Tillerscast 10: the Last Days of Supermac and co – the Establishment

Harold Macmillan

What sort of people ran Britain in the 50s? And after…

Here are some of the politicians I refer to:

  • Clement Attlee: Haileybury; University College, Oxford (history, 2nd). Great War: Major Attlee, South Lancashire Regiment
  • Winston Churchill: Harrow; Sandhurst, Queens’s Own hussars (cavalry). Churchill’s father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was one  of the leading tories of the 1880s, and chancellor of the exchequer. Randolph Churchill was the son of John Churchill, seventh duke of Marlborough. The first duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, was one a great soldier-politician: he had been created an earl in return for changing sides, from James II to William of Orange in the Glorious Revolution of 1688; his dukedom was created by Queen Anne. His father and grandfather had been in the royalist army. Eden was married to Winston Churchill’s niece, Clarissa; Churchill’s son-in-law Duncan Sandys (Eton: Magdalen College, Oxford) served under Macmillan; his grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames (Eton, then the army), left the House of Commons last year.
  • Hugh Gaitskell: Winchester; New College, Oxford. Lectured in political economy at University College, London; civil service in Second World War
  • Sir Anthony Eden: Eton. Great War: Major Eden, MC, King’s Royal Rifle Corps. Christ Church, Oxford (Oriental languages, First). The Edens were an established northern landed family, he was the son of a baronet (the baronetcy had been established in the Restoration). His mother was a Grey. The first Earl Grey was created in 1806, his son, the second Earl Grey, is generally known as Lord Grey of the Great Reform Act (the Grey’s monument one). Eden was thus related to Sir Edward Grey, another great 20th century foreign secretary (1905-16). The Greys were a great Northumberland family, their baronetcy first established in the first half of the 18th century. I wrote about Eden here, and as foreign secretary, and talked about him in Tillerscast 8.
  • Harold Macmillan: Eton; Balliol College, Oxford. Great War: 2nd Lt Macmillan, Grenadier Guards. Dorothy was the daughter of the ninth duke of Devonshire. The Cavendish family, the dukes of Devonshire, were one of the great political dynasties. The ninth duke had served in Salisbury and Balfour’s governments, and been governor-general of Canada. The eighth earl, the marquess of Hartington, is generally known as Lord Hartington, one of the great figures in the later Victorian era (often seen as the last Whig). Macmillan features a lot here (I like him): most of all in two written profiles, before becoming prime minister and as prime minister, then in Tillerscast 9.
  • Alec Douglas Home: Eton, Christ Church, Oxford (3rd, history). Home was the 14th Earl Home, the 25th largest landowner in the country. The Homes were a Scottish noble family; the first Lord Hume (sic) was created in 1473; the first earl (an English earldom) was created in 1605. Alec Douglas Home renounced his title in 1963. he also played first class cricket for Oxford, Middlesex and the MCC. Read about him here, and also as foreign secretary under Heath here.
  • 1st_Earl_of_Woolton_1947Frederick Marquis, Lord Woolton: Manchester Grammar School, University of Manchester (combined sciences). Could have read classics at Cambridge, but the family could not afford it. Businessman, university lecturer in economics at Manchester, and civil servant in the Great War (he was unfit for military service). Prominent figure by the ‘thirties: knighted 1935, became Lord Woolton in 1939
  • cecilLord Salisbury, Robert ‘Bobbety’ Cecil: Eton, Christ Church, Oxford. Great War; Lt Cecil, Croix de Guerre, Grenadier Guards, from 1916 military secretary the the earl of Derby, secretary of state for war. Cecil was the fifth marquess of Salisbury, one of the great political dynasties. The fourth marquess was a substantial Tory politician, the third marquess was one of the great Victorian prime ministers, generally known as Lord Salisbury. The first earl of Salisbury is usually known to history as Sir Robert Cecil (or as Lord Burghley); he was, in effect, chief minister to both Elizabeth I and James I. His father, the first Baron Burghley is more usually known as Sir William Cecil; he had been in Henry VIII’s privy chamber in his later years, was a significant figure in the ring of Edward VI and then Elizabeth I’s chief minister. His grandfather, David Cecil, had been in Henry VII’s side in 1485 and then in his personal bodyguard, the seventh marquis of salisbury, as Robert Ceil, Viscount Cranborne (the Cecil’s junior title; Eton, Christ Church. Oxford), served in John Major’s government
  • Viscount Radcliffe: Haileybury; New College, Oxford. Barrister, ministry of information in the Second World War. Was made lord of appeal: oversaw a six public inquiries over three decades
  • Henry Brooke: Marlborough, Balliol College, Oxford. Read about him here
  • Eric Lubbock, the liberal winner of the Orpington by-election, 1962: Harrow; Balliol College, Oxford. In 1971, Lubbock inherited the family title as the fourth Baron Avebury. The first Baron Avebury, John Lubbock, had been a member of Gladstone’s government
  • Harold Wilson: Wirral Grammar; scholarship to Jesus College, Oxford; civil servant in them Second World War
  • Edward Heath: Chatam House Grammar, Reigate; Balliol College, Oxford; Major Heath in war
  • Denis Healey: Bradford Grammar School; Balliol College, Oxford; Major Healy, MBE (military) was twice mentioned in dispatches and was the beach landing commander at Anzio
  • James Callaghan: secondary modern school; worked for the inland revenue
  • Margaret Thatcher: Kesteven and Grantham Girl’  School (a grammar school); Sommerville College, Oxford (Chemistry)

Some others:

  • AJP Taylor: Bootham School; Oriel College, Oxford (first, modern history)
  • Henry Fairlie: Highgate School; Corpus Christi, Oxford (second, modern history)
  • Anthony Sampson: Westminster School; Christ Church, Oxford. Wrote for the Observer, edited by David Astor (Eton; Balliol College, Oxford; one of the Cliveden Astors). Sampson, who wrote the The Anatomy of Britain, was the son of the chief scientist of ICI, came from a family who counted among their friends the Darwins, the Huxleys and Keyneses
  • The Angry Young Men seemed to attack the old world in the theatre. John Osborne, writer of Look Back in Anger, had been expelled from a minor public school (St Michael’s, Barnstaple) for punching the headmaster. However, he wrote The Entertainer for Sir Laurence Olivier (St Edward’s, Oxford, but then drama school), the great theatrical man of the age (the founder of the Old Vic, the National Theatre and the future Lord Olivier)
  • fringeBeyond the FringePeter Cook (Radley College; Pemboke College; 2nd left) and Jonathan Miller (St Paul’s; St John’s College, right) both starred in the Cambridge Footlights; Alan Bennet (Leeds Modern, a grammar school; Exeter College, first in history; left) and Dudley Moore (Dagenham County High, scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music; organ scholar, Magdalen College; centre) both came form humbler backgrounds, but still went to Oxford.
  • frostThat Was the Week That Was was the creation of David Frost (above; Wellingborough Grammar; Gonville and Caius, Cambridge) and Ned Sherrin (the wonderfully named Sexey’s School, a state boarding school; Exeter College, Oxford). Among those who performed or wrote for it: Peter Cook, John Bird (grammar school; King’s, Cambridge), later of Bird and Fortune; future Monty Python stars and Cambridge Footlights men Graham Chapman (grammar school; Emmanuel College) and John Cleese (Clifton College; Downing College); Roald Dahl (Repton College, but war and not university); future poet laureate John Betjeman (Marlborough; Magdalen College Oxford) and Clive James (see below)
  • Private Eye. The Eye’s founders were from Shrewsbury School: Richard Ingrams and Paul Foot (both University College, Oxford), Christopher Booker (Corpus Christi, Cambridge) and Willie Rushton (who didn’t go to university, claiming to have failed O’level maths seven times). Another great Eye man was John Wells (Eastbourne College; St Edmund Hall, Oxford; Peter Cook was another

Here is Peter Cook with Dudley Moore, Cook playing the aristocratic dimwit, Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling:

One final detail: Peter Cook’s London venue was, lit for it, The Establishment Club. Years later, Clive James and Peter Cook revisited it.



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