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Useful Notes / David Lloyd George

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The Welsh Wizard.

"Not badly, considering I was seated between Jesus Christ and Napoleon."
David Lloyd George on how he did at the Versailles Peace Conference where he was seated between President Woodrow Wilson and French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau

David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor OM PC (17 January 1863 26 March 1945) was the only Welsh Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and also the only one to have English as a second language (Welsh being his first language). He was also the last Liberal Prime Minister.

He was a key player in introducing the groundwork for the Welfare State. He was Prime Minister throughout the latter half of World War I and the first four years of the subsequent peace. In 1918 he was universally popular and promised to make a land "fit for heroes to live in". However his coalition government was roundly unpopular with his own party (who where just under a third of it and by the time it was over the party had wrecked itself as a political force, fading into obscurity and being replaced by Labour).

Lloyd George was also a key player in The Irish Question. His time in power saw revolution in Ireland and the eventual negotiations that led to the establishment of the Irish Free State and creating the UK as it is known today. Opinion is divided on how well he dealt with the crisis, but for many years afterwards he was hailed (in Britain) as having solved the question for good. Later historians have tended towards a more critical view.

During the 1930s, Lloyd George became something of a Nazi sympathiser, which lasted more or less until World War II broke out. He then adopted a generally defeatist attitude, to the point that he argued that the UK should try to negotiate a truce with Hitler. (This was a minority opinion at the time; another factor is that Lloyd George greatly disliked Neville Chamberlain.) However, during the House of Commons debates about the Narvik debacle of May 1940, which ultimately led to Chamberlain's resignation and Churchill becoming prime minister, he got off a memorable zinger. In the course of Lloyd George's argument that Chamberlain had to go, he argued that Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, was not wholly responsible for the failure at Narvik. Churchill rose and took complete responsibility for the Navy's actions, and Lloyd George—who liked and respected Churchill—retorted "The right honourable gentleman must not allow himself to be converted into an air raid shelter to keep the splinters from hitting his colleagues."

He was also infamous as a womaniser, leading to the a famous music hall song called Lloyd George Knew My Father, the joke being that Lloyd George was the singer's father. Two of his actual children followed him into politics, but moved to different parties after his death: his son Gwilym became a Conservative MP, eventually rising to become Home Secretary in Anthony Eden's government, while his daughter Megan became a Labour MP.

There was also a scandal about selling peerages during this period.

He ended at #79 in 100 Greatest Britons.

David Lloyd George in fiction:

  • He's played by the young Anthony Hopkins in the 1972 film Young Winston.
  • He's played by Edward Evans in the 1974 TV Movie The Gathering Storm, in which he's seen delivering the "air raid shelter" quip.
  • He's played by Philip Madoc in the 1981 Mini Series The Life and Times of David Lloyd George.
  • In the 1991 British/Irish co-production The Treaty about the 1919-22 Anglo-Irish War, Lloyd George is played by Ian Bannen.
  • In Wilson, a Biopic about Woodrow Wilson, Lloyd George appears in a cameo when the Treaty of Versailles is being negotiated. He's played here by Clifford Brooke.