Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, O.M.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28 March 1945.

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Viscountess Astor:

If the words of my mouth could express the meditations of my heart at this moment, I could speak with the tongue of angels in paying tribute to that great man, Lloyd George. I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me a few moments to speak about him. First I want to say how grateful the women of my generation were to him because, even in their darkest hour when they were fighting for the suffrage, Mr. Lloyd George backed them and thought they were worthy of citizenship. Well do I remember Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Arthur James Balfour, both champions of the women's cause, leading the first woman up the aisle of the old House of Commons. This woman could not help feeling that though they had wanted women to enter the race, they were slightly embarrassed at having to lead in the winner. After I had been in the House some time I understood and respected their shyness, and I also respected them for that quality which Henry James said was a British characteristic, that "dauntless decency" when they had to perform a task which I do not think they ever expected they would have to perform.

I want to talk of the characteristics that seemed to me to form the greatness of Lloyd George. Of all men I have ever known he was freer than any from personal vanity. I shall never forget the night after the armistice, when a few of us dined with him in Downing Street. As we came out of the dining room I looked at an appalling oil painting of him, and I asked him why on earth he did not get John Sargent to do a good one of him. He replied quite simply: "I would like to have asked him to paint me, but I am told he is tired of painting portraits, so I never asked him." It never entered his head, even at that supreme moment of his life, that he would be asking Sargent to paint the world's foremost figure. There was no vanity there.

Secondly, there was a quality he had which we all knew and realised. He was more free from "side" and snobbishness than any man I have ever met in public life. He was far too great a gentleman in the real sense of the word either to be a snob or to be class conscious. We know how he hated and fought inherited privileges, and some of us helped him. Yet he never hated the privileged. He was far too great either to hate or to fear. That always struck me as unique. He might have so easily in these bitter fights carried a little hate in his heart, but I never saw it. I should not have called Mr. Lloyd George a spiritually-minded man, but yet he loved and respected goodness, and he certainly recognised it. He always seemed to me to be a man who had walked with men who had walked with God. He was a great Nonconformist, and he never conformed to the shams and shibboleths of this wicked world.

We all know his passionate love of mankind, and that made him hate war with all his heart. I remember his showing me soon after the war a letter from General Plumer after he had entered Cologne. Lloyd George had a great admiration for him and said he was one of his doughtiest generals. General Plumer wrote that the battle was over and the victory won, and he hoped very much, after seeing some of the conditions of the children in Germany, that the Allies' plan would not be to starve children. If so, he said he would ask to be relieved of his task. Mr. Lloyd George was delighted with that, because he always knew that the wisdom of man was far better than the weapons of warfare. Yet no one was a bonnier fighter. I always thought that the secret of his vitality during those years of war was the same as that of our present Prime Minister; he took his job and not himself seriously. He, like the Prime Minister to-day, realised that he was fighting the good fight, and, like the Prime Minister again, he fought it with all his might. When the day was finished he, as the Prime Minister does, went to sleep and slept peacefully. Mr. Lloyd George was further like the Prime Minister; he was not a weary Titan, and we ought to be very grateful to both of them for that.

Lastly, Mr. Lloyd George was, above all public men I have ever known—and by public men I do not mean only politicians—the most simple, the most natural and the easiest to talk to. The limelight never blinded his vision. He will ever live as a symbol of British democracy. He wanted freedom and a better world for all mankind, and the whole world is better for his fight for the things he thought right.

It is curious that we sometimes hear him spoken of as a common man. He was a most uncommon man. The Americans speak of Abraham Lincoln as a common man, but there has never been any other man like Abraham Lincoln, and if there had been other men like these two uncommon men, I do not believe we should be at war to-day. The common men of both countries believe in democracy, and have every reason to be grateful to these two great men.

We can thank God that Lloyd George passed away peacefully in his sleep, but I cannot help thinking that when he slipped through the portals of this weary world he would rather have slipped through from the doors of his beloved House of Commons than from those of their Lordships. It is hard to speak of Mr. Lloyd George without great emotion. Nobody will ever be able to describe accurately what he was but I, like other people, feel that if democracy is on a sound footing in this country at this time, that has as much to do with Mr. Lloyd George as with any single British man who has ever lived, and I am proud of my friendship with him and am grateful for all that he did for the causes which he loved so well.