Frederic Maugham, 1st Viscount Maugham
Frederic Herbert Maugham, 1st Viscount Maugham PC, KC (20 October 1866 Paris – 23 March 1958) was a British lawyer and judge who served as Lord Chancellor
Lord Chancellor
The Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, or Lord Chancellor, is a senior and important functionary in the government of the United Kingdom. He is the second highest ranking of the Great Officers of State, ranking only after the Lord High Steward. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign...

 from 1938 until 1939 despite having virtually no political career at all.

Background and education

Maugham was the son of Robert Ormond Maugham by his wife, Edith, daughter of Major Charles Snell. The author W. Somerset Maugham
W. Somerset Maugham
William Somerset Maugham , CH was an English playwright, novelist and short story writer. He was among the most popular writers of his era and, reputedly, the highest paid author during the 1930s.-Childhood and education:...

 was his younger brother. He was educated at Dover College
Dover College
Dover College is a co-educational independent school in Dover in southeast England. It was founded in 1871, and takes both day pupils and boarders....

 and at Trinity Hall, Cambridge
Trinity Hall, Cambridge
Trinity Hall is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. It is the fifth-oldest college of the university, having been founded in 1350 by William Bateman, Bishop of Norwich.- Foundation :...

. He rowed for the winning Cambridge
Cambridge University Boat Club
The Cambridge University Boat Club is the rowing club of the University of Cambridge, England, located on the River Cam at Cambridge, although training primarily takes place on the River Great Ouse at Ely. The club was founded in 1828...

 crew in the Boat Race in 1888 and was also in the winning Trinity Hall Boat Club
Trinity Hall Boat Club
Trinity Hall Boat Club is the rowing club of Trinity Hall, a college of the University of Cambridge. Founded in 1827 it is amongst the oldest college boat clubs in Cambridge, England....

 coxless four
Coxless four
A coxless four is a rowing boat used in the sport of competitive rowing. It is designed for four persons who propel the boat with sweep oars.The crew consists of four rowers, each having one oar. There are two rowers on the stroke side and two on the bow side...

 which won the Stewards' Challenge Cup
Stewards' Challenge Cup
The Stewards' Challenge Cup is a rowing event for men's coxless fours at the annual Henley Royal Regatta on the River Thames at Henley-on-Thames in England. It is open to male crews from all eligible rowing clubs. Two or more clubs may combine to make an entry....

 at Henley Royal Regatta
Henley Royal Regatta
Henley Royal Regatta is a rowing event held every year on the River Thames by the town of Henley-on-Thames, England. The Royal Regatta is sometimes referred to as Henley Regatta, its original name pre-dating Royal patronage...

 that year. He was in the winning Cambridge crew in the Boat Race again in 1889. He also became President of the Cambridge Union Society
Cambridge Union Society
The Cambridge Union Society, commonly referred to as simply "the Cambridge Union" or "the Union," is a debating society in Cambridge, England and is the largest society at the University of Cambridge. Since its founding in 1815, the Union has developed a worldwide reputation as a noted symbol of...

 in Lent Term 1889.

Political and legal career

Maugham was called to the Bar
Call to the bar
The Call to the Bar is a legal term of art in most common law jurisdictions where persons must be qualified to be allowed to argue in court on behalf of another party, and are then said to have been "called to the bar" or to have received a "call to the bar"...

, Lincoln's Inn
Lincoln's Inn
The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn is one of four Inns of Court in London to which barristers of England and Wales belong and where they are called to the Bar. The other three are Middle Temple, Inner Temple and Gray's Inn. Although Lincoln's Inn is able to trace its official records beyond...

, in 1890, and then embarked upon a legal career, becoming a King's Counsel in 1913. In 1922 he briefly considered entering politics as a Conservative
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 but could not find a seat. He was a Judge of the High Court of Justice
High Court of Justice
The High Court of Justice is, together with the Court of Appeal and the Crown Court, one of the Senior Courts of England and Wales...

 (Chancery Division) from 1928 to 1934 and a Lord Justice of Appeal
Lord Justice of Appeal
A Lord Justice of Appeal is an ordinary judge of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, the court that hears appeals from the High Court of Justice, and represents the second highest level of judge in the courts of England and Wales-Appointment:...

 from 1934 to 1935. He was knighted in 1928 and sworn of the Privy Council in 1934. In 1935 he became a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary
Lord of Appeal in Ordinary
Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, commonly known as Law Lords, were appointed under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 to the House of Lords of the United Kingdom in order to exercise its judicial functions, which included acting as the highest court of appeal for most domestic matters...

, made a life peer
Life peer
In the United Kingdom, life peers are appointed members of the Peerage whose titles cannot be inherited. Nowadays life peerages, always of baronial rank, are created under the Life Peerages Act 1958 and entitle the holders to seats in the House of Lords, presuming they meet qualifications such as...

 and entered the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

 as Baron Maugham, of Hartfield in the County of Sussex
Sussex , from the Old English Sūþsēaxe , is an historic county in South East England corresponding roughly in area to the ancient Kingdom of Sussex. It is bounded on the north by Surrey, east by Kent, south by the English Channel, and west by Hampshire, and is divided for local government into West...

. Three years later he was offered the role of Lord Chancellor
Lord Chancellor
The Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, or Lord Chancellor, is a senior and important functionary in the government of the United Kingdom. He is the second highest ranking of the Great Officers of State, ranking only after the Lord High Steward. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign...

 by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain
Neville Chamberlain
Arthur Neville Chamberlain FRS was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the...

. Such was Maugham's lack of political experience that Chamberlain and he had never met before. He was offered the role because there were very few obvious available choices amongst the ranks of parliamentary supporters of the National Government
UK National Government
In the United Kingdom the term National Government is an abstract concept referring to a coalition of some or all major political parties. In a historical sense it usually refers primarily to the governments of Ramsay MacDonald, Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain which held office from 1931...

 to replace the ailing Lord Hailsham
Douglas Hogg, 1st Viscount Hailsham
Douglas McGarel Hogg, 1st Viscount Hailsham PC was a British lawyer and Conservative politician.-Background:...

, as the obvious successor, Sir Thomas Inskip
Thomas Inskip, 1st Viscount Caldecote
Thomas Walker Hobart Inskip, 1st Viscount Caldecote CBE, PC, KC was a British politician who served in many legal posts, culminating in serving as Lord Chancellor from 1939 until 1940...

, could not be moved from the position of Minister for Coordination of Defence
Minister for Coordination of Defence
The position of Minister for Coordination of Defence was a British Cabinet-level position established in 1936 to oversee and co-ordinate the rearmament of Britain's defences....


As Maugham was already 71 years old it was widely expected that he would prove to be a mere stop-gap appointment, to be succeeded by Inskip as soon as it was possible for the latter to leave Defence. However by the time this occurred in early 1939, Chamberlain was sufficiently impressed with Maugham's work to offer to retain him, whilst allowing Inskip the opportunity to defer choosing between becoming Lord Chancellor and remaining in the House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

 with the possibility of becoming Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 (a choice that Hailsham had always regretted) and intended to make a change at the next general election, which was expected to take place that year.

However war intervened and Chamberlain carried out a fullscale reconstruction of his government. As part of this Maugham was allowed to retire, to be finally succeeded by Inskip, who was ennobled as Viscount Caldecote. Maugham took the retirement honour of Viscount Maugham, of Hartfield in the County of Sussex, which, unlike his barony, was hereditary. He again served as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary until 1941.


Maugham married Helen Mary, daughter of Sir Robert Romer
Robert Romer
Sir Robert Romer was a British jurist. He became an English High Court judge from 1890 to 1899, and a Lord Justice of Appeal from 1899 to 1906. He became a Privy Councillor in 1899, and a Fellow of the Royal Society in the same year...

, in 1896. They had four children:
  • The Hon. Kate Mary Maugham (1897–1961, married Robert Charles Bruce)
  • The Hon. Edith Honor Maugham (1901–1996, married Sebastian Earl
    Sebastian Earl
    Sebastian Earl was a British rower who competed in the 1920 Summer Olympics.Earl was born at Tonbridge Kent, the son of Alfred Earl and was educated at Oxford University. He was an accomplished rower and in 1920 he was a member of the Oxford crew in the Boat Race...

  • The Hon. Diana Julia Maugham (1908–2007, married Kenneth Marr-Johnson)
  • Robert Cecil Romer Maugham (1916–1981), 2nd Viscount. Known as Robin Maugham. He wrote about his father in two volumes of autobiography, Escape from the Shadows (1970) and Search for Nirvana (1977).

Lady Maugham died in October 1950, aged 78. Lord Maugham survived her by eight years and died in March 1958, aged 91. He is buried in the grounds of the parish church in Hartfield, Sussex, alongside his wife and son.


  • The Case Of Jean Calas published by W. Heinemann (1928)
  • The Tichbourne Case (1936)
  • The Truth About The Munich Crisis (1944)
  • U.N.O. and War Crimes (1951)
  • At The End of The Day (autobiography) (1951)

External links

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