Jellicoe was the one of the longest-serving parliamentarians in the world, being a member of the House of Lords for 68 years (1939-2007).
Jellicoe was born at Hatfield. He weighed 14LBs. He was christened on 29 July by Dr. Cosmo Lang, the 89th Archbishop of York, while King George V, (represented by Admiral Sir Stanley Colville), and Lady Patricia Ramsay (at the time she was known as HRH Princess Patricia of Connaught) stood sponsor as two of his godparents. The others were: Miss Lilian Lear, Admiral Sir Lionel Halsey (Third Sea Lord), Mr. Eustace Burrows (cousin), Major Herbert Cayzer (uncle), and Rev. Frederick G. G. Jellicoe (uncle, and Rector of New Alresford). Most of his childhood was spent at St. Lawrence Hall, near Ventnor on the Isle of Wight; at a Broadstairs (Kent) prep school; in London; and in the Dominion of New Zealand, where his father was Viceroy as Governor-General between 1921 and 1924. He was educated at Winchester College, where he was styled and known of as Viscount Brocas. He won the Vere Herbert Smith history prize and secured an exhibition to Trinity College, Cambridge (matriculated 1936. BA, Modern History tripos 1939, but awarded 1966). He was chairman of the Pitt Club, and his tutor Steven Runciman became a lifelong friend.
In September 1943, Jellicoe was sent to the Italian held island of Rhodes to negotiate with the Italian Admiral Inigo Campioni for the surrender of his forces to the Allies. However, Jellicoe's negotiations were pre-empted by a surprise German attack on the island on September 9. He was able to escape from Rhodes during the resulting chaos while the Italian garrison was captured by the German invasion force. This was part of the Dodecanese Campaign.
In 1943 he was named Commander of the Special Boat Regiment Middle East and he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. For the remainder of the war his SBS command conducted secretive and dangerous operations along the coast of Italy and Yugoslavia. In 1944 he won the MC for one of these actions. At the end of the war Jellicoe was among the first Allied soldiers to enter German-occupied Athens, beating the communist-controlled guerrillas ELAS to create a pro-Allied presence in the capital.
Years later, when First Lord of the Admiralty, Jellicoe told at least one reporter:
Soon after the war Jellicoe joined His Majesty's Foreign Service, (appointed a Foreign Service Officer, Grade 8 in the Senior Branch of the Foreign Service, September 10, 1947). He served in London (German political department, Third Secretary); Washington (Third Secretary, when Donald Maclean of the Cambridge five was Head of Chancery, and then as one of the 11 Second Secretaries with H. A. R. Philby, seeing NATO signed on April 4 1949, all when Sir Oliver Franks was Ambassador); transferred to Brussels September 10 1951 (Head of Chancery) acted as Chargé d'Affaires in 1952); London (no. 2 in Northern department in charge of the Soviet Desk from September 1953); and Baghdad from January 1956 (First Secretary and Deputy Secretary General of The Baghdad Pact Organisation). The Suez Crisis (from July 1956) wrecked everything the Pact was trying to achieve; Jellicoe was appalled by British policy and came close to resigning (L. Windmill p. 136).
Jellicoe eventually left the Foreign Office in March 1958, after marital difficulties had caused an impasse (February 1958, Permanent Secretary Sir Derek Hoyar-Millar wrote; 'You have a choice of ceasing your relationship with this lady [Philippa Dunne] or changing your job'). He became a director of the Cayzer dynasty's Clan Line Steamers (cargo ships), and Union Castle Steamship Co. (passengers).
However, his mother's family's businesses were ultimately less conducive than the Palace of Westminster, where, back from Iraq, he Took the Oath in the Lords on 3 December 1957, in the Third Session of the UK's 41st parliament.
'... Having lately lived for a year or so in Baghdad I confess that I have not been untouched by the charm of that ugly yet fascinating city, and, if I may say so, of the diverse peoples of Iraq... Like all your Lordships, I felt, and feel, a deep sense of shock, indeed revulsion, at the brutal butchery of the young King and his family, and of that great, and greatly human, statesman, Nuri Pasha. I have also been shocked by the tendency which one sees current at the moment to write off the Nuri regime as decadent, feudal and corrupt. That picture, in my view, is a travesty of the truth....As part of the admirable development programme which the Nuri regime was carrying through there was a large schools programme. These schools were built for the purpose your Lordships might expect-to educate Iraqis in. But the Iraqis did not believe that ; they thought-it was a very widespread belief which one could not eradicate-that these schools were camouflaged barracks intended for the British Army when they reoccupied Iraq. These are the sorts of ingrowing toenails in the Iraqi consciousness which I feel we must try to eradicate, to draw out... 'By October 1958 he had joined the Conservatives, in the Lords a natural home for such a distinctly pink Whig, who gave him the honour of moving 'an humble Address in Reply to Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech':
' My Lords, I am acutely, indeed somewhat painfully, conscious of the great honour which the noble Earl Lord Home, (aka Alec Douglas-Home) the Leader of the House has done me in inviting me to move the humble Address to Her Majesty. The last time that I addressed your Lordships' House was from the platonic sanctity of the Cross-Benches. I then had the aesthetic pleasure of seeing your Lordships in profile : I now have the equal pleasure of seeing some of your Lordships full face. I do not know why I find myself in this particular hot spot this afternoon. I can only surmise that the noble Earl, fishing for a good large Tory trout, cast over the Cross-Benches for an ex-Ambassador and hooked an ex-First Secretary by mistake '.On 7 May 1959 he asked a prescient starred question on the Planning of Motorways:
' ... Just as the Roman roads are with us to-day, so these great new roads may be with our successors 1,000 years hence. With this in mind, can my noble friend assure us, first, that the advice of the Advisory Committee [on the Landscape Treatment of Trunk Roads] to which he referred will in all cases in future be sought at a very early stage in the planning of these new roads ; and, secondly, that permanent professional advice will be enlisted from the outset at the planning, the reconnaissance stage, in order to ensure that these great new roads blend as harmoniously as possible with the land-scape through which they pass? '
On 20 July 1959 he initiated a debate on Western Aid for Uncommitted Countries, and by January 1961 he was a Lord-in-Waiting to H.M. the Queen, a Government Whip, in Macmillan's administration. He was Joint Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Local Government June 1961–July 1962; Minister of State, Home Office July 1962–October 1963; First Lord of the Admiralty October 1963–April 1964; Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy April - October 1964; delegate to the Council of Europe and the Western European Union (WEU) 1965-1967; president of the National Federation of Housing Societies 1965-1970; a governor of the Centre for Environmental Studies 1967-1970; chairman of the British Advisory Committee on Oil Pollution at Sea 1968; chairman of the third International Conference on oil pollution of the sea 1968; an hon. vice-president of PEST (Pressure for Economic and Social Toryism); and deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Lords 1967–1970. From April 1967 Lords Jellicoe and Carrington represented the Conservatives in the Lords on the Inter-Party conference group on Lords' reform, which came up with the unsuccessful Parliament (No.2) Bill (1968-1969). Leading the debate for the (Conservative) Opposition in November 1968 Jellicoe said:
' We hold that a grave constitutional change of this kind should not be brought into effect in the dying years of a discredited Government...a viable Upper House has an essential part to play in our parliamentary structure. We now have a quite considerable constitutional prize in our grasp, the opportunity to build a really viable Upper House on the basis of a broad consensus of support from all Parties... ' (19 November 1968, Hansard via L. Windmill).
Earlier having re-established relations with the miners' union leaders in February 1972 Heath appointed Jellicoe "energy supremo" to restore power supplies around the time of the Three-Day Week and had him set up and chair a Civil Contingencies Unit, which was, when an internal crisis arose, to operate through "COBRA" (Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms). In June 1972 Jellicoe was sent to lead Concorde's first sales expedition. As Alan Trengove in an article entitled My Lord, the super salesman, in the Australian The Sun of 22 June 1972 put it:
Jellicoe, with the help of his very experienced Chief Whip, the second Earl St. Aldwyn), steered the European Communities Act (1972) through the Lords, allowing no amendments. The Industrial Relations Act was another legislative highlight.
On return from the Whitsun recess fulsome tributes were paid in the Lords to their departed leader: The (Labour Party) Opposition leader and Jellicoe's predecessor as Lord Privy Seal, Lord Shackleton said:
' Lord Jellicoe... has been as good a leader of this House as we have known [cheers].. I don't think we can let him go -though happily this is not an epitaph- without expressing our very deep sorrow to the House and to the country [cheers]...with immense thoroughness, patience and personal sensitivity Lord Jellicoe fulfilled his role as Leader of your Lordships House [cheers]... we [Lords Byers and Shackleton] found him an admirable open-minded and wise colleague; my Lords, I believe that we and the country have suffered a grievous loss... (Hansard, 5 June 1973, and The Times 6 June 1973 for the cheers)Lord Byers for the Liberal Party said:
' we regret bitterly his resignation... He was a reforming innovator and the House owes a great deal more than it probably knows to the interest he took in this House and to his initiatives ' (Hansard, 5 June 1973)From the Cross-Benches Lord Strang added:
' To some of us it had been a comfort to have had Lord Jellicoe as Leader. I doubt whether he realises how much we shall miss him. We have been deeply saddened by what has happened. The outstanding record of his achievements will not be dimmed; our warm regard for him will remain. ' (Hansard, 5 June 1973)William Kendall, general secretary of the Civil and Public Services Association said:
' In our union we respected him as a tough, capable and fair negotiator ' (quoted from the The Times, May 25 1973, page 2).Or as Daniel McGeachie in the Daily Express reported on 25 May 1973:
In the meantime veteran reporter Chris Moncrieff (The House Magazine, 5 March, 2007, page 34) remembered him as having been:
In July 1973 the Diplock Commission, which had been set up to look into the security implications of Lambton and Jellicoe's adventures, concluded its section on Jellicoe (paragraph 24):
Loss of government office soon seemed somewhat serendipitous. With no estates to distract him Jellicoe was free to re-join S. G. Warburg & Co. (1 October 1973), and with the help of Alan Lennox-Boyd, who was soon to retire from the board, he became a non-executive director of the sugar company Tate & Lyle 1973–1993. Thanks in the main to Sir Saxon Tate, and presumedly because he had succeeded as chairman (until June 1978) of their subsidiary Tunnel Refineries, the family made him Tate & Lyle's first non-family chairman 1978–1983. Having revived and retrenched Tate & Lyle Jellicoe became chairman of Booker Tate, 1988-1991.
Other non-governmental jobs include: chairman of engineering plant company the Davy Corporation (Davy McKee) (now subsummed into Aker Kværner) 1985–1990; director Sotheby's Holdings 1973–1993; Morgan Crucible 1974–88; Smiths Industries Ltd 1973–1986; S. G. Warburg & Co 1964–1970, 1973–1988. He was president of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry 1979-1982. He succeeded Lord Limerick as chairman of the Department for Trade and Industry's (DTI) British Overseas Trade Board (BOTB) 1983-1986, for which he was knighted. That was followed by chairmanship (1986-1990) and then the presidency (1990-1995) of the East European Trade Council (EETC). He was chairman of the Greek Fund Ltd 1988-1994 (Schroders) and of European Capital Ltd 1991-1995.
Lord Jellicoe was chairman of the council of King's College London (KCL) 1974-1983; chairman of the Medical Research Council (MRC) 1982-1990; a trustee of the National Aids Trust (alongside the likes of Lord Goodman, David Puttnam and Robert Maxwell); president of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) (and of the Institute of British Geographers (IBG) after amalgamation) 1993–1997; president of the Anglo-Hellenic League 1978–1986; president of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust 1987-1994; president of the UK Crete Veterans Association 1991-2001; president of the British Heart Foundation (BHF) 1992-1995; chancellor of Southampton University 1984–1995, and has been closely associated with research and higher education. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1990. In 1995 he helped found Hakluyt & Company, a secret commercial intelligence company based at 34 Upper Brook Street, Mayfair, for which he was a director 1996-2000. He was president of the SAS Regimental Association 1996–2000, when he became its patron. Jellicoe was a member of the Onassis International Prizes Committee (1983-1992); a vice-president of The European-Atlantic Group and of the Byron Society; he was on the board of the Hellenic College London; patron of the City of Southampton Society; a patron of the Greek Archaeological Committee (UK); one of five patrons of The Community Foundation for Wiltshire and Swindon; a director of The Landscape Foundation (now dormant); patron of Friends of The Royal Hospital School; patron of the Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology; a member of the World Innovation Fund (WIF) and an associate member of INEED. In 2002 he became a patron of The Second World War Experience Centre in Leeds.
Jellicoe's interests in science and industry had strong but probably inadvertent echoes with the work of his ancestor Adam Jellicoe (died 30 August 1789). Adam Jellicoe having been a navy agent, and then deputy paymaster of the navy pay office (Deputy Paymaster of Seamen's Wages), had helped finance (to the tune of 27,000L) the former navy agent, ironmaster and naval ironware purveyor Henry Cort's (1740-1800) invention (patent no.1420, 1784) of puddling iron. Cort's endeavours at the Messrs Cort and Jellicoe mill and ironworks at Fontley and Gosport near the Royal Naval dockyards at Portsmouth made for an enormous increase in forge capacity and helped establish the global supremacy of British iron in general, and the Royal Navy's defeat Napoleon in particular. (However, it should be noted that Adam Jellicoe died suddenly at his house 14 Highbury Place, Islington, on 30 August 1789, the day after defalcations to the navy board to the extent of 39,676L. were revealed, thereby bringing down Cort but not his son Samuel Jellicoe (c1758-1843), who, having been Cort's partner and himself a former navy pay clerk, continued the enterprise).
Between 1963 and 1973 Jellicoe had averaged 90 House of Lords daily attendances per parliamentary session. From 1973 to 1989 his attendance plummeted to a meagre average of nine appearances per session. However, between 1990 and 2001 he turned up a conscientious average of 72 visits per session. He maintained this rate until early 2006, though Jellicoe's last full speech in the Lords was made as part of the Address in Reply to Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech (the Queen's Speech debate) on 28 October 1996, his subject was Ukraine.
When the House of Lords Act 1999 removed his hereditary automatic entitlement to attend and sit in the House of Lords, he was created a life peer as Baron Jellicoe of Southampton, of Southampton in the County of Hampshire, so that he could continue to be summoned. The House of Lords Minutes of Proceedings for Die Martis 23° Novembris 1999 records:
1. Earl Jellicoe (Lord Jellicoe of Southampton) —The Rt Hon. George Patrick John Rushworth Earl Jellicoe, having been created Baron Jellicoe of Southampton, of Southampton in the County of Hampshire, for life by Letters Patent dated 6 o’clock in the forenoon of 17th November 1999, took and subscribed the oath pursuant to statute.
At his death, Earl Jellicoe was the longest serving member of the House of Lords, and arguably the longest serving parliamentarian in the world, having succeeded his father on 20 November 1935 and come of age and sat first in parliament on 25 July 1939. Because he waited until 28 July 1958 to make his maiden speech, a few peers (viz. Earl Ferrers and Lords Renton, Carrington, Healey, and Strabolgi) could have been considered to have been active parliamentarians longer. Moreover, at the time of his death, on the Privy Council only the Duke of Edinburgh (1951) and Lords Carrington (1959), Deedes and Renton (both 1962) had served longer.
In May 1973, at the time of his resignation from the government, friends are quoted as saying:
In July 1970, as one of the first people to be breathalized, he was banned from driving for a year and fined 75 pounds with 20 guineas costs for having consumed more than the permitted level of alcohol in Old Brompton Road at 4 a.m. on 21 March 1970. The trouble was that his new Reliant Scimitar had a stiff gearbox, or so his story went. Luck saw to it that the case came after the General Election and the ban coincided with the arrival of his right to a full time government car.
In 2000 his friend the former UK Ambassador to Washington, Sir Nicholas Henderson, wrote:
Lord Jellicoe married firstly, 23 March 1944, Patricia (born 1920), (Cross of Merit first class of Sovereign Military Order of Malta (1959), historian of Islamic art and a childhood boon companion of Margot Fonteyn), the daughter of Jeremiah O'Kane, of Shanghai and then of Vancouver, by whom he had two sons and two daughters. He married secondly, in 1966, Philippa the daughter of Philip Dunne M.C. (1904-1965), by whom he had one son and two daughters. He had eight children in total, born between 1944 and 1984. He was a member of Brooks's (since 1940), the Special Forces Club, the Ski Club of Great Britain and was a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Mercers.
Lorna Windmill's biography termed Jellicoe a British Achilles on account of two of his careers derailing as a result of women: in the 1950s for love, and in the 1970s for escorts. Otherwise A British Odysseus might have served.