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Alec Douglas-Home

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The Rt Hon Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
19 October 1963 – 16 October 1964
Preceded by Harold Macmillan
Succeeded by Harold Wilson
Personal details
Born 2 July 1903(1903-07-02)
Mayfair, London, England
Died 5 October 1995(1995-10-05) (aged 92)
Coldstream, Berwickshire, Scotland
Political party Conservative (SUP)
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Hester Alington
The Hirsel: the family estate of the Douglas-Home family.

Alec Douglas-Home (Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home,[1] Baron Home of the Hirsel, 2 July 1903 – 9 October 1995) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1963 to 1964.

Home was a Member of Parliament and a junior official (a Parliamentary Private Secretary) when Neville Chamberlain went to Munich to meet Adolf Hitler in 1938. He was present at the main meetings between Hitler and Chamberlain. Later in life, he was appointed by Harold Macmillan as Foreign Secretary in 1960–1963, and again in Edward Heath's government from 1970–1974.

Home's name and title changed a few times during his life. Born as Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, he became Lord Dunglass when his father became the Earl of Home. Dunglass is a junior title, that is, a lower title which is held by the eldest son. When his father died Alec became the 14th Earl of Home. He also became Baron Douglas in the peerage of the United Kingdom (that was also a junior title).

When he was chosen as Leader of the Conservative Party after Harold Macmillan retired, he knew it would be difficult to lead a government from the House of Lords. So he renounced his title, four days after becoming Prime Minister.[2][3] Once he renounced the title, he became simply Sir Alec Douglas-Home. He had been made a Knight of the Thistle in 1962. Finally, after he lost the election of 1963, he was given a life peerage, titled 'Baron Home of the Hirsel'. That title is not hereditary but, after his death, his son became the 15th Earl of Home.

Rapidly, after the title was renounced, arrangements were made. The safe Conservative seat of Kinross and Western Perthshire was vacant, and Douglas-Home was adopted as his party's candidate. Parliament was due to meet on 24 October after the summer recess, but its return was postponed until 12 November pending the by-election.[4] For twenty days Douglas-Home was Prime Minister while a member of neither house of Parliament, a situation without modern precedent.[5] He won the by-election with a majority of 9,328.

The Times considered that his reputation rested not on his brief premiership, but on his two spells as Foreign Secretary: "He brought to the office ... his capacity for straight talking, for toughness towards the Soviet Union and for firmness (sometimes interpreted as a lack of sympathy) towards the countries of Africa and Asia. But he brought something else as well: an unusual degree of international respect".[6]


  1. The last part of his name is pronounced as if it was written 'Hume'.
  2. Hurd, Douglas 2004. Home, Alexander Frederick Douglas-, fourteenth Earl of Home and Baron Home of the Hirsel (1903–1995), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, accessed 14 April 2012 (subscription needed)
  3. Boyd, Francis, and Norman Shrapnel. "Stumbling into Number 10", The Guardian, 10 October 1995, p. 15
  4. Pike, E Royston 1968. Britain's Prime Ministers. London: Odhams, p464. ISBN 0600720322
  5. Technically, no Prime Minister, or any other politician, is a Member of Parliament between the dissolution of one Parliament and the election of another. Home was unusal in being a PM for nearly two weeks while Parliament was sitting while he was without a seat in either chamber. "Dissolution Arrangements", House of Commons, February 2010, accessed 14 April 2012
  6. Obituary [1]