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David Lindsay, 27th Earl of Crawford

David Alexander Edward Lindsay, 27th Earl of Crawford and 10th Earl of Balcarres, KT, PC, DL, FRS, FSA[1] (10 October 1871 – 8 March 1940), styled Lord Balcarres or Lord Balniel between 1880 and 1913, was a British Conservative politician and art connoisseur.

The Earl of Crawford

President of the Board of Agriculture
In office
11 July 1916 – 5 December 1916
MonarchGeorge V
Prime MinisterH. H. Asquith
Preceded byThe Earl of Selborne
Succeeded byRowland Prothero
Lord Privy Seal
In office
15 December 1916 – 10 January 1919
MonarchGeorge V
Prime MinisterDavid Lloyd George
Preceded byThe Earl Curzon of Kedleston
Succeeded byBonar Law
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
10 January 1919 – 1 April 1921
MonarchGeorge V
Prime MinisterDavid Lloyd George
Preceded byThe Lord Downham
Succeeded byThe Viscount Peel
First Commissioner of Works
In office
1 April 1921 – 19 October 1922
MonarchGeorge V
Prime MinisterDavid Lloyd George
Preceded bySir Alfred Mond, Bt
Succeeded bySir John Baird, Bt
Minister of Transport
In office
12 April 1922 – 19 October 1922
MonarchGeorge V
Prime MinisterDavid Lloyd George
Preceded byThe Viscount Peel
Succeeded bySir John Baird, Bt
Personal details
Born(1871-10-10)10 October 1871
Dunecht, Aberdeenshire
Died8 March 1940(1940-03-08) (aged 68)
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)Constance Pelly (d. 1947)
Alma materMagdalen College, Oxford
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Battles/warsWorld War I


Background and educationEdit

Born at Dunecht, Aberdeenshire, Crawford was the eldest son of James Lindsay, 26th Earl of Crawford and 9th Earl of Balcarres and his wife Emily Florence, daughter of Colonel the Hon. Edward Bootle-Wilbraham. The Hon. Sir Ronald Lindsay was his younger brother. He was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford.[2]

His family had extensive mining interests on the Lancashire Coalfield at Haigh near Wigan where his family had a seat at Haigh Hall. He was chairman of the Wigan Coal and Iron Company and its successor the Wigan Coal Corporation.[3]

During World War I, in early 1915, at 43 years of age, and having refused an offer of the Viceroyalty of India, he enlisted as a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps, which was almost unheard of at that time as hereditary peers and their heirs or university graduates such as himself were generally commissioned as officers. Prior to the war he had held the rank of Captain in the 1st (Volunteer) Battalion, Manchester Regiment.[2] He thus swapped palaces in India and the prospect of a comfortable administrative position for the reality of a front line clearing station's operating theatre. At times up to 1,000 casualties each day passed through the clearing station at Hazebrouck, where he was stationed. This was when he developed what were described by his granddaughter, Rose Luce, as 'mixed feelings' about members of the officer classes (his own 'class', of course). In 2013 his diaries of his experiences were published as the memoir Private Lord Crawford's Great War Diaries: From Medical Orderly to Cabinet Minister, edited by his grandson Christopher Arnander.[4][5]

Political careerEdit

Crawford was elected Member of Parliament for Chorley in 1895[2][6] and served as a Junior Lord of the Treasury from 1903 to 1905 under Arthur Balfour. After the Conservatives went into opposition in 1905 he was Chief Conservative Whip in the House of Commons between 1911 and 1913. The latter year he succeeded his father in the earldom and took his seat in the House of Lords (in virtue of his junior title of Baron Wigan, which was in the Peerage of the United Kingdom).[2] In July 1916 Crawford was admitted to the Privy Council[7] and appointed President of the Board of Agriculture, with a seat in the cabinet, in the coalition government of H. H. Asquith.[8]

When David Lloyd George became Prime Minister in December 1916, Crawford became Lord Privy Seal.[9] In January 1919 Lloyd George appointed him Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster,[2] but removed him from the cabinet. He was made First Commissioner of Works in April 1921,[10] and in April of the following year he was also made Minister of Transport,[11] and restored to the cabinet. He retained these two posts until the coalition government fell in October 1922.[2]

Apart from his political career Crawford was Chancellor of the University of Manchester between 1923 and 1940, a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery and a Deputy Lieutenant of Lancashire. He became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1900 also of the Royal Society[1] in 1924 and was made a Knight of the Thistle in 1921.[2]


Lord Balcarres married, at St Margaret's, Westminster, on 25 January 1900, Constance Lilian Pelly, daughter of Sir Henry Pelly, 3rd Baronet.[12] They had eight children, two sons and six daughters. One daughter, Lady Mary Lilian Lindsay (1910–2004), married Reginald Manningham-Buller, 1st Viscount Dilhorne, Lord Chancellor of Great Britain from 1962 to 1964, whose daughter was Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, Director-General of MI5 from 2002 to 2007. Their younger son the Hon. James Lindsay was Member of Parliament for Devon North. Lord and Lady Crawford's fifth daughter Lady Katharine Constance Lindsay married Sir Godfrey Nicholson, 1st Baronet, and was the mother of Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne.

The Earl said of himself that "he was publicly known as the premier Scots earl, whereas in reality he was a Lancashire coal merchant". On one occasion he invited the other governors of the John Rylands Library to view an exhibition of the treasures of his library and a number of other professors of the Victoria University of Manchester were also present. Among these was the professor of commerce, George William Daniels, who paid the earl and countess the following compliment, "You know, it's worth five centuries of breeding to breed two like those".[13]

Lord Crawford died in March 1940, aged 68, and was succeeded in his titles by his eldest son David, Lord Balniel. The Countess of Crawford died in January 1947.[2]


  1. ^ a b Bragg, W. H. (1941). "David Lindsay, Earl of Crawford and Balcarres. 1871-1940". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society. 3 (9): 404. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1941.0011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h David Alexander Edward Lindsay, 27th Earl of Crawford.
  3. ^ The Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, The Rt. Hon., Durham Mining Museum, retrieved 7 February 2011.
  4. ^ "Diaries of Lord Crawford: The secret war of the Fife earl who gave it all up to serve as a Western Front squaddie". Daily Record. 9 November 2013.
  5. ^ "Private Lord Crawford's Great War diaries". 6 November 2013.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ House of Commons: Chichester to Clitheroe.
  7. ^ "No. 29667". The London Gazette. 14 July 1916. p. 6975.
  8. ^ "No. 29667". The London Gazette. 14 July 1916. p. 6977.
  9. ^ "No. 29875". The London Gazette. 22 December 1916. p. 12471.
  10. ^ "No. 32292". The London Gazette. 15 April 1922. p. 2989.
  11. ^ "No. 32677". The London Gazette. 21 April 1922. p. 3135.
  12. ^ "Court Circular". The Times (36049). London. 26 January 1900. p. 9.
  13. ^ Charlton, H. B. (1951) Portrait of a University, 1851--1951. Manchester: Manchester University Press; pp. 122-23.

Further readingEdit

  • Lindsay, David (1984) The Crawford Papers: the journals of David Lindsay, 27th Earl of Crawford and 10th Earl of Balcarres, 1871–1940, during the years 1892 to 1940; edited by John Vincent. Manchester: Manchester University Press
  • Arnander, Christopher, ed. (2013). Private Lord Crawford's Great War Diaries: From Medical Orderly to Cabinet Minister. Pen and Sword Books. ISBN 978-1781593677.

External linksEdit