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Lloyd, (John) Selwyn Brooke, Baron Selwyn-Lloydlocked

  • D. R. Thorpe

(John) Selwyn Brooke Lloyd, Baron Selwyn-Lloyd (1904–1978)

by Elliott & Fry, 1952

Lloyd, (John) Selwyn Brooke, Baron Selwyn-Lloyd (1904–1978), speaker of the House of Commons, was born on 28 July 1904 at Red Bank, West Kirby, Wirral, the third of four children, and only son, of John Wesley (Jack) Lloyd (1865–1954), a doctor and dentist of West Kirby and Liverpool, and his wife, Mary Rachel Warhurst (1872–1959), daughter of William T. Warhurst (1838–1888) of Crosby, north Liverpool, and his wife, Amelia, née French (1838–1893), daughter of John French (1797–1878), and a kinswoman of the family of Sir John French, later first earl of Ypres.

Early years and education

Lloyd was born into the Edwardian age with its illusory certainties. His family, of Welsh extraction, was of the solid professional class and had settled in the Wirral, where his father had a medical practice. His childhood was comfortable and assured. His father was prominent in the local Methodist church in Westbourne Road, where Selwyn Lloyd was baptized on 9 October 1904, and the values of his nonconformist upbringing remained with him throughout his life. He was brought up to understand that nothing was achieved without hard work and his childhood could have been an exemplary passage from Samuel Smiles's Self Help. Life had its ordered rituals, in which church attendance loomed large. He was educated at the Leas School, a local preparatory school overlooking the links of the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, of which he was captain in its centenary year in 1969. Golf was to become one of his principal recreations. He was an imaginative child, widely read in the middlebrow books of the period and with an enthusiasm for collecting toy soldiers. His interest in military history led him to arrange mock battles in his fort and to write up the campaigns in notebooks. In 1918 he won a scholarship to Fettes College, Edinburgh, an institution for which he always retained affection, despite the harshness of the initial regime he experienced. The school motto, 'Industria', could have been Lloyd's own. From Fettes he won a scholarship to Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he became president of the union in 1927. He took seconds in classics and history, and a third in the second part of the law tripos. Initially a Lloyd George Liberal, he was adopted as Liberal parliamentary candidate for Macclesfield at the age of twenty-two. At Cricieth in Caernarvonshire, where the family took their annual holiday, he became a political associate of Megan Lloyd George, and an assiduous attender of Liberal summer schools. After his failure to win Macclesfield at the 1929 general election he concentrated on his legal career on the northern circuit, where he established a successful common-law practice. He had been admitted to Gray's Inn in 1926 and was called to the bar in 1930.

Pre-war career

In the Liverpool legal world Lloyd was a conscientious and dependable advocate. Although his bread and butter was in the law, he did not apply himself in the way that he would have done if his ambition had been to become a High Court judge. He could be sharp and even disrespectful to the bench. One Holy Week, as a case was almost finished, the judge asked the court exceptionally to reconvene on the Friday morning. The idea was dropped when Lloyd pointed out that the last judge to have sat on Good Friday was Pontius Pilate. His legal experience, in which he preferred to act for the defence, gave him a concern for the underdog and he was a consistent opponent of the death penalty. His ultimate goal, however, was always political and he gained a pragmatic apprenticeship by serving for ten years on the Hoylake urban district council, at a time when local government enjoyed a considerable autonomy; he became chairman at the age of thirty-two. Nationally, he broke with the Liberals over the 1931 financial crisis. He was disappointed by the failure of the new party in 1930–31 to establish a middle way. Convinced of the necessity for a protective tariff, and pessimistic about the long-term electoral prospects of the National Liberals, he voted thereafter for the Conservatives.

Wartime service

In January 1939, certain that war was inevitable, Lloyd was one of the principal organizers in raising a second line unit of the Royal Horse Artillery, in which he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. On the outbreak of war he went to the Staff College, Camberley, where one of his instructors was Brian Horrocks. Thereafter he rose steadily through the military ranks. He was a lieutenant-colonel on the general staff by 1942. In the spring of 1943 he was posted to the newly formed Second Army. As a result he was a close observer of General Bernard Montgomery during the preparations for D-day, in which he had important logistical planning duties. As deputy chief of staff, Second Army, Lloyd sailed with his commander, lieutenant-general Miles Dempsey for France on D-day. His respect for Dempsey was profound. 'Of nothing in my life am I prouder', he wrote on the occasion of Dempsey's death, 'than that I served under him during great events and that he was my friend' (SELO 443/8). Lloyd was promoted brigadier in March 1945 and was with the first allied forces to enter Belsen. He was made a military OBE in 1943, a CBE in 1945, and was twice mentioned in dispatches. One of his last duties before returning to Britain to fight the 1945 general election was to identify the body of Heinrich Himmler, shortly after his suicide. His rise from adjutant to brigadier in six years was to be a microcosm of his entire career.

In opposition

In October 1944 Lloyd, even though he was not formally a member of the Conservative Party, had received an invitation from the Wirral Conservative Association to stand for the parliamentary candidacy, as the sitting MP was not seeking re-election after the war. In his formal letter of application he acknowledged his Liberal antecedents, adding, 'I have however for the last ten years considered myself as a Conservative, and was about to take a more active part when war broke out' (SELO 272/1). In January 1945, on leave from Germany, he was unanimously adopted as Conservative candidate for the Wirral. In the Labour landslide of July 1945 Selwyn Lloyd was elected (by a majority of 16,625) as MP for the Wirral, a constituency that was to return him uninterruptedly to parliament for the next thirty-one years and from which he was eventually to take his title. He had five years' start on most of his contemporaries and was the first of his generation to attain one of the ‘great’ offices of state, when he became foreign secretary in December 1955.

The 1945 parliament was an unparalleled period of opportunity for the articulate and ambitious tory back-bencher and Lloyd took full advantage, as the Conservative whips sought new talent among their diminished numbers. His maiden speech in February 1946 broke convention in that he spoke not on his own constituency matters but on a contentious issue, the Trades Disputes and Trade Union Bill. The leaders of the Conservative Party were also accessible in a way they would not have been in office and in six years of opposition Lloyd worked closely with Anthony Eden and R. A. Butler, both of whom sought his services when the Conservatives returned to power in October 1951. His most significant contribution in opposition, however, was as the dissenting voice in the Beveridge broadcasting committee, his minority report of 1949 on the BBC's monopoly making him in many eyes 'the father of commercial television'. He believed it should not be in the power of a single body to provide broadcasting and that competition would raise standards. As competition in broadcasting proved to be for popular ratings, he later acknowledged that he was disappointed by the results of commercial television, which began in 1955 under the next Conservative government.

At this time Lloyd also picked up the threads of his legal career, taking silk in 1947 and becoming recorder of Wigan from 1948 to 1951. His legal and political experience, coupled with his deep convictions on the subject, made him a notable figure in the contentious debates on capital punishment at the time of the Criminal Justice Bill in July 1948. As a result he developed important cross-party friendships with such figures as Sydney Silverman. These ties were to be an important factor in his later speakership.

In March 1951, at the age of forty-six, Lloyd married his secretary at Westminster, Elizabeth (b. 1928), known as Bae, daughter of Roland Marshall, solicitor. Her family, also established in the Wirral, had long been close to the Lloyds. The age difference (his wife was twenty-three years his junior) sadly proved insuperable and they were divorced in 1957. There was a daughter of the marriage, Joanna, to whom Lloyd was devoted.

First years in office

In October 1951 the Conservatives were returned with a majority of seventeen seats. Lloyd was surprised, on being summoned to Chartwell by Winston Churchill, to be offered the post of minister of state at the Foreign Office, a promotion he owed to the advocacy of Anthony Eden. 'I think there must be some mistake', he told the prime minister. 'I've never been to a foreign country, I don't speak any foreign languages, I don't like foreigners.' 'Young man', replied Churchill, 'these all seem to be positive advantages' (Lloyd, Suez, 4).

As minister of state Lloyd worked for three years on disarmament questions at the United Nations. The issue of Sudanese self-determination also occupied much of his time. A treaty was signed in February 1953 which gave Sudan self-government for a period of three years, at the end of which the country would decide on full independence. Lloyd's subsequent visit to Sudan was the most dramatic of his overseas missions as minister of state. Riots broke out when he was staying at the governor-general's residence, on the site where General Gordon had been murdered, leading to fears that history might repeat itself. Nevertheless, Lloyd's contribution was vital in paving the way for full independence. 'It is futile to try and outstay one's welcome' (SELO 15/4), he wrote, an attitude he maintained also over the Suez Canal base treaty of 1954, though he would have preferred a less precipitate withdrawal from Egypt. Subsequently he served as minister of supply from October 1954, where he worked hard at mastering the technicalities as a sponsoring minister. In April 1955 he entered Eden's cabinet as minister of defence, always an important post psychologically in Conservative administrations. Because of his short spell at the ministry he missed the key period in the year which saw the preparation of the annual defence white paper and the defence debate. However, it was a significant promotion as it established him as a front-rank minister and proved one of the first examples of his ability to get une idée en marche. For an old free-trade Liberal, Lloyd was quite a centralist at heart and he took the first steps on long-term defence expenditure planning.

During these four years in office Lloyd developed useful working relationships with Churchill and Eden and owing to the intermittent illnesses of both men was able to gain valuable political experience beyond his initial brief. He attended more than 100 cabinet meetings before becoming minister of defence in April 1955. His rapid promotion to the Foreign Office in December 1955, which Lloyd later conceded was not in his best long-term interests, was seen by some observers as a sign that Eden, in promoting a younger colleague, wished to conduct his own foreign policy after the independent initiatives of Harold Macmillan, with whom Eden had an uneasy relationship, an impression in some ways confirmed by the subsequent Suez crisis.

The Suez crisis

As foreign secretary and a key member of the cabinet's Egypt committee, Lloyd was at the eye of the storm that followed the nationalization by President Nasser of Egypt of the Suez Canal on 26 July 1956, after the withdrawal of the offer of American and British money for the building of the Aswan High Dam. Lloyd never wavered from his belief that, although this action presented a serious threat to oil supplies to Western nations, a solution should be sought through negotiation, rather than by the military action Eden favoured, and over which Lloyd, with his Second Army experience of logistical planning, continued to pose awkward questions as options were considered.

Lloyd dealt directly with the American secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, on his many visits to London. The main outcome of Dulles's initial visit was the first London conference of twenty-two countries from 16 to 23 August 1956, which Lloyd chaired. From this conference emerged a formula for a new convention, giving Egypt a place on the board of a mixed operating company and increased revenues. A mission, headed by the Australian prime minister, Sir Robert Menzies, was sent to Cairo to negotiate with Nasser. Its failure in September was a disappointment to Lloyd, who continued work on a series of suggestions by Dulles for an alternative basis for negotiation, one of which, the creation of a Suez Canal users' association, led to a second London conference from 19 to 21 September.

By now Eden was impatient for military action and preparations to that end were difficult to hold in check. Lloyd urged Eden first to exhaust whatever possibilities might exist of a solution through the United Nations. While in New York from 5 to 15 September preparing for a meeting of the Security Council, Lloyd met Dr Fawzi and Christian Pineau, the foreign ministers of Egypt and France. Lloyd developed the formula of the first London conference into a statement of six principles, which at first Fawzi considered worthy of exploration; but, with Soviet support, Fawzi shied away from the proposition that the canal should be isolated from the politics of any one country. Had Lloyd's negotiations succeeded, some cabinet colleagues, notably Lord Home, Commonwealth secretary, felt the situation might have been saved and force avoided. Nevertheless, Lloyd thought they had established what he called 'a good preamble to a missing treaty' (Robertson, 144). But on 15 October Eden suddenly summoned him back to London.

The meeting at Sèvres

Events had moved on in Lloyd's absence and a French initiative of 14 October over military co-operation with Israel was to undermine all his work. He went with Eden to Paris on 16 October for talks with their opposite numbers, Guy Mollet and Pineau, who developed their plan for the United Kingdom to join the French in intervening to 'separate the forces' after an agreed Israeli invasion of Egypt. This was the casus belli for which Eden had been waiting and through which he hoped to recover the canal. Six days later Eden dispatched Lloyd to France, where in conditions of great secrecy he met the French and Israelis at a villa at Sèvres outside Paris on 22 October, accompanied by his private secretary, Donald Logan. Lloyd's instructions from Eden were to make clear that any British involvement in such a plan must not be regarded as a response to a request from Israel. After initial briefing by Pineau at the villa, Lloyd met the Israeli delegation, headed by prime minister David Ben-Gurion. The Israelis and French were disappointed by Lloyd's lack of enthusiasm for military action; he explained that a week earlier he had been on the verge of a negotiated settlement. The meeting was tortuous and involved, particularly over timings. Ben-Gurion wanted a definite commitment from Britain over use of its RAF Canberra bombers from Cyprus against Egyptian airfields, before any troop movements. Lloyd could only agree to report back to the cabinet over what he later laconically described as 'the plan for which I did not care' (SELO 129/1). At a subsequent meeting at the villa two days later, held while Lloyd had commitments in the House of Commons, the so-called ‘protocol of Sèvres’ was signed, recording the agreements made by the three governments.

The invasion of Egypt

On 29 October Israeli forces duly entered Egypt and British and French action 'to separate the forces' began. When Sir Anthony Nutting, minister of state, resigned on 2 November, Lloyd, though understanding Nutting's dilemma, remained loyal to Eden, and feeling tied by collective cabinet responsibility remained so subsequently, as the operation came under political attack. By 5 November British and French forces had succeeded in capturing 23 miles of the canal, but at this stage it became clear how mistaken was the assumption that American preoccupation with the presidential election on 6 November—what Eden's press secretary William Clark called 'the quadrennial winter of the western world' (Notes on 1956, Bodl. Oxf., MS Eng. 4814)—would ensure a benign US attitude. President Eisenhower condemned the intervention and resultant pressure on the pound led to a cease-fire within twenty-four hours. In the cabinet discussions that followed, Lloyd drew on his experience in the Second Army and as minister of defence in asking awkward military and political questions, and after the withdrawal of British troops he tried hard, though unsuccessfully, to secure a role for British services in clearing the canal. This disappointment led Lloyd to offer his resignation on 28 November, but it was refused.

With Eden convalescing in Jamaica, Lloyd somewhat unfairly bore the brunt of the opposition's wrath and the buffeting he received in the House of Commons during the next six weeks was one of the most bruising experiences of his political career. Lloyd was unapologetic about his role. 'Whatever was done then', he wrote in his unpublished memoirs, 'was done in what was genuinely believed to be the national interest' (SELO 237/3).

Years in Macmillan's cabinet

Lloyd was retained as foreign secretary by Harold Macmillan, who regarded one head on a charger as enough, and the next three years saw him acting with greater autonomy with the resolution of the Cyprus question, largely owing to his initiative over sovereign bases, and the seemingly intractable Formosa Strait dispute. As Sancho Panza to Macmillan's mercurial Quixote, Lloyd also played an important steadying role when accompanying the prime minister to international summits in Bermuda, Moscow, and Paris. 'He was the ideal second', recorded the British ambassador in Moscow, Sir Patrick Reilly, of the 1959 visit, 'always at hand but careful to leave the limelight to the Prime Minister: solicitous and anxious to lighten his burden: ready to take on all the disagreeable jobs' (memorandum, Visit of the prime minister and foreign secretary to the Soviet Union, 1959, Sir Patrick Reilly MSS, priv. coll.). His position in the upper echelons of the cabinet was seemingly assured. Macmillan was at home with his dependable presence, and, though privately referring to him as 'a middle class lawyer from Liverpool' (Thorpe, 1), even encouraged Lloyd to consider himself a future candidate for the party leadership. Macmillan made Chequers available to him on a long-term basis and this gave Lloyd a false sense of security. But there was an edge to their complex political relationship that Lloyd's antennae did not always detect and its fracturing was to be one of the most dramatic of post-war political episodes.

In July 1960 Macmillan, whose economic thinking had been conditioned by his pre-war experiences as MP for Stockton, transferred Lloyd to the Treasury. Lloyd warned Macmillan on his appointment that he would be an orthodox chancellor on taxation and public expenditure. In fact, he was to prove highly innovative in other areas, but he was soon caught up in the battle between Stocktonian Keynesianism on the one hand and Treasury orthodoxy on the other. In a rerun of many of the issues from 1931, Lloyd thought Macmillan's gravest political misjudgement was 'thinking unemployment a worse enemy than uncontrolled inflation'. Lloyd's years as chancellor of the exchequer were marked by several important initiatives. With Macmillan's support in the face of a divided and sceptical cabinet, he set up the National Economic Development Council in 1962, a tripartite organization for government, employers, and trade unions, which survived many changes in the political landscape until June 1992. He made the first steps towards an incomes policy and (as at the Ministry of Defence) encouraged the concept of long-term expenditure planning by drawing on the lessons of the French Commissariat du Plan. At a time when the arts lobby expected few favours, he provided government funding for the National Theatre on the South Bank. In the first of his two budgets in April 1961 he introduced the 'regulator', which allowed the government to vary taxes by 10 per cent (a variation on the percentage of the current rate, not a 10 per cent change in the tax itself) without recourse to a budget, an example of his willingness to try new ideas, what he termed—in acknowledgement of an earlier Macmillan initiative—the 'premium bond' factor. Of his time at the Treasury, it was pointed out in Whitehall that 'a subtler person would have seen more difficulties and snags and not accomplished as much, so curious are the workings of human chemistry' (Brittan, 208).

Lloyd's chancellorship was to founder on the cumulative political difficulties that arose in the spring of 1962 and his less than convincing performance on television in putting across the government's case. His second and last budget that April was altered on the eve of its delivery, when the cabinet refused to endorse his plans for the abolition of the old Schedule A tax on owner occupation. But he carried the raising of the surtax starting point on earned income from £2000 to £5000. However, the ‘pay pause’ (a freeze in wages) he had introduced in the sharply deflationary July measures of 1961 was particularly unpopular with nurses and teachers, who had a large measure of public support, and contributed to a series of by-election reverses for the government.

On 13 July 1962 Macmillan moved with uncharacteristic haste and dismissed seven cabinet ministers, including the chancellor, in what became known as the Night of the Long Knives. The former prime minister Anthony Eden, now earl of Avon, publicly declared that Lloyd had been harshly treated. The episode was to prove more damaging in the long run to Harold Macmillan. Privately Lloyd decided that 'a bitter resentment against Macmillan would destroy my peace of mind' (SELO 180/4), and he found in forgiveness the best form of revenge. Although Lloyd now received the offer of many City posts, including the chairmanship of Martin's Bank, his eyes were already fixed on a political comeback. He therefore refused Macmillan's offer of a peerage. At the last moment he was added to the list of companions of honour. Lloyd felt that such a decoration, traditionally associated with music, literature, and the sciences, should not be handed out as compensation to superannuated politicians, but he was advised by friends that it was impossible for him to refuse.


As a senior back-bencher, Lloyd loyally undertook in the severe winter of 1962–3 an inquiry into the Conservative Party Organization, an important report that never received appropriate acknowledgement as its publication coincided with the resignation of the war minister, John Profumo, in June 1963. His recommendations on proper provision for agents, especially in marginal seats, did not fall on stony ground and contributed to the surprise victory of the Conservatives in the 1970 election, when ten crucial seats were won in his native north-west. The Selwyn Lloyd report marked the beginning of his rehabilitation in the senior ranks of the party; among back-benchers there had always been admiration for his stoical conduct after Macmillan's purge.

When Macmillan resigned because of ill health from the premiership on the eve of the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool in October 1963, Lloyd played a key part in influencing the succession in favour of Lord Home. He was a pivotal figure in three ways. He was prominent among those who pressed Home to stand; after his work on the party report, he had influence with the rank and file representatives; and the chief whip, Martin Redmayne, respected his opinions. On 11 October Redmayne and Lloyd were accosted during an afternoon walk along the seafront at Blackpool by an old-age pensioner, who told them that his socialist household recognized in Home the qualities to lead the nation. Lloyd later referred to this as 'the gnarled voice of truth' (Thorpe, 375). After Home became prime minister, it was no surprise when Lloyd was recalled to the cabinet as lord privy seal and leader of the House of Commons. As a lawyer he had always seen both sides of the question and the leader of the house needs such open-mindedness. He mollified the unruly elements (a growing band at that time) and was on good terms with the opposition parties. When heckled about his sacking by Macmillan in a debate on education funding (19 November 1963), he calmly replied, 'Whatever may have happened, I am back again now' (Thorpe, 385), a reply greeted with acclamation on both sides of the house. His success in this role, in one of the happiest years of his life, paved the way for his election to the speakership of the House of Commons in January 1971.

After the Conservative defeat in the general election of October 1964, Lloyd continued to serve in the shadow cabinet, first under Sir Alec Douglas-Home, and from July 1965 under Edward Heath. In the Conservative leadership election of that month (the first under the new Douglas-Home rules) he voted for Reginald Maudling, his successor as chancellor of the exchequer. As shadow Commonwealth spokesman he visited Australia and New Zealand in 1965, and also Rhodesia in 1966, following Ian Smith's unilateral declaration of independence. On this latter fact-finding mission, Lloyd had representative meetings with over 300 people, including 60 Africans. He emphasized to all, including Ian Smith, that a white minority could not for ever rule a black majority many times its size. Although his visit brought the Conservative Party a deeper understanding of the ferocity of the entrenched positions, a ferocity that was mirrored by the obloquy heaped on him at home on his return from both extremes of the political divide, it was not the happiest of assignments on which to end his time as Commonwealth opposition spokesman.

After fifteen years of front-bench responsibility, Lloyd returned, at his own request, to the back benches in the summer of 1966. He continued to work loyally for the party, especially in the north-west at election times, and served on many Commons committees. When Heath won the 1970 election, Lloyd was sounded for, but declined, the Washington embassy. As in 1962, he did not wish to abandon the camaraderie and cut and thrust of the Commons. Also, in the opinion of many of his friends, he had set his sights on the speakership. His nomination as speaker in January 1971 was contested by many back-benchers, who believed that he was an agreed nominee of the two front benches, and that a former cabinet minister, with a controversial past, should not be chosen. He was elected by 294 votes to 55. It was very much to his credit that he subsequently overcame such misgivings.

Speakership and last years

In the historic office of speaker of the House of Commons, Lloyd was respected for his inherent fairness and his concern for the back-bencher, attitudes that were redolent of his legal practice on the northern circuit forty years earlier. 'All parts of the orchestra must be heard', he used to say, 'not just the violins, but also the so-and-so who plays the triangle' (Thorpe, 420). In a skilful way he traded on the fact that ambitious and influential people did not like getting across with the speaker. He increased the number of deputy speakers to three, remembering what the long hours had done for the health of his two immediate predecessors. He believed that the greatest mistake a speaker could make was 'to be firm against his better judgment for fear of being thought weak' (SELO 129/2). As a result he applied selective deafness from time to time and defused ugly situations with appropriate put-downs, as on the occasion when a body of MPs massed before the mace and he said, 'This is as boring as a standing ovation' (quoted by Lord Home at Lloyd's funeral, private information). He retired from the speakership on 3 February 1976. From March 1976 until his death he sat on the cross benches of the House of Lords, to which he had been elevated as Baron Selwyn-Lloyd of the Wirral, after changing his name by deed poll so as to avoid confusion with other Lord Lloyds.

In a busy retirement, centred on his house at Preston Crowmarsh, Oxfordshire, Selwyn-Lloyd was a generous host (he always had a great disdain for what he called 'a two sardine barbecue') and encouraged the younger political generations, many from the Oxford University Conservative Association. He did much charitable work for the young and old, and wrote widely on political and contemporary issues. He published two books, Mr Speaker, Sir (1976) and Suez 1956: a Personal View, which came out posthumously in 1978. In this latter work he revealed some, but not all, details of the British involvement in the Sèvres negotiations. His hopes of completing his memoirs, early chapters of which he had drafted under the title 'A middle class lawyer from Liverpool', were not to be fulfilled. Many honours came his way. He became deputy lieutenant of his county and in 1972 was granted the freedom of Ellesmere Port, a part of his former constituency that was always important to him. He received honorary degrees from the universities of Cambridge, Liverpool, Oxford, and Sheffield, and became an honorary fellow of his old college, Magdalene. In 1971 he was made deputy high steward of Cambridge University.

Selwyn-Lloyd had an intuitive feeling about the nature of his last illness, which came upon him in the spring of 1978. The brain tumour that was diagnosed proved incurable. He faced the last months of his life with determination. When news came of the date of his admission to hospital, friends offered to help with the packing. Taking his father's copy of the Bible down from a shelf, Lloyd said, 'This is the only luggage I'll need' (Thorpe, 434). He died at his home, Lower Farm House, Preston Crowmarsh, Oxfordshire, on 17 May 1978, two months short of his seventy-fourth birthday. He was buried on 25 May in Grange cemetery, West Kirby.

The man and his career

Selwyn Lloyd was underestimated by his contemporaries. However, the many ways in which he touched public life show that he need not fear the condescension of history or the irrelevance of Macmillan's epithet. Few, if any, have held, as he did, three of the highest posts in government and speaker in addition. He owed this to his capacity for diligent assessment of any situation and his ability to master a brief with forward vision unobscured by detail. Lacking the fashionable quality of charisma, he achieved his ends by more solid nonconformist virtues. R. A. Butler wrote that 'Selwyn is probity and sense itself' (The Art of the Possible, 1973, 233). Lloyd's natural modesty inhibited him from the show of assurance of some of his contemporaries, and a certain reticence in his initial relationship with individuals led him to be thought brusque by some, particularly civil servants used to a smoother style. There were many paradoxes in his career. At times he appeared the political staff officer, yet at others he proved innovative and independent, especially over broadcasting policy and the National Economic Development Council. Shy in public, he was wittily gregarious in private, especially with a wide circle of trusted friends at all levels of society who appreciated his kindness and humanity, though after the failure of his marriage he remained essentially a loner who guarded his emotional privacy. Nevertheless, he was a man to be taken seriously in everything he did, who was concerned to play a constructive part in his country's welfare, and who left a significant legacy in unexpected areas of public life.


  • CAC Cam., Selwyn Lloyd MSS (SELO)
  • S. Lloyd, Suez 1956: a personal view (1978)
  • S. Lloyd, Mr Speaker, sir (1976)
  • D. R. Thorpe, Selwyn Lloyd (1989)
  • The Times (18 May 1978)
  • D. Logan, Suez: meetings at Sèvres 1956; narrative (1986); addition (1997), Bodl. Oxf., MS Eng. c. 6168
  • A. Shlaim, ‘The protocol of Sèvres, 1956: anatomy of a war plot’, International Affairs, 73/3 (1997), 509–30
  • K. Kyle, Suez (1991)
  • S. Brittan, The Treasury under the tories, 1951–1964 (1964)
  • A. Horne, Macmillan, 2 vols. (1988–9)
  • T. Robertson, Crisis: the inside story of the Suez conspiracy (1965)
  • baptismal record, Westbourne Road Methodist Church, West Kirby
  • family gravestone, Grange cemetery, West Kirby


  • CAC Cam., papers (SELO)
  • BLPES, corresp. with Lady Rhys Williams
  • Bodl. Oxf., William Clark papers
  • Bodl. Oxf., Stockton papers
  • Bodl. Oxf., corresp. with Lord Woolton
  • TNA: PRO, Foreign Office corresp., diaries, and papers, FO 800/691–746
  • Trinity Cam., Butler papers
  • U. Birm. L., corresp. with Lord Avon and Lady Avon


  • BFINA, This week, 25 Sept 1956
  • BFINA, This week, 12 April 1962
  • BFINA, documentary footage
  • BFINA, party political footage


  • BL NSA, documentary recordings
  • BL NSA, news recordings
  • priv. coll., recorded talk, 19 July 1962


  • Elliott & Fry, photograph, 1952, NPG [see illus.]
  • M. Fresco, photograph, 1955, Hult. Arch.
  • W. H. Alden, photograph, 1962, Hult. Arch.
  • M. Noakes, oils, 1976, Palace of Westminster, London
  • K. Green, portrait, Gray's Inn, London

Wealth at Death

£154,169: probate, 16 June 1978, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

Bodleian Library, Oxford
Churchill College, Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge