Edward Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax

Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax, KG, OM, GCSI, GCMG, GCIE, TD, PC (16 April 1881 – 23 December 1959), known as The Lord Irwin from 1925 until 1934 and The Viscount Halifax from 1934 until 1944, was a senior British Conservative politician of the 1930s. He held several senior ministerial posts during this time, most notably those of Viceroy of India from 1925 to 1931 and of Foreign Secretary between 1938 and 1940. He was one of the architects of the policy of appeasement of Adolf Hitler in 1936–38, working closely with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. However, after Kristallnacht and the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 he was one of those who pushed for a new policy of attempting to deter further German aggression by promising to go to war to defend Poland.


The Earl of Halifax

The Earl of Halifax in 1947
British Ambassador to the United States
In office
23 December 1940  1 May 1946
Nominated byWinston Churchill
Appointed byGeorge VI
Preceded byThe Marquess of Lothian
Succeeded byThe Lord Inverchapel
Leader of the House of Lords
In office
3 October 1940  22 December 1940
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byThe Viscount Caldecote
Succeeded byThe Lord Lloyd
In office
22 November 1935  21 February 1938
Prime Minister
Preceded byThe Marquess of Londonderry
Succeeded byThe Earl Stanhope
Foreign Secretary
In office
21 February 1938  22 December 1940
Prime Minister
  • Neville Chamberlain
  • Winston Churchill
Preceded byAnthony Eden
Succeeded byAnthony Eden
Secretary of State for War
In office
7 June 1935  22 November 1935
Prime MinisterStanley Baldwin
Preceded byThe Viscount Hailsham
Succeeded byDuff Cooper
Lord President of the Council
In office
28 May 1937  9 March 1938
Prime MinisterNeville Chamberlain
Preceded byRamsay MacDonald
Succeeded byThe Viscount Hailsham
Lord Privy Seal
In office
22 November 1935  28 May 1937
Prime MinisterStanley Baldwin
Preceded byThe Marquess of Londonderry
Succeeded byThe Earl De La Warr
Chancellor of the University of Oxford
In office
1933–1959
Preceded byThe Viscount Grey of Fallodon
Succeeded byHarold Macmillan
Viceroy and Governor-General of India
In office
3 April 1926  18 April 1931
MonarchGeorge V
Prime Minister
Preceded byThe Earl of Reading
Succeeded byThe Earl of Willingdon
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries
In office
6 November 1924  4 November 1925
Prime MinisterStanley Baldwin
Preceded byNoel Buxton
Succeeded byWalter Guinness
President of the Board of Education
In office
24 October 1922  22 January 1924
Prime MinisterBonar Law
Stanley Baldwin
Preceded byH. A. L. Fisher
Succeeded bySir Charles Trevelyan
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
1 April 1921  24 October 1922
Prime MinisterDavid Lloyd George
Preceded byLeo Amery
Succeeded byHon. William Ormsby-Gore
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
5 December 1925  23 December 1959
Hereditary peerage
Preceded bycreated Baron Irwin in 1925
The 2nd Viscount Halifax (1934)
Succeeded byThe 2nd Earl of Halifax
Member of Parliament
for Ripon
In office
10 February 1910  5 December 1925
Preceded byH. F. B. Lynch
Succeeded byJohn Hills
Personal details
Born
Edward Frederick Lindley Wood

(1881-04-16)16 April 1881
Powderham Castle, Devon, England
Died23 December 1959(1959-12-23) (aged 78)
Garrowby Hall, Yorkshire, England
NationalityBritish
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)
(m. 1909)
Children
Parents
Alma materChrist Church, Oxford

On Chamberlain's resignation early in May 1940, Halifax effectively declined the position of Prime Minister as he felt that Winston Churchill would be a more suitable war leader (Halifax's membership in the House of Lords was given as the official reason). A few weeks later, with the Allies facing apparently catastrophic defeat and British forces falling back to Dunkirk, Halifax favoured approaching Italy to see if acceptable peace terms could be negotiated. He was overruled by Churchill after a series of stormy meetings of the War Cabinet. From 1941 to 1946, he served as British Ambassador in Washington.