Upbringing and early life
Lloyd George was born on 17 January 1863 in Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester, to Welsh parents, and was brought up as a Welsh-speaker. He is so far the only British Prime Minister to have been Welsh and to have spoken English as a second language.
His father, William George, had been a teacher in both London and Liverpool. He also taught in the Hope Street Sunday Schools, which were administered by the Unitarians, where he met Unitarian minister Dr James Martineau. In March of the same year, on account of his failing health, William George returned with his family to his native Pembrokeshire. He took up farming but died in June 1864 of pneumonia, aged 44. His widow, Elizabeth George (1828–96), sold the farm and moved with her children to her native Llanystumdwy in Caernarfonshire, where she lived in a cottage known as Highgate with her brother Richard Lloyd (1834–1917), who was a shoemaker, a minister (in the Scottish Baptists and then the Church of Christ), and a strong Liberal. Lloyd George was educated at the local Anglican school Llanystumdwy National School and later under tutors. Lloyd George's uncle was a towering influence on him, encouraging him to take up a career in law and enter politics; his uncle remained influential up until his death at age 83 in February 1917, by which time his nephew had become Prime Minister. He added his uncle's surname to become "Lloyd George". His surname is usually given as "Lloyd George" and sometimes as "George". The influence of his childhood showed through in his entire career, as he attempted to aid the common man at the expense of what he liked to call "the Dukes" (that is, the aristocracy). However, his biographer John Grigg argued that Lloyd George's childhood was nowhere near as poverty-stricken as he liked to suggest, and that a great deal of his self-confidence came from having been brought up by an uncle who enjoyed a position of influence and prestige in his small community.
Brought up a devout evangelical, as a young man he suddenly lost his religious faith. Biographer Don Cregier says he became "a Deist and perhaps an agnostic, though he remained a chapel-goer and connoisseur of good preaching all his life." He kept quiet about that, however, and was, according to Frank Owen, for 25 years "one of the foremost fighting leaders of a fanatical Welsh Nonconformity".
It was also during this period of his life that Lloyd George first became interested in the issue of land ownership. As a young man he read books by Thomas Spence, John Stuart Mill and Henry George, as well as pamphlets written by George Bernard Shaw and Sidney Webb of the Fabian Society on the issue of land ownership. By the age of twenty-one, he had already read and taken notes on Henry George's Progress and Poverty. This strongly influenced Lloyd George's politics later in life; the People's Budget drew heavily on Georgist tax reform ideas.
Lloyd George in about 1890
Articled to a firm of solicitors in Porthmadog, Lloyd George was admitted in 1884 after taking Honours in his final law examination and set up his own practice in the back parlour of his uncle's house in 1885. The practice flourished, and he established branch offices in surrounding towns, taking his brother William into partnership in 1887. Although many Prime Ministers have been barristers, Lloyd George is to date the only solicitor to have held that office.
By then he was politically active, having campaigned for the Liberal Party in the 1885 election, attracted by Joseph Chamberlain's "unauthorised programme" of reforms. The election resulted firstly in a stalemate with neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives having a majority, the balance of power being held by the Irish Parliamentary Party. William Gladstone's proposal to bring about Irish Home Rule split the party, with Chamberlain eventually leading the breakaway Liberal Unionists. Uncertain of which wing to follow, Lloyd George carried a pro-Chamberlain resolution at the local Liberal Club and travelled to Birmingham to attend the first meeting of Chamberlain's National Radical Union, but he had his dates wrong and arrived a week too early. In 1907, he was to say that he thought Chamberlain's plan for a federal solution correct in 1886 and still thought so, that he preferred the unauthorised programme to the Whig-like platform of the official Liberal Party, and that, had Chamberlain proposed solutions to Welsh grievances such as land reform and disestablishment, he, together with most Welsh Liberals, would have followed Chamberlain.
He married Margaret Owen, the daughter of a well-to-do local farming family, on 24 January 1888. Also in that year, he and other young Welsh Liberals founded a monthly paper Udgorn Rhyddid (Bugle of Freedom) and won on appeal to the Divisional Court of Queen's Bench the Llanfrothen burial case; this established the right of Nonconformists to be buried according to their own denominational rites in parish burial grounds, a right given by the Burial Laws Amendment Act 1880 that had up to then been ignored by the Anglican clergy. It was this case, which was hailed as a great victory throughout Wales, and his writings in Udgorn Rhyddid that led to his adoption as the Liberal candidate for Carnarvon Boroughs on 27 December 1888.
In 1889, he became an Alderman on the Carnarvonshire County Council which had been created by the Local Government Act 1888. At that time he appeared to be trying to create a separate Welsh national party modelled on Parnell's Irish Parliamentary Party and worked towards a union of the North and South Wales Liberal Federations. For the same county Lloyd George would also become a JP (1910) and chairman of Quarter Sessions (1929–38), and DL in 1921.