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Duff Cooper

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Prime Minister
Preceded by
The Lord Hankey

John Julius Norwich

Prime Minister
London Can Take It!

Succeeded by
British Politician

Preceded by
The Viscount Halifax

Duff Cooper

Duff Cooper httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu

George VEdward VIIIGeorge VI

January 1, 1954, Vigo, Spain

Lady Diana Cooper (m. 1919–1954)

The Duff Cooper Diaries, Operation heartbreak, Old Men Forget, Talleyrand, Second World War

Similar People
Lady Diana Cooper, John Julius Norwich, Violet Manners - Duchess, Artemis Cooper, Henry Cust

Duff cooper may 1940 1940

Alfred Duff Cooper, 1st Viscount Norwich, (22 February 1890 – 1 January 1954), known as Duff Cooper, was a British Conservative Party politician, diplomat and author. In the intense political debates of the late 1930s over appeasement, he first put his trust in the League of Nations, and realised that war with Germany was inevitable. He denounced the Munich agreement of 1938 as meaningless, cowardly, and unworkable, as he resigned from the cabinet. When Winston Churchill became prime minister in May 1940, he named Cooper as Minister of Information. From 1941, he served in numerous minor diplomatic roles. His most important role was representative to de Gaulle's Free France (1943–44) and ambassador to France from 1944–48.


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Duff cooper arrives sound

Background and education

The only son of fashionable society doctor Sir Alfred Cooper and Lady Agnes Duff, daughter of James Duff, 5th Earl Fife, Duff Cooper was the youngest of their four children. He had royal connections: his maternal uncle, the first Duke of Fife, was married to Louise, Princess Royal. Cooper enjoyed a typical gentleman's upbringing of country estates, London society, Wixenford School, Eton College and New College, Oxford.

Early life and marriage

At Oxford, his Eton friendship with John Nevile Manners won him entry into a famous circle of young aristocrats and intellectuals known as the Coterie, including Patrick Shaw-Stewart, Raymond Asquith, Sir Denis Anson, Edward Horner and the celebrated Lady Diana Manners. He cultivated a reputation for eloquence and fast living and although he had established a reputation as a poet, he earned an even stronger reputation for gambling, womanizing, and drinking in his studied emulation of the life of the 18th and 19th century Whig statesman Charles James Fox.

Following Oxford, he entered the Foreign Service and, owing to the national importance of his work at the cipher desk, he was excluded from military service until 1917, when he joined the Grenadier Guards. He served with distinction as a lieutenant in the campaigns of 1918, winning a Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for conspicuous gallantry. Almost all of his closest friends, including Shaw-Stewart, Horner and Asquith were killed in the war, drawing him closer to Lady Diana Manners, an extremely popular social figure hailed for her beauty and eccentricities. They married in 1919. His service in the First World War was highlighted by the ITV programme The Great War: The People's Story, where his correspondence with Diana Cooper was one of those selected to be dramatised.

The Coopers' marriage was fraught with infidelities, notably Duff's affairs with the Franco-American Singer sewing-machine heiress Daisy Fellowes, the socialite Gloria Guinness, the French novelist Louise Leveque de Vilmorin and the writer Susan Mary Alsop (then an American diplomat's wife, by whom he had an illegitimate son, William Patten Jr.). The polo player 'Boy' Capel's wife Diana and the Anglo-Irish socialite and fashion model Maxime de la Falaise were two more, although Lady Diana reportedly did not mind and loved him nonetheless, explaining to their son that "They were the flowers, but I was the tree."

Political career

Returning to the Foreign Service, he became principal private secretary to two ministers and played a significant role in the Egyptian and Turkish crises in the early 1920s, before winning a seat in Parliament as a Conservative for Oldham in 1924. He gave one of the most acclaimed maiden speeches of the era and became a stalwart supporter of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, and a friend of Chancellor of the Exchequer, Winston Churchill. Cooper became Financial Secretary to the War Office in January 1928, before losing his seat in the 1929 election when the Conservative Party lost power.

Turning to literature, he produced Talleyrand (1932), a short biography that was published by his nephew Rupert Hart-Davis to critical praise and lasting success. The 1931 by-election for the constituency of Westminster St. George's saw Beaverbrook's Empire Free Trade Crusade party threatening the Conservative position at a time when satisfaction with Baldwin's leadership was at a low. When the original Conservative candidate stepped down, Duff Cooper agreed to contest the election in what was regarded as a referendum on Baldwin's leadership. He won the seat with a majority of 5,710, thus returning to Parliament and serving until 1945.

Cooper returned to ministerial office as Financial Secretary to the War Office in 1931, then as Financial Secretary to the Treasury in 1934, he was elevated to the Cabinet as War Secretary in 1935, and promoted to First Lord of the Admiralty in 1937. He completed a biography of the British military commander Douglas Haig during this period.

Opponent of appeasement

Cooper was the most public critic of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's appeasement policy inside the Cabinet. He resigned the day after the 1938 Munich Agreement made with Adolf Hitler. On doing so he said, "War with honour or peace with dishonour," he might have been persuaded to accept, "but war with dishonour—that was too much." Fellow appeasement-critic and Conservative Party MP Vyvyan Adams described Cooper's actions as "the first step in the road back to national sanity." Cooper later took a prominent role in the famous Norway Debate of 1940, which led to Chamberlain's downfall.

By now Cooper appeared in German propaganda as one of Britain's three most dangerous Conservative warmongers. He entered the Cabinet as Minister of Information under Winston Churchill, but after a controversial appointment as Resident Cabinet Minister in Singapore, at the end of which he was held responsible for the fall of Singapore to the Japanese, he did not play a major role in the direction of the war until appointed the British Government's liaison to the Free French in 1943. He subsequently became the British ambassador to France in 1944, and was a great success in Paris. Cooper was in the words of the British historian P.H Bell such a "devoted Francophile" that during his time as ambassador to Paris that he often tried the patience of the Foreign Office by going well beyond his instructions to maintain good relations with France by trying to create an Anglo-French alliance that would dominate post-war Europe. Despite being a Conservative, Cooper was not replaced as Ambassador when Labour won the 1945 election as Ernest Bevin, the new Foreign Secretary valued an ambassador who was close friends with so many French politicians and even managed to have a friendship of sorts with the famously Anglophobic Charles de Gaulle.

In January 1947, Cooper acting without orders began the process that led to the Treaty of Dunkirk when he suggested to the French Premier Leon Blum that there should an Anglo-French military alliance, an idea Blum took up thinking this was an offer from London. He left office in 1947, was appointed to the Order of St Michael and St George as a Knight Grand Cross in 1948, and devoted himself primarily to literature until his death in 1954, at the age of 63. He produced during this period the classic autobiography Old Men Forget and was eventually created Viscount Norwich, of Aldwick in the County of Sussex, in 1952, in recognition of his political and literary career. His wife refused to be called Lady Norwich, claiming that it sounded too much like "porridge" and promptly took out a newspaper advertisement declaring that she would retain her previous style of Lady Diana Cooper.


Duff Cooper's only legitimate child, John Julius Norwich (born 1929), whose godfather was Lord Beaverbrook, became well known as a writer and television host and has published a collection of his father's diaries, The Duff Cooper Diaries: 1915–1951. His granddaughter Artemis Cooper has published several books, including A Durable Fire: The Letters of Duff and Diana Cooper, 1913–50. Another granddaughter is screenwriter Allegra Huston, the only child of Norwich and Enrica Soma Huston, estranged wife of the American film director John Huston. Duff Cooper's niece Enid Levita (daughter of his sister Stephanie), is the paternal grandmother of the Conservative Party leader David Cameron, who served as Prime Minister from 2010–2016. Duff Cooper was the subject of a biography by John Charmley and a British literary award, the Duff Cooper Prize, was established in his name.

On 1 January 1953 Cooper was onboard the french liner Colombie when he died suddenly aged 63. He was with his wife on a voyage to Jamaica to stay with friends. The ship docked at the Spanish port of Vigo so his body could be flown back to England.

Cooper wrote six books, including an autobiography, Old Men Forget, and a biography of the French diplomat Talleyrand. He wrote one novel, Operation Heartbreak (1950), which has been republished by Persephone Books.

H. G. Wells, in The Shape of Things to Come, published in 1934, predicted a Second World War in which Britain would not participate but would vainly try to effect a peaceful compromise. In this vision, Duff Cooper was mentioned as one of several prominent Britons delivering "brilliant pacific speeches" which "echo throughout Europe" but fail to end the war; the other would-be peacemakers, in Wells' vision, included Leslie Hore Belisha, Ellen Wilkinson and Randolph Churchill.

Styles of address

  • 1890–1918: Mr Duff Cooper
  • 1918–1924: Mr Duff Cooper
  • 1924–1929: Mr Duff Cooper
  • 1929–1931: Mr Duff Cooper
  • 1931–1935: Mr Duff Cooper
  • 1935–1945: The Rt Hon. Duff Cooper
  • 1945–1947: The Rt Hon. Duff Cooper
  • 1948–1952: The Rt Hon. Sir Duff Cooper
  • 1952–1954: The Rt Hon. The Viscount Norwich
  • References

    Duff Cooper Wikipedia