Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl Stockton, British Prime Minister (1957-1963)
Maurice Harold Macmillan was the brother in-law of my cousin's wife (my cousin being Brigadier Hon. George Evan Michael Baillie, and his wife Lady Maud Louise Emma Cavendish) who was married to Lady Dorothy Evelyn Cavendish.
Macmillan was born on February 10th, 1894 to publisher Maurice Crawford Macmillan of Macmillan Publishing fame (his father, Daniel Macmillan, founded Macmillan Publishing) and the American socialite and artist, Helen (Nellie) Artie Tarleton Belles.
Born into a wealthy family, Macmillan received an intensive early childhood education, closely overseen by his mother Nellie. Harold learned French at home each morning, excercised daily at a local gymnasium and dance academy and received introductory lessons in Latin and Greek at Mr. Gladstone's day school. He attended Summers Field School, Oxford and was Third Scholar at Eton College. He missed his final year due to illness and was taught at home by private tutors.
Harold went to Balliol College, Oxford in 1912 and quickly joined a number of political societies. From a young age Harold was an admirer of the policies and leadership of a succession of Liberal Prime Ministers (Henry Campbell-Bannerman, H.H. Asquith and David Lloyd George) although he would later become a Conservative party member.
Harold's college education was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I. He immediately enlisted in the British Army and received a commission as a second lieutenant in the King's Royal Rifle Corps. He quickly transferred to the Grenadier Guards and fought on the front lines in France.
He served with distinction as a captain in the Grenadier Guards and was wounded three times. At the Battle of Loos in September, 1915, Harold was shot in the right hand and also received a glancing gunshot to the head- his recovery took until March of 1916. As soon as he recovered, Harold went back to the front lines in France where, in September, 1916, he lead an advancing platoon in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (Battle of the Somme - same battle where my maternal Great Grandfather was killed in action on 9/15/16). During this battle he was severely wounded and lay in a trench for 10 hours, often pretending to be dead when German soldiers passed, and reading from the classical playwright, Aeschylus in the original Greek, until help arrived and took him to safety.
Macmillan spent the final two years of the Great War in hospital undergoing several series of long operations. His hip, wounded at the Somme, took 4 years to heal, and he walked with a slight shuffle from his injuries for the rest of his life.
Of the 28 Balliol students who started classes with Macmillan, only he and 1 other classmate survived the Great War. For this reason, Harold never returend to complete his studies at Balliol saying the university would never be the same.
Returning to London in 1920, Harold joined the family publishing business until he entered politics in 1924. He served from 1924-1929 as an MP for Stockton-On-Tees. He lost his seat in parliament in 1929 but returned in 1931 when the new MP for Stockton-On-Tees resigned, allowing Macmillan to win back his seat.
Macmillan sat in Parliament through 1939, initially supporting Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, and then helping to vote him out in 1940.
During World War II, Macmillan was a protege of Prime Minister Winston Churchill (under whom he served until 1955). Macmillan also formed a close friendship with the Allied Supreme Commander, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Macmillan later helped secure US recognition for the Free French leader, Charles de Gaulle. He helped to negotiate the Italian Armistice in August, 1943.
After the war, Macmillan remained an MP until he was elected Prime Minister in January, 1957, a position he held until October, 1963. During his term as Prime Minister, British living standards rose steadily. His government introduced a graduated pension plan to provide additional income to retirees; a Child's Special Allowance for orphans and children of divorced parents; a reduction in the standard work week from 48 hours to 42 hours.
Macmillan took personal control of his government's foreign policies, using his personal friendship with Eisenhower to assist him. In 1959 he met with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and helped ease East-West tensions over West Berlin and which also lead to an agreement in principle to stop nuclear arms testing.
Macmillan also acted decisively in 1958 to retore the confidence of his Persian Gulf Allies by deploying the Royal Air Force to defend Jordan against Syrian attack and to deter a threatened Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
After John F. Kennedy's election as US President, Macmillan's relationship with the US was maintained, partly due to his family relationship to the Kennedy family; President Kennedy's sister, Kathleen, had been married to Macmillan's wife's nephew, William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington.
Macmillan strongly supported de-colonization and during 1961, he made the decision to grant independence to Nigeria, Taganyika, Kenya, Nyasaland (Malawi) and Northern Rhodesia (Zambia).
Many, many more historical events can be attributed to Harold Macmillan, far too many to list here. For a more comprehensive list of his life, please visit:
He truly was a fascinating figure in 20th Century history.