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  Samuel John Gurney Hoare (1880–1959), by Walter Stoneman, 1921 Samuel John Gurney Hoare (1880–1959), by Walter Stoneman, 1921
Hoare, Samuel John Gurney, Viscount Templewood (1880–1959), politician, was born in London on 24 February 1880, the elder son of Sir Samuel Hoare, first baronet (1841–1915), Conservative and Unionist MP for Norwich (1886–1906), of Sidestrand Hall, near Cromer, Norfolk, and his wife, Katharin Louisa Hart (d. 1931), the daughter of Richard Vaughan Davis, commissioner of audit. He was a classical scholar at Harrow School and went on to New College, Oxford, where he received firsts in classical moderations (1901) and modern history (1903) and found time to earn a blue in rackets and to join the Bullingdon and Gridiron clubs. He came of the Anglo-Irish branch of an old Quaker family long established in banking. His ancestors relocated to England in the mid-eighteenth century and eventually abandoned Quakerism for the Anglo-Catholicism to which Samuel Hoare was deeply dedicated. He was the ambitious son of a family equally ambitious for him, and on 17 October 1909 he married the youngest daughter of , Lady Maud Lygon (1882–1962), whose aspirations for her husband were at least as great. The couple came to make their home in London at 18 Cadogan Gardens and at Sidestrand Hall, which Hoare inherited (with his baronetcy) upon his father's death in 1915. Though the marriage was not from the first a love match and produced no children, they came to form a devoted partnership for almost fifty years.

Hoare was short and slight, even delicate, of frame. His health was never robust, and he turned to games and athletics to bolster his physique as well as to satisfy an inherent competitiveness. He became an excellent figure skater and was a tournament-level shot and tennis player throughout his life. He was fastidious about his appearance and much enjoyed wearing the symbols and uniforms related to the honours he loved receiving. He lacked charisma and, not surprisingly, he was not a compelling platform speaker. His career reflected his natural talent as an administrator and his keen ambition to achieve an important place in public life, rather than an abundance of sheer brilliance or personal charm.

Early career, 1905–1922

In 1905 Hoare's father arranged for him to serve as secretary to Alfred Lyttelton, the Conservative colonial secretary. After a failed bid for a parliamentary seat at Ipswich in the 1906 election, Hoare's first political success came when he was elected to the London county council (1907–10). In January 1910 he became MP for the London constituency of Chelsea, the seat that he was to hold for thirty-four years. Hoare was little interested in his fellow Conservatives' battles to stave off Irish home rule or preserve the powers of the House of Lords. He gravitated toward the progressive wing of the party, joining the Unionist Social Reform Committee and supporting tariff reform, women's suffrage, and public education. A committed Anglican, he also fought hard against the disestablishment of the Church in Wales. From this point, perhaps to mitigate his stiff manner, he adapted to being addressed by the shortened version of his Christian name (a style he never cared for), and thereafter he became universally known as Sam.

When the First World War began in 1914, Hoare was initially disappointed to secure only a commission as a recruiting officer in the Norfolk yeomanry. He was a talented linguist, however, and in 1916 his knowledge of Russian earned him assignment to the British intelligence mission with the Russian general staff. He soon became head of mission and in due course was promoted lieutenant-colonel. When an experienced intelligence officer was needed to head a similar mission in Rome, Hoare was entrusted with the assignment in March 1917. His primary responsibility was to encourage the Italian government to resist calls to drop out of the war. He remained at his Rome headquarters until the close of the war and his return to civilian life. For his efforts he was appointed CMG and received several foreign honours, including the order of St Stanislaus, awarded him by Tsar Nicholas II.

Re-elected to parliament in 1918 as a supporter of the Lloyd George coalition, Hoare returned to full-time political work after the armistice. His enthusiasm for the prime minister diminished quickly, however, after the ‘honours scandal’ of the summer of 1922 and the so-called Chanak crisis, which almost brought war with Turkey in October. He played a significant role in organizing Conservative back-benchers to abandon Lloyd George and their pro-coalition leader, Austen Chamberlain, and return direction of the party to the former leader Andrew Bonar Law. The majority of the parliamentary party agreed: Conservative MPs voted at the celebrated Carlton Club meeting of 19 October 1922 to withdraw from the coalition, and Lloyd George and Chamberlain resigned. Bonar Law abandoned his retirement to become leader and, immediately thereafter, prime minister of a Conservative government. Hoare was rewarded with a privy councillorship and became secretary of state for air (outside the cabinet), an office he was destined to hold in four different administrations. In May 1923 Bonar Law's declining health caused his resignation and supersession by Stanley Baldwin. Hoare retained his office and entered the cabinet, where he remained, save for the brief intervals of the two Labour governments, almost continually until 1940.

Air Ministry and India Office, 1922–1935

In his new office Hoare found himself in the midst of the struggle over control of military air power between the new Royal Air Force and the older services; and in partnership with the chief of the air staff, Air Marshal Sir Hugh Trenchard, he ensured the existence of an independent RAF. He also created air squadrons at Oxford and Cambridge universities and re-established on a permanent basis the air cadet college at Cranwell. Hoare strove to make civilian air transport more accessible to the public, and presided in 1923 over the amalgamation (with a £1 million state subsidy) of the four principal private air carriers into Imperial Airways. He and Lady Maud travelled by air whenever possible and created something of a sensation when, in December 1926, they embarked on the first civilian flight to India. By the time the government gave way to the second Labour administration in 1929, this had become a regularly scheduled route, as did the air link between London and Cape Town. Between 1924 and 1929 the number of miles flown by British civil aviation increased from 700,000 to more than 1 million, and the number of passengers from 10,000 to more than 28,000, much of this owing to the championing of air transport by Hoare himself. For his efforts he was appointed GBE in June 1927, his wife having been appointed DBE in February 1927.

During the period 1929 to 1931, when the Conservatives were in opposition, Hoare solidified his credentials as a party stalwart by taking on the difficult job of party treasurer. His status as a national and party figure was also enhanced by his service as a delegate to the first India round-table conference of 1930–31, and in the difficult role as mediator in the struggle between the former premier, Baldwin, and the newspaper proprietors lords Beaverbrook and Rothermere, who wished to force him to embrace a policy of empire-wide tariffs. Hoare also represented his party in the August 1931 inter-party talks that led to the creation of a new coalition or National Government which included the Conservatives. Ramsay MacDonald remained prime minister and Hoare became secretary of state for India (26 August 1931).

With the government ostensibly committed to eventual Indian self-governance, a second Indian round-table conference began soon after the creation of the new government. Though Hoare got on well with another celebrated delegate, Mohandas K. Gandhi, the Indian leader and his Congress movement rejected the British policy of moving India gradually toward dominion status. By the standards of his time and party, Hoare (like Baldwin) supported a liberal position on Indian autonomy, and he held firmly to it throughout the round table and the extended hearings of the select committee of both houses which, between April 1933 and November 1934, was appointed to consider the government's proposals. Hoare's cautious vision of an India progressing eventually to autonomy within the empire was embodied in one of the most complicated pieces of legislation in British parliamentary history, the 1935 Government of India Bill. The draining and ultimately successful effort to pass his bill was to prove fruitless, however, for it could not be fully implemented before the nation again found itself at war. When that conflict ended, conditions were so changed that the government of the day acceded rapidly to the Indian demand for independence.

Hoare's most energetic opponents in the debate over the India Bill were to be found on the right wing of his own party; and none struggled so hard against it as Winston Churchill, who became thoroughly estranged from the Conservative leadership over the India issue. The two clashed regularly during the extended debate; the ill feeling between the two reached its peak in April 1934, when Churchill accused Hoare of improperly influencing the Manchester chamber of commerce to reverse its policy of opposition to the Indian government's retaining the authority to levy tariffs against British textiles. Churchill insisted that Hoare (aided by the earl of Derby) had committed a breach of parliamentary privilege, and the matter passed before the committee on privileges. Churchill's accusation was rejected by the committee and Hoare was completely exonerated, but the affair left behind a deep division between the two men which was never healed. The episode did provide the occasion for a notable parliamentary exchange when on 13 June 1934, after Churchill's powerful speech in the House of Commons criticizing the committee's finding, L. S. Amery counter-attacked and asserted that the ex-minister's real goal was to destroy the government. Churchill remained, Amery asserted, true to his ‘chosen motto’—‘Fiat justitia ruat coelum’. When the angry Churchill snarled ‘translate it’, Amery replied to peals of laughter: ‘If I can trip up Sam, the Government's bust’ (Gilbert, 545).

In June 1935 Baldwin succeeded MacDonald as prime minister in the National Government. Hoare's tenure at the India Office was much praised, and he was delighted to be made GCSI in the new year's honours list of January 1934. The four-year struggle to bring his India Bill to completion, however, had left him close to exhaustion, and he was much in need of an extended rest. This was not to be, however, as apparently Baldwin encouraged him to choose between two offices in a reshuffled administration: Indian viceroy or foreign secretary. Hoare chose service and advancement over his concern for his health. His commitment to his India policy as well as the grandeur of the viceroyalty appealed to him, but, with an eye toward the premiership which was his eventual goal, he accepted the Foreign Office (7 June 1935). It was a decision which almost destroyed his career.

Foreign Office, 1935

In the years following the First World War the European powers spoke forcefully of their commitment to the League of Nations and the pursuit of what was then called ‘mutual security’—international co-operation to suppress armed aggression and prevent the spread of war. This was the thinking behind both the treaty of Paris and the celebrated Locarno treaty of 1925. By the end of the 1920s, however, it was clear that the democracies were unprepared to bear the human or financial cost of military action to prevent a greater war. When Hoare became foreign secretary, both Italy and Germany were in the hands of fascist regimes, and the German Führer, Adolf Hitler, had recently announced that he would not abide by the clauses of the treaty of Versailles which limited his armed forces. In March 1935 MacDonald reluctantly announced in a famous white paper that Britain would initiate her own programme of limited rearmament. Then, in one of his final acts as prime minister, he and his foreign secretary, Sir John Simon, met their French and Italian counterparts at the Italian city of Stresa in April 1935 to reiterate their commitment to peace and pledge their co-operation to restrain Hitler. This so-called ‘Stresa Front’ came to nothing as Britain almost immediately and without consultation with her Stresa partners accepted Hitler's offer to limit the size of the German surface fleet to 35 per cent and her submarine force to 45 per cent of the British navy. This Anglo-German naval agreement upset the French, who at almost the same time (and equally unilaterally) signed a mutual defence pact with the Soviet Union, a nation much distrusted by the British government.

Despite his protestations of peace at Stresa, the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, already planned to re-establish an Italian empire at the expense of the small independent African kingdom of Abyssinia. By mid-1935 undeclared hostilities had already taken place between Italian and Abyssinian forces, and Hoare was charged to make known British disapproval. In the greatest speech of his career, before the league assembly in Geneva on 12 September 1935, he reminded the world that peace depended upon international commitment, and that Britain stood firmly ‘for steady and collective resistance to all acts of unprovoked aggression’ (Hoare, Nine Troubled Years, 170).

Though widely praised in the world press, these words did not deter Mussolini, and on 3 October a full-scale Italian invasion began. The league imposed limited economic sanctions against Rome, though this action stopped short of an embargo on the sale of petroleum. There the crisis rested when on 14 November the National Government, led now by Baldwin, went to the voters with their programme of limited rearmament and commitment to the league. In the end it was a bluffer's hand, for the government (with the agreement of the league council) authorized Hoare to find a way short of war to satisfy Mussolini and convince him to rein in his armies.

Hoare's solution was to send the head of the Foreign Office Abyssinian department, Sir Maurice Peterson, to Paris to fashion a compromise offer to be presented to Mussolini: in effect to offer him enough of the helpless Abyssinia to convince him that further hostilities were unnecessary. By the end of November an Anglo-French plan was agreed upon which included the cession to Italy of substantial territories in the north and the conversion of the south of Abyssinia into an Italian economic development sphere. The Abyssinian army was to be replaced by a legion under Italian control. Hoare and the government (without, of course, consulting the Abyssinians) were prepared to accept the plan as the price of peace. In early December the foreign secretary was in poor health, as the demands of dealing with this crisis were layered upon those of the long struggle over the India Bill. Suffering from a serious infection and periodic fainting spells, he planned a brief skating holiday in Switzerland and was persuaded to stop briefly in Paris to consult with the French premier, Pierre Laval, to finalize the offer to Mussolini. The result of these conversations became infamous as the ‘Hoare–Laval pact’, to which the British cabinet unanimously agreed on 9–10 December.

As Hoare proceeded on to Switzerland, the details of the proposed arrangement were leaked to the French press and, immediately thereafter, appeared in the London dailies. The British public had re-elected a government pledged to the league covenant, to collective security, and to limited rearmament, and the popular reaction to what appeared to be a capitulation to armed aggression against a small nation was uniformly hostile. Parliament reflected the public mood, and a badly shaken prime minister and cabinet backed away from the plan. Hoare (who, to add to his troubles, had been injured in a skating accident) returned to Britain on 16 December, only to find that government support for his plan had evaporated. Remembered for both the promises of the brave Geneva speech and the disgraced ‘Hoare–Laval’ pact, Hoare became the focus of public and parliamentary ire, and he resigned two days later.

Admiralty and Home Office, 1935–1939

Despite this humiliating episode, Hoare retained powerful friends in Baldwin and his acknowledged heir, the chancellor of the exchequer, Neville Chamberlain. Hence, in June 1936, he was recompensed for stoically playing the part of scapegoat for the government by being ushered back into the cabinet as first lord of the Admiralty. Despite the aspersions heaped on him the previous December, the appointment received remarkable approbation in the press and in parliament. His stay at the Admiralty was not a long one, however. Baldwin retired in May 1937, and Chamberlain succeeded him and offered Hoare any office except the exchequer, which was to go to Simon. Hoare had wanted the Treasury but settled for the Home Office (28 May 1937), and it turned out to be an office that suited him. Judicial and prison reform were long-time family concerns—Hoare's great-great-aunt was Elizabeth Fry, the pioneering penal reformer—and he embraced this family legacy. He came close in 1939 to carrying the most comprehensive criminal justice reform bill in the nation's history and failed only when the coming of the Second World War intervened. He managed, however, to bring to life the new air raid precautions department and founded the related Women's Voluntary Service organization, both of which were to play important roles in the war to come.

Much of Hoare's energy in the years 1938–9 was invested outside his department, as Britain was caught up in an almost constant foreign policy crisis. In September 1938 Chamberlain established an informal inner cabinet of his most trusted advisers, including Hoare, Simon, and the foreign secretary, Lord Halifax. The policy known as appeasement, warmly supported by this inner cabinet, was carried out to Chamberlain's design, but it also had the approval of the majority of the electorate, parliament, and the press. Its small band of critics, led in parliament by Churchill, represented a very modest constituency until the Chamberlain programme had proven its bankruptcy.

Czechoslovakia was the issue over which the Führer threatened war in 1938, and Hoare stoutly supported Chamberlain in his efforts to convince the German dictator to accept an arrangement under which his territorial demands would be met without war. Hoare was among the few consulted by the prime minister about his unprecedented ‘Plan Z’, to fly to the Reich to meet privately with Hitler—which Chamberlain did twice in September 1938. Finally Chamberlain and the Führer met with Mussolini and the French premier, Edouard Daladier, on the 29th in the famous Munich conference, at which all the German demands on Czechoslovakia were met. Their foreign policy failed, despite the best efforts of Chamberlain, Hoare, and the other appeasers, because Hitler remained unsatisfiable by peaceful means. On 1 September 1939 what soon became a Second World War began.

Exile and retirement, 1940–1959

Chamberlain continued as premier for eight months, and during this period Hoare served in the nine-man war cabinet, first as lord privy seal (3 September 1939) and briefly (5 April 1940) once again as air minister. In May 1940 Churchill became prime minister and refused to give Hoare (unlike Chamberlain, Halifax, and Simon) a place in the new government. It was the end of his ministerial career. Desperate for activity, Hoare accepted Churchill's only offer, the Madrid embassy, and thus he was the only one of the major appeasers sent immediately into exile. In the end his mission was widely praised, even by Churchill, and he was credited with preventing any Spanish hazard to the allied invasion of north Africa in November 1942 and also in securing the release of thousands of allied prisoners of war interned in Spanish prisons. His greatest contribution was perhaps in striving to convince the pro-German regime of General Francisco Franco to remain out of the war. His mission came to a close in December 1944, not long after he agreed to accept a peerage and bring to a close his long connection with the House of Commons. He chose the title Viscount Templewood of Chelsea (14 July 1944), thus coupling his long-time constituency with the name of the country house he built on the grounds of the Sidestrand estate.

Hoare retired completely from party politics but not entirely from public life, as he energetically supported penal reform and particularly the 1947 Criminal Justice Bill and the movement to abolish capital punishment. He accepted a number of company directorships but gave most of his time to other long-term interests. He continued his presidency of the Lawn Tennis Association (1932–56) and the chancellorship of the University of Reading (1937–59), and to these added the chairmanship of the council of the Howard League for Penal Reform (1947–59) and the presidencies of the Magistrates' Association (1947–52), the Air League of the British Empire (1953–6), and the National Skating Association (1945–57). In 1950 he became a member of the political honours scrutiny committee and he was its chairman from 1954 until his death. He was an elder brother of Trinity House (1936–59) and held honorary degrees from Oxford, Cambridge, Nottingham, and Reading universities and was an honorary fellow of New College, Oxford.

Though never a compelling speaker, Templewood was a gifted writer. During his political career he had published several successful books, including India by Air (1927), an account of the first civilian flight from England to India, and The Fourth Seal (1930), relating his Russian experiences in the First World War. In retirement he published frequently and with great success: his books included Ambassador on Special Mission (1946), about his Spanish ambassadorship, The Unbroken Thread (1949), a family memoir, and The Shadow of the Gallows (1951), his case against capital punishment. His best-known volume remains his memoir of the years of the national governments, 1931–40, Nine Troubled Years (1954).

Viscount Templewood died at his London home, 12a Eaton Mansions, Chelsea, on 7 May 1959 after suffering a heart attack. Predeceased by his brother, his titles became extinct with his death. He is buried in Sidestrand parish church, Northrepps, Norfolk. Samuel Hoare was talented and immensely hard-working; in office he was a tireless and efficient administrator, but his competence did not in public or private life make up for his lack of warmth. He had appreciative colleagues but few real friends, and his keen ambition earned him too many enemies. Sir Robert Vansittart, who knew him well, recalled him as prim and precise but not resilient in the rough and tumble world of high politics. Vansittart's successor at the Foreign Office, Sir Alexander Cadogan, was harsher in the dark days of 1940, and saw in Hoare's ambition the stuff from which a British quisling could be fashioned. Even his warmest admirers, Amery or Lord Beaverbrook for example, were prepared to defend him until the end but were unlikely to describe him as lovable.

R. J. Q. Adams

Sources  

J. A. Cross, Sir Samuel Hoare: a political biography (1977) · U. Cam., Templewood MSS · S. Hoare, Nine troubled years (1954) · S. Hoare, Ambassador on special mission (1946) · S. Hoare, The unbroken thread (1949) · S. Hoare, The fourth seal (1930) · S. Hoare, India by air (1927) · J. Ramsden, The age of Balfour and Baldwin, 1902–1940 (1978) · R. J. Q. Adams, British politics and foreign policy in the age of appeasement, 1935–39 (1993) · R. A. C. Parker, Chamberlain and appeasement: British policy and the coming of the Second World War (1993) · K. Middlemas and J. Barnes, Baldwin: a biography (1969) · A. J. P. Taylor, Beaverbrook (1972) · M. Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, 5: 1922–1939 (1976) · D. Dilks, Neville Chamberlain: pioneering and reform, 1869–1929 (1984) · The diaries of Sir Alexander Cadogan, ed. D. Dilks (American edn, [1972]) · Lord Vansittart [R. G. Vansittart], The mist procession: the autobiography of Lord Vansittart (1958) · R. Blake, The Conservative Party from Peel to Thatcher (1985) · WW

Archives  

BL OIOC, corresp. and papers relating to India, MS Eur. E 240 · CUL, corresp. and papers · TNA: PRO, corresp., FO 800/295 |  BL, corresp. with Lord Cecil, Add. MS 51083 · BL, corresp. with Albert Mansbridge, Add. MS 65253 · BL OIOC, corresp. with Sir John Anderson, MS Eur. F 207 · BL OIOC, corresp. with Lord Brabourne, MS Eur. F 97 · BL OIOC, corresp. with Lord Erskine, MS Eur. D 596 · BL OIOC, corresp. with Lord Linlithgow, MS Eur. F 125, file 159 · BL OIOC, corresp. with Sir Frederick Sykes, MS Eur. F 150 · Bodl. Oxf., corresp. with Lord Monckton · Bodl. Oxf., corresp. with Lord Sankey · Bodl. Oxf., corresp. with Lord Simon · CAC Cam., corresp. with Lord Croft · CAC Cam., corresp. with Sir Eric Phipps · CUL, Baldwin MSS · King's Lond., Liddell Hart C., corresp. with Sir B. H. Liddell Hart · Lpool RO, corresp. with Lord Derby · NA Scot., corresp. with Lord Elibank, GD32 · NA Scot., corresp. with Lord Lothian · Parl. Arch., corresp. with Lord Beaverbrook · Parl. Arch., letters to R. D. Blumenfeld · Parl. Arch., corresp. with J. C. C. Davidson · Parl. Arch., letters to David Lloyd George · Parl. Arch., corresp. with Lord Samuel · PRONI, corresp. with Lord Dufferin · U. Birm., Chamberlain MSS · Women's Library, London, corresp. with Eleanor Rathbone  

FILM

 

BFINA, news footage · IWM FVA, actuality footage · IWM FVA, documentary footage · IWM FVA, news footage

 

SOUND

 

BL NSA, news recordings


Likenesses  

W. Stoneman, photograph, 1921, NPG [see illus.] · photograph, 1924 (with wife), Hult. Arch. · E. Kapp, drawings, 1934–5, Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham · group portrait, photograph, 1935, Hult. Arch. · Allen, photograph, 1936, Hult. Arch. · group portrait, photograph, 1937, Hult. Arch. · photograph, 1937 (with royalty), Hult. Arch. · Bellamy, group portrait, photograph, 1939 (with war cabinet), Hult. Arch. · Ray, group portrait, photograph, 1939 (with war cabinet), Hult. Arch. · G. Anthony, photographs, 1946, Hult. Arch. · P. Phillips, oils, c.1953, U. Reading · A. C. Davidson-Houston, oils, 1956, Templewood, Sidestrand, near Cromer, Norfolk

Wealth at death  

£186,944 3s. 6d.: probate, 22 Sept 1959, CGPLA Eng. & Wales