Peerage and MP ledger: the 2nd Earl of Halsbury, barrister, recorder of Carmarthen, and bankrupt

26 APR 2010

Hardinge Goulburn Giffard, the 2nd Earl of Halsbury (1880–1943) is a particularly interesting entry in the Peerage and MP ledger. He was a barrister and recorder of Carmarthen. One commentator has noted that he was, "a struggling lawyer...a stern disciplinarian and had an intimidating presence" (Lindsay). This view is of course all the more interesting when one considers that his father was Hardinge Stanley Giffard, 1st Earl of Halsbury (1823–1921) the famous Lord Chancellor whose, "short legs accentuated his dumpy and pugnacious appearance." (ODNB). In addition to editing the famous Halsbury's Laws of England, the 1st Earl had three children, Hardinge Goulburn (1880–1943); Lynie May Rohais; and Constance Mary Evelyn. The eldest child makes up the subject matter of this blog entry.

Debt seems to have been a preoccupation of the 2nd Earl of Halsbury throughout his lifetime. This may seem curious on the face of it particularly as he inherited £25,009 11s. 6d in 1921 (in addition to the Earldom) when his father passed away. This was not an insubstantial sum at the time. Some would argue that it is not now! However, something seems to have gone wrong for the 2nd Earl. Unfortunately little information survives on him or the state of his personal finances when he was Viscount Tiverton or the 2nd Earl of Halsbury. Certain questions arise from what does survive. Did he accrue over-indebtedness whilst he was Viscount Tiverton in the hope that when he inherited he would be able to discharge his liabilities? Were his skills as a barrister not as great as his father? What other misfortune affected him? Unfortunately few records survive which help to reconstruct the life of the 2nd Earl of Halsbury. At least one record does however survive. This document is discussed below.

The problem of debt cascaded down the generations. The 2nd Earl once told his own heir, Viscount Tiverton (who became the 3rd Earl), that ‘You will need money to lead the life you have been brought up to, and science will never bring you anything on that scale." (Lindsay). Viscount Tiverton was attempting to obtain a scholarship from Eton to Oxfrod to further his scientific ambitions. His father, the 2nd Earl, wanted him to be an accountant. He followed this path for a short period beginning articles at Deloittes.

The debt problems did not improve for the 2nd Earl who faced, "a declining legal practice and faced approaching bankruptcy." (Lindsay). He faced more than that. This is evidenced by an entry in the Peerage and MP ledger which notes:

"Giffard, Harding Goulbourn [sic]

Earl of Halsbury

965/35 - Dismissed 11/2/36
216/36 - Earl of Halsbury, dismissed 5/5/36

Giffard, Hardinge Goulburn

Earl of Halsbury

No.26 of 1938

Receiving Order: 5/4/38
Adjudication 29/4/38

Notification sent to the speaker of the House of Lords & to the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery (sec 106(1))..."

Things did not improve for the 2nd Earl following his bankruptcy. As his son's biographer notes:

"In 1943 the news had arrived that his father, the 2nd Earl of Halsbury, had died in a
civilian internment camp in German-occupied France. When the Germans had taken Paris, he
had gone into hiding and could only feed himself by selling his clothes; he was barefoot when
rounded up by the authorities. A fellow internee later reported that Halsbury had been the
saddest man in the whole camp and just used to stand by himself all day, unspeaking, gazing
out at the horizon. When his health started to fail he was shifted to a hospital in the Vosges,
the part of France that he had loved best and where he was quartered in the days of World
War I when all went well for him. There he died and was buried in the common grave.
It was thus that Tiverton inherited the title of 3rd Earl of Halsbury, although there was
nothing else to inherit." (Lindsay).

Sources:
Peerage and MP ledger.
OJM Lindsay. John Anthony Hardinge Giffard, 3rd Earl of Halsbury. 4 June 1908-14 January 2000. Biogr. Mems Fell. R. Soc. 2001 47, 239-253.
G. R. Rubin, ‘Giffard, Hardinge Stanley, first earl of Halsbury (1823–1921)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008.

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