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Samuel Hoare, 1st Viscount Templewood

Samuel Hoare, 1st Viscount Templewood

British Conservative politician
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro British Conservative politician
A.K.A. Sir Samuel John Gurney Hoare
Countries United Kingdom
Occupations Politician Diplomat
Gender male
Birth 24 February 1880 (London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom)
Death 7 May 1959 (London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom)
Star sign Pisces
Politics Conservative Party
Education New College, Harrow School
The details

Samuel John Gurney Hoare, 1st Viscount Templewood, GCSI, GBE, CMG, PC, JP (24 February 1880 – 7 May 1959), more commonly known as Sir Samuel Hoare, was a senior British Conservative politician who served in various Cabinet posts in the Conservative and National governments of the 1920s and 1930s. He was Secretary of State for Air during most of the 1920s and briefly again in 1940. He is perhaps most famous for serving as Foreign Secretary in 1935, when he authored the Hoare–Laval Pact with French Prime Minister Pierre Laval. In 1936 he became First Lord of the Admiralty, then served as Home Secretary from 1937 to 1939 and was British ambassador to Spain from 1940 to 1944.


Hoare was born in London, an Anglican descendant of the Quaker Samuel Hoare and the son of Sir Samuel Hoare, 1st Baronet, to whose baronetcy he succeeded in 1915. Hoare was educated at Harrow School and New College, Oxford, where he graduated with a B.A. in 1903 and M.A. in 1910 and later became Honorary Fellow. He married in 1909 Lady Maud Lygon, youngest daughter of Frederick Lygon, 6th Earl Beauchamp. Their marriage was childless.

Entry into politics

Hoare, who had become a J.P. for the county of Norfolk in 1906, and unsuccessfully stood in that year's General Election for Parliament at Ipswich, entered local politics in March 1907, when he was elected to the London County Council as a member of the Municipal Reform Party representing Brixton. He served as Chairman of the London Fire Brigade Committee. He was first elected to the House of Commons at the January 1910 general election as Member of Parliament (MP) for Chelsea. In these early years he was a member of the Anti-Socialist Union.

First World War

Aged 34 at the time, he began the First World War as a soldier, having been commissioned into the Norfolk Yeomanry but, due to illness, was unable to serve at the front. While acting as a recruiting officer, he learnt Russian and in 1916 was recruited by Mansfield Cumming to be the future MI6's liaison officer with the Russian Intelligence service in Petrograd (St Petersburg). In that post, he reported to the British Government the death of Rasputin and apologised, because of the sensational nature of the event, for having written it in the style of the Daily Mail.

In Italy, he met and recruited the former socialist leader Benito Mussolini on behalf of the British overseas intelligence service, which was then known as MI1(c). Newly published documents show that Britain’s intelligence service helped Mussolini to finance his first forays into Italian politics as a right-wing politician. Hoping to keep Italy on its side in 1917, during the First World War, British intelligence gave Mussolini, then aged 34 and editor of a right-wing newspaper, £100 a week to keep his propaganda flowing.

Hoare was promoted Lieutenant-Colonel and for his services in the war was twice mentioned in despatches, appointed Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 1917, and awarded the Orders of St Anne and St Stanislas of Russia, and of St Maurice and St Lazarus of Italy.

Politics inter-war

Hoare returned to Parliament and became one of the principal Conservatives who revolted against continued participation in the government of David Lloyd George in 1922. He was rewarded with the position of Secretary of State for Air, which he held in all the various Conservative governments of the 1920s. He maintained the Royal Air Force as an independent armed service, presided over the creation of the university air squadrons at Oxford and Cambridge, re-established on permanent basis the air cadet college at Cranwell, and championed civil aviation. In 1927 he was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the British Empire (GBE). He followed his interest in aviation affairs as Honorary Air Commodore of No 601 (County of London) (1930–32) and No 604 (County of Middlesex) (1932–57) Bomber Squadrons of the Auxiliary Air Force.

When the Conservatives joined the National Government in 1931, Hoare became Secretary of State for India in which capacity he negotiated, with great difficulty, the passage of the landmark Government of India Act 1935. Alec Douglas-Home, later to be Prime Minister, commented in his autobiography; “The most noteworthy performance of that Parliament was without question the piloting of the India Independence Bill through the House of Commons by the Secretary of State, Sir Samuel Hoare, ably assisted by Mr. R. A. Butler (later Lord Butler).". Butler later wrote of Hoare: “I was amazed by his ambition; I admired his imagination; I shared his ideals; I stood in awe of his intellectual capacity. But I was never touched by his humanity. He was the coldest fish with whom I ever had to deal.” Hoare was appointed Knight Grand Commander of the Star of India (GCSI) in 1934.

Foreign Secretary

He was, however, most famous for his activities as Foreign Secretary in 1935.

That year, Hoare dealt with the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. Together with French Prime Minister Pierre Laval, he developed the so-called Hoare–Laval Pact, which would have granted Italy considerable territorial concessions in Ethiopia, and put the rump of Ethiopia under Italian hegemony. In his memoirs Hoare claimed that his intentions were twofold: to appease Italy to keep Mussolini away from a German alliance, and to find a compromise which preserved elements of the Ethiopian state from Mussolini. He admitted that his negotiations in Paris with Laval had caught him at a disadvantage. He noted that in the absence of the Hoare–Laval Pact the Italians seized all of Ethiopia, and drew closer to Germany leading eventually to the destabilisation of Austria and the indefensibility of Czechoslovakia. The public uproar against this apparent sell-out of the Ethiopians led to Hoare's resignation as Foreign Secretary at the end of the year. His successor was Anthony Eden. When Eden had his first audience with King George V, the King is said to have remarked humorously, "No more coals to Newcastle, no more Hoares to Paris."

At least in retrospect Hoare stressed that he shared with Neville Chamberlain's close allies a realist position - conscious of the need to prevent a military conjunction of Germany, Italy and Japan which would be too great for Britain's naval power unless France were to prove robust and the Americans would abandon their isolationism. The minority alternative which emerged, led in particular by Eden, would have confronted Italy without regard to the German threat.

Hoare quickly returned to important posts in government, at Baldwin's invitation. This was too quickly, thought Lord Halifax, who criticised Baldwin for giving in to Hoare's importunity. Appointed First Lord of the Admiralty in 1936, Hoare vigorously endorsed Britain's naval rearmament, including ordering the first three King George V-class battleships, and worked to reverse the subordination of the British naval aviation to the Royal Air Force. Hoare was consistently close to Chamberlain, on whose taking over from Baldwin, Hoare was moved to the Home Office. The descendant of Quaker prison reformers (Elizabeth Fry was his great-great-aunt), he oversaw significant judicial reforms but these were largely held up by the advent of war in 1939: he had intended to abolish corporal punishment in prisons and had been keen to work towards the abolition of the death penalty, of whose risks he was very aware. In 1938, Hoare was instrumental in obtaining approval for the British rescue effort on behalf of endangered Jewish children in Europe known as the Kindertransport.

Along with Halifax and Simon he was a key member of Chamberlain's inner ministerial circle and his account of Munich is anguished. Hoare had close links to the Czech government. In retirement he stood strongly by Chamberlain's essential judgements, but regretted Chamberlain's lack of sensitivity in foreign affairs, and his tendency for personal intervention which not only led to his failure to retain Eden, but overrode his Foreign Office advisers but, as Hoare repeatedly points out, public opinion was vociferously pacifist and Chamberlain's actions were widely endorsed, not least by American's President Roosevelt. The Labour opposition strongly opposed rearmament and the introduction of conscription, even after Munich but in spring 1939 Hoare aligned himself very firmly with Chamberlain's upbeat belief that war was now unlikely, rather than with Halifax's increasing focus on shoring up alliances and rearming for a conflict that to the Foreign Secretary seemed imminent.

Samuel Hoare speaking of a possible future disarmament conference between Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Edouard Daladier, Joseph Stalin and Neville Chamberlain, March 1939

Hoare after the outbreak of the Second World War

On the outbreak of war, Hoare became Lord Privy Seal in the War Cabinet, with a wide-ranging brief, until the downfall of the Chamberlain government. Hoare was one of the foremost Chamberlain loyalists, and was shocked at the apparent disloyalty of others such as Halifax. Hoare briefly returned to the Air Ministry, swapping places with Sir Kingsley Wood, and came under fire during the Norway Debate in May 1940. After this, the resignations of himself, Chamberlain and Sir John Simon were essential pre-conditions for Labour to join a coalition government.

Following Winston Churchill's appointment as Prime Minister on 10 May 1940, Hoare lost his Cabinet position, and was, after some months of unemployment, sent as Ambassador to Spain, with his wife Lady Maud Hoare. In this demanding and critical role he sought to encourage Francisco Franco, whom he loathed and found a puzzling and obtuse interlocutor, to keep Spain out of the war, in which he was successful. (He found Franco's Portuguese counterpart, António de Oliveira Salazar, much more pleasant to deal with.) His fluent memoir of this period, Ambassador on Special Mission is an excellent insight into the day-to-day life of a demanding diplomatic job; his primary challenge was to dissuade Franco from his preferred drift to the Axis powers, while preventing the Allies from reacting with undue haste to repeated Spanish provocations. Hoare's memoir is not completely frank about his deployment of an array of bluff, leaks, bribery and subterfuge to disrupt unfriendly elements in Franco's regime, and the operations of the German Embassy; but these methods were remembered fondly by his team.

Hoare remained Ambassador until 1944 when, with the issue of Spanish neutrality no longer in doubt, he returned to Britain and was raised to the peerage as Viscount Templewood, of Chelsea in the County of Middlesex. In the House of Lords he served on the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee from 1950, chairing it from 1954. He was also President of the Howard League for Penal Reform from 1947 and of the Air League of the British Empire from 1953. From 1937 till his death he served as Chancellor of the University of Reading.

In addition to those awarded for his services in the First World War, Viscount Templewood held the following foreign honours:

  • Grand Cross of the Order of the White Lion of Czechoslovakia.
  • Grand Cross of the Order of the Polar Star of Sweden.
  • Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog of Denmark.
  • Grand Cross of the Order of Orange-Nassau of the Netherlands.

Viscount Templewood died of a heart attack, at his home, 12a Eaton Mansions, Chelsea, London, in 1959 aged 79. He was buried at Sidestrand parish churchyard in Norfolk. As his marriage was childless, the baronetcy and peerage became extinct upon his death. Viscountess Templewood died in 1962.

Styles of address

  • 1880–1906: Mr Samuel Hoare
  • 1906–1910: Mr Samuel Hoare JP
  • 1910–1915: Mr Samuel Hoare MP JP
  • 1915–1917: Sir Samuel Hoare Bt MP JP
  • 1917–1922: Sir Samuel Hoare Bt CMG MP JP
  • 1922–1927: The Rt Hon. Sir Samuel Hoare Bt CMG MP JP
  • 1927–1934: The Rt Hon. Sir Samuel Hoare Bt GBE CMG MP JP
  • 1934–1944: The Rt Hon. Sir Samuel Hoare Bt GCSI GBE CMG MP JP
  • 1944–1959: The Rt Hon. The Viscount Templewood GCSI GBE CMG PC JP
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