Grey, Sir Edward, First Viscount Grey of Fallodon
- Grey, Sir Edward, First Viscount Grey of Fallodon
British foreign secretary from 1905 to 1916, Sir Edward Grey had much to do with taking the country in World War I. Descended from an old Whig family with a tradition of military and political service, and distantly related to the Earl Grey of the great reform bill, Grey had an undistinguished academic career at Balliol, Oxford. In 1884, he became private secretary to Sir Evelyn Baring, later Lord Cromer, effectively the British proconsul in Egypt. Elected to parliament as a Liberal in 1885, Grey remained loyal to William Gladstone during the split of the Liberal Party over home rule the next year. When Lord Rosebery went to the Foreign Office in Gladstone’s 1892 government, Grey became his parliamentary undersecretary , and thus the department’s voice in the Commons.
In opposition after the Liberal defeat of 1895, Grey aligned himself with the Liberal imperialists in supporting British actions at Fashoda and in South Africa. When the Liberals returned to power under Henry Campbell-Bannerman in 1905, Grey went to the foreign office. Although ruling out a firm commitment to defend France against Germany, Grey permitted the Anglo-French military staff talks begun under the Tories to continue. The Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 drew Britain yet closer to the Entente powers. In 1914, Grey strongly insisted to the House of Commons that Britain must intervene against Germany; however, he also remarked, famously and prophetically, that “the lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” Grey was left out of Lloyd George’s 1916 cabinet, thus ending his official life after more than a decade at the foreign office.
See also <>; <>, 1914; <>; <>.
Albertini, Luigi. The Origins of the War of 1914. 3 vols. Translated by Isabella Mellis Massey. New York: Oxford University Press, 1952;
Robbins, Keith. Sir Edward Grey: A Biography of Lord Grey of Fallodon, London: Cassell, 1971;
Trevelyan, G. M. Grey of Fallodon, London: Longmans, Green, 1937.
MARK F. PROUDMAN
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914.
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