William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp

William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp

William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp KG, KCMG, PC, (February 20, 1872 – November 14, 1938), British politician, Liberal Party leader in the House of Lords (1924-1931), and holder of a number of appointed and hereditary offices. When political enemies threatened to make public his homosexuality he resigned from office to go into exile. Lord Beauchamp is generally supposed to have been the model for Lord Marchmain in Evelyn Waugh's novel, "Brideshead Revisited".

Early career

William succeeded his father as Earl Beauchamp in 1891, and was mayor of Worcester at age 23. A progressive in his ideas, he was surprised to be offered the post of Governor of New South Wales in May 1899. Though he was good at the job, and enjoyed the company of local artists and writers, he was unpopular in the colony due to a series of gaffes and misunderstandings, most notably over his reference to the 'birthstain' of Australia's convict origins. [ [http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A070233b.htm "Beauchamp, seventh Earl (1872 - 1938)", Australian Dictionary of Biography] ] Beauchamp returned to Britain in 1900, where he joined the Liberal Party.

Rise in Lords

Beauchamp was Lord Steward of the Household to King Edward VII and was made a Privy Counsellor in 1906. He served in the Liberal Government as Lord President of the Council from June to November 1910, First Commissioner of Works from 1910 to 1914, Lord President again from 1914 to 1915, and was Liberal Leader in the House of Lords from 1924, supporting the failing party with his substantial fortune.

Beauchamp was made Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire in 1911, carried the Sword of State at the coronation of King George V, was made Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports in 1913 and a Knight of the Garter in 1914.

He was also Chancellor of the University of London, a Six Master (Governor of RGS Worcester) and Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms.


In 1931, he was "outed" as homosexual. A. L. Rowse, "Homosexuals in History" (1977), pp. 222-223 ISBN 0880290110] It was reported to the King and Queen by his Tory brother-in-law, the Duke of Westminster, who hoped to ruin the Liberal Party through Beauchamp. Homosexuality was a criminal offence at the time, and the King was horrified, saying "I thought men like that shot themselves".

There was no public scandal, but Lord Beauchamp resigned all his offices, except Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, and went into exile on the Continent. He died of cancer in New York City, aged 66.

Literary inspiration

Lord Beauchamp is generally supposed to have been the model for Lord Marchmain in Evelyn Waugh's novel, "Brideshead Revisited". [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2008/05/24/sm_waugh24.xml&page=1 Evelyn Waugh: a blueprint for Brideshead - Telegraph ] ] In his 1977 book, "Homosexuals in History", historian A. L. Rowse suggests that Beauchamp's failed appointment as Governor of New South Wales was the inspiration for Hillaire Belloc's satirical children's poem, [http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Cautionary_Tales_for_Children#Lord_Lundy Lord Lundy] . Nevertheless, says Rowse, "Lord Lundy's chronic weakness was tears. This was not Lord Beauchamp's weakness: he enjoyed life, was always gay."


On July 26, 1902, he married Lady Lettice Mary Elizabeth Grosvenor, daughter of Victor Alexander Grosvenor and Lady Sibell Mary Lumley, and granddaughter of the 1st Duke of Westminster. They had three sons and four daughters. The Beauchamps separated as a result of his brother-in-law the 2nd Duke's threat of public exposure. Lady Beauchamp died 1936, aged just 59, estranged from all her children except her youngest child. [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2008/06/01/sv_brideshead01.xml&page=3 "The scandal that shook Brideshead] . "..back in England Lady Beauchamp was even more isolated. Estranged from all her children, save for Dickie, she led a pitiful existence: alone, confused, ill and in thrall to her bullying brother. Lady Beauchamp's children never made peace with her. She died in 1936, five years after William's flight. She was only 59."]

# William Lygon, 8th Earl Beauchamp (3 Jul 1903 - 3 Jan 1979), the last Earl Beauchamp. His widow, Mona, nee Else Schiewe, died 1989.
# Hon. Hugh Patrick Lygon (2 Nov 1904 - 19 Aug 1936 Rothenburg, Bavaria) said to be the model for Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited.
# Lady Lettice Lygon (16 Jun 1906 - 1973) who married 1930 (div 1958) Sir Richard Charles Geers Cotterell, 5th Bt. (1907-1978) and had issue.
# Lady Sibell Lygon (10 Oct 1907 - 31 Oct 2005) who married 11 February 1939 (bigamously) and 1949 (legally) Michael Rowley (d. 19 September 1952), stepson of her maternal uncle the 2nd Duke of Westminster. [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1503055/Lady-Sibell-Rowley.html "Lady Sibell Rowley" (obituary)] ] "Daily Telegraph, 16 November 2005.]
# Lady Mary Lygon (12 Feb 1910 - 27 Sep 1982) who married 1937 (div) HH Prince Vsevolod of Russia, and had no issue.
# Lady Dorothy Lygon (22 Feb 1912 - 13 Nov 2001) who married 1985 (sep) Robert Heber-Percy (d. 1987) of Faringdon, Berkshire. They had no issue.
# Hon. Richard Edward Lygon (25 Dec 1916 - 1970) whose younger daughter Rosalind Lygon, now the Hon. Lady Morrison (b. 1946) inherited Madresfield Court in 1979.

Of the Earl's seven children, all but the second son Hugh married, but only two left issue.


External links

* Cameron Hazlehurst, [http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A070233b.htm 'Beauchamp, seventh Earl (1872 - 1938)'] , "Australian Dictionary of Biography", Volume 7, Melbourne University Press, 1979, pp 235-236.
*Peter Rivendell. [http://gayfortoday.blogspot.com/2007/02/william-lygon-7th-earl-beauchamp.html William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp] . Retrieved 10 June 2008.
"Book reviews"
* (Lady) Selina Hastings. [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/books/article-1024220/Country-house-high-jinks.html "Country house high jinks"] . Review of Jane Mulvagh's book, published 4 June 2008. Retrieved 10 June 2008. Article includes a portrait of the 7th Earl circa 1920 with five of his seven children (his eldest and youngest son are apparently missing; all four daughters and his favourite son Hugh are in the portrait).
* [http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an14059197 Portrait of the 7th Earl (1899)] , by Sir Leslie Ward for "Vanity Fair". Retrieved 10 June 2008.

Further reading

* [http://www.liberalhistory.org.uk/uploads/23_Summer_1999.pdf David Dutton, "William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp (1872-1938)," Journal of Liberal History, Issue 23, Summer 1999, p.18]

*E David (ed.) "Inside Asquith's Cabinet", John Murray, London, 1971

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