conservative politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from July 1902 to December 1905, and later Foreign Secretary.

Entering Parliament in 1874, Balfour achieved prominence as Chief Secretary for Ireland, in which position he suppressed agrarian unrest whilst taking measures against absentee landlords. He opposed Irish Home Rule, saying there could be no half-way house between Ireland remaining within the United Kingdom or becoming independent. From 1891 he led the Conservative Party in the House of Commons, serving under his uncle, Lord Salisbury, whose government won large majorities in 1895 and 1900. A brilliant debater, he was bored by the mundane tasks of party management.

In July 1902 he succeeded his uncle as Prime Minister. He oversaw reform of British defence policy and supported Fisher's naval innovations. He secured the Entente Cordiale with France, leaving Germany in the cold. He cautiously embraced the imperial preference championed by Joseph Chamberlain, but resignations from the Cabinet over tariffs left his party divided. He also suffered from public anger at the later stages of the Boer war (counter-insurgency warfare characterized as "methods of barbarism") and the importation of Chinese labour to South Africa ("Chinese slavery"). He resigned as Prime Minister in December 1905 and the following month the Conservatives suffered a landslide defeat at the 1906 election, in which he lost his own seat. After re-entering Parliament at a by-election, he continued to serve as Leader of the Opposition throughout the crisis over Lloyd George's 1909 budget, the narrow loss of two further General Elections in 1910, and the passage of the Parliament Act. He resigned as party leader later in 1911.

Balfour returned as First Lord of the Admiralty in Asquith's Coalition Government (1915–16). In December 1916 he became Foreign Secretary in David Lloyd George's coalition. He was frequently left out of the inner workings of foreign policy, although the Balfour Declaration on a Jewish homeland bore his name. He continued to serve in senior positions throughout the 1920s, and died on 19 March 1930 aged 81, having spent a vast inherited fortune. He never married. Balfour trained as a philosopher – he originated an argument against believing that human reason could determine truth – and was seen as having a detached attitude to life, epitomised by a remark attributed to him: "Nothing matters very much and few things matter at all".

Background and early career

Balfour early in his career
Whittingehame House

Arthur Balfour was born at Whittingehame House, East Lothian, Scotland, the eldest son of James Maitland Balfour (1820–1856) and Lady Blanche Gascoyne-Cecil (1825–1872). His father was a Scottish MP, as was his grandfather James; his mother, a member of the Cecil family descended from Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, was the daughter of the 2nd Marquess of Salisbury and a sister to the 3rd Marquess, the future Prime Minister. His godfather was the Duke of Wellington, after whom he was named. He was the eldest son, third of eight children, and had four brothers and three sisters. Arthur Balfour was educated at Grange preparatory school in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire (1859–1861), and Eton College (1861–1866), where he studied with the influential master, William Johnson Cory. He went to the University of Cambridge, where he read moral sciences at Trinity College (1866–1869), graduating with a second-class honours degree. His younger brother was the Cambridge embryologist Francis Maitland Balfour (1851–1882).

Although he coined the saying "Nothing matters very much and few things matter at all", Balfour was distraught at the early death from typhus in 1875 of his cousin May Lyttelton, whom he had hoped to marry: later, mediums claimed to pass on messages from her – see the "Palm Sunday Case". Balfour remained a bachelor. Margot Tennant (later Margot Asquith) wished to marry him, but Balfour said: "No, that is not so. I rather think of having a career of my own." His household was maintained by his unmarried sister, Alice. In middle age, Balfour had a 40-year friendship with Mary Charteris (née Wyndham), Lady Elcho, later Countess of Wemyss and March. Although one biographer writes that "it is difficult to say how far the relationship went", her letters suggest they may have become lovers in 1887 and may have engaged in sado-masochism, a claim echoed by A. N. Wilson. Another biographer believes they had "no direct physical relationship", although he dismisses as unlikely suggestions that Balfour was homosexual, or, in view of a time during the Boer War when he replied to a message while drying himself after his bath, Lord Beaverbrook's claim that he was "a hermaphrodite" whom no-one saw naked.

In 1874 he was elected Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Hertford until 1885. In spring 1878, Balfour became Private Secretary to his uncle, Lord Salisbury. He accompanied Salisbury (then Foreign Secretary) to the Congress of Berlin and gained his first experience in international politics in connection with the settlement of the Russo-Turkish conflict. At the same time he became known in the world of letters; the academic subtlety and literary achievement of his Defence of Philosophic Doubt (1879) suggested he might make a reputation as a philosopher.

Balfour divided his time between politics and academic pursuits. Released from his duties as private secretary by the general election of 1880, he began to take more part in parliamentary affairs. He was for a time politically associated with Lord Randolph Churchill, Sir Henry Drummond Wolff and John Gorst. This quartet became known as the "Fourth Party" and gained notoriety for leader Lord Randolph Churchill's free criticism of Sir Stafford Northcote, Lord Cross and other prominent members of the "old gang".

Service in Lord Salisbury's governments

Balfour photo by George Grantham Bain

In 1885, Lord Salisbury appointed Balfour President of the Local Government Board; the following year he became Secretary for Scotland with a seat in the cabinet. These offices, while offering few opportunities for distinction, were an apprenticeship. In early 1887, Sir Michael Hicks Beach, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, resigned because of illness and Salisbury appointed his nephew in his place. That surprised the political world and possibly led to the British phrase "Bob's your uncle!". Balfour surprised critics by ruthless enforcement of the Crimes Act, earning the nickname "Bloody Balfour". His steady administration did much to dispel his reputation as a political lightweight.

In Parliament he resisted overtures to the Irish Parliamentary Party on Home Rule, and, allied with Joseph Chamberlain's Liberal Unionists, encouraged Unionist activism in Ireland. Balfour also helped the poor by creating the Congested Districts Board for Ireland in 1890. In 1886–1892 he became one of the most effective public speakers of the age. Impressive in matter rather than delivery, his speeches were logical and convincing, and delighted an ever-wider audience.

On the death of W.H. Smith in 1891, Balfour became First Lord of the Treasury – the last in British history not to have been concurrently Prime Minister as well – and Leader of the House of Commons. After the fall of the government in 1892 he spent three years in opposition. When the Conservatives returned to power, in coalition with the Liberal Unionists, in 1895, Balfour again became Leader of the House and First Lord of the Treasury. His management of the abortive education proposals of 1896 showed a disinclination for the drudgery of parliamentary management, yet he saw the passage of a bill providing Ireland with improved local government and joined in debates on foreign and domestic questions between 1895 and 1900.

During the illness of Lord Salisbury in 1898, and again in Salisbury's absence abroad, Balfour was in charge of the Foreign Office, and he conducted negotiations with Russia on the question of railways in North China. As a member of the cabinet responsible for the Transvaal negotiations in 1899, he bore his share of controversy and, when the war began disastrously, he was first to realise the need to use the country's full military strength. His leadership of the House was marked by firmness in the suppression of obstruction, yet there was a slight revival of the criticisms of 1896.

Prime Minister

Portrait of Arthur Balfour (1892)

On Lord Salisbury's resignation on 11 July 1902, Balfour succeeded him as Prime Minister, with the approval of all the Unionist party. The new Prime Minister came into power practically at the same moment as the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra and the end of the South African War. The Liberal party was still disorganised over the Boers.

In foreign affairs, Balfour and his Foreign Secretary, Lord Lansdowne, improved relations with France, culminating in the Entente cordiale of 1904. The period also saw the Russo-Japanese War, when Britain, an ally of the Japanese, came close to war with Russia after the Dogger Bank incident. On the whole, Balfour left the conduct of foreign policy to Lansdowne, being busy himself with domestic problems.

Balfour, who had known Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann since 1906, opposed Russian mistreatment of Jews and increasingly supported Zionism as a program for European Jews to settle in Palestine. However, in 1905 he supported stringent anti-immigration legislation, meant primarily to prevent Jewish immigrants fleeing the pogroms of Eastern Europe from entering Britain.

The budget was certain to show a surplus and taxation could be remitted. Yet as events proved, it was the budget that would sow dissension, override other legislative concerns and signal a new political movement. Charles Thomson Ritchie's remission of the shilling import-duty on corn led to Joseph Chamberlain's crusade in favour of tariff reform. These were taxes on imported goods with trade preference given to the Empire, to protect British industry from competition, strengthen the Empire in the face of growing German and American economic power, and provide revenue, other than raising taxes, for the social welfare legislation. As the session proceeded, the rift grew in the Unionist ranks. Tariff reform was popular with Unionist supporters, but the threat of higher prices for food imports made the policy an electoral albatross. Hoping to split the difference between the free traders and tariff reformers in his cabinet and party, Balfour favoured retaliatory tariffs to punish others who had tariffs against the British, in the hope of encouraging global free trade.

This was not sufficient for either the free traders or the extreme tariff reformers in government. With Balfour's agreement, Chamberlain resigned from the Cabinet in late 1903 to campaign for tariff reform. At the same time, Balfour tried to balance the two factions by accepting the resignation of three free-trading ministers, including Chancellor Ritchie, but the almost simultaneous resignation of the free-trader Duke of Devonshire (who as Lord Hartington had been the Liberal Unionist leader of the 1880s) left Balfour's Cabinet weak. By 1905 few Unionist MPs were still free traders (Winston Churchill crossed to the Liberals in 1904 when threatened with deselection at Oldham), but Balfour's act had drained his authority within the government.

Balfour resigned as Prime Minister in December 1905, hoping the Liberal leader Campbell-Bannerman would be unable to form a strong government. This was dashed when Campbell-Bannerman faced down an attempt ("The Relugas Compact") to "kick him upstairs" to the House of Lords. The Conservatives were defeated by the Liberals at the general election the following January (in terms of MPs, a Liberal landslide), with Balfour losing his seat at Manchester East to Thomas Gardner Horridge, a solicitor and king's counsel. Only 157 Conservatives were returned to the Commons, at least two-thirds followers of Chamberlain, who chaired the Conservative MPs until Balfour won a safe seat in the City of London.

Achievements and mistakes

According to historian Historian Robert Ensor, writing in 1936, Balfour can be credited with achievement in five major areas:

  1. The Education Act, 1902 (and a similar measure for London in 1903);
  2. The Irish Land Purchase Act, 1903 which bought out the Anglo-English land owners;
  3. The Liquor Licensing Act, 1904;
  4. In military policy, the creation of the Committee of Imperial Defence (1904);
  5. In foreign policy, the Anglo-French Convention (1904), which formed the basis of the Entente with France.

Balfour's weak points include the tariff fight with Chamberlain; it split the Unionist party as resignations from his cabinet reduced it almost to a rump. Ensor adds, "the controversy over Chinese labour for the Rand; in sanctioning which Balfour committed as prime minister his one quite indefensible mistake."

Arthur Balfour's Government, August 1902 – December 1905

Arthur Balfour painted by Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Balfour was appointed Prime Minister on 11 July 1902, while the King was recovering from his recent operation. Changes to the Cabinet were thus not announced until 9 August, when the King was back in London. The new ministers were received in audience and took their oaths on 11 August.

  • Arthur Balfour – First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons
  • Lord Halsbury – Lord Chancellor
  • The Duke of Devonshire – Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords
  • Aretas Akers-Douglas – Secretary of State for the Home Department
  • Lord Lansdowne – Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
  • Joseph Chamberlain – Secretary of State for the Colonies
  • St John Brodrick – Secretary of State for War
  • Lord George Hamilton – Secretary of State for India
  • Lord Selborne – First Lord of the Admiralty
  • Charles Thomson Ritchie – Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Gerald Balfour – President of the Board of Trade
  • Sir William Hood Walrond – Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
  • Lord Balfour of Burleigh – Secretary for Scotland
  • George Wyndham – Chief Secretary for Ireland
  • Walter Hume Long – President of the Local Government Board
  • Robert William Hanbury – President of the Board of Agriculture
  • Lord Londonderry – President of the Board of Education
  • Lord Ashbourne – Lord Chancellor of Ireland
  • Lord Windsor – First Commissioner of Public Works
  • Austen Chamberlain – Postmaster-General


  • May 1903 – Lord Onslow succeeds R.W. Hanbury at the Board of Agriculture.
  • September–October 1903 – Lord Londonderry succeeds the Duke of Devonshire as Lord President, while remaining President of the Board of Education. Lord Lansdowne succeeds Devonshire as Leader of the House of Lords, remaining also Foreign Secretary. Lord Salisbury succeeds Balfour as Lord Privy Seal. Austen Chamberlain succeeds Ritchie at the Exchequer. Chamberlain's successor as Postmaster-General is not in the Cabinet. Alfred Lyttelton succeeds Joseph Chamberlain as Colonial Secretary. St John Brodrick succeeds Lord George Hamilton as Secretary for India. Hugh Arnold-Forster succeeds Brodrick as Secretary for War. Andrew Graham-Murray succeeds Lord Balfour of Burleigh as Secretary for Scotland.
  • March 1905 – Walter Hume Long succeeds George Wyndham as Irish Secretary. Gerald Balfour succeeds Long at the Local Government Board. Lord Salisbury, remaining Lord Privy Seal, succeeds Balfour at the Board of Trade. Lord Cawdor succeeds Lord Selborne at the Admiralty. Ailwyn Fellowes succeeds Lord Onslow at the Board of Agriculture.

Later career

Arthur Balfour, John Singer Sargent, 1908

After the general election of 1906 Balfour remained party leader, his position strengthened by Joseph Chamberlain's absence from the House of Commons after his stroke in July 1906, but he was unable to make much headway against the huge Liberal majority in the Commons. An early attempt to score a debating triumph over the government, made in Balfour's usual abstruse, theoretical style, saw Campbell-Bannerman respond with: "Enough of this foolery," to the delight of his supporters. Balfour made the controversial decision, with Lord Lansdowne, to use the heavily Unionist House of Lords as a check on the political programme and legislation of the Liberal party in the Commons. Legislation was vetoed or altered by amendments between 1906 and 1909, leading David Lloyd George to remark that the Lords had become "not the watchdog of the Constitution, but Mr. Balfour's poodle." The issue was forced by the Liberals with Lloyd George's People's Budget, provoking the constitutional crisis that led to the Parliament Act 1911, which limited the Lords to delaying bills for up to two years. After the Unionists lost the general elections of 1910 (despite softening the tariff reform policy with Balfour's promise of a referendum on food taxes), the Unionist peers split to allow the Parliament Act to pass the House of Lords, to prevent mass creation of Liberal peers by the new King, George V. The exhausted Balfour resigned as party leader after the crisis, and was succeeded in late 1911 by Bonar Law.

An older Balfour

Balfour remained important in the party, however, and when the Unionists joined Asquith's coalition government in May 1915, Balfour succeeded Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty. When Asquith's government collapsed in December 1916, Balfour, who seemed a potential successor to the premiership, became Foreign Secretary in Lloyd George's new administration, but not in the small War Cabinet, and was frequently left out of inner workings of government. Balfour's service as Foreign Secretary was notable for the Balfour Mission, a crucial alliance building visit to the US in April 1917, and the Balfour Declaration of 1917, a letter to Lord Rothschild affirming the government's support for the establishment of a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine, then part of the Ottoman Empire.

Balfour caricatured by XIT for Vanity Fair, 1910

Balfour resigned as Foreign Secretary following the Versailles Conference in 1919, but continued in the government (and the Cabinet after normal peacetime political arrangements resumed) as Lord President of the Council. In 1921–22 he represented the British Empire at the Washington Naval Conference and during summer 1922 stood in for the Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon, who was ill. He put forward a proposal for the international settlement of war debts and reparations (the Balfour Note), but it was not accepted..

In 1922 he, with most of the Conservative leadership, resigned with Lloyd George's government following the Conservative back-bench revolt against continuance of the coalition. Bonar Law became Prime Minister. On 5 May 1922, Balfour was created Earl of Balfour and Viscount Thaprain, 'of Whittingehame, in the county of Haddington.' Like many Coalition leaders, he did not hold office in the Conservative governments of 1922–4, but as an elder statesman, he was consulted by the King in the choice of Baldwin as Bonar Law's successor as Conservative leader in May 1923. When asked whether "dear George" (the much more experienced Lord Curzon) would be chosen, he replied, referring to Curzon's wealthy wife Grace, "No, dear, George will not but he will still have the means of Grace."

Balfour was not initially included in Stanley Baldwin's second government in 1924, but in 1925, he returned to the Cabinet, in place of the late Lord Curzon as Lord President of the Council, until the government ended in 1929. With 28 years of government service, Balfour is considered to have had one of the longest ministerial careers in modern British politics, second only to Winston Churchill. In 1925, he visited the Holy Land.

Apart from a number of colds and occasional influenza, Balfour had good health until 1928 and remained until then a regular tennis player. Four years, previously he had been the first president of the International Lawn Tennis Club of Great Britain. At the end of 1928, most of his teeth were removed and he suffered the unremitting circulatory trouble which ended his life. Late in January 1929, Balfour was taken from Whittingehame to Fishers Hill House, his brother Gerald's home near Woking, Surrey. In the past, he had suffered occasional phlebitis and by late 1929 he was immobilised by it. Finally, soon after receiving a visit from his friend Chaim Weizmann, Balfour died at Fishers Hill House on 19 March 1930. At his request a public funeral was declined, and he was buried on 22 March beside members of his family at Whittingehame in a Church of Scotland service although he also belonged to the Church of England. By special remainder, the title passed to his brother Gerald.

His obituaries in The Times, The Guardian and the Daily Herald did not mention the declaration for which he is most famous outside Britain.


Balfour developed a manner known to friends as the Balfourian manner. Harold Begbie, a journalist, in a book called Mirrors of Downing Street, criticised Balfour for his manner, personality and self-obsession. Begbie disagreed with Balfour's political views, but even his one-sided criticisms do not entirely conceal Balfour's shyness and diffidence. The sections of the work dealing with Balfour's personality were:

This Balfourian manner, as I understand it, has its roots in an attitude of mind—an attitude of convinced superiority which insists in the first place on complete detachment from the enthusiasms of the human race, and in the second place on keeping the vulgar world at arm's length.

It is an attitude of mind which a critic or a cynic might be justified in assuming, for it is the attitude of one who desires rather to observe the world than to shoulder any of its burdens; but it is a posture of exceeding danger to anyone who lacks tenderness or sympathy, whatever his purpose or office may be, for it tends to breed the most dangerous of all intellectual vices, that spirit of self-satisfaction which Dostoievsky declares to be the infallible mark of an inferior mind.

To Mr. Arthur Balfour this studied attitude of aloofness has been fatal, both to his character and to his career. He has said nothing, written nothing, done nothing, which lives in the heart of his countrymen. To look back upon his record is to see a desert, and a desert with no altar and with no monument, without even one tomb at which a friend might weep. One does not say of him, "He nearly succeeded there", or "What a tragedy that he turned from this to take up that"; one does not feel for him at any point in his career as one feels for Mr. George Wyndham or even for Lord Randolph Churchill; from its outset until now that career stretches before our eyes in a flat and uneventful plain of successful but inglorious and ineffective self-seeking.

There is one signal characteristic of the Balfourian manner which is worthy of remark. It is an assumption in general company of a most urbane, nay, even a most cordial spirit. I have heard many people declare at a public reception that he is the most gracious of men, and seen many more retire from shaking his hand with a flush of pride on their faces as though Royalty had stooped to inquire after the measles of their youngest child. Such is ever the effect upon vulgar minds of geniality in superiors: they love to be stooped to from the heights.

But this heartiness of manner is of the moment only, and for everybody; it manifests itself more personally in the circle of his intimates and is irresistible in week-end parties; but it disappears when Mr. Balfour retires into the shell of his private life and there deals with individuals, particularly with dependants. It has no more to do with his spirit than his tail-coat and his white tie. Its remarkable impression comes from its unexpectedness; its effect is the shock of surprise. In public he is ready to shake the whole world by the hand, almost to pat it on the shoulder; but in private he is careful to see that the world does not enter even the remotest of his lodge gates.

"The truth about Arthur Balfour," said George Wyndham, "is this: he knows there's been one ice-age, and he thinks there's going to be another."

Little as the general public may suspect it, the charming, gracious, and cultured Mr. Balfour is the most egotistical of men, and a man who would make almost any sacrifice to remain in office. It costs him nothing to serve under Mr. Lloyd George; it would have cost him almost his life to be out of office during a period so exciting as that of the Great War. He loves office more than anything this world can offer; neither in philosophy nor music, literature nor science, has he ever been able to find rest for his soul. It is profoundly instructive that a man with a real talent for the noblest of those pursuits which make solitude desirable and retirement an opportunity should be so restless and dissatisfied, even in old age, outside the doors of public life.
— Begbie, Harold (as 'A Gentleman with a Duster'): Mirrors of Downing Street: Some political reflections, Mills and Boon (1920), p. 76–79

Churchill compared Balfour to H. H. Asquith: "The difference between Balfour and Asquith is that Arthur is wicked and moral, while Asquith is good and immoral." Balfour said of himself, "I am more or less happy when being praised, not very comfortable when being abused, but I have moments of uneasiness when being explained."

Writings and academic achievements

Balfour is thought to have formulated the basis for the evolutionary argument against naturalism. Balfour argued the Darwinian premise of selection for reproductive fitness cast doubt on scientific naturalism, because human cognitive facilities that would accurately perceive truth could be less advantageous than adaptation for evolutionarily useful illusions.

As he says:

[There is] no distinction to be drawn between the development of reason and that of any other faculty, physiological or psychical, by which the interests of the individual or the race are promoted. From the humblest form of nervous irritation at the one end of the scale, to the reasoning capacity of the most advanced races at the other, everything without exception (sensation, instinct, desire, volition) has been produced directly or indirectly, by natural causes acting for the most part on strictly utilitarian principles. Convenience, not knowledge, therefore, has been the main end to which this process has tended

— Arthur Balfour,

He was a member of the Society for Psychical Research, a society studying psychic and paranormal phenomena, and was its president from 1892 to 1894. In 1914, he delivered the Gifford Lectures at the University of Glasgow, which formed the basis for the book Theism and Humanism (1915).


After the First World War, when there was controversy over the style of headstone proposed for use on British war graves being taken on by the Imperial War Graves Commission, Balfour submitted a design for a cruciform headstone. At an exhibition in August 1919, it drew many criticisms; the Commission's principal architect, Sir John Burnet, said Balfour's cross would create a criss-cross effect destroying any sense of "restful diginity", Edwin Lutyens called it "extraordinarily ugly", and its shape was variously described as resembling a shooting target or bottle. His design was not accepted but the Commission offered him a second chance to submit another design which he did not take up, having been refused once. After a further exhibition in the House of Commons, the "Balfour cross" was ultimately rejected in favour of the standard headstone the Commission permanently adopted because the latter offered more space for inscriptions and service emblems.

Popular culture

  • Balfour was the subject of two parody novels based on Alice in Wonderland, Clara in Blunderland (1902) and Lost in Blunderland (1903), which appeared under the pseudonym Caroline Lewis; one of the co-authors was Harold Begbie.
  • The character Arthur Balfour plays a supporting, off-screen role in Upstairs, Downstairs, promoting the family patriarch, Richard Bellamy, to the position of Civil Lord of the Admiralty.
  • Balfour was portrayed by Adrian Ropes in the 1974 Thames TV production Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill.
  • Balfour was portrayed by Lyndon Brook in the 1975 ATV production Edward the Seventh.
  • A fictionalised version of Arthur Balfour (identified as "Mr. Balfour") appears as British Prime Minister in the science fiction romance The Angel of the Revolution by George Griffith, published in 1893 (when Balfour was still in opposition) but set in an imagined near future of 1903–1905.
  • The indecisive Balfour (identified as "Halfan Halfour") appears in a satirical short story by Saki in which he, and other leading politicians including Quinston, are changed into animals appropriate to their characters.


A portrait of Balfour by Philip de Laszlo is in the collection of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Balfouria, a moshav in Israel and many streets in Israel are named after him.

Styles of address

  • 1848–1874: Mr Arthur James Balfour
  • 1874–1880: Mr Arthur James Balfour MP
  • 1880–1885: Mr Arthur James Balfour MP DL
  • 1885–1888: The Right Honourable Arthur James Balfour MP DL
  • 1888–1916: The Right Honourable Arthur James Balfour FRS MP DL
  • 1916–1922: The Right Honourable Arthur James Balfour OM FRS MP DL
  • 1922: The Right Honourable Sir Arthur James Balfour KG OM FRS MP DL
  • 1922–1930: The Right Honourable The Earl of Balfour KG OM PC FRS DL

Honours and decorations

  • He was appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant of Ross-shire on 10 September 1880, giving him the post-nominal letters "DL".
  • He was sworn of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom in 1885, giving him the style "The Right Honourable" and after ennoblement the post-nominal letters "PC" for life.
  • On 3 June 1916 he was appointed to the Order of Merit, giving him the post-nominal letters "OM" for life.
  • He was made a Knight Companion of the Order of the Garter on 24 February 1922, becoming Sir Arthur Balfour and giving him the post-nominal letters "KG" for life.
  • On 5 May 1922, Balfour was raised to the peerage as Earl of Balfour and Viscount Thaprain, of Whittingehame, in the county of Haddington. This allowed him to sit in the House of Lords.
  • He was awarded the Estonian Cross of Liberty (conferred between 1919-25), third grade, first class, for Civilian Service.

He was given the Freedom of the City of

  • Scotland 28 September 1899: Dundee
  • Scotland 19 October 1905: Edinburgh

Honorary Degrees

Country Date School Degree
 England 1909 University of Liverpool Doctor of Laws (LL.D)
 England 1912 University of Sheffield Doctor of Laws (LL.D)
 Ontario 1917 University of Toronto Doctor of Laws (LL.D)
 Wales 1921 University of Wales Doctor of Letters

(D. Litt)


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