The author G. K. Chesterton was his second cousin.
Born in Krugersdorp, South African Republic, A. K. Chesterton was sent to Berkhamsted School in England but persuaded his parents to let him return to South Africa in 1915. In October 1915 he added four years to his age and joined the British Army, who posted him to German East Africa, where he almost died of malaria and dysentery. After training as an officer, he served on the Western Front in 1918 with the London Regiment and won the Military Cross. His war experience was crucial to his repudiation of democracy.
After the war, he worked as a journalist for The Star in Johannesburg. He then secured a job with the Stratford-on-Avon Herald in England, where, as theatre critic from 1925 to 1929, he cultivated his aesthetic sense of societal decadence and cultural decline.
For the next four years, according to Chesterton's biographer, David Baker:
"he tilted at windmills and sharpened his skills as a controversialist while the Great Depression deepened and the bankruptcy of liberal and capitalist democracy became apparent. The corporate state, he came to believe, would rule in the interests of the whole nation, whereas democracy was the plaything of special interests and privilege."
Moving to London and marrying a Fabian socialist and pacifist, Chesterton lived near the headquarters of Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists (BUF). He took to dropping by for conversation and argument, and by late 1933 he had joined the movement. He became the director of publicity and propaganda and chief organiser for the Midlands.
In 1936, alcoholism and overwork led to a nervous breakdown. He consulted a German neurologist and during 1936 and 1937 lived in Germany. After returning to Britain he was appointed editor of the Blackshirt, the official BUF newspaper. This position provided a pulpit for his increasingly anti-Semitic rhetoric.
He left the BUF in 1938, disillusioned, but continued to be active in far-right politics by joining the Nordic League and serving as editor of Lord Lymington's right-wing journal, the New Pioneer.
Chesterton became a member of the Right Club, a group founded in May 1939 to consolidate existing right-wing British organizations into a unified body. Archibald Ramsay, founder of the virulent anti-Semitic society, explained its ideology and purpose:
In 1939, Chesterton re-enlisted in the British Army after the outbreak of war. He served in East Africa, but was invalided out in 1943 due to poor health. He returned to Britain and launched the short-lived National Front after Victory Group, a coalition that included the British Peoples Party. He became deputy editor of the publication Truth.
He lived again in Africa for a short time, but soon returned to Britain where he established the League of Empire Loyalists in 1954. The League was a pressure group against the increasing dissolution of the British Empire, and was known at the time for stunts at Conservative Party meetings and conferences. These included hiding underneath the platform overnight to emerge during the conference to put across points. The League had support from some Conservative Party members, but they were disliked by the leadership.
About this time, Chesterton was appointed by Lord Beaverbrook as a literary adviser, contributing to the Daily Mail and the Sunday Express. He also wrote Beaverbrook's autobiography, Don't Trust to Luck.
Chesterton founded and edited the magazine Candour, which he issued for the rest of his life, and which is still published today.
Chesterton co-founded the National Front (NF) in 1967, and later became its Policy Director. He tried to exclude from joining the NF neo-Nazis from movements such as the National Socialist Movement and the Greater Britain Movement, but was unsuccessful. Upon stepping down the first of several long, inter-factional disputes took place within the NF which frequently affected its policies in ways of which Chesterton did not approve. Today, the NF describes itself as a "white nationalist organisation founded in 1967 in opposition to multi-racialism and immigration".
Amongst Chesterton's works are Portrait of a Leader (1937), a hagiography of Mosley; Why I left Mosley (1938), which broke from his earlier work; The Tragedy of Anti-Semitism (1948) in which he distanced himself from this form of prejudice; and The New Unhappy Lords, a diatribe against international finance.
The last 30 years of Chesterton's life were spent in a modest flat in South Croydon with his wife, Doris. He died on 16 August 1973.