Edward Marjoribanks, Second Baron Tweedmouth

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THE RIGHT HONOURABLE Edward Marjoribanks, Second Baron Tweedmouth, K.T. (8 July, 1849 – 15 September, 1909) was a Liberal politician and First Lord of the Admiralty from 1905 to 1908.

Life & Career

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Edward Marjoribanks, born in London on 8 July 1849, was eldest son in a family of four sons and two daughters of Sir Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, first baronet, a very capable man of business and a collector of works of art, who sat in parliament as liberal member for Berwick-on-Tweed from 1853 to 1868 and subsequently from 1874 to 1881; having been created a baronet on 25 July 1866, he was raised to the peerage as Baron Tweedmouth (12 Oct. 1881). Among his ancestors was Thomas Marjoribanks of Ratho, who was member for Edinburgh in the Scottish parliament and was in 1532 one of the founders of the Court of Session, becoming afterwards lord clerk register and a lord of session. His mother was Isabella, daughter of Sir James Weir Hogg, first baronet [q.v.] and sister of Sir James Macnaghten McGarel Hogg, first Lord Magheramorne [q.v.] , and of Quintin Hogg, founder of the Regent Street Polytechnic. Of his sisters the elder, Mary Georgiana, married Matthew Ridley, first Viscount Ridley, and the younger, Ishbel Maria, married John Campbell, seventh earl of Aberdeen. Educated at Harrow, Marjoribanks matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, on 9 March 1868. At the university he devoted himself chiefly to sport and took no degree. He was through life a fine horseman and devoted to hunting, a splendid shot alike with gun and with rifle, a keen fisherman, and an enthusiastic deer-stalker. After leaving Oxford in 1872 he went for a tour round the world, and on his return he studied law, being called to the bar at the Inner Temple on 17 Nov. 1874. He worked for a time in the chambers of Sir John Duke Coleridge, afterwards lord chief justice, and was employed by him to collect and arrange material for the Tichborne trial. Coleridge formed a high opinion of his abilities, but he made little further progress at the bar, and deserted law for politics. His political and family connections were strong in Berwickshire, where his father had purchased considerable estates. An invitation to stand in June 1873 as a liberal candidate there on the sudden occasion of a vacancy failed to reach him in time. After failing in 1874 in a contest in Mid-Kent he became prospective liberal candidate for North Berwickshire in 1875. At the general election of 1880 he was elected by a majority of 268. He held the seat until the death of his father in 1894 removed him to the House of Lords.

During his earlier years in parliament, although Marjoribanks spoke little, he was active in promoting many public objects and measures in which his constituents were interested, and he was a leading supporter of the movement for legalising marriage with a deceased wife's sister, being destined in due course to conduct the bill to its final victory in the House of Lords in 1907. In 1882 he moved the address in reply to the speech from the throne. He was soon in frequent requisition at political gatherings in many parts of the kingdom but especially in Scotland. When the home rule ministry of Gladstone was formed in 1886 Marjoribanks received his first official appointment as comptroller of Queen Victoria's household and second whip to the party, and was sworn a member of the privy council. For the next eight years he was indefatigable in promoting the interests of his party alike in parliament and in the constituencies. After the rejection of the home rule bill in June 1886 and the downfall of Gladstone's ministry, Marjoribanks, with Mr. Arnold Morley as his chief, served as second whip to the opposition until 1892. On Gladstone's return to office in 1892 Marjoribanks became parliamentary secretary to the Treasury, or chief liberal whip, Mr. Arnold Morley having accepted office in the cabinet. His engaging manners, assiduity, imperturbable good humour, and devotion to all manly sports made him an almost ideal whip, with few equals and no superiors among his contemporaries.

On the death of his father on 4 March 1894 he succeeded to the peerage as Lord Tweedmouth, and was invited by Lord Rosebery, who, on Gladstone's resignation, had just become prime minister, to join the cabinet as lord privy seal and chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Tweedmouth's sure grasp of the internal mechanism and sentiment of the party gave him due weight in the inner counsels of the ministry. When the government of Lord Rosebery fell in 1895 and a general election converted the liberal party into a divided, distracted, and enfeebled opposition, Tweedmouth earnestly devoted himself to the up-hill task of restoring its fallen fortunes. He was prominent in society, and entertained largely both in London at Brook House and at his beautiful home in Scotland, Guisachan in Inverness-shire. He had married on 9 June 1873 Lady Fanny Octavia Louisa, third daughter of John Winston Spencer-Churchill, seventh duke of Marlborough, and sister of Lord Randolph Churchill. Lady Tweedmouth was endowed with a native gift for society, and shared her husband's labour in bringing together liberal politicians of all shades of opinion. She initiated the Liberal Social Council and did as much as social agencies can to restore courage, confidence, and concord to the party. Her death on 5 Aug. 1904 dealt her husband a blow from which he never completely recovered. At the same time financial losses, due to a crisis in the affairs of Meux's brewery, which he bore with cheery fortitude, compelled Tweedmouth to part with Brook House and Guisachan and to sell many of the art treasures which his father had collected.

First Lord of the Admiralty

When a liberal government was formed in December, 1905, with Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman as Prime Minister, Tweedmouth became First Lord of the Admiralty. The National Review damned his appointment to "a position for which he is about as qualified as for the office of Astronomer Royal."[1] He took office at a critical moment, for the expansion of the German navy was then in full swing and yet there was a section of the liberal party which was disposed to insist on a large reduction of naval expenditure. Some slight and temporary reductions were made at the outset, but on the whole Tweedmouth stood firm to the policy of maintaining England's naval supremacy, and he gave a cordial support to the many and drastic measures of reform initiated by Lord Selborne and steadfastly pursued by Lord Cawdor, his two immediate predecessors, both acting on the vigorous inspiration of the first sea lord, Sir John (now Lord) Fisher. He represented the admiralty in the House of Lords with becoming dignity and discretion, and he displayed a firm grasp of the business of his department. His term of office was not eventful until March 1908, when it was bruited abroad that the German Emperor had written to Tweedmouth on matters connected with naval policy and that in the course of a reply Tweedmouth had communicated to the Kaiser many details of the forthcoming navy estimates before these had been presented to the House of Commons. Tweedmouth was on these grounds popularly credited with something like an act of treason. A private and unpublished correspondence with the German Emperor had taken place, and the public knowledge of that fact may have been due to a conversational indiscretion on Tweedmouth's part. In other respects the circumstances were misrepresented and Tweedmouth was unjustly censured by public opinion. No one can blame a minister for receiving a private letter from a foreign sovereign. Nor can he in common courtesy refrain from answering the letter. All that is required of him is to frame his answer with the full knowledge and sanction of his colleagues. This condition was scrupulously fulfilled by Tweedmouth, though the fact was not fully disclosed at the time. There was no premature disclosure of the estimates to the Kaiser. Tweedmouth sent in his reply no information except what was also given to Parliament at the same time. An indispensable act of courtesy was controlled throughout by ministerial authority higher than Tweedmouth's own. The first insidious assaults of cerebral malady may account for Tweedmouth's sole fault in talking too unreservedly about the correspondence.

Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's resignation followed soon after this misunderstanding (5 April 1908), one of his last official acts being to nominate Tweedmouth for a knighthood of the Thistle. On Mr. Asquith's succession as prime minister and some reconstruction of the government, Tweedmouth relinquished the Admiralty and became lord president of the council. But his ministerial career was practically at an end. Within a few weeks he was stricken down by a cerebral attack from when he never recovered sufficiently to resume any kind of public work. He finally resigned his office in Sept. 1908. During the last few months of his life he resided at the chief secretary's lodge in the Phœnix Park at Dublin, which had been lent by his colleague Mr. Birrell in order that he might be under the care of his sister, the Countess of Aberdeen, the wife of the viceroy. There he died on 15 Sept. 1909. He was buried in the family burying-ground in Chirnside churchyard, Berwickshire, where his wife had previously been buried. In her memory he had restored and greatly beautified this church, which was not far from Hutton Castle, a residence which his father had purchased, restored, and enlarged. He was succeeded in the title by his only child, Dudley Churchill.

A cartoon portrait by "Spy" appeared in Vanity Fair in 1894.


  • "Lord Tweedmouth" (Obituaries). The Times. Thursday, 16 September, 1909. Issue 39066, col C, p. 13.
  • Aberdeen, Ishbel. ed. (1909). Edward Marjoribanks Lord Tweedmouth. K.T. 1849-1909: Notes and Recollections. London: Constable and Company Limited.


See Also

Political Appointments
Preceded by
The Rt. Hon. The Earl Cawdor
First Lord of the Admiralty
1905 – 1908
Succeeded by
The Rt. Hon. Reginald McKenna


  1. November Issue. Quoted in Marder. p. 22.