Edward Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax Biography

(British Ambassador to the United States (1940-46))

Birthday: April 16, 1881 (Aries)

Born In: Powderham Castle, Devon, England

Edward Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax, was a renowned British politician. Born as the youngest son of Second Viscount of Halifax, he became heir to his father’s title at the death of his elder brothers. After earning a first-class degree in modern history he served as a fellow at All Souls College for seven years. Thereafter, he entered the British Parliament and quickly gained in importance. At the age of 45, he was created the Baron Irwin, of Kirby Underdale in the County of York and appointed the Viceroy of India, serving diligently in this capacity for five years. Thereafter, he returned to England, succeeding his father as the 3rd Viscount of Halifax within a short period. He became the Foreign Secretary at the age of 57 and US Ambassador at 59. At the age of 63, he was created the 1st Earl of Halifax for his contribution to the Allied war effort.

Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In April

Also Known As: Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax

Died At Age: 78


Spouse/Ex-: Dorothy Onslow Wood (m. 1909–1959), Dorothy Onslow Wood (m. 1909–1959)

father: Charles Wood, 2nd Viscount Halifax

mother: Lady Agnes Courtenay

children: 2nd Earl of Halifax, Anne Duncombe, Baron Holderness, Charles Wood, Countess of Feversham, Lady Mary Wood, Major Hon Francis Wood, Richard Wood

Born Country: England

Political Leaders British Men

Height: 6'5" (196 cm), 6'5" Males

Died on: December 23, 1959

place of death: Garrowby Hall, Yorkshire, England

Notable Alumni: Christ Church

City: Devon, England

Cause of Death: Heart Attack

More Facts

education: Eton College, Christ Church

Childhood & Early Life
Edward Frederick Lindley Wood was born on 16 April 1881 at the Powderham Castle, Devon. His father, Charles Lindley Wood, 2nd Viscount Halifax, was the President of English Church Union and served as Groom of the Chamber to Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, from 1862 till 1877. His mother, Lady Agnes Elizabeth Courtenay, was the daughter of William Courtenay, 11th Earl of Devon.
Born youngest of his parents’ six children, Edward had two surviving sisters, Hon. Alexandra Mary Elizabeth Wood and Hon. Mary Agnes Emily Wood.
He also had three elder brothers; Hon. Charles Reginald Lindley Wood, Hon. Francis Hugh Lindley Wood and Hon. Henry Paul Lindley Wood, all of who died young. As a result, Edward became the heir to his father's title and wealth at the age of nine.
In September 1892, he was enrolled at St David's Preparatory School, where he studied for two years. Thereafter, he moved to the Eton College in September 1894. However, he did not enjoy his early schooling and did not show any talent either in classics or sports.
In October 1899, he entered Christ Church, Oxford. It was here that he excelled in studies, eventually obtaining a first-class degree in modern history from University of Oxford in 1903. During this period, he showed no interest in politics.
In November 1903, he became a fellow at All Souls College, remaining with the institution till 1910. Meanwhile in 1904-1905, he went on a grand tour, visiting South Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand. Next in 1907, he visited Canada and in 1909 published a short biography of John Keble
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In January 1910, Edward Wood entered the parliament as a Conservative Party member, winning the seat of Ripon, Yorkshire, by 1000 votes. During his first tenure, he fought bitterly for the right of the House of Lords to veto legislations and opposed the Welsh Church Act 1914.
Already a captain of the Queen's Own Yorkshire Dragoons, he joined the First World War in 1916 and was sent to France. He was promoted to the post of a major. From 1917 to 1918, he served as the Deputy Director of Labour Supply at the Ministry of National Service.
In 1918, he returned to the parliament and in April 1919 signed Lowther Petition, which called for harsh peace terms against Germany. He was more active during his second tenure, leading to his appointment as the Undersecretary of State for the Colonies in 1921-1922.
In October 1925, after short stints as the President of the Board of Education (1922-1924) and the Minister of Agriculture (1924-1925), Wood was appointed the Viceroy of India. He was also raised to peerage as the Baron Irwin, of Kirby Underdale in the County of York.
Viceroy of India
On 1 April 1926, Baron Irwin arrived in Bombay, succeeding Rufus Isaac as the Viceroy of India. At that time, India was going through an intense struggle. He did his best to reconcile the differences between the British and Indians, trying to keep the country within the British Commonwealth.
He also tried to make India’s constitutional development a reality, in the process developing friendship with Indian leadership, having several rounds of meetings with M.K. Gandhi. Concurrently, he was very strict about armed revolt, never shying away from signing death warrants, which he felt justified.
During his stay in India, there was more than one attempt to assassinate him. However, he faced them bravely and continued to serve the British monarch in a way he thought fit. Eventually he returned to England on 3 May 1931 with considerable prestige.
British Politics
In 1932, Edward Wood became the President of the Board of Education, holding the position till 1935. Meanwhile in 1934, he succeeded his father as Viscount Halifax. Also during this period, he helped in drafting what became the Government of India Act 1935.
In 1935, he became the Secretary for State for War. Later in the same year, he was appointed as the Lord Privy Seal and the Leader of the House of Lords, serving in this position till 1937, when he became the Lord President of the Council.
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On 21 February 1938, he was appointed Foreign Secretary in the ministry of Neville Chamberlain. Although initially he supported the policy of appeasement towards Hitler and visited Benito Mussolini in January 1939, he later changed his views, supporting Britain’s war efforts as the Second World War broke out.
In December 1940, he was appointed British Ambassador to the US, holding the position till 1 May 1946. Initially, he was not very popular, often being targeted by egg-throwing peace demonstrators. But eventually he earned their trust, working diligently to foster Anglo-US goodwill.
On his return home, he refused any further government post; but continued to be active in the House of Lords, taking part in the debate over Indian Independence. During this period, he also penned down his memoirs, ‘Fullness of Days’, which he published in 1957.
Awards & Achievements
In 1944, he was created 1st Earl of Halifax in recognition of his service to the Allied cause.
Family & Personal Life
On 21 September 1909, Edward Wood married Lady Dorothy Evelyn Augusta Onslow, daughter of William Onslow, 4th Earl of Onslow. They had four surviving children; Lady Anne Dorothy Wood, Charles Ingram Courtenay Wood, 2nd Earl of Halifax, Major Hon Francis Hugh Peter Courtenay Wood and Richard Frederick Wood, Baron Holderness.
On 23 December 1959, he died of a heart attack at his estate at Garrowby. He was then 78 years old and was survived by his wife and three children. Major Hon Francis Hugh Peter Courtenay had died in action during the Second World War while another daughter, Lady Mary Agnes Wood, had died in infancy.
Halifax College at the University of York is named after him.
Edward Wood was born with an atrophied left arm and had no left hand. Later, he was fitted with an artificial left hand that had a spring-operated thumb, which enabled him lead a normal life and enjoy sports like riding, shooting and hunting.
Because he was religiously devout, Winston Churchill used to call him Holy Fox.

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