Sir (Robert) Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon (1897-1977)
Conservative Prime Minister 1955-1957

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Sir (Robert) Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon (1897-1977) Conservative Prime Minister 1955-1957

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On foreign affairs he thought that he knew where he was. But a Prime Minister has to deal with economic affairs, home affairs, unemployment and constituency problems raised by other members. Eden just did not fit in with this routine.
- Harold Wilson.

Additional Information on
Sir (Robert) Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon (1897-1977)
Conservative Prime Minister 1955-1957

Anthony Eden was the third son of Sir William Eden, a wealthy, eccentric Durham Baronet. Eden had led a distinguished military career during the First World War, being awarded the Military Cross for his services. He became a Conservative member of Parliament in 1923, where his career blossomed in the foreign office. His early speeches on the need for the development of the Royal Air Force were widely listened to. In 1925 he was made Private Secretary to the Home Office in Baldwin's government. In 1935 Eden was appointed as the Minister for the League of Nations and later Foreign Secretary, at the relatively young age of thirty-eight.

It was a time of great tension in Europe - Hitler was rising steadily throughout the continent, Mussolini in Italy and Franco in Spain. Although not as strong an opponent of appeasement as Churchill, Eden found himself increasingly at odds with Chamberlain's sympathetic attitude to the European dictators. He resigned his post and was only persuaded back into the cabinet at the outset of war in 1939 (as was Churchill). In 1940, under Churchill's premiership, he became Foreign Secretary again, and in 1942 was made Leader of the House of Commons. He worked closely with Churchill for the duration and accompanied him to the conference at Yalta in 1945.

Immediately after the war, ill health interrupted his career until 1951 when he returned to the Foreign Office. His second marriage to Clarissa Churchill, Winston's niece, heralded a happier period in his life, and in 1955 he finally succeeded an infirm Churchill as Prime Minister. He was young, handsome and well dressed - the 'golden boy' of the Tory Party. Unfortunately he was not as successful in this position as he had been in the Foreign Office. In 1956 the Egyptian President Colonel Nasser nationalised the canal, thus effectively closing the shipping routes to the Far East. Despite US objections, Britain and France launched a military attack to restore the Suez canal to its previous status. The subsequent uproar from Washington led to an almost immediate withdrawal. This predicament caused outrage in Parliament, and did nothing to enhance Eden's position. The combination of ill-health and the strain and embarrasment of the Suez crisis caused Eden to resign after only two years in office. He spent the remaining years of his life away from the strains of political activity. In 1961 he was created Earl of Avon, and retired to write until his death in 1977.


We are not at war with Egypt. We are in an armed conflict.
- Speech, House of Commons, 4 Nov 1956.

A reporter on board the Queen Elizabeth on 4th March 1953 asked Mr Eden what would be the effect on international affairs if Stalin were to die.
- Eden : That is a good question for you ask, not a wise question for me to answer.

He is more pathetic than sinister. Beneath the sophistication of his appearance and manner he has all the unplumbable stupidities and unawareness of his class and type.
- Aneurin Bevan, Tribune, 1943.

He will be the worst Prime Minister since Lord North.
- Lord Swinton to Winston Churchill, quoted in J.A. Cross, 'Lord Swinton' 1983. Advanced Category Search

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