Birthday: September 12, 1852
Died At Age: 75
Sun Sign: Virgo
Also Known As: Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford, Asquith
Born in: Morley
Famous as: Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
political ideology: Political party - Liberal Party
Spouse/Ex-: Countess of Oxford and Asquith, Helen Kelsall Melland, Margot Asquith
children: Anthony Asquith, Arthur Asquith, Baron Asquith of Bishopstone, Cyril Asquith, Elizabeth Bibesco, Herbert Asquith, Maurice Bonham Carter, Raymond Asquith, Violet Bonham Carter
Died on: February 15, 1928
place of death: Sutton Courtenay
education: Balliol College, City Law School, City of London School
Herbert Henry Asquith was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916. Better known as H. H. Asquith, he had served as the Home Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer prior to becoming the Prime Minister. He is credited to have led his country into the First World War but his war-time administration was challenged by a series of military and political crises and he was replaced two years after the war began. Born as the son of a small businessman, he grew up to be a brilliant student and became a qualified lawyer. While practicing law he pursued his political ambitions simultaneously and became the Liberal member for East Fife in the British House of Commons (the lower house of Parliament) in 1886, a position he would hold for over three decades. He rose to power quickly and went on to serve as the Chancellor of the Exchequer under Prime Minister Campbell-Bannerman. At the death of Campbell-Bannerman, Asquith succeeded him as Prime Minister. He was a Liberal and led his party to a multitude of domestic reforms and was generally considered to be successful peacetime leader. However, his inability to be an astute leader during the war tarnished his reputation
Childhood & Early Life
Herbert Henry Asquith was born on 12 September 1852 to Joseph Dixon Asquith and his wife Emily Willans. His father was a wool merchant and their family was a middle-class one.
Herbert was only seven when his father died. He was sent to live with an uncle in London in 1863. He received his schooling from the City of London School.
He was a bright student and won a classical scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford in 1870. He became president of the Oxford Union in the Trinity (summer) term of his fourth year.
After his graduation he enrolled in Lincoln's Inn as a pupil barrister and served his pupilage under Charles Bowen.
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H. H. Asquith was called to the bar in 1876 and within a few years he became a prosperous lawyer. Along with being a lawyer he also harbored political ambitions and was elected to the Parliament in 1886 as the Liberal representative for East Fife, in Scotland.
He became the Home Secretary in Prime Minister William Gladstone's fourth cabinet in 1892. In this position he was responsible for overseeing security-related issues in Great Britain.
His tenure as the Home Secretary helped to establish him as an able administrator with good debating skills. He became one of the leading figures of his party while working in this position.
In the1895 election the Liberals lost power and for the next ten years were in opposition. The Liberals finally returned to power in 1905 and Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman became the Prime Minister. Campbell-Bannerman appointed Asquith as the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer held by Asquith was a powerful Cabinet-level position and he was very influential in the nation’s politics.
In 1908, Campbell-Bannerman became seriously ill and resigned, dying a few days later. H.H. Asquith succeeded him as Prime Minister, assuming his official duties on 5 April 1908.
Asquith appointed David Lloyd George as the Exchequer and made Winston Churchill president of the Board of Trade. Working along with George, he planned to make some big constitutional changes.
The Asquith administration began an extensive social welfare programme with provisions to provide pensions for the elderly and social insurance for those who were unable to find employment due to disability or illness, among others.
The First World War started in 1914. He led his country into the war but could not prove himself to be a good war-time leader. His government was not only slow in decision making, but also lagged behind in implementing tactical strategies. The nation also faced severe munitions shortage in 1915 which hampered Britain’s war efforts.
His incompetency in being a dependable war-time leader earned him a lot of criticism from all fronts. He faced pressure from him own cabinet and resigned in December 1916 and was succeeded by David Lloyd George.
Asquith remained the Leader of the Liberal Party until 1926 but his political career had effectively ended with his resignation as the Prime Minister. He spent his later years writing books, the most notable of which are ‘The Genesis of the War’ (1923), ‘Fifty Years of Parliament’ (1926), and ‘Memories and Reflections’ (1928).
Asquith became much famous for the extensive social welfare programmes, which were undertaken during his administration. He introduced legislations for providing pensions to the elderly and for social insurance for the unemployed, disabled and ill. Working alongside the Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, he presented a radical budget to finance these reforms through land and income taxes.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Helen Kelsall Melland, daughter of a Manchester doctor, in 1877. The couple had five children. Helen died of an illness in 1891.
His second marriage was to Margot Tennant, daughter of Sir Charles Tennant, in 1894. This union resulted in the birth of two more children.
H. H. Asquith was also involved in romantic liaisons with women other than his wives. He was also notorious for being a groper.
He died on 15 February 1928, in Sutton Courtenay, Berkshire, England, United Kingdom, at the age of 75. He used a wheelchair in his later years after suffering a stroke.