Lewis Harcourt, 1st Viscount Harcourt

Lewis Vernon Harcourt, 1st Viscount Harcourt (31 January 186324 February 1922) was a British politician who held the Cabinet office of Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1910 to 1915.


Lewis Harcourt was born in Nuneham Courtenay, Oxon, and was educated at Eton. Harcourt was nicknamed 'Loulou'.

He was the only surviving son of politician William Vernon Harcourt and his first wife Maria Theresa Lister. He never knew his mother who died only a day after giving birth to him. His only older sibling, Julian Harcourt, had died the previous year.

His paternal grandparents were William Vernon Harcourt, founder of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and his wife Matilda Mary Gooch. His maternal grandparents were novelist Thomas Henry Lister and Lady Maria Theresa Villiers.

William Vernon Harcourt was a son of Edward Harcourt, Archbishop of York and his wife Lady Anne Leveson-Gower. Matilda Mary Mooch was a daughter of Colonel William Gooch. Maria Theresa Villiers was a daughter of George Villiers and Theresa Parker.

Lady Anne Leveson-Gower was a daughter of Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Marquess of Stafford and his second wife Lady Louisa Egerton. George Villiers was a son of Thomas Villiers, 1st Earl of Clarendon and Charlotte Cappell. Theresa Parker was a daughter of John Parker, 1st Baron Boringdon and his second wife Theresa Robinson.

Lady Louisa Egerton was a daughter of Scroop Egerton, 1st Duke of Bridgewater and his second wife Rachel Russell. Charlotte Cappell was a daughter of William Capell, 3rd Earl of Essex and Jane Hyde. Theresa Robinson was a daughter of Thomas Robinson, 1st Baron Grantham and Frances Worsley.

Rachel Russell was a daughter of Wriothesley Russell, 2nd Duke of Bedford and rich heiress Elizabeth Howland, daughter of John Howland of Streatham. Jane Hyde was a daughter of Henry Hyde, 4th Earl of Clarendon and Jane Leveson-Gower.

Jane Leveson-Gower was a daughter of Sir William Leveson-Gower, 4th Baronet and Lady Jane Granville. Her maternal grandparents were John Granville, 1st Earl of Bath and Jane Wyche.


On 1 July, 1899, Harcourt married Mary Ethel Burns, daughter of Walter Hayes Burns of New York City and North Mymms Park, Hertfordshire. They had four children:


His father Sir was Home Secretary 1880-5, at which time Lewis acted as his Private Secretary.

He was Liberal MP for Rossendale, Lancashire, 1904-1916.

He was First Commissioner of Works in Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's 1905 ministry (included in the cabinet in 1907) and in Asquith's cabinet 1908-10 and again 1915-16. In this role he authorised the placement in Kensington Gardens of the Peter Pan statue, sculpted by George Frampton, erected on May 1, 1912. He was Secretary of State for the Colonies 1910-15.

He acted as a trustee for the British Museum, Wallace Collection, the London Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery, which now contains his portrait.

Harcourt received an honorary DCL degree from Oxford University, and was created the first Viscount Harcourt, of Stanton Harcourt, Oxon, on 3 January, 1917.

Private life

Harcourt was an uncontrollable sexual predator attracted to both sexes. He tried to rape Dorothy Brett, the daughter of Viscount Esher, and followed this by an attempt to seduce his son. Dorothy Brett wrote of him that "it is so tiresome that Loulou is such an old roué. He is as bad with boys as with girls .. he is simply a sex maniac. It isn't that he is in love. It is just ungovernable Sex desire for both sexes. His behaviour was known and tolerated in private, but when he attempted to seduce one 12-year-old boy, the boy's mother began to 'tell the whole of society. Harcourt could not tolerate the impending disgrace and he committed suicide at his London home in Brook Street.

(Source: Matthew Parris, Great Parliamentary Scandals (Robson Books, 1995), chapter on Lewis Harcourt.)

Port Harcourt

Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers state in southern Nigeria, is named after him. When the port was established in 1912, there was much controversy about the name it should receive. In August 1913, the Governor–General of Nigeria, Sir Frederick Lugard wrote to Harcourt, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, "in the absence of any convenient local name, I would respectfully ask your permission to call this Port Harcourt." To this the Secretary of State replied, "It gives me pleasure to accede to your suggestion that my name should be associated with the new Port."

Lord Rosebery

Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery served as Liberal Prime Minister from 1894-1895 (after William Ewart Gladstone's fourth term and before Lord Salisbury's third). His main rival was Loulou's father William. Loulou's attempts to have his father appointed were so fervent that many Liberal politicians criticized him. He helped to wreck Rosebery's administration, wrongly believing that his father would then succeed to the premiership. However, the Liberal Party was instead thrown into opposition for 10 years, and Louloun was despised by Rosebery for the remainder of his life.

Queen Victoria

Harcourt's diaries contain a report that one of Queen Victoria's chaplains, Rev'd Norman Macleod, made a deathbed confession repenting of his action in presiding over Queen Victoria's marriage to her servant, John Brown. Little credence is given to this report, in view of the many years which would have passed from the time of the "marriage" until Harcourt recorded it. See John Brown (servant) for a fuller discussion.


  • Dictionary of national biography 1971-1980, Oxford University Press, 1986
  • ''Lewis Harcourt by Patrick Jackson: Journal of Liberal History, Issue 40, Autumn 2003
  • " Great Parliamentary Scandals" (Matthew Parris, Robson Books, 1995, chapter on Lewis Harcourt).

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