Sir Edward Grey was a Northumbrian who was at the centre of the events leading up to the ‘war to end all wars’. Born into a privileged background, his life was blighted by misfortune. His father, a former soldier who was Equerry to the Prince of Wales, died at 39 when Edward was 12, the eldest of seven children. Both his wives pre-deceased him, two brothers were killed by animals in Africa and both his Northumberland home and his cottage in Hampshire were destroyed by fire. Further, later in life he was almost blind.
On the evening of 3rd August 1914, Grey, then the British Foreign Secretary and Berwick Division MP, looked out of the Foreign Office window and famously declared that “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime”. The next day Britain declared war on Germany. Even he though could not have envisaged the horror of the four years of war which were to follow. This study examines the key choices Grey and others made in the weeks leading up to the beginning of war and the impact these choices had on the rest of his life.
Grey remains a controversial figure. Mike Fraser addresses the controversies surrounding him while presenting a sympathetic portrait of Britain’s longest continuously serving Foreign Secretary.