St John Brodrick, 1st Earl of Midleton

William St John Fremantle Brodrick, 1st Earl of Midleton, KP, PC, DL (14 December 1856 – 13 February 1942), styled as St John Brodrick until 1907 and as Viscount Midleton between 1907 and 1920, was a British Conservative and Irish Unionist Alliance politician. He served as a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1880 to 1906, as a government minister from 1886 to 1892 and from 1895 to 1900, and as a Cabinet minister from 1900 to 1905.

The Earl of Midleton
St John Brodrick, 1st Earl of Midleton, circa 1910s.jpg
Secretary of State for War
In office
12 November 1900 – 12 October 1903
Edward VII
Prime MinisterThe Marquess of Salisbury
Arthur Balfour
Preceded byThe Marquess of Lansdowne
Succeeded byH. O. Arnold-Forster
Secretary of State for India
In office
9 October 1903 – 4 December 1905
MonarchEdward VII
Prime MinisterArthur Balfour
Preceded byLord George Hamilton
Succeeded byJohn Morley
Leader of the Irish Unionist Alliance
In office
Preceded bySir Edward Carson
Succeeded byLord Farnham
Personal details
Born(1856-12-14)14 December 1856[1]
Died13 February 1942(1942-02-13) (aged 85)[1]
Political partyConservative (until 1891)
Irish Unionist Alliance (1891–1919)
Unionist Anti-Partition League (1919–1922)
Spouse(s)(1) Lady Hilda Charteris
(died 1901)
(2) Madeleine Stanley
Children2 sons[1]
Parent(s)William Brodrick, 8th Viscount Midleton &
Hon. Augusta Mary Fremantle
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford

Background and educationEdit

Brodrick came of a mainly south-west Surrey family who in the early 17th century, in Sirs St John and Thomas Brodrick, were granted land in the south of Ireland, mainly in County Cork. The former settled at Midleton, between Cork and Youghal in 1641; and his son Alan Brodrick (1660–1728), Speaker of the Irish House of Commons and Lord Chancellor of Ireland, was created Baron Brodrick in 1715 and Viscount Midleton in 1717 in the Irish peerage.[2]

In 1796 the title of Baron Brodrick in the Peerage of Great Britain was created. The English family seat at Peper Harow, near Godalming, Surrey, was designed by Sir William Chambers. His father The 8th Viscount Midleton was a conservative in politics, holding seats West Surrey and Guildford in the House of Commons (November 1885 – January 1906), and who was responsible in the House of Lords for carrying the Infant Life Protection Act, 1872, which helped regulate the practise of baby farming.[2] William was educated at Windlesham, Eton and Balliol College, Oxford,[1] where he served as president of the Oxford Union.[3] He was awarded a Doctorate of Laws (LLD) by Trinity College, Dublin.[1] He owned, in submissions from his landowning heyday, about 5,000 acres (20 km2).[1]

He maintained three homes: Peper Harow (House); 34 Portland Place, London (telephone number on the Langham exchange); Midleton (House), Ireland.[1] His family-settled land was probated before his widow's death in 1943 at GB£68,290 (equivalent to about £3,140,000 in 2020) and £55,624 in other assets in 1942.[4]

Political careerEdit

Brodrick entered Parliament as Conservative member for West Surrey in 1880.[5] In 1883 he was appointed to a Royal Commission examining the condition of Irish prisons.[6] He was Financial Secretary to the War Office 1886–92;[1] Under-Secretary of State for War, 1895–1898;[1] Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 1898–1900;[1] Secretary of State for War, 1900–1903;[1][7][8][9] and Secretary of State for India, 1903–05.[1][2]

He was Secretary of State for War during most of the Second Boer War (1899–1902). He thus had the responsibility of defending the British use of concentration camps in parliament. The conflict itself showed that the British army was not prepared for the guerrilla war of the Boers. He therefore initiated (though successors played a bigger part) a period of reform of the British army, which was focused on lessening the emphasis placed on mounted units in combat. In September 1902, Brodrick and Lord Roberts, the Commander-in-Chief of the army, visited Germany as guests to attend the German army maneuvers.[10]

In 1904, during a crisis in British relations with Russia, he became the first member of a Cabinet since 1714 to attend a meeting of the Privy Council without being summoned to it by the monarch.[11] At the general election of January 1906, the outcome of which was a Liberal win (the biggest landside except for that of the 1931 National Government's Conservatives), he lost his Parliamentary seat, at Guildford, which he had held since 1885.[12][13][14][15] From March 1907 to 1913 he was an alderman of London County Council.[1]

From 1910 he was regarded as the nominal leader of the Irish Unionist Alliance (IUA) in Southern Ireland, while Sir Edward Carson led the party in Ulster (the Ulster Unionist Council). Many Irish followers and sympathisers saw him as remote or condescending, reliant on a few intimates and suspected he was more interested in promotion in British politics. In 1916 Midleton's lobbying helped to defeat an attempt to implement immediate Home Rule with Ulster exclusion; this was supported by the Ulster leader Edward Carson and the Home Ruler John Redmond, but Midleton believed it would be disastrous for the Southern Unionist minority, and called attention to the need to protect them from discriminatory taxation.[16]

In 1918, during the second, final year of his service on the Irish Convention,[1] he tried to reach a compromise with Redmond which would allow Home Rule without partition subject to certain financial restrictions. This was rejected both by Redmond's followers (who saw it as too restrictive) and the hardline IUA rank-and-file, who deposed Midleton. He and his followers then formed the Unionist Anti-Partition League, an elite body mainly concerned with lobbying. It had some influence on the 1920 Government of Ireland Act, but none of the safeguards for Southern Unionist interests which it sought were included in the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty. Successful lobbying by Midleton and associated Southern Unionists was instrumental in ensuring their representation in the Seanad of the Irish Free State.[17]

His speeches and/or questions in Parliament were in each year from 1880 to 1941, except 1906, when he held no seat, and numbered 7,584, the last of which was a tribute to the passing of Lord Baden Powell.[18]

Honours and awardsEdit

Midleton was sworn into the Privy Counsel as of 1897.[1] During his 1902 visit to Germany, he received the Grand Cross of the Prussian Order of the Red Eagle.[19]

He received the Honorary Freedom and was appointed a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Broderers in 1902, his family having been associated with the company since the early 17th century.[20]

He was appointed a Knight of the Order of St Patrick (KP) on 18 April 1916.

In the 1920 New Year Honours he was elevated in the British peerage system to Earl of Midleton,[21] which became extinct with the death of his son in 1979. From 1930 he was High Steward of the Borough of Kingston upon Thames.[1]

Midleton was included in W. T. Pike's Contemporary Biographies published in Cork (1911).


"War". Caricature by Spy published in Vanity Fair in 1901.
Grave in Peper Harow, Surrey

He married, first in 1880, Lady Hilda (died 1901), daughter of The 10th Earl of Wemyss, by whom he had five children; and secondly in 1903, Madeleine Stanley, daughter of The Baroness St Helier by her first husband. His children by the first wife were:

His grandson Sir Julian St. John Loyd (by Lady Moyra) became land agent to Queen Elizabeth II at Sandringham. His daughter, Alexandra (Mrs Duncan Byatt), was a Lady-in-Waiting to Diana, Princess of Wales.[22]

His sister, Hon. Marian Cecilia married Sir James Whitehead, son of the inventor Robert Whitehead. Sir James Whitehead was to become the British Ambassador to Austria, and his niece Agathe was the first wife of Georg von Trapp; the story of their children and his second wife, Maria von Trapp, was the basis of the musical The Sound of Music.

Another, Hon. Albinia, became an early supporter of Sinn Féin and became well known in Ireland under the name Gobnait Ní Bhruadair.

Another, Hon. Edith later Mrs. Lyttleton Gell was a published author of at least 24 works, such as The Cloud of Witness: A daily sequence of great thoughts from many minds and an autobiography, Under Three Reigns: 1860–1944.


  • Ireland, Dupe or Heroine, 1932[1]
  • Records and Reactions, 1856–1939, 1939[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Midleton, 1st Earl of, (William St John Fremantle Brodrick) (14 Dec. 1856–13 Feb. 1942)". Who's Who & Who Was Who. Oxford University Press. 2007. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U229255. ISBN 978-0-19-954089-1.
  2. ^ a b c Chisholm 1911.
  3. ^ Malden, Henry C. (1902). Muster Roll. Windlesham House, Brighton. A.D. 1837 to 1902 (2nd ed.). Brighton: H. & C. Treacher.
  4. ^ Calendar of Probates and Administrations, 1942 and 1943
  5. ^ "House member declaration". The London Gazette. London, UK. The London Gazette. 6 April 1880. p. 2388. Archived from the original on 18 September 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
  6. ^ "House of Lords news summaries". The London Gazette. 2 January 1883. pp. 29–30. Archived (PDF) from the original on 11 November 2016. Retrieved 11 January 2008.
  7. ^ "No. 27246". The London Gazette. 13 November 1900. p. 6923.
  8. ^ "No. 27272". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 January 1901. p. 552.
  9. ^ "No. 27273". The London Gazette. 25 January 1901. p. 558.
  10. ^ "The German maneuvers". The Times. No. 36865. London. 5 September 1902. p. 6.
  11. ^ Sir Almeric Fitzroy, Memoirs (London & New York, 1925), vol. I, p. 222.
  12. ^ "No. 25609". The London Gazette. 20 July 1886. p. 3495.
  13. ^ "No. 26311". The London Gazette. 29 July 1892. p. 4311.
  14. ^ "No. 26651". The London Gazette. 9 August 1895. p. 4485.
  15. ^ "No. 27244". The London Gazette. 6 November 1900. p. 6774.
  16. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Midleton, William St. John Fremantle Brodrick, 1st Earl of" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 31 (12th ed.). London & New York: The Encyclopædia Britannica Company. p. 942.
  17. ^ Letters to Lord Midleton 1917–1922 (Provost of Trinity College to Midleton) PRO 30/67 (Midleton Papers), National Archives.
  18. ^ "Mr William Brodrick (Hansard)".
  19. ^ "Latest Intelligence - The German Army Maneuvres". The Times. No. 36900. London. 16 October 1902. p. 4.
  20. ^ "Court Circular". The Times. No. 36731. London. 2 April 1902. p. 7. {{cite news}}: |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  21. ^ "No. 31712". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1919. p. 1.
  22. ^ "Yvonne's Royalty Home Page: Diana, Princess of Wales' Ladies-in-Waiting". Archived from the original on 15 August 2014. Retrieved 4 September 2014.


External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for West Surrey
With: George Cubitt
Constituency abolished
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Guildford
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Under-Secretary of State for War
Succeeded by
Preceded by Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Preceded by Secretary of State for War
Succeeded by
Preceded by Secretary of State for India
Succeeded by
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by Viscount Midleton
Succeeded by
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Earl of Midleton
Succeeded by