Henry Campbell-Bannerman ~ Liberal MP, Secretary of the War Office, Secretary for Ireland, Prime Minister

Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1836-1908) – Liberal MP for Stirling, Secretary of the War Office, Secretary for Ireland, Prime Minister 1905-8 – buried in the churchyard of Meigle Parish Church, Perthshire, near his home, Belmont Castle.“Henry Campbell-Bannerman (7 September 1836 – 22 April 1908) was a British Liberal statesman who served as Prime Minister from December 5, 1905 until resigning due to ill health on April 3, 1908. No previous First Lord of the Treasury had been officially called “Prime Minister”; this term only came into official usage after he took office. Campbell-Bannerman was born at Kelvinside House in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1836 as Henry Campbell. The surname Bannerman was added to his surname in 1871 as required by his maternal uncle’s will. It was a condition of his inheritance of his uncle’s Kent estate, Hunton Court. He was the son of Sir James Campbell, who was Lord Provost of Glasgow 1840-3, and his wife Janet Bannerman. Campbell-Bannerman was educated at Glasgow High School (1845-7), the University of Glasgow (1851), and Trinity College, Cambridge (1854-8), where he achieved a Third-Class Degree in Classical Tripos. After graduating, he joined J.& W. Campbell & Co., his family’s firm, who were warehousemen and drapers in Glasgow. In 1868, he was elected to the House of Commons as Liberal Member of Parliament for Stirling Burghs — a constituency he was to represent for 40 years. He was appointed as Financial Secretary to the War Office in November 1871, serving in this position until 1874, and again from 1880 to 1882. After serving as Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty from 1882 to 1884, he entered Gladstone’s second cabinet as Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1884. In Gladstone’s Third (1886) and Fourth (1892-1894) Cabinets and Rosebery’s Government (1894-1895) he served as Secretary of State for War, where he persuaded the Duke of Cambridge, the Queen’s cousin, to resign as Commander-in-Chief. This earned Campbell-Bannerman a knighthood. In 1898 Sir Henry succeeded Sir William Vernon Harcourt as leader of the Liberals in the House of Commons. Campbell-Bannerman had a difficult time in holding together the strongly divided party (which was defeated in the “Khaki Election” of 1900), but when the Liberals returned to power in 1906, he became Prime Minister. Campbell-Bannerman’s premiership saw the introduction of the so-called Liberal reforms, which included the introduction of sick pay and old age pensions, as well as the achievement of an Entente with Russia in 1907, brought about principally by the Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey. In that same year, Campbell-Bannerman achieved the honour of becoming the Father of the House, the only serving British Prime Minister to do so to date. Nevertheless his health soon took a turn for the worse, and he resigned as Prime Minister on 3 April 1908, to be succeeded by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Herbert Henry Asquith. Campbell-Bannerman remained in residence at 10 Downing Street in the immediate aftermath of his resignation, and became the only (former) Prime Minister to die there, on 22 April 1908. His last words were “This is not the end of me.”. Campbell-Bannerman was buried in the churchyard of Meigle Parish Church, Perthshire, near his home, Belmont Castle. In an uncharacteristically emotional speech on the day of Campbell-Bannerman’s funeral, his successor H. H. Asquith told the House of Commons: “He was not ashamed, even on the verge of old age, to see visions and to dream dreams… He met both good and evil fortune with the same unclouded brow, the same unruffled temper, the same unshakeable confidence in the justice and righteousness of his cause.” Another of Campbell-Bannerman’s cabinet Ministers — who was also later to serve as Prime Minister — David Lloyd George, said of his passing, “I have never met a great public figure who so completely won the attachment and affection of the men who came into contact with him. He was not merely admired and respected; he was absolutely loved by us all. The masses of the people of the country, especially the more unfortunate of them, have lost the best friend they have ever had in the high place of the land. … He was a truly great man. A great head and a great heart. He was absolutely the bravest man I ever met in politics.”There is a blue plaque outside Campbell-Bannerman’s house at 6 Grosvenor Place, London SW1. His bronze bust, sculpted by Paul Raphael Montford is in Westminster Abbey (1908).