Cliveden set

The Cliveden Set were a 1930s upper-class group of prominent people, who were politically influential before the Second World War in the United Kingdom. They were in the circle of Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor, the first female Member of Parliament to take her seat. The name comes from Cliveden, a stately home in Buckinghamshire that was Astor's country residence.

The "Cliveden Set" tag was coined by Claud Cockburn in his journalism for the communist newspaper The Week. It has long been widely accepted that the aristocratic Germanophile social network was for friendly relations with Nazi Germany and helped create the policy of appeasement. John L. Spivak, writing in 1939, devoted a chapter to the Cliveden Set.[1] Norman Rose's 2000 account of the group proposes that when it gathered at Cliveden, it functioned more like a think-tank than a cabal. According to Carroll Quigley, the Cliveden Set had been strongly anti-German before and during World War I.

After the Second World War ended, the discovery of the Nazis' Black Book showed that all the group's members were to be arrested as soon as Britain had been invaded. Lady Astor remarked, "It is the complete answer to the terrible lie that the so-called 'Cliveden Set' was pro-Fascist".[2]

The actual beliefs and influence of the Cliveden Set are matters of some dispute. In the late 20th century, some historians of the period came to consider the allegations about it to have been exaggerated. For instance, Christopher Sykes, in a sympathetic 1972 biography of Nancy Astor, argued that the entire story about the Cliveden Set had been an ideologically-motivated fabrication by Cockburn that came to be generally accepted by a public, which was looking for scapegoats for the British prewar appeasement of Adolf Hitler. Some academic arguments have stated that Cockburn's account may have not have been entirely accurate, but his main allegations cannot be easily dismissed.[3][4]

Prominent members

Fictional portrayals

Hogan's Heroes

In the fourth and fifth episodes of season six of the 1960s sitcom Hogan's Heroes, the two-part episode "Lady Chitterly's Lover" involves a plot to negotiate Britain's surrender from a fictitious member of the Cliveden Set, Sir Charles Chitterly. While this is based on no direct historical counterpart, it does incorporate - among other events - elements of the visit to Nazi Germany in the late 1930s of the former British King Edward VIII after he had abdicated the throne in 1936 and settled into exile in France.

The Remains Of The Day

Lord Darlington, the fictional secondary protagonist in Nobel Prize-winning British author Kazuo Ishiguro's 1989 novel The Remains Of The Day is based on a amalgamation of several of the more prominent members of the Cliveden Set, some of whom are listed below. The novel was turned into the 1993 film of the same name which was nominated for eight Academy Awards and six BAFTA Awards, including a BAFTA win for Sir Anthony Hopkins in the Best Actor category. The social gatherings that are held at the fictional Darlington Hall in the film between Nazis and British subjects seeking peace and being manipulated by the Nazi representatives are based on several dinner parties and other social gatherings that were held by the Cliveden Set. It was later revealed that the Nazis had, as a part of Operation Sea Lion, an arrest list that included almost all of the members of the Cliveden Set. [5]

See also


  1. Secret Armies, (New York, Modern Age Books, 1939)
  2. "Nazi's black list discovered in Berlin". 14 September 1945.
  3. Frank McDonough, Neville Chamberlain, Appeasement, and the British Road to War (Manchester University Press,1998), p. 96-100
  4. A Reevaluation of Cockburn's Cliveden Set at Archived 28 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  5. Nancy, the Life of Lady Astor, Christopher Sykes (London: Collins, 1972)