Philip Henry Kerr

(11th Marquess of Lothian)

1882 - 1940

11th Marquess of Lothian
©2023 Gazetteer for Scotland

11th Marquess of Lothian

Statesman, politician and diplomat. Kerr succeeded his cousin Robert Schomberg Kerr (1874 - 1930) to the Marquessate of Lothian. He worked in the colonial government of South Africa (1905-10) and then returned to Britain. Kerr was a trustee of the will of the colonialist and financier Cecil Rhodes and a key member of the secretive Rhodes-Milner group or Kindergarten which created a movement to promote international government. The movement spread around the English-speaking world, including the USA and Kerr edited their journal, the Round Table (1910-16).

To the consternation of his family, Kerr abandoned his Roman-Catholic roots in 1914 to become a Christian Scientist, making close friends of other prominent adherents such as Nancy Astor.

A life-long liberal, he served as Lloyd George's private secretary (1916-21) and took an active role at the Paris Peace Conference, which framed the Treaty of Versailles (1919). He later took the view that this treaty had been overly harsh, and in the 1930s was a leading proponent of appeasement with Nazi Germany. He briefly served as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1931-2) and went on to become British Ambassador to the USA (1939-40). He is also remembered in the United States for giving the Washington Post their scoop on the relationship between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. Kerr was an enthusiastic proponent of transatlantic co-operation and worked hard to persuade the Americans to come into the Second World War in support of the British. However, he died in Washington DC after suffering food poisoning but refusing medical attention on account of his religious beliefs. He lies buried in Jedburgh Abbey.

Kerr had seen that the great estates of Britain were being broken up and felt this was destroying the culture of the country. He set up the Country Houses Scheme (1937) which permitted property to be passed to the National Trust in lieu of death duties. On his own death he willed Blickling Hall (Norfolk) to the Trust, the first major estate so gifted. To the disdain of his family, he gave another home, Newbattle Abbey, in trust to become a teacher-training college.

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