Charles Strachey, 4th Baron O'Hagan

Charles Towneley Strachey, 4th Baron O'Hagan (born 6 September 1945), is a British Conservative party politician.

The Lord O'Hagan
Back of Sutton Court.JPG
Sutton Court
Member of the European Parliament
for Devon
In office
Preceded byhe was a delegate
Succeeded byhe was a delegate
In office
1979 – 1994
Preceded byConstituencies established
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
Born (1945-09-06) 6 September 1945 (age 74)
Political partyCrossbencher (1967-73);

Independent (1973-5);

Conservative (1975-present)
RelationsSee Strachey
ResidenceDevon, United Kingdom

Early years and backgroundEdit

O'Hagan was born a godson of Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II. The grandson of Maurice Towneley-O'Hagan, 3rd Baron O'Hagan, he inherited the family title at the age of 16 on his grandfather's death in 1961, his father the Hon. Major Thomas Anthony Edward Towneley Strachey having committed suicide in 1955.[1] He was educated at Eton and New College, Oxford, and served as a Page to Queen Elizabeth II between 1959 and 1961.[2] A relative of the Strachey Baronets, he is the great-great-grandson of Edward Strachey, 1st Baron Strachie.

Political careerEdit

Lord O'Hagan first took his seat in the House of Lords on 5 December 1967,[3] and gave his maiden speech whilst he was still a student.[4]

He was appointed an Independent MEP in December 1972, taking his seat on the day Britain began its EEC membership, 1 January 1973. Between 1973 and 1979, British MEPs were not elected, but were appointed from the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Since the Labour party was opposed to EU membership, it refused to nominate members to the Parliament. Accordingly, O'Hagan was one of a group of Independents and Liberals appointed instead of the Labour nominations.

During this first period as an MEP, O'Hagan tried to introduce the first Bill to allow the European Parliament to be directly elected instead of appointed. On 1 May 1974, he introduced the Bill in the House of Lords, but it was voted down.[5]

The 5 June 1975 referendum on British EEC membership settled the question of Britain's position in Europe, and from that point onwards, the Labour party demanded its share of MEP nominations. O'Hagan thus lost his seat on 3 July 1975 after a joint decision by the Conservative and Labour parties to cease appointing Independents and Liberals to the European Parliament. He then joined the Conservative party and became a whip and a frontbench spokesman for the Conservatives in the House of Lords between 1977 and 1979. He was also involved in the Primrose League before its dissolution, serving as its Chancellor from April 1979 to April 1981.

In the first direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979, he was returned as MEP for Devon as a Conservative, with 61.8% of the vote and a majority of 86,022. He was then re-elected in 1984, when his vote share dropped to 54.7% and his majority fell to 56,620. At the 1989 European Parliament election he was again re-elected, and although his vote share dropped further to 46.4%, a split in the opposition vote meant that his majority actually increased to 57,298. He remained an MEP until his resignation in March 1994. He had been due to contest the 1994 European Parliament election, fighting the newly-drawn constituency of Devon and East Plymouth, but he resigned three months before the election, citing the collapse of his second marriage, commenting "You can't fight an election with your mind on other things."[6][7] In other sections of the press, his resignation was attributed to ill health.[8] Giles Chichester was selected as Conservative candidate in his place, narrowly holding the seat by just 700 votes.

O'Hagan was generally regarded as pro-European,[9] and was described by Jonathan Prynn of The Times as "colourful."[10] Towards the end of his term of office, he suffered from ill health, and his overall attendance record slipped to the second-lowest of any British MEP, behind Ian Paisley.[11]

In 1999, in line with most other hereditary peers, he lost his right to sit in the House of Lords, although he had been on a leave of absence since the previous year, in the wake of declining health.[12] He did not stand for election to become one of the 92 hereditary peers who retained their seats.[13]

Post-political careerEdit

He made headlines in 2008, offering to sell some of his subsidiary titles to pay for medical bills.[14] In 2009, it was reported that Lord O'Hagan had stepped forward on behalf of the Towneley family to claim the title of 15th Lord of Bowland. Previously, this ancient Lancastrian lordship had been thought lost or in the possession of the Crown having disappeared from the historical record in late nineteenth century.[15] The Towneleys had owned the Bowland Forest Estate from 1835 and it transpired that the title had been retained by an extinct family trust.[16] The title was auctioned and later came into the possession of William Bowland, a Cambridge University don who thereby assumed the title 16th Lord of Bowland.[17][18][19]

Personal lifeEdit

Lord O'Hagan has been married three times – firstly to the Georgian Princess Tamar Bagration-Imeretinsky (1967–84), secondly to Mary Roose-Francis (1985–95), and thirdly to Elizabeth Smith (1995–present). He has two daughters – one from each of his first two marriages (Nino, b. 1968; and Antonia, b. 1986) – and his heir presumptive is his younger brother the Hon. Richard Towneley Strachey.[2]

In 1975, he sold the papers of several of his Irish ancestors, including those of the 1st Baron O'Hagan, to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI).[20]

In 1973, he inherited the 14th-century Sutton Court in Somerset, ancestral home of the Stracheys since 1858; the house was left to him after the death of Edward Strachey, 2nd Baron Strachie, who had no heir. In 1987 O'Hagan sold it for conversion into flats.[21] Those paintings of Sutton Court which were not sold in 1987 were sold by O'Hagan in 1994 and 2007.[22]


  1. ^ The Times Wednesday, 28 December 1955; pg. 2; Issue 53413; col F
  2. ^ a b Who's Who 2009
  3. ^ Preamble, Hansard, vol 287, c521, 5 December 1967.
  4. ^ University Students' Discontents, Hansard, vol 293, cc716–830, 19 June 1968.
  5. ^ Sergio Pistone, The Union of European Federalists (Giuffré Editore, Rome, 2008) p.211
  6. ^ "Separate Ways", The Times. London (UK): 1 April 1994.
  7. ^ Your MEPs: The Lord Lord O'Hagan, European Parliament.
  8. ^ "An MEP's lot: Tory defends `poor' attendance record", David Connett, The Independent. London (UK): 24 May 1994
  9. ^ How to needle the commissioners, Diary, The Independent, 4 March 1993.
  10. ^ Jonathan Prynn, "Labour cling to unlikely conquest in South-West", The Times, London (UK): 26 April 1994.
  11. ^ Sarah Lambert and Andrew Marshall, British MEPs pass the value-for-money test, The Independent, 23 May 1994.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Hereditary Peer election results, 1999.
  14. ^ My lord! Four East Lancashire titles up for sale, Lancashire Telegraph, 29 April 2008.
  15. ^ Forest of Bowland official website
  16. ^ Lancashire Evening Post, 1 November 2009:
  17. ^ Lancashire Evening Post, 10 November 2009:
  18. ^ Lancashire Telegraph, 13 November 2009:
  19. ^ "Keeping Up Traditions of Beautiful Bowland". Lancashire Evening Post. 22 April 2010.[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Introduction to the O'Hagan papers (November 2007)
  21. ^ Parks and Gardens UK: Sutton Court, Somerset[permanent dead link]
  22. ^ Tony Kitto (ed.), The Towneley Family Portraits: extracts from the catalogue of the portraits and paintings at Towneley Hall, Lancashire - The seat of Peregrine Edward Towneley Esq. September 1844 Archived 4 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine
European Parliament
Preceded by
Constituency created
Member of European Parliament for Devon
January 1973– July 1975
Preceded by
Member of European Parliament for Devon
June 1979– March 1994
Constituency abolished
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Maurice Towneley-O'Hagan
Baron O'Hagan
1961 – present
The Hon. Richard Towneley Strachey