The Social Affairs Unit

Print Version • Website Home • Weblog Home

Use the buttons below to change the style and font size of our site.
Screen version     Print version:   
February 06, 2009

Christie Davies has enjoyed Ffion Hague's book about Lloyd George's women both as a portrait of the land of his fathers and for the scandal: The Pain and the Privilege: The Women in Lloyd George's Life - Ffion Hague

Posted by Christie Davies

The Pain and the Privilege: The Women in Lloyd George's Life
by Ffion Hague
London: Harper, 2008
Hardback, £25; Paperback, £8.99

Mrs Ffion Hague has given us a thorough and interesting account of the wives, mistresses and daughters of David Lloyd George, the most famous, important and hated politician Wales has ever produced. He clipped the wings of the House of Lords, created Britain's original Bismarckian welfare state, led the country to victory in World War I, expanded the British Empire to its greatest extent, resisted the Bolsheviks, supported the heroic Black and Tans and disestablished the Anglican church in Wales.

The peers hated him, the landed classes hated him, the Anglicans hated him, the Germans hated him, the Irish hated him, and the Kurds hated him because he had bombed them. Binter and Bilger still hate him and demonstrated against the unveiling of Lloyd George's statue in Parliament Square between Churchill and Smuts, by the Prince of Wales, because LLG was in the habit of using the N word. Not bad for a man from the most remote of provincial peninsulas; one immediately thinks of Freud's tribute to Adler after the latter's death in Aberdeen.

Without Lloyd George's fame his women would be of no interest to anyone. Can you imagine a book called The Women in Edward Heath's Life or The Women in the Life of Joynson-Hix? It is Lloyd George's achievements that give a validity and a vitality to Ffion Hague's book. In a sense her book is about her own future, for one day, perhaps two years from now, William Hague will be Prime Minister. Now that David Davis has gone barmy, William Hague is the decisive, confident, intelligent man who will succeed after Cameron's six months in office and Ffion and her daughter will be Hague's women. Once in Number 10 she will like Mrs Wilson and Dennis Thatcher become a source of satire in Private Eye, perhaps more.

A structuralist or a Daoist would rejoice in the very existence of this book. Hague the reactionary English Tory and bluff, bald Tyke is the biographer of Pitt the younger, the lonely man who saved us from Napoleon. His wife is the Welshest of the Welsh Welsh and has written about the women of the radical outsider who defeated the Kaiser. The couple's story is well known, a modern fairytale with a happy ending.

The tough young Hague was sent to Cardiff by a Conservative government as Secretary of State for Wales to repress the unruly Cambrians. He was intended to be a late twentieth century version of Arthur Balfour's dealing with Ireland. He did not want to look as foolish as John Redwood did when he botched the singing of the Welsh anthem, Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi …at the Eisteddfod; just imagine "My Hain oo-laad vurn'ad-ay 'un annoyle ee me" in the Yorkshire accent of "On Ilkley Moor baht 'at".

So he called for a civil servant from the Welsh office to coach him and expected a dry old boy from Ceredigion about to retire. But the Welsh are as foxy as a foxglove and they produced a young blonde enchantress who sang to the gruff Viceroy for hours like Owain Glyndwr's daughter to Mortimer. Her grandchildren will be as English as Glyndwr's were. You can read about the young Ffion Jenkins in my work of Welsh fiction, Dewi the Dragon, for her name and picture inspired me to create the heroine Mair Jenkins; the mature Ffion appears again in the book as Mrs Hawthorn-Jones, wife of a Yorkshireman.

Unlike most popular female historians, Ffion Jenkins has read the original papers and letters herself; Welsh is her first language, which would have been a necessity for dealing with the family material in the National Library, particularly in relation to Lloyd George's first wife Maggie Owen.

Mrs Hague grew up in a hermetically sealed Welsh language bubble; she was born into the crachach of Cardiff and educated in the Welsh medium institutions Ysgol Gyfan Llanhari and Jesus College and wrote her M.Phil in Welsh. This has its advantages in that she grew up in a fossil remnant of the social world from which Lloyd George and his first wife originated. She writes of herself,

Calvinistic Methodism, nationalism, education and poetry are all vitally important factors in my Wales.
Somehow I doubt if that is true of Splott or Bon y Maen but then that is the Wales of the plebs. Calvinistic Methodism is all but dead in South Wales; even the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan fawr, deserted their ranks to join the Episcopalians and dress up in drag. Mrs Hague's Wales is still that of the shtetlach of Lloyd George's Gwynedd and this will have given her a special insight into the life of his first wife.

The problem is that she sometimes reproduces the myths of that world when a more revisionist approach might be more enlightening. At the peak of Lloyd George's career most of the people in Wales lived in the industrial South and a majority of them were English speaking. Unskilled labour had poured into Wales from rustic Gloucestershire and Somerset and from as far away as Scotland and Ireland to work in mining and metallurgy. Wales was swamped by immigration just as England soon will be. What saved matters in the short run was that the immigrants were recruited into English speaking Welsh Nonconformist chapels – Kinnockland.

Now the Scousers are taking over North Wales and the Brummies the middle. Why should they choose to be Welsh nationalists, enemies of Pelagius or devotees of crossword puzzle poetry? I leave it to you to read the first section of Mrs Hague's book and to judge whether Dame Margaret Lloyd George's world really was as she describes or whether that is simply how nationalistically minded Welsh speakers then and now like to think it was.

The national myths of those who see themselves as downtrodden can be as damaging to themselves as to those they define as the powerful, oppressive "other". Revisionist historians have now emancipated the Irish and the Israelis from their nonsense; it is time for the Welsh to catch them up. There are few things worse for a people than to seek comfort in positive stereotypes.

For English readers the main interest will be in Lloyd George's other women. He was a randy old scoundrel who amply justified his nickname of "the goat"; no politician today can rival him, not John Prescott, not David Blunkett, not "Back to Basics" John Major having it off with Edwina Curry, not Boris Johnson, not even ‘"Shagger" Norris, Boris's predecessor as Tory candidate for London.

Reading Ffion Hague's account it is amazing how Lloyd George managed to conceal it all so successfully in that far more respectable society than ours, though of course the press exercised more restraint at that time. But why did his opponents not exploit the facts as they did with Parnell - Ffion Hague has some interesting views on this.

Certainly the voters in South Wales did not believe the rumours about his goathood. My great-grandmother in Pontarddulais only worked it out when he married his chief mistress after his first wife's death. My great-grandmother, a pillar of Hope Chapel (Annibynwr) and a fanatical Lloyd George supporter, dropped her allegiance overnight and denounced him as fiercely as Dante Riordan had Parnell.

Mrs Hague quotes Lloyd George as writing of Parnell

Here he is quite a young man having attained the greatest career of this century, dashing it to pieces because he couldn't restrain a single passion.
Later Lloyd George called Parnell "a base selfish wretch". Yet Parnell was merely unlucky, for as Ffion Hague points out, even Gladstone accepted Mrs O'Shea as Parnell's consort until it all went public and shocked the voters. How could Lloyd George denounce him for passion? Parnell had got away with it for nine years and had fathered Kitty O'Shea's three bastards. "A single passion"?

By contrast we learn that Lloyd George had multiple passions, even in his own back yard of North Wales. Within months of his first marriage Lloyd George was carrying on with a fancy woman, "Mrs. J", a well-known Liberal activist, a widow in Caernarfon. According to Lloyd George's eldest son Richard, she had his child and

accepted an annuity for life with the condition that no documentary evidence or photographs of the child came to light.
A Mrs Catherine Edwards of Mathafern in North Wales also claimed to have had a child by Lloyd George. In 1943 Lloyd George's son Richard came, in Ffion Hague's words, ,blockquote>face to face in a London pub with a man who was his physical double. Dick struck up a conversation and discovered that the stranger was an illegitimate son of Lloyd George's and ….received a pension of £400 a year for life.(A tidy sum in those days). Given that Richard got nothing after his father's death and now had to live up to his grand new position as the second Earl of Dwyfor and Viscount Gwynedd, he was very angry about it. Many others in North Wales claim, without proof, descent from Lloyd George. They prefer (like Abraham Lincoln or Bernard Bracken) the myth of an illegitimate descent from someone illustrious to the harsh truth that their ancestors were peasant clods.

However, there is doubt about the paternity of the illegitimate child of Frances Stephenson, mistress, and second wife of Lloyd George, Countess of Dwyfor. She had had two abortions of children fathered by Lloyd George and became ill and depressed. When she did have a child, Jennifer, at the age of 40, she was also having an affair with a Colonel Tweed. She pretended the child was the offspring of missionaries in China and had been adopted. Lloyd George never acknowledged paternity and Tweed was a good cover story. Frances Stevenson's daughter Jennifer Longford seems to have had her DNA tested but Ffion Hague is a little evasive about the result writing,

Whatever her DNA might say, Lloyd George was the father in Jennifer's life.
There is of course much else in this book about Lloyd George's women. Frances Stevenson took a third class honours degree in Classics at Royal Holloway College (the equivalent of a first in 2008). His daughter Megan Lloyd George was Liberal M.P. for Sir Fôn and later Labour MP for Caerfyrddin, taking over a former Liberal seat. Yet the interesting new piece of information is that Megan had a long affair with the married Labour M.P. Phillip Noel-Baker. On her deathbed her mother Margaret made her break off the relationship, lest she go to that Hell reserved for adulterous Calvinistic Methodist women but she was soon back in bed with him.

When his wife died, Noel-Baker had a sudden pang of conscience and refused to marry Megan. He did not even go to her funeral. What a complete shit he must have been. Other than that, why should we be in any way interested in Lady Megan Lloyd George? What did she ever do for us?

Ffion Hague's book is fascinating but it carries a quite unintended social message that she would repudiate, namely that women's achievements are less important than their relationships with men. Lloyd George's many amours are amusing and perhaps a source of envy to other men but the want of chastity in the lives of many of his women is scandalous. The double standard is an essential part of the social order of any worthwhile society.

Dr Christie Davies is the author of The Strange of Death of Moral Britain and a world expert on past bastards.

Comments Notice
This comments facility is the property of the Social Affairs Unit.
We reserve the right to edit, amend or remove comments for legal reasons, policy reasons or any other reasons we judge fit.

By posting comments here you accept and acknowledge the Social Affairs Unit's absolute and unfettered right to edit your comments as set out above.

There are many references to Lloyd George in The Outline of Sanity, a Life of G.K.Chesterton by Alzina Stone Dale, ISBN 0802835503. One can see how the political shenanigans of that time are not so different from those of our own, although the main actors seem to be somewhat more competent. But when the Professor writes;

The double standard is an essential part of the social order of any worthwhile society.

I could throw The Book at him, saying;

Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they . . . give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:32)

But perhaps I would prefer to throw his own book The Strange of Death of Moral Britain at him, inasmuch that coming out with such a statement suggests that he, at least through his public pronouncements, is helping it along. It reminds me of the accusation that the doctor to King George V hastened his end by a few hours so that the announcement would appear in the Times and not the “common” papers.

Posted by: Robert H. Olley at February 8, 2009 02:50 PM

The double standard is certainly an integral part of the social order of Middle Eastern society.

But they are scandalized when Western women demand parity, and this provides fuel for the mentors of young men who are being led into explosive jihad.

Posted by: HedgehogFive at February 8, 2009 09:36 PM


Posted by: SUSAN THOMAS at December 23, 2009 03:43 PM
Post a comment

Anti-spambot Turing code

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, this site is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

The Social Affairs Unit's weblog Privacy Statement