Edward Grigg, 1st Baron Altrincham

23 Jul 2018
23 Jul 2018
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Edward William Macleay Grigg, 1st Baron Altrincham KCMG KCVO DSO MC PC (8 September 1879 – 1 December 1955) was a British colonial administrator and politician.

Grigg was the son of Henry Bridewell Grigg, a member of the Indian Civil Service, and Elizabeth Louisa, née Thomson, the daughter of Edward Deas Thomson. Born in Madras, he was educated at Winchester College and New College, Oxford, where he won the Gaisford Prize for Greek verse in 1902.Upon graduation, he embarked on a career in journalism. He joined The Times in 1903 as secretary to the editor, George Earle Buckle, then moved to The Outlook in 1905, where he worked as assistant editor under J. L. Garvin. Grigg returned to The Times in 1906, where he was the head of the colonial department until he resigned in 1913 in order to become the co-editor of The Round Table Journal.

At the start of the First World War, Grigg enlisted in the Grenadier Guards. Serving in France, he distinguished himself in combat before his transfer to the staff in 1916. He received the Military Cross in 1917 and the Distinguished Service Order the following year, and was a lieutenant-colonel by the end of the war. Grigg was created Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1919 and served as military secretary to the Prince of Wales from 1919 until 1920, accompanying the prince on tours of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. For his services, Grigg was appointed Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1919 and Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1920.

Upon his return in 1920, Grigg became a private secretary to Prime Minister David Lloyd George. Grigg became devoted to Lloyd George, developing a deep respect for the “Welsh Wizard” that subsequently limited his political career. After Lloyd George’s departure in 1922, Grigg passed up a number of appointments within the civil service to enter the House of Commons. He was elected to Parliament as a Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) in 1922 from the constituency of Oldham. During this period he also served as secretary to the Rhodes Trust, a position he held from 1923 until 1925.

In 1925, Grigg resigned his seat to accept an appointment as governor of Kenya. While frustrated in his assigned task to merge Kenya with the bordering British colonies of Uganda and Tanganyika, he provided energetic administration to the colony, improving agriculture, education, and infrastructure during his governorship. Yet Grigg opposed consideration of the colony’s development into a multi-racial state, believing that the native African population was ill-prepared for managing the government. During this period he was named KCMG in 1928.

Grigg returned to Britain in 1930. Though offered his choice of Indian governorships, his poor health, along with that of his wife, forestalled accepting an appointment. Instead, Grigg decided to reenter politics. Though initially nominated as the Conservative candidate for the Leeds Central constituency in the 1931 general election, Grigg loyally stood aside for the National Labour candidate, Richard Denman. Two years later, he returned to Parliament in a by-election for the constituency of Altrincham. He would serve as MP for Altrincham until the constituency was abolished in 1945.

Grigg’s return to politics coincided with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler as German chancellor. Grigg feared the Nazi movement and in two books he pressed the case for a strong defense against the threat it posed. Yet Grigg never openly challenged the policy of appeasement advanced by the governments of Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain, keeping his criticisms private. When war did break out, Grigg joined the government as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Information. In April 1940 he became first the financial secretary, then joint parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for War, a post he held until March 1942. He declined Winston Churchill’s invitation to become First Commissioner of Works, as it was dependent upon acceptance of a peerage, and did not return to government until he was selected as Minister Resident, Middle East in November 1944. He was also appointed a Privy Counsellor in 1944.

In the aftermath of the Conservative caretaker government’s defeat in the 1945 general election, Grigg was raised to the peerage as Baron Altrincham, ending his political career. Three years later, he assumed the editorship of the National Review, a post he held until failing health forced his retirement in 1954. Grigg died a year later in Gloucestershire aged 76. His son, John Grigg, who became the second Baron Altrincham upon his father’s death, disclaimed the peerage in 1963 under the terms of the Peerage Act of that year.

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