Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby
Edward George Villiers Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby KG, GCB, GCVO, TD, PC, KGStJ, JP (4 April 1865 – 4 February 1948), known as Lord Stanley from 1893 to 1908, was a British soldier, Conservative politician, diplomat and racehorse owner. He was twice Secretary of State for War and also served as British Ambassador to France.
Background and education
Derby was born at 23 St. James's Square, London, the eldest son of Frederick Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby, by his wife Lady Constance Villiers. His paternal grandfather Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby, was three times Prime Minister of the United Kingdom while his maternal grandfather was the great Liberal statesman George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon. He was educated at Wellington College, Berkshire.
Derby joined the Grenadier Guards as a lieutenant, and served in that regiment between 1885 and 1895. He was Aide-de-Camp to the Governor General of Canada, his father, between 1888 and 1891 and fought in the Second Boer War between 1899 and 1900. In 1900 he was private secretary to the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in South Africa.
Derby entered Parliament for Westhoughton in 1892, and served under Lord Salisbury as a Lord of the Treasury between 1895 and 1900 and under Salisbury and later Arthur Balfour as Financial Secretary to the War Office between 1901 to 1903. In October 1903 he entered the cabinet as Postmaster General, a post he held until the government fell in December 1905. He lost his seat in the 1906 general election. In 1908 he succeeded his father in the earldom and took his seat in the House of Lords.
In August 1914 Lord Derby organised one of the most successful recruitment campaigns to Kitchener's Army in Liverpool. Over two days, 1500 Liverpudlians joined the new battalion. Speaking to the men he said: "This should be a battalion of pals, a battalion in which friends from the same office will fight shoulder to shoulder for the honour of Britain and the credit of Liverpool." Within the next few days three more pals battalions were raised in Liverpool. In October 1915, as Director-General of Recruiting, he instituted the Derby Scheme, a halfway-house between voluntary enlistment and conscription (which the Government was reluctant to adopt). It was not sufficiently successful and conscription followed in 1916.
In July 1916 Derby returned to the government when he was appointed Under-Secretary of State for War by H. H. Asquith, and in December 1916 he was promoted to Secretary of State for War by David Lloyd George. Two years later he was made Ambassador to France, which he remained until 1920. He again served as Secretary of State for War under Andrew Bonar Law and Stanley Baldwin from 1922 to 1924. Derby was made a CB in 1900, sworn of the Privy Council in 1903, KCVO in 1905 and a GCVO in 1908, Knight of the Garter in 1915, GCB in 1920.
Other public positions
Derby was Lord Mayor of Liverpool between 1911 and 1912. He served as honorary president of the Rugby Football League, and donated a cup for the French authorities to use for a knock-out competition, much as his father had done for ice hockey with the Stanley Cup. This is now known as the Lord Derby Cup. He was also, from 1929 to 1945, the chairman of the Pilgrims Society, becoming their president, until his death in 1948. Derby served as East Lancashire Provincial Grand Master of Freemasonry from 1899 until his death.. He also held the post of Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire between 1928 and 1948.
The Epsom Derby was named after the 12th Earl while the Epsom Oaks was named after the 12th Earl's house near Epsom. Derby followed in the family tradition and was one of the most prominent owner breeders during the first half of the 20th century. Among his stables' important wins were:
- Epsom Derby (3) : 1924, 1933, 1942
- Epsom Oaks (2) : 1928, 1945
- St. Leger Stakes (6) : 1910, 1919, 1923, 1928, 1933, 1943
- 1,000 Guineas (7) : 1916, 1918, 1923, 1930, 1936, 1943, 1945
- 2,000 Guineas (2) : 1926, 1944
Amidst great fanfare that included making the cover of TIME, in 1930 the 17th Earl visited Louisville, Kentucky with Joseph E. Widener where he was the honoured guest of Churchill Downs president Col. Matt Winn at the 56th running of the Kentucky Derby.
His biggest achievement though was his breeding of the horse Phalaris. Only an average racer but a stallion par excellence responsible for establishing the most dominant sire line in Europe and later, the United States through his four sons - Sickle, Pharamond, Pharos and Fairway.
Lord Derby married Lady Alice Maude Olivia Montagu, daughter of William Montagu, 7th Duke of Manchester and Louisa von Alten, at the Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks, London, on 5 January 1889. They had three children together. Two of them, Edward, Lord Stanley and Oliver, achieved the rare distinction of sitting in the same Cabinet between May and October 1938 until Edward's death. Their daughter, Lady Victoria, married the liberal politician Neil Primrose. Lord Derby died February 1948 at the family seat of Knowsley Hall, Lancashire, aged 82. His other country seat was Coworth Park at Sunningdale in Berkshire. He was succeeded in the earldom by his grandson, Edward. He is buried in Liverpool Cathedral. The Countess of Derby died in July 1957.
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