Robert, Lord Boothby - Eaton Square, London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 29.837 W 000° 08.935
30U E 697894 N 5708981
Quick Description: This blue plaque, erected to indicate that Lord Boothby "lived here", is attached to a building on the north east side of Eaton Square.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 3/16/2015 7:21:07 AM
Waymark Code: WMNH3T
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member bill&ben
Views: 0

Long Description:

The Spartacus Educational website tells us about Lord Boothby:

Robert Boothby, the only son of Sir Robert Tuite Boothby, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 12th February 1900. Boothby was educated at Eton College and at Magdalen College. After leaving university he joined a firm of stockbrokers.

Boothby was also a member of the Conservative Party and eventually East Aberdeenshire selected him as their parliamentary candidate. In 1924 he was elected to the House of Commons.

In 1926 Winston Churchill, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, appointed Boothby as his parliamentary private secretary, a post he held for three years.

In 1930 Boothby began a long affair with Dorothy Macmillan, the wife of his parliamentary colleague, Harold Macmillan. It has been claimed that he was the father of Sarah Macmillan. The writer and broadcaster Ludovic Kennedy, who is Boothby's cousin, has argued that "to my certain knowledge (Boothby) fathered at least three children by the wives of other men (two by one woman, one by another)." Boothby married Diana Cavendish but the relationship was dissolved two years later.

Boothby was a frequent visitor to Germany and in 1932 met Adolf Hitler. He was later to record that "I talked with Hitler for over an hour; and it was not long before I detected the unmistakable glint of madness in his eyes." Boothby came out of the meeting convinced that Hitler posed a serious threat to Britain's security.

In October 1933 Boothby made a speech where he warned: "If those of us who believe in freedom refuse to fight for our faith under any circumstances, then assuredly we will succumb to the military forces of Fascism or Communism, and most of the things which seem to make life worth living will be swept away."

Boothby joined a small group in the Conservative Party, including Winston Churchill and Leo Amery, that called for the government to increase spending on defence. In one speech Boothby suggested that the British government was in danger of betraying those soldiers who had been killed during the First World War. "In relation to the facts of the present situation our Air Force is pitifully inadequate. If we are strong and resolute, and if we pursue a wise and constructive foreign policy, we can still save the world from war. But if we simply drift along, never taking the lead, and exposing the heart of our Empire to an attack which might pulverize it in a few hours, then everything that makes life worth living will be swept away, and then indeed we shall have finally broken faith with those who lie dead in the fields of Flanders."

In January 1938 Boothby became the first person in public life to demand the introduction of compulsory national service. He followed this with a campaign to persuade Neville Chamberlain and his Conservative government to increase the frontline strength of the Royal Air Force from 1700 to 3500. However, both these suggestions were rejected by Chamberlain.

Boothby returned to office in 1940 when Winston Churchill appointed him as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Ministry of Food. Boothby worked under Lord Woolton and was given responsibility for devising the National Milk Scheme, which provided milk for children and nursing mothers during the Second World War.

In 1941 Boothby was forced to resign after a Select Committee published a critical report of his behaviour before the war. The committee pointed out that Boothby had made a speech where he advocated the distribution of seized Czechoslovakian assets to Czech citizens living in Britain. It was claimed that this broke the rules of the House of Commons as Boothby had not disclosed that he had a financial interest in this policy.

After resigning from office Boothby joined the Royal Air Force. After completing his training as a pilot officer he became Adjutant of Number 9 Bomber Squadron at Honington with the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

In 1948 Boothby became an original member of the Council of United Europe and was a British delegate to its consultative assembly (1949-54). Boothby was knighted in 1953 and raised to the peerage in 1958. He was also Rector of the University of St Andrews (1958-61) and Chairman of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (1961-63).

Boothby was bi-sexual and although he kept his homosexual activity a secret, he did campaign for a change in the law. In his autobiography he comments on a speech he made to the Hardwicke Society: "I said that the present law regarding homosexuality was iniquitous, and that the clause in the Act which made indecency between consenting male adults in private a crime should be removed from the Statute Book."

Boothby sent a copy of his speech to the Home Secretary, David Maxwell-Fyfe. He replied: "I am not going down to history as the man who made sodomy legal." However, he did establish a committee to look into the issue that was chaired by John Wolfenden.

Lord Boothby attended sex parties with Tom Driberg in London. He also began an affair with gangster Ronnie Kray. Boothby was on holiday with Colin Coote, the editor of the Daily Telegraph, when on 12 July 1964, the Sunday Mirror published a front page lead story under the headline: "Peer and a gangster: Yard probe." The newspaper claimed police were investigating an alleged homosexual relationship between a "prominent peer and a leading thug in the London underworld", who is alleged to be involved in a West End protection racket.

The following week the newspaper said it had a picture of the peer and the gangster sitting on a sofa. Rumours soon began circulating that the peer was Boothby and the gangster was Ronnie Kray. Stories also circulated that Harold Wilson and Cecil King, the chairman of the International Publishing Corporation were conspiring in an attempt to overthrow the Conservative government led by Alec Douglas -Home. Boothby's friend, Colin Coote used his contacts in the media to discover what was going on.

As journalist John Pearson pointed out: "By doing nothing he (Boothby) would tacitly accept the Sunday Mirror's accusations. On the other hand, to sue for libel would mean facing lengthy and expensive court proceedings which could ruin him financially - apart from whatever revelations the Sunday Mirror could produce to support its story." Boothby was then approached by two leading Labour Party figures, Gerald Gardiner, QC and solicitor Arnold Goodman. They offered to represent Lord Boothby in any libel case against the newspaper. Goodman was Wilson's "Mr Fixit" and Gardiner was later that year to become the new prime-minister's Lord Chancellor.

Boothby now wrote a letter to The Times and argued that the Sunday Mirror had been referring to him and that he intended to sue this newspaper for libel. He claimed that he had only met Kray three times. However, this had been public events in 1964 (there were published photographs of these meetings and so they could not be denied). When the case came to court, the newspaper decided not to reveal the compromising photograph. Unwilling to defend their story, Lord Boothby was awarded £40,000 and the editor of the newspaper was sacked. This resulted in other newspapers not touching the story. Scotland Yard was also ordered to drop their investigation into Boothby and Ronnie Kray.

The rumours about Boothby's homosexuality continued to circulate and in 1967 he decided to marry Wanda Sanna. According to friends, the relationship was platonic.

Boothby made frequent appearances on television and radio and wrote several books including The New Economy (1943), I Fight to Live (1947), My Yesterday, Your Tomorrow (1962) and Boothby: Recollections of a Rebel (1978).

Lord Boothby died on 16th July 1986.

Blue Plaque managing agency: Unknown

Individual Recognized: Robert, Lord Boothby

Physical Address:
1 Eaton Square
London, United Kingdom

Web Address: [Web Link]

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