Sunday, February 20, 2011

William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp

William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp born 20 February 1872 (d. 1938)

William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp KG, KCMG, PC, British politician, 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 good at the job, he was unpopular in the colony, and Beauchamp returned to Britain in 1900, where he joined the Liberal Party.

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

In 1931, he was 'outed' as homosexual (despite his 7 children) to the King and Queen by his violently-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, infamously observing, 'I thought men like that shot themselves'.

To those in the know Beachamp was notorious for his weakness for footmen, and his children would warn their male friends to lock their doors at night if they stayed at Madresfield, the family estate. His second son, Hugh Lygon, was a close friend, probably a lover, of Evelyn Waugh, and is generally accepted to be one of the main inspirations for Sebastian Flyte in Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited.

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.

Lord Beauchamp is generally supposed to have been the model for Lord Marchmain (who was also outed by his brother-in-law) in Brideshead Revisited.

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