Letters from David Lloyd George to his brother

The 3292 letters from David Lloyd George to his brother William George, a Cricieth solicitor, are part of the William George Papers purchased by the National Library in 1989. They span the period from 1886 to 1943, but there are very few letters from the years after 1917. Many of the early letters were written in different parts of Wales, while most of the later letters, written when Lloyd George was at the height of his power, were sent from Westminster. They complement admirably the long series of just over 2,000 letters, dated 1886-1936, which Lloyd George wrote to his first wife Dame Margaret. These were purchased by the Library in 1969 and subsequently designated as NLW MSS 20403-42 (sometimes known as the Brynawelon group).

Generally the letters which Lloyd George wrote to his brother are fuller, more detailed, more revealing and more intensely political than the letters to Dame Margaret. William George was himself fascinated by political life. He savoured the sometimes highly confidential political gossip which poured from the pen of his elder brother, and was more than willing to act as his local political agent within the Caernarfon Boroughs. Small wonder that Lloyd George wrote regularly to his brother, often daily, on occasion twice or even three times a day. He wrote secure in the knowledge that his epistles would also be read avidly by his revered Uncle Lloyd.

These letters are especially full for the period up until Lloyd George's appointment to the cabinet as President of the Board of Trade at the end of 1905. Thereafter, many of them are very brief, hastily scribbled notes, but they have the inestimable advantage of giving their author's immediate, uncensored gut reaction to events as they occur. Occasionally these were national events of momentous significance. Political news and family gossip intermingle freely as the author alternates easily between English and Welsh, perhaps to defeat the prying eyes of the security services.

Many of the early letters to William discuss legal cases in some detail and the affairs of the family legal business Lloyd George and George more generally, the profits from which enabled the ambitious young politician to remain at Westminster prior to the introduction of the payment of MPs in 1911. Many of the key turning points in Lloyd George's political career are graphically illustrated in the letters, and new light is cast on the internal politics of the Caernarfon Boroughs, Lloyd George's role at the time of the Boer War and his campaign against the provisions of Balfour's Education Act of 1902. Subsequent letters refer to Lloyd George's appointment as President of the Board of Trade and his promotion to be Chancellor of the Exchequer by Asquith in April 1908. There are also many references to the preparation, presentation and aftermath of the famous 'People's Budget' of 1909, the industrial and Suffragette militancy of the early years of the century, and the events of the First World War. Lloyd George's work at the Ministry of Munitions and the War Office are referred to in a number of brief notes, as is his appointment as Prime Minister at the height of World War One in December 1916. The letters abound with references to contemporaries, notably fellow Liberal politicians. The letters are also immensely revealing with regard to Lloyd George's relationship with members of his family.

This splendid archive has not been generally available to historians and biographers until now, and very few writers had been able to make use of its riches. Herbert du Parcq was granted access to the papers before the First World War when he was researching his Life of David Lloyd George (4 volumes, London, 1912-22). They have also been used most extensively by William George in his My brother and I (London, 1958), and by W. R. P. George in his The Making of Lloyd George (London, 1976) and Lloyd George: Backbencher (London, 1983). A useful outline of the Lloyd George archives is available in J. Graham Jones, Lloyd George Papers at the National Library of Wales and other repositories (Aberystwyth, 2001).

Gregynog Gallery

On 7th and 10th - 14th November the Gregynog Gallery will be hosting Arad Goch Theatre Company.

The Dylan exhibition will remain open as usual to the public, although visitors are advised there may be some disruption in the gallery during this period.

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