Andrew Bonar Law

Robert Pearce argues that we should get better acquainted with the 'unknown prime minister'.

At the funeral of Andrew Bonar Law, in Westminster Abbey on 5 November 1923, Herbert Asquith stated, with a certain satisfaction, that 'the unknown Prime Minister' was being buried by the side of the Unknown Soldier. The phrase has served as epitaph to the man who was prime minister for only 211 days, the shortest tenure in the twentieth century. Yet this dismissive remark should not lead us to underestimate the political importance of Bonar Law or to misunderstand the man.

There were some who believed him to be entirely colourless. Lloyd George once relayed a conversation he had with Law, while the two men motored along the Mediterranean coast. When the Welshman praised Mozart, he replied, 'I don't care for music'. When he extolled the beauty of the sea on one side of them and the snow-capped Alpine mountains on the other, the reply came: 'I don't care for scenery'. When he pointed to a group of beautiful women, Law responded that he did not care for women. Finally, when the exasperated Lloyd George asked, 'Then what the hell do you care for?', Bonar Law replied, 'I like bridge'.

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