Harold Macmillan

The Earl of Stockton

Harold Macmillan in 1942.jpg
Harold Macmillan in 1942
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
10 January 1957 – 18 October 1963
MonarchElizabeth II
DeputyRab Butler (1962–63)
Preceded bySir Anthony Eden
Succeeded byAlec Douglas-Home
Leader of the Conservative Party
In office
10 January 1957 – 18 October 1963
Preceded bySir Anthony Eden
Succeeded byAlec Douglas-Home
Ministerial offices
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
20 December 1955 – 13 January 1957
Prime MinisterSir Anthony Eden
Preceded byRab Butler
Succeeded byPeter Thorneycroft
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
In office
7 April 1955 – 20 December 1955
Prime MinisterSir Anthony Eden
Preceded bySir Anthony Eden
Succeeded bySelwyn Lloyd
Minister of Defence
In office
19 October 1954 – 7 April 1955
Prime MinisterSir Winston Churchill
Preceded byThe Earl Alexander of Tunis
Succeeded bySelwyn Lloyd
Minister of Housing and Local Government
In office
30 October 1951 – 19 October 1954
Prime MinisterSir Winston Churchill
Preceded byHugh Dalton
Succeeded byDuncan Sandys
Secretary of State for Air
In office
25 May 1945 – 26 July 1945
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded bySir Archibald Sinclair
Succeeded byThe Viscount Stansgate
Minister Resident in Northwest Africa
In office
30 December 1942 – 25 May 1945
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byNew post
Succeeded byHarold Balfour
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
4 February 1942 – 30 December 1942
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byGeorge Hall
Succeeded byThe Duke of Devonshire
Parliamentary Secretary
to the Ministry of Supply
In office
15 May 1940 – 4 February 1942
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byJohn Llewellin
Succeeded byThe Viscount Portal
Parliamentary offices
Member of Parliament
for Bromley
In office
14 November 1945 – 16 October 1964
Preceded bySir Edward Campbell
Succeeded byJohn Hunt
Member of Parliament
for Stockton-on-Tees
In office
28 October 1931 – 6 July 1945
Preceded byFrederick Fox Riley
Succeeded byGeorge Chetwynd
In office
30 October 1924 – 31 May 1929
Preceded byRobert Strother Stewart
Succeeded byFrederick Fox Riley
Member of the House of Lords
Hereditary peerage
24 February 1984 – 29 December 1986
Preceded byPeerage created
Succeeded byThe 2nd Earl of Stockton
Personal details
Maurice Harold Macmillan

(1894-02-10)10 February 1894
Belgravia, London, England
Died29 December 1986(1986-12-29) (aged 92)
Chelwood Gate, East Sussex, England
Resting placeSt Giles' Church, Horsted Keynes
Political partyConservative
Lady Dorothy Cavendish
(m. 1920; died 1966)
Children4, including Maurice and Lady Caroline
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford
  • Publisher
  • politician
Civilian awardsOrder of Merit
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/service British Army
Years of service1914–1920
UnitGrenadier Guards
Battles/warsFirst World War
Military awards

Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton, OM, PC, FRS (10 February 1894 – 29 December 1986) was a British Conservative Party statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1957 to 1963. Dubbed "Supermac", he was known for his pragmatism, wit and unflappability.

Macmillan served in the Grenadier Guards during the First World War. He was wounded three times, most severely in September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. He spent the rest of the war in a military hospital unable to walk, and suffered pain and partial immobility for the rest of his life. After the war Macmillan joined his family business, then entered Parliament at the 1924 general election for the northern industrial constituency of Stockton-on-Tees. After losing his seat in 1929, he regained it in 1931, soon after which he spoke out against the high rate of unemployment in Stockton-On-Tees, and against appeasement. Rising to high office during the Second World War as a protégé of wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Macmillan then served as Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer under Churchill's successor Sir Anthony Eden. When Eden resigned in 1957 following the Suez Crisis, Macmillan succeeded him as Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party.

As a One Nation Tory of the Disraelian tradition, haunted by memories of the Great Depression, he believed in the post-war settlement and the necessity of a mixed economy, championing a Keynesian strategy of public investment to maintain demand and pursuing corporatist policies to develop the domestic market as the engine of growth. Benefiting from favourable international conditions,[1] he presided over an age of affluence, marked by low unemployment and high—if uneven—growth. In his Bedford speech of July 1957 he told the nation they had 'never had it so good',[2] but warned of the dangers of inflation, summing up the fragile prosperity of the 1950s.[3] The Conservatives were re-elected in 1959 with an increased majority.

In international affairs, Macmillan rebuilt the Special Relationship with the United States from the wreckage of the Suez Crisis (of which he had been one of the architects), and redrew the world map by facilitating the decolonisation of sub-Saharan Africa. Reconfiguring the nation's defences to meet the realities of the nuclear age, he ended National Service, strengthened the nuclear forces by acquiring Polaris, and pioneered the Nuclear Test Ban with the United States and the Soviet Union. Belatedly recognising the dangers of strategic dependence, he sought a new role for Britain in Europe, but his unwillingness to disclose United States nuclear secrets to France contributed to a French veto of the United Kingdom's entry into the European Economic Community.[4]

Near the end of his premiership, his government was rocked by the Vassall and Profumo scandals, which to some, especially the rebellious youth of the 1960s, seemed to symbolise the moral decay of the British establishment.[5] After his resignation, Macmillan lived out a long retirement as an elder statesman. He was as trenchant a critic of his successors in his old age as he had been of his predecessors in his youth.

Macmillan was the last British prime minister born during the Victorian era, the last to have served in the First World War and the last to receive a hereditary peerage. At the time of his death, he was the longest-lived prime minister in British history,[6] a record surpassed by James Callaghan on 14 February 2005.[6]

Early life


Macmillan was born at 52 Cadogan Place in Chelsea, London, to Maurice Crawford Macmillan (1853–1936), a publisher, and his wife, the former Helen (Nellie) Artie Tarleton Belles (1856–1937), an artist and socialite from Spencer, Indiana.[7] He had two brothers, Daniel, eight years his senior, and Arthur, four years his senior.[8] His paternal grandfather, Daniel MacMillan (1813–1857), who founded Macmillan Publishers, was the son of a Scottish crofter from the Isle of Arran.[9] He considered himself a Scot.[10]

Schooling, University and early political views

Macmillan received an intensive early education, closely guided by his American mother. He learned French at home every morning from a succession of nursery maids, and exercised daily at Mr Macpherson's Gymnasium and Dancing Academy, around the corner from the family home.[11] From the age of six or seven he received introductory lessons in classical Latin and Greek at Mr Gladstone's day school, close by in Sloane Square.[12][13]

Macmillan attended Summer Fields School, Oxford (1903–06). He was Third Scholar at Eton College,[14] but his time there (1906–10) was blighted by recurrent illness, starting with a near-fatal attack of pneumonia in his first half; he missed his final year after being invalided out,[15][16] and was taught at home by private tutors (1910–11), notably Ronald Knox, who did much to instil his High church Anglicanism.[17] He won an exhibition to Balliol College, Oxford, but was less of a scholar than his elder brother Dan.[14]

As a child, teenager and later young man, he was an admirer of the policies and leadership of a succession of Liberal Prime Ministers, starting with Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who came to power toward the end of 1905 when Macmillan was only 11 years old, and then H. H. Asquith, whom he later described as having "intellectual sincerity and moral nobility", and particularly of Asquith's successor, David Lloyd George, whom he regarded as a "man of action", likely to accomplish his goals.[18]

Macmillan went up to Balliol College in 1912, where he joined many political societies. His political opinions at this stage were an eclectic mix of moderate Conservatism, moderate Liberalism and Fabian Socialism. He read avidly about Disraeli, but was also particularly impressed by a speech by Lloyd George at the Oxford Union Society in 1913, where he had become a member and debater. Macmillan was a protégé of the then President Walter Monckton, later a Cabinet colleague; as such, he became Secretary then Junior Treasurer (elected unopposed in March 1914, then an unusual occurrence) of the Union, and would in his biographers' view "almost certainly" have been President had the war not intervened.[19][20] He obtained a First in Honours Moderations, informally known as Mods (consisting of Latin and Greek, the first half of the four-year Oxford Literae Humaniores course, informally known as Greats), in Hilary Term 1914. With his final exams over two years away, he enjoyed an idyllic Trinity (summer) term at Oxford, just before the outbreak of the First World War.[21]

War service

Volunteering immediately for active service in the War, Macmillan joined the British Army and was commissioned as a temporary second lieutenant in the King's Royal Rifle Corps on 19 November 1914.[22][23] Promoted to lieutenant on 30 January 1915,[24] he soon transferred to the Grenadier Guards.[25] He fought on the front lines in France, where the casualty rate was known to be high, as was the probability of an "early and violent death".[18] He served with distinction as a captain and was wounded on three occasions. Shot in the right hand and receiving a glancing bullet wound to the head in the Battle of Loos in September 1915, Macmillan was sent to Lennox Gardens in Chelsea for hospital treatment, then joined a reserve battalion at Chelsea Barracks from January to March 1916, until his hand had healed. He then returned to the front lines in France. Leading an advance platoon in the Battle of Flers–Courcelette (part of the Battle of the Somme) in September 1916, he was severely wounded, and lay for ten hours in a slit trench, sometimes feigning death when Germans passed, and reading the classical playwright Aeschylus in the original Greek.[26] The then-Prime Minister Asquith's own son, Raymond Asquith, was a brother officer in Macmillan's regiment, and was killed that month.[27]

Macmillan spent the final two years of the war in hospital undergoing a long series of operations.[28] He was still on crutches on Armistice Day, 11 November 1918.[29] His hip wound took four years to heal completely, and he was left with a slight shuffle to his walk and a limp grip in his right hand from his previous wound, which affected his handwriting.[30]

Macmillan saw himself as both a "gownsman" and a "swordsman" and would later display open contempt for other politicians (e.g. Rab Butler, Hugh Gaitskell, Harold Wilson) who, often through no fault of their own, had not seen military service in either World War.[31]

Canadian aide-de-campship

Of the 28 students who started at Balliol with Macmillan, only he and one other survived the war.[32] As a result, he refused to return to Oxford to complete his degree, saying the university would never be the same;[33] in later years he joked that he had been "sent down by the Kaiser".[34]

Owing to the impending contraction of the Army after the war, a regular commission in the Grenadiers was out of the question.[35] However, at the end of 1918 Macmillan joined the Guards Reserve Battalion at Chelsea Barracks for "light duties".[36] On one occasion he had to command reliable troops in a nearby park as a unit of Guardsmen was briefly refusing to reembark for France, although the incident was resolved peacefully. The incident prompted an inquiry from the War Office as to whether the Guards Reserve Battalion "could be relied on".[37]

Macmillan then served in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, in 1919 as ADC to Victor Cavendish, 9th Duke of Devonshire, then Governor General of Canada, and his future father-in-law.[38] The engagement of Captain Macmillan to the Duke's daughter Lady Dorothy was announced on 7 January 1920.[39] He relinquished his commission on 1 April 1920.[40] As was common for contemporary former officers, he continued to be known as 'Captain Macmillan' until the early 1930s and was listed as such in every General Election between 1923 and 1931.[41] As late as his North African posting of 1942–43 he reminded Churchill that he held the rank of captain in the Guards reserve.[42]

On his return to London in 1920 he joined the family publishing firm Macmillan Publishers as a junior partner, remaining with the company until his appointment to ministerial office in 1940. He resumed with the firm from 1945 to 1951 when the party was in opposition.

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Afrikaans: Harold Macmillan
беларуская: Гаральд Мак-Мілан
български: Харолд Макмилан
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interlingua: Harold Macmillan
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مازِرونی: هارولد مک میلن
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српски / srpski: Харолд Макмилан
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Harold Macmillan
татарча/tatarça: Гарольд Макмиллан
українська: Гарольд Макміллан
Tiếng Việt: Harold Macmillan
粵語: 麥美倫