Oliver Stanley

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Oliver Stanley
Member of the British Parliament
for Bristol West
In office
6 July 1945 – 10 December 1950
Preceded byCyril Culverwell
Succeeded bySir Walter Monckton
Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
22 November 1942 – 26 July 1945
MonarchGeorge VI
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byViscount Cranborne
Succeeded byGeorge Hall
Secretary of State for War
In office
5 January 1940 – 11 May 1940
MonarchGeorge VI
Prime MinisterNeville Chamberlain
Preceded byLeslie Hore-Belisha
Succeeded byAnthony Eden
President of the Board of Trade
In office
28 May 1937 – 5 January 1940
MonarchGeorge VI
Prime MinisterNeville Chamberlain
Preceded byWalter Runciman
Succeeded bySir Andrew Duncan
Secretary of State for Transport
In office
22 February 1933 – 29 June 1934
MonarchGeorge V
Prime MinisterRamsay MacDonald
Preceded byJohn Pybus
Succeeded byLeslie Hore-Belisha
Member of the British Parliament
for Westmorland
In office
30 October 1924 – 5 July 1945
Preceded bySir John Weston
Succeeded byWilliam Fletcher-Vane
Personal details
Born(1896-05-04)4 May 1896
London, England, UK
Died10 December 1950(1950-12-10) (aged 54)
Sulhamstead, Berkshire, England, UK
Political partyConservative
Maureen Vane-Tempest-Stewart
(m. 1920; died 1942)
Parent(s)Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby
Lady Alice Montagu
EducationEton College

Oliver Frederick George Stanley MC PC MP (4 May 1896 – 10 December 1950) was a prominent British Conservative politician who held many ministerial posts before his relatively early death.

Background and education[edit]

Stanley was the second son of Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby, by his wife Lady Alice, daughter of William Montagu, 7th Duke of Manchester. Edward Stanley, Lord Stanley was his elder brother. He was educated at Eton, but did not proceed to the University of Oxford due to the outbreak of the First World War.[1][2]

Military career[edit]

During the First World War, Stanley was commissioned into the Lancashire Hussars, before transferring to the Royal Field Artillery in 1915. He achieved the rank of captain, and won both the Military Cross and the Croix de Guerre.[1]

Political career[edit]

After he was demobilised, Stanley was called to the bar by Gray's Inn in 1919.[1] In the 1924 general election he was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Westmorland. From 1945 he sat for Bristol West.

Ministerial career[edit]

Caricature of Stanley believed to have been drawn between 1939 and 1946

He soon came to the attention of the Conservative leaders and held a number of posts in the National Government of the 1930s. As Minister of Transport he was responsible for the introduction of a 30 miles per hour speed limit and driving tests for new drivers. In May 1938 whilst President of the Board of Trade he achieved a rare distinction in British politics when his brother Lord Stanley became Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs – a rare example of two brothers sitting in the same Cabinet, more so as their father, a former Conservative minister, was still alive. Nevertheless, five months later Edward died. (Another example is that of two Labour Party brothers, David Miliband and his brother Ed Miliband, who were appointed to the British Cabinet in June 2007.)

In January 1940 Stanley was appointed Secretary of State for War after the previous incumbent, Leslie Hore-Belisha, had been sacked after falling out with the leading officers. Much was expected of Stanley's tenure in this office, for his father had held it during the First World War, but four months later the government fell, and Stanley was replaced by Anthony Eden. Churchill offered Stanley the Dominions Office, which Stanley turned down.[1] Instead, Churchill made him a personal link with intelligence agencies, notably as founder of the London Controlling Section. Two years later Stanley's political fortunes revived when Churchill appointed him Secretary of State for the Colonies, a post which he held until the end of the war.

Last years[edit]

After the Conservatives' massive defeat in the 1945 general election Stanley was prominent amongst those rebuilding the party, and he came to be regarded as one of the most important Conservative MPs. He was a governor of The Peckham Experiment in 1949.[3] Along with Churchill and Anthony Eden, Stanley was seen as one of the Conservative Party's leaders in 1950.[4] He succeeded his father as Chancellor of the University of Liverpool. By this time, however, his health was in decline; and he died on 10 December 1950 at his home in Sulhamstead.[1]

Stanley had been Chairman of the Conservative Finance Committee.[5] Had he lived longer, he might well have been appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer when the Conservatives formed a government the following year. Rab Butler was appointed instead.[6] Butler later wrote in his 1971 memoirs that Oliver Stanley was “the acutest brain on the Conservative front bench, the keenest lance I have ever known in politics, and a flowing pen which could [write] several pages of immaculate foolscap in the same time that lesser men would take to wrote a decent paragraph”. However, Butler’s view was that he probably would not have been a great Prime Minister or even Chancellor of the Exchequer, as he was too indecisive, but that he was great in opposition.[7]

Historian Sir Charles Petrie went further, and insisted in his 1972 memoirs (A Historian Looks At His World) that "the greatest blow the Conservative Party has sustained since the late war was the premature death of Oliver Stanley. He was one of the most gifted men of the century, and would have made a very great Prime Minister. ... He was as brilliant a conversationalist as a public speaker."[8]


Stanley married Lady Maureen Vane-Tempest-Stewart, daughter of Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry, and the Hon. Edith Chaplin, in 1920. They had one son and one daughter:

  • Michael Charles Stanley (1921–1990), who married (Aileen) Fortune Constance Hugh Smith and had two sons;[9] and
  • Kathryn Edith Helen Stanley DCVO (1923–2004), Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Elizabeth II from 1955 to 2002, and who married Sir John Dugdale KCVO (1923–1994) and had two daughters and two sons.[9]

Lady Maureen died in June 1942, aged 41. Stanley survived her by eight years and died in December 1950, aged 54.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e Whitfield, Andrew. "Stanley, Oliver Frederick George (1896–1950)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/36249. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ "Stanley, Rt Hon. Oliver Frederick George, (1896–10 Dec. 1950), PC 1934; MP (C) Bristol West since 1945; Chancellor of Liverpool University since 1948". WHO'S WHO & WHO WAS WHO. 2007. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u232113. Retrieved 27 April 2023.
  3. ^ "The Bulletin of the Pioneer Health Centre". Peckham. 1 (5). September 1949. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  4. ^ Jago 2015, p209
  5. ^ Jago 2015, p.209
  6. ^ Howard 1987, p. 178-9
  7. ^ Butler 1971, p144
  8. ^ Petrie, Sir Charles (1972). A Historian Looks at His World. London: Sidgwick & Jackson. pp. 193. ISBN 978-0283978500.
  9. ^ a b c Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage. Vol. 3 (107th ed.). Wilmington, DE: Burke's Peerage. doi:10.5118/bpbk.2003. ISBN 978-0-9711966-2-9.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)

Books cited[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Westmorland
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Bristol West
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Transport
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Labour
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the Board of Education
Succeeded by
Preceded by Secretary of State for War
Succeeded by
Preceded by Secretary of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by