Alec Douglas-Home

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The Right Hon. Alec Douglas-Home
Prime Minister 18 October 1963 - 16 October 1964
Political Party Conservative Party
Born 9 July 1916
Mayfair, London
Died 17 July 2005
The Hirsel, Coldstream, Berwickshire

Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel, KT, PC (2 July 1903 - 9 October 1995) was a prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1963 to 1964, and elected leader of the British Conservative Party from 1964 to 1965.

Career

He was born in London, the eldest son of a Scottish earl, and from 1918 was styled Lord Dunglass. His brother was the dramatist, William Douglas-Home. After an education at Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford, he became a Conservative MP in 1931. His aristocratic roots gave him a head start in the party as it then was, and he was soon appointed secretary to Neville Chamberlain, witnessing at first hand the latter's hopeless attempts to stave off World War II. He lost his parliamentary seat in 1945, but regained it in 1950, being forced to resign it in 1951, when he became 14th Earl of Home (known simply as 'Lord Home') and entered the House of Lords. Home became Foreign Secretary in 1960. In 1962, he was created a knight of the Order of the Thistle which, in the event, entitled him to be styled 'Sir' after renouncing his earldom.

In 1963, when the Conservative prime minister, Harold Macmillan, suddenly resigned as an indirect result of the Profumo scandal, Lord Home, by a process the details of which were not clear, was chosen to succeed him despite the support of a majority of the party for deputy prime minister Richard Austen Butler. Lord Home renounced his peerage (under the Peerage Act 1963 passed earlier in the same year) in order to be qualified to re-enter parliament as an MP (which he did by winning the 1963 election for the constituency of Kinross) and take on the leadership, becoming Sir Alec Douglas-Home. The government had been too badly damaged to survive however, and the general election of October 1964, was won by the Labour Party. Home remained leader of the party until his resignation in July of the following year. The resulting leadership election was won by Edward Heath who defeated Reginald Maudling and Enoch Powell. Over the course of the following six years Home was notably loyal to Heath, comparing those who questioned his position with 'impatient gardeners who would keep digging up a tree to gauge its progress by examining its roots.' When in 1970, Heath became prime minister, Home returned to the post of Foreign Secretary which was deemed to suit him so well.

In 1974, following the defeat of the Heath government by that of Harold Wilson, Home was restored to the House of Lords when he accepted a life peerage, and became known as 'Baron Home of the Hirsel' (The Hirsel being his family seat in Berwickshire) for the rest of his life. On his death in 1995, he was succeeded as Earl of Home by his son, David Douglas-Home.