Alec Douglas-Home

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1963 to 1964

Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel, KT, PC (/ˈhjuːm/ (audio speaker iconlisten); 2 July 1903 – 9 October 1995) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1963 to 1964. He was better known as Alec Douglas-Home.[1]

The Lord Home of the Hirsel

head and shoulders image of clean shaven, slim, balding man of middle age
Douglas-Home c. 1963
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
19 October 1963 – 16 October 1964
MonarchElizabeth II
Preceded byHarold Macmillan
Succeeded byHarold Wilson
Leader of the Opposition
In office
16 October 1964 – 28 July 1965
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byHarold Wilson
Succeeded byEdward Heath
Leader of the Conservative Party
In office
18 October 1963 – 28 July 1965
Preceded byHarold Macmillan
Succeeded byEdward Heath
Ministerial offices
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
In office
20 June 1970 – 4 March 1974
Prime MinisterEdward Heath
Preceded byMichael Stewart
Succeeded byJames Callaghan
In office
27 July 1960 – 18 October 1963
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Preceded bySelwyn Lloyd
Succeeded byRab Butler
Lord President of the Council
In office
14 October 1959 – 27 July 1960
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Preceded byThe Viscount Hailsham
Succeeded byThe Viscount Hailsham
In office
29 March 1957 – 17 September 1957
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Preceded byThe Marquess of Salisbury
Succeeded byThe Viscount Hailsham
Leader of the House of Lords
In office
29 March 1957 – 27 July 1960
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Preceded byThe Marquess of Salisbury
Succeeded byThe Viscount Hailsham
Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations
In office
7 April 1955 – 27 July 1960
Preceded byThe Viscount Swinton
Succeeded byDuncan Sandys
Junior ministerial offices
Minister of State for Scotland
In office
2 November 1951 – 7 April 1955
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byThomas Galbraith
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
In office
26 May 1945 – 26 July 1945
Serving with The Lord Lovat
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byGeorge Hall
Succeeded byHector McNeil
Parliamentary offices
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
24 December 1974 – 9 October 1995
Life Peerage
In office
11 July 1951 – 23 October 1963
Hereditary Peerage
Preceded byThe 13th Earl of Home
Succeeded byThe 15th Earl of Home (1995)
Member of Parliament
for Kinross and Western Perthshire
In office
8 November 1963 – 20 September 1974
Preceded byGilmour Leburn
Succeeded byNicholas Fairbairn
Member of Parliament
for Lanark
In office
23 February 1950 – 11 July 1951
Preceded byTom Steele
Succeeded byPatrick Maitland
In office
27 October 1931 – 15 June 1945
Preceded byThomas Dickson
Succeeded byTom Steele
Personal details
Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home

(1903-07-02)2 July 1903
Mayfair, London, England
Died9 October 1995(1995-10-09) (aged 92)
Coldstream, Scotland
Resting placeLennel Churchyard, Coldstream
Political partyConservative
Other political
Elizabeth Alington
(m. 1936; died 1990)
Children4, including David
ParentsCharles Douglas-Home (father)
Alma materChrist Church, Oxford
Cricket information
BowlingRight-arm fast-medium
Domestic team information
Career statistics
Competition First-class
Matches 10
Runs scored 147
Batting average 16.33
Top score 37*
Balls bowled
Wickets 12
Bowling average 30.25
5 wickets in innings
10 wickets in match
Best bowling 3/43
Catches/stumpings 9/–

Home was a Member of Parliament and a junior official (a Parliamentary Private Secretary) when Neville Chamberlain went to Munich to meet Adolf Hitler in 1938. He was present at the main meetings between Hitler and Chamberlain. Later in life, he was appointed by Harold Macmillan as Foreign Secretary in 1960–1963, and again in Edward Heath's government from 1970 to 1974.

Home's name and title changed a few times during his life. Born as Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, he became Lord Dunglass when his father became the Earl of Home. Dunglass is a junior title, that is, a lower title which is held by the eldest son. When his father died Alec became the 14th Earl of Home. He also became Baron Douglas in the peerage of the United Kingdom (that was also a junior title).

Leader of Party and Prime Minister


When he was chosen as Leader of the Conservative Party after Harold Macmillan retired, he knew it would be difficult to lead a government from the House of Lords. So he renounced his title, four days after becoming Prime Minister.[2][3] Once he renounced the title, he became simply Sir Alec Douglas-Home. He had been made a Knight of the Thistle in 1962. Finally, after he lost the election of 1964, he was given a life peerage, titled 'Baron Home of the Hirsel'. That title is not hereditary but, after his death, his son became the 15th Earl of Home.

Rapidly, after the title was renounced, arrangements were made. The safe Conservative seat of Kinross and Western Perthshire was vacant, and Douglas-Home was adopted as his party's candidate. Parliament was due to meet on 24 October after the summer recess, but its return was postponed until 12 November pending the by-election.[4] For twenty days Douglas-Home was Prime Minister while a member of neither house of Parliament, a situation without modern precedent.[5] He won the by-election with a majority of 9,328.

Prime Minister 1963–1964


A former peer as Prime Minister was open to attack, and Douglas-Home was attacked by the Labour Party leader Harold Wilson. Wilson attacked the new prime minister as "an elegant anachronism". He said that nobody from Douglas-Home's background knew the problems of ordinary families. In particular, Wilson asked how "a scion of an effete establishment" could lead the technological revolution which was needed. His premiership was ended by the general election of 1964, which put in the Labour Party with Harold Wilson as Prime Minister.

Foreign Affairs 1970–1974


When the Conservatives returned to power in 1970, Home was made Foreign Secretary. He was a considerable success in this role. His speeches explained the world situation, which was then at the height of the Cold War.

Andrei Gromyko, Douglas-Home's Soviet counterpart

In east–west relations, Douglas-Home spoke against the Soviet Union and its spying activities in Britain. In September 1971 he expelled 105 Soviet diplomats, who were spying.[6] Although this was an extraordinary incident,[7] Gromyko was realistic enough to keep a working relationship with the British government.[7] Within days of the expulsions from London he and Douglas-Home met and discussed the Middle East and disarmament.[6][7]



The Times considered that his reputation rested not on his brief premiership, but on his two spells as Foreign Secretary: "He brought to the office ... his capacity for straight talking, for toughness towards the Soviet Union and for firmness (sometimes interpreted as a lack of sympathy) towards the continents of Africa and Asia. But he brought something else as well: an unusual degree of international respect".[8]


  1. The word ""Home" in his name is pronounced "Hume".
  2. Hurd, Douglas 2004. Home, Alexander Frederick Douglas-, fourteenth Earl of Home and Baron Home of the Hirsel (1903–1995), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, accessed 14 April 2012 (subscription required)
  3. Boyd, Francis, and Norman Shrapnel. "Stumbling into Number 10", The Guardian, 10 October 1995, p. 15
  4. Pike, E Royston 1968. Britain's Prime Ministers. London: Odhams, p464. ISBN 0600720322
  5. Technically, no Prime Minister, or any other politician, is a Member of Parliament between the dissolution of one Parliament and the election of another. Home was unusal in being a PM for nearly two weeks while Parliament was sitting while he was without a seat in either chamber. "Dissolution Arrangements" Archived 2016-12-28 at the Wayback Machine, House of Commons, February 2010, accessed 14 April 2012
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Thaw in Anglo-Soviet Relations", The Times, p. 17, 4 December 1973
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Leapman, Michael (28 September 1971), "Gromyko threat of reprisals on diplomats fails to sway Sir Alec", The Times, p. 1
  8. Obituary