Edward Frederick Wood Biography

Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax (16 April 1881 – 23 December 1959), known as The Lord Irwin from 1925 until 1934 and as The Viscount Halifax from 1934 until 1944, was one of the most senior British Conservative politicians of the 1930s, during which he held several senior ministerial posts, most notably as Foreign Secretary from 1938 to 1940. As such he is often regarded as one of the architects of the policy of appeasement prior to World War II. During the war, he served as British Ambassador in Washington.

He was born into a rather sickly West Country family: Halifax's three older brothers all died in infancy leaving him the heir to his father's viscountcy. Halifax himself was born with a withered left arm with no hand, a disability that in no way affected his riding, hunting or shooting. He was nicknamed the "Holy Fox" by Winston Churchill in reference to these pursuits, his title and also his religiosity, for like his father he was a devout Anglo-Catholic.

He was son of the 2nd Viscount Halifax. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, subsequently becoming a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and served as Member of Parliament for Ripon from 1910 to 1925 when he was elevated to the peerage. He saw some active service in World War I as a major in the Queen's Own Yorkshire Dragoons but remained mostly behind the lines, being moved to a desk job in 1917. In 1918 he wrote in cooperation with George Ambrose Lloyd (later The Lord Lloyd) "The Great Opportunity" aiming to set an agenda for a revived Conservative Party separate from the Lloyd George coalition.

Turned down by South Africa for the post of Governor General (the country was holding out for a cabinet minister or member of the royal family) and snubbed by Winston Churchill on his assumption of the post of Under-Secretary for the Colonies—on one occasion he stormed into Churchill's office and told him that he "expected to be treated like a gentleman"—a thwarted Wood voted for the downfall of Lloyd George's government and became President of the Board of Education under Andrew Bonar Law in 1922. He held this position (in which he was neither interested nor particularly effective) until 1924 when he was apparently equally undistinguished as Minister for Agriculture under Stanley Baldwin. His career had seemingly become bogged down.