Eyre Crowe
Sir Eyre Alexander Barby Wichart Crowe GCB
Order of the Bath
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

Order of St Michael and St George
The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is an order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom, while he was acting as Prince Regent for his father, George III....

 (30 July 1864 – 28 April 1925) was a British diplomat
A diplomat is a person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with another state or international organization. The main functions of diplomats revolve around the representation and protection of the interests and nationals of the sending state, as well as the promotion of information and...

. Crowe was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1907, Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 1911, Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in 1917, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) in the 1920 New Year Honours, and Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB) in the 1923 Birthday Honours.

Early life

Eyre Crowe was born in Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

 and educated at Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf is the capital city of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and centre of the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region.Düsseldorf is an important international business and financial centre and renowned for its fashion and trade fairs. Located centrally within the European Megalopolis, the...

 and Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 and in France, with a German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 mother and a German wife. His father Joseph Archer Crowe
Joseph Archer Crowe
Sir Joseph Archer Crowe , was an English consular official and art critic, whose volumes of the History of Painting in Italy, co-written with the Italian critic Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle , stand at the beginning of disciplined modern art history writing in English,...

 had been a British consul-general and ended his career as commercial attache for all of Europe (1882–1896). His grandfather Eyre Evans Crowe
Eyre Evans Crowe
Eyre Evans Crowe was an English journalist and historian.He commenced his work as a writer for the London newspaper press in connection with the Morning Chronicle, and he afterwards became a leading contributor to the Examiner and the Daily News...

 was a journalist, writer and historian, and his uncle, Eyre Crowe
Eyre Crowe (painter)
Eyre Crowe was an English painter, principally of historical art and genre scenes, but with an interest in social realism. He was born in London but grew up in France. He was the eldest son of the journalist Eyre Evans Crowe and brother of the journalist, diplomat and art historian Joseph Archer...

, was an artist.

Crowe first visited England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 in 1882 when he was seventeen to cram for the Foreign Office examination and at the time was not fully fluent in English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

. Even later in life it was reported that when angry he spoke English with a German accent. He married his widowed German cousin Clema Gerhardt in 1903. Crowe's wife's uncle was Henning von Holzendorff, who was to become the Chief of the German Naval Staff in the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. Due to being half-German, Crowe was often attacked in the press and by Christabel Pankhurst
Christabel Pankhurst
Dame Christabel Harriette Pankhurst, DBE , was a suffragette born in Manchester, England. A co-founder of the Women's Social and Political Union , she directed its militant actions from exile in France from 1912 to 1913. In 1914 she became a fervent supporter of the war against Germany...

 and William le Queux
William Le Queux
William Tufnell Le Queux was an Anglo-French journalist and writer. He was also a diplomat , a traveller , a flying buff who officiated at the first British air meeting at Doncaster in 1909, and a wireless pioneer who broadcast music from his own station long...

 for this during the First World War.

Foreign Office

Crowe entered the Foreign Office in 1885 and until 1895 was resident clerk. He served as assistant to Clement Hill in the African Protectorates' Department but when responsibility for the protectorates was handed over to the Colonial Office
Colonial Office
Colonial Office is the government agency which serves to oversee and supervise their colony* Colonial Office - The British Government department* Office of Insular Affairs - the American government agency* Reichskolonialamt - the German Colonial Office...

 he was asked to reform the registry system. His success led to his appointed as senior clerk in the Western Department in 1906 and in January 1907 he produced an unsolicited Memorandum on the Present State of British Relations with France and Germany for the Foreign Office. The memorandum stated Crowe's belief that Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 desired "hegemony" first "in Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, and eventually in the world". Crowe stated that Germany presented a threat to the balance of power
Balance of power in international relations
In international relations, a balance of power exists when there is parity or stability between competing forces. The concept describes a state of affairs in the international system and explains the behavior of states in that system...

 in Europe similar to the threat posed by Philip II of Spain
Philip II of Spain
Philip II was King of Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sicily, and, while married to Mary I, King of England and Ireland. He was lord of the Seventeen Provinces from 1556 until 1581, holding various titles for the individual territories such as duke or count....

, Bourbon
House of Bourbon
The House of Bourbon is a European royal house, a branch of the Capetian dynasty . Bourbon kings first ruled Navarre and France in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Bourbon dynasty also held thrones in Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma...

 and Napoleonic
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. Crowe opposed appeasement
The term appeasement is commonly understood to refer to a diplomatic policy aimed at avoiding war by making concessions to another power. Historian Paul Kennedy defines it as "the policy of settling international quarrels by admitting and satisfying grievances through rational negotiation and...

 of Germany because:

To give way to the blackmailer's menaces enriches him, but it has long been proved by uniform experience that, although this may secure for the victim temporary peace, it is certain to lead to renewed molestation and higher demands after ever-shortening periods of amicable forbearance.

Crowe further argued Britain should never give in to Germany's demands since:

The blackmailer's trade is generally ruined by the first resolute stand made against his exactions and the determination rather to face all risks of a possibly disagreeable situation than to continue in the path of endless concessions.

Sir Edward Grey
Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon
Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon KG, PC, FZL, DL , better known as Sir Edward Grey, Bt, was a British Liberal statesman. He served as Foreign Secretary from 1905 to 1916, the longest continuous tenure of any person in that office...

, the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, commonly referred to as the Foreign Secretary, is a senior member of Her Majesty's Government heading the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and regarded as one of the Great Offices of State...

, said he found Crowe's memorandum "most valuable". Grey circulated the paper to the Prime Minister Campbell-Bannerman
Henry Campbell-Bannerman
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman GCB was a British Liberal Party politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1905 to 1908 and Leader of the Liberal Party from 1899 to 1908. He also served as Secretary of State for War twice, in the Cabinets of Gladstone and Rosebery...

, Asquith
H. H. Asquith
Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, KG, PC, KC served as the Liberal Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916...

, Ripon and Morley but there is no evidence either way that any of them either read or were influenced by the argument. The historian Richard Hamilton states: "Though a life-long Liberal
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

, Crowe came to despise the Liberal Cabinets of 1906–1914, including Sir Edward Grey, for what he perceived as their irresolute attitude to Germany".

However, detractors of Crowe, for example the historian John Charmley
John Charmley
John Charmley is a British diplomatic historian and a professor of modern history at the University of East Anglia, where he has been head of the School of History since 2001. Specialising in modern diplomatic and political history, Charmley's historical work has proved to be controversial, most...

, argue that he was being unduly pessimistic about Germany and by making warnings like these was encouraging war.

Crowe regarded the Agadir Crisis
Agadir Crisis
The Agadir Crisis, also called the Second Moroccan Crisis, or the Panthersprung, was the international tension sparked by the deployment of the German gunboat Panther, to the Moroccan port of Agadir on July 1, 1911.-Background:...

 of 1911 as "a trial of strength, if anything...Concession means not loss of interests or loss of prestige. It means defeat, with all its inevitable consequences". He urged Grey to send a gunboat to Agadir. During the July Crisis of 1914 Crowe wrote Grey a memorandum: "The argument that there is no written bond binding us to France is strictly correct. There is no contractual obligation. But the Entente has been made, strengthened, put to the test and celebrated in a manner justifying the belief that a moral bond was being forged...our duty and our interest will be seen to lie in standing by France...The theory that England cannot engage in a big war means her abdication as an independent state...A balance of power cannot be maintained by a State that is incapable of fighting and consequently carries no weight".

During the First World War, Crowe served in the Contraband Department and at the start of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference
Paris Peace Conference, 1919
The Paris Peace Conference was the meeting of the Allied victors following the end of World War I to set the peace terms for the defeated Central Powers following the armistices of 1918. It took place in Paris in 1919 and involved diplomats from more than 32 countries and nationalities...

 he was Assistant Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; by June 1919 he was head of the political section of the British Delegation there. Harold Nicolson
Harold Nicolson
Sir Harold George Nicolson KCVO CMG was an English diplomat, author, diarist and politician. He was the husband of writer Vita Sackville-West, their unusual relationship being described in their son's book, Portrait of a Marriage.-Early life:Nicolson was born in Tehran, Persia, the younger son of...

's diary entry for 22 January 1919 records:

Crowe is cantankerous about Cyprus and will not allow me even to mention the subject. I explain (1) that we acquired it by a trick as disreputable as that by which the Italians collared the Dodecanese. (2) that it is wholly Greek, and that under any interpretation of self-determination would opt for union with Greece. (3) that it is of no use to us strategically or economically. (4) that we are left in a false moral position if we ask everyone else to surrender possessions in terms of self-determination and surrender nothing ourselves. How can we keep Cyprus and express moral indignation at the Italians retaining Rhodes? He says, ‘Nonsense, my dear Nicolson. You are not being clear-headed. You think that you are being logical and sincere. You are not. Would you apply self-determination to India, Egypt, Malta and Gibraltar? If you are not prepared to go as far as this, then you have no right to claim that you are logical. If you are prepared to go as far as this, then you had better return to London.’ Dear Crowe – he has the most truthful brain of any man I know.

Whilst Crowe had been an implacable opponent of appeasement towards Germany, he also doubted the French government's motives and sincerity at the Paris Peace Conference, regarding the French as more interested in revenge than a lasting peace. He also regarded the League of Nations Mandates over Danzig, with Polish ownership of a German-populated city, as a 'house of cards that would not stand'. Crowe was sceptical of the usefulness of the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 and in a memorandum of 12 October 1916, he said that "a solemn league and covenant
Covenant (historical)
In a historical context, a covenant applies to formal promises that were made under oath, or in less remote history, agreements in which the name actually uses the term 'covenant', implying that they were binding for all time...

" would be "a treaty
A treaty is an express agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations. A treaty may also be known as an agreement, protocol, covenant, convention or exchange of letters, among other terms...

, like other treaties", and asked: "What is there to ensure that it will not, like other treaties, be broken?" Crowe was also sceptical on whether "the pledge of common action
Collective security
Collective security can be understood as a security arrangement, regional or global, in which each state in the system accepts that the security of one is the concern of all, and agrees to join in a collective response to threats to, and breaches of, the peace...

" against breakers of the peace would be honoured and Crowe thought that the balance of power
Balance of power in international relations
In international relations, a balance of power exists when there is parity or stability between competing forces. The concept describes a state of affairs in the international system and explains the behavior of states in that system...

 and the considerations of national interest would determine individual states future actions. Crowe argued that boycotts and blockades, as advocated by the League of Nations, would not be of any use: "It is all a question of real military preponderance" in numbers, cohesion, efficiency and geographical location of each state. Universal disarmament
Disarmament is the act of reducing, limiting, or abolishing weapons. Disarmament generally refers to a country's military or specific type of weaponry. Disarmament is often taken to mean total elimination of weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear arms...

, Crowe also argued, would be a practical impossibility.

Crowe was Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office
Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office
This is a list of Permanent Under-Secretaries in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office since 1790.Not to be confused with Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs...

 from 1920 until his death in 1925.


Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, KG, PC was a British Conservative politician, who dominated the government in his country between the two world wars...

 called him "our ablest public servant". Lord Vansittart in his memoirs said of Crowe: "...a dowdy, meticulous, conscientious agnostic with small faith in anything but his brain and his Britain". Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick
Ivone Kirkpatrick
His Excellency Sir Ivone Augustine Kirkpatrick GCB, GCMG was a British diplomat who served most notably as the British High Commissioner in Germany after the war, and as the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office -Summary:Kirkpatrick left school to join the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers...

 said Crowe was:

...probably the most efficient public servant ever produced by the Foreign Office. His mother was German, he spoke with a guttural accent and he had a mind of truly Germanic clarity and orderliness. No-one since his time has ever kept so tight a grip on the work of the whole office. He read a copy of every inward and outward telegram (there were fewer in those days) and sent his marginal notes on them by urgent box to the appropriate department. He sometimes telephoned to juniors to make known his views or his disapproval. I was paralysed one day to pick up the telephone to hear his voice: ‘I have just r-r-read your minute. Either you do not mean what you say, in which case you are wasting my time. Or you do mean it, in which case you are wr-r-riting r-r-rot.’ And with that he put down the receiver. Crowe's industry was prodigious. In December 1921 Lord Curzon asked for the office views on Anglo-French relations. Crowe regarded this as a suitable holiday task for himself, and on our return from the Christmas holidays we found a 20,000-word manuscript memorandum in his inimitable limpid style. It was unfortunate for Crowe that he should have served under a chief who never appreciated his quality and who was apt to take advantage of his zeal. the work which Curzon heaped on his willing shoulders probably accelerated his premature death whilst still in harness.

A. J. P. Taylor
A. J. P. Taylor
Alan John Percivale Taylor, FBA was a British historian of the 20th century and renowned academic who became well known to millions through his popular television lectures.-Early life:...

claimed "Crowe always thought he knew better than his political superiors".

Zara Steiner and Keith Nelson have described Crowe as "the leading German expert in the pre-war Foreign Office...He was a master of detail but also interested in the broader complex of international and military relations...Crowe was the arch anti-appeaser. With ruthless logic and in a forthright manner, he opposed every effort to come to terms with Berlin...A prodigious worker, Crowe's knowledge and skill earned him a very special place in the Foreign Office hierarchy and his comments were read with attention if not always with approval".

Further reading

  • Edward Corp, ‘Sir Eyre Crowe and the Administration of the Foreign Office, 1906-1914’, The Historical Journal, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Jun., 1979), pp. 443-454.
  • Edward Corp, ‘The problem of promotion in the career of Sir Eyre Crowe, 1905–1920’, Australian Journal of Politics and History, 28 (1982), pp. 236–49.
  • Edward Corp, ‘Sir Eyre Crowe and Georges Clemenceau at the Paris peace conference, 1919–1920’, Diplomacy and Statecraft, 8 (1997), pp. 10–19.
  • Richard A. Cosgrove, ‘The Career of Sir Eyre Crowe: A Reassessment’, Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Winter, 1972), pp. 193-205.
  • Sibyl Eyre Crowe, ‘Sir Eyre Crowe and the Locarno Pact’, The English Historical Review, Vol. 87, No. 342 (Jan., 1972), pp. 49-74.
  • Thomas Otte, ‘Eyre Crowe and British Foreign Policy: A Cognitive Map’, in T. G. Otte and Constantine A. Pagedas (eds.), Personalities, War and Diplomacy. Essays in International History (Cass, 1997), pp. 14-37.

External links

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