Lord Robert Cecil: A Nineteenth-Century Upbringing

The gifted third son of the last Victorian Prime Minister was described as having ‘one foot in the Middle Ages and the other in the League of Nations’, as his descendant, Hugh Cecil, finds out.

Lord Robert Cecil, next to President Wilson, is the man most frequently associated with the fortunes of the League of Nations. Indeed, his connexion with it was far longer. With Wilson, he jointly begat and delivered the League before and after the end of the First World War; but the President, having failed to bring the United States into the League and experienced the onset of his fatal illness, disappeared from the scene, while Robert Cecil continued to play the father’s role throughout the League’s brief and difficult life.

In and out of government office, he acted frequently as British delegate to Geneva. His deep voice - identical, hearers said, with the tones of his father, the late Prime Minister Lord Salisbury - resounded with moral fervour across the Hall of the General Assembly. With League of Nations Union members at home and with internationalists abroad, his reputation was high, his example inspiring.

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