Historian Dan Snow explores the life of his forebear David Lloyd George, the British prime minister at the end of the First World War, when he was hailed as a national hero.
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This is the Palace of Versailles, on the outskirts of Paris.
Here, on the 28th of June 1919,
the victors of the First World War gathered to sign the treaty
which would definitively end the conflict,
would exact revenge on Germany,
and redraw the map of Europe.
Representing Britain and her empire in the magnificent Hall of Mirrors
on that extraordinary day
was the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George.
It was the pinnacle of a career
that had started as a small-town solicitor in North Wales.
He'd gone on to become a reforming chancellor
and a charismatic war leader,
earning himself the title "the man who won the war".
But he was also my great-great-grandfather.
Even though it's 70 years since his death,
he remains a controversial figure.
It's apt to talk about him in a hall of mirrors,
because the truth remains very hard to pin down.
He was brilliant, certainly,
but he was slippery, devious,
and he was involved in financial scandals
that, today, would ruin any political career.
He was a serial womaniser, he was nicknamed The Goat.
He had such a long and intense relationship with a young secretary
that for years he effectively had two wives.
I'm descended from Lloyd George's daughter by his first marriage,
so that side of his character we didn't talk too much about
within the family.
In this programme,
I want to discover more about this complex character.
I want to understand what motivated him.
How did this radical liberal go on to become an imperial overlord?
Why, 100 years after he was made Prime Minister,
is he not remembered today as a Churchillian figure?
Is it, perhaps, because he's the man who won the war, but lost the peace?
This is Lloyd George country - North West Wales.
There's the town of Criccieth.
This is pretty much the westernmost part of Britain,
and it's astonishingly beautiful - big skies, rugged landscape,
where the mountains come down to the water's edge.
It's where I spent lots of happy holidays as a child.
David Lloyd George's daughter, Olwen, was my great-nain -
She lived in a big farmhouse just over there.
Her husband, my great-taid - grandfather -
died up on his sheep farm up on the hills behind.
My mum was born just over this hill here.
And this is Moel y Gest, this was a big mountain of my youth.
It looks a bit smaller now.
If I climbed this without complaining,
I got an ice cream afterwards.
And this is, well, little changed since he was a child here
at the end of the 19th century.
I often think of him walking these hills, being inspired,
being shaped by the community up here,
but also looking out there at the sea,
and realising the opportunities that lay beyond the horizon.
David Lloyd George wasn't born in Wales,
but in Manchester in 1863.
He moved to North Wales a year later when his father died,
and was brought up by his uncle
in the Welsh-speaking village of Llanystumdwy.
My nain used to paint a picture of David Lloyd George's childhood
in the most gruesome possible terms,
you know, he was poor as a church mouse. Is that true?
Well, they were poor,
but they certainly weren't the poorest of the poor. His uncle,
who brought him up, was a cobbler.
He didn't make an awful lot of money from being a cobbler,
but his mother did have some resources.
So they weren't absolutely penniless.
His uncle read a great deal,
there were lots of books in the house.
They were also a very religious household,
so that had a huge influence throughout his career.
His relationship with this part of North Wales is interesting,
because on the one hand it was clear that he was excited about leaving
and seizing the opportunities that the world, and London, had to offer,
but, of course, there's also the sense in which
he wanted to return here
and eventually wanted to be buried and to die here.
What do you think his feelings were towards this place?
Without question, I think there is a tendency sometimes
to see this part of the world as marginal
to the Industrial Revolution
or marginal to the great developments of the 19th century.
That's just not the right way to see it.
I think this area, politically, was very, very significant for him.
And he never lost his belief
that there was something fundamentally wrong
with the way in which wealth was distributed in this area.
It wasn't a poor backwater when he was growing up.
This was a thriving area with a slate industry,
but also with tourism.
The railway had come here in the late 1860s,
there were ships trading around the world,
but the wealth that came out of all of that
was very, very unequally shared.
And that, I think, is probably,
as he perhaps would have sat somewhere like this,
looking around him,
he would have noticed how much of the land that he was surveying
was actually not owned by the people who worked it.
OK, but I mean, it's fair to say that no previous Prime Minister
to Lloyd George had anything like that kind of upbringing.
He was the first person from a humble background.
The trajectory that Lloyd George followed from such humble beginnings
to becoming Prime Minister of the British Empire
in its greatest hour of need, the trajectory is unparalleled -
there's nobody who travelled such a path.
Lloyd George's roots were here in North Wales,
but his ambitions were too big to be contained
in just one corner of the country.
This was a young man in a hurry.
David Lloyd George was a most unlikely person
to become Britain's First World War leader.
He was from an anti-war party, the Liberals,
from nonconformist, chapel-going Wales.
He was not part of the establishment.
He didn't go to Oxford or Cambridge,
and didn't have any military training.
He was the ultimate outsider.
This train's played a special part in our family story.
Not only numerous childhood holidays spent riding on this train,
but also my nain always said to me that when her parents were courting,
my great-taid would come down from the slate mines
and visit my great-nain on this train, as well.
And, of course, David Lloyd George used to use this train
when he was up visiting the slate quarries.
He had a roaring practice as a solicitor
and worked with many of the mines up there.
And legend has it this was his private compartment.
A little shelf here for him.
He could put out his work, and he could work here in private.
The rumour was that he had blinds fitted to these windows
so he could enjoy a bit of privacy with his secretary.
Rumours about his sexual promiscuity started quite early.
Whatever the truth of them,
he was certainly an incredibly charismatic man -
piercing blue eyes, a great speaker -
he was a natural for going into politics.
People have compared him to early Bill Clinton
or Tony Blair in that respect.
In 1890, he won a by-election
and was elected the local Liberal MP,
winning by just 19 votes.
Initially he spoke on Welsh issues,
on temperance, and the Welsh Church.
But he soon made a name for himself as an antiestablishment figure.
Lloyd George did feel that he was a man of the people,
and did feel different, and an outsider in Westminster.
Very much so.
And this is something that always marks him.
He's a Welsh speaker,
his first language is not English,
he's from a very ordinary background,
he's a very ambitious man,
he's on the way to the top, nothing is going to stop him getting there.
In terms of his broader attitudes, this is a liberal imperialist.
He believes in the British Empire,
he believes in the idea of the British Empire expanding,
but he has criticisms of that empire and how it is run.
The issue that brought Lloyd George to national attention
was the Boer War.
He thought the conflict in South Africa was a bad war,
as Barack Obama might have said, a dumb war.
When he spoke out against it in Parliament, he was in the minority,
a firebrand anti-war activist.
He caused a riot at a meeting in Birmingham
and had to escape disguised as a policeman.
But it made him a public figure of note.
Lloyd George was only 27 when he became an MP
and entered this place.
He quickly established himself
as one of the most dynamic and remarkable politicians
of his generation.
And he served here a long and extraordinary career until 1945.
And all that earned him, well, pride of place,
his statue now stands at the very entrance
to the House of Commons Chamber
alongside his old friend, Winston Churchill.
SHOUTING AND JEERING
The young MP that entered this chamber, David Lloyd George,
was a radical liberal.
He was determined to reform the system, and he did.
He actually managed to become Chancellor of the Exchequer.
And, in 1909, after vicious debate in here,
he managed to pass the People's Budget,
one of the most important reforming documents
in British history.
It established, for the first time, old-age pensions,
national insurance. It was something of a breakthrough,
it laid the foundations of the modern welfare state.
Today those achievements are still admired,
even by senior Labour Party figures, like his biographer, Roy Hattersley.
In a sense, he invented the welfare state.
People had talked about it before Lloyd George,
indeed, Asquith had announced the intention
of having an old-age pension,
but Lloyd George introduced the old-age pension, health insurance,
And not only did he introduce the bills,
but he said the right things about them.
He talked about the community being responsible for its weakest members.
He talked about the rich helping the poor.
He was a radical in thought as well as in action.
There's no politician who did quite so much, in so short a time.
Those six years are spectacular years,
which no other politician can match, I think.
Everybody comments on Lloyd George's enormous charisma,
particularly when it came to public speaking.
It's very hard for us to imagine what that was like,
because, unlike Churchill, who was in many ways his protege,
there are no recordings of Lloyd George
at the peak of his powers.
We have been able to find one from the early 1930s.
He is talking about unemployment,
and you do just get a hint of how good he was.
We have recently increased the dole.
What is needed is to find work.
There are plenty of jobs for all,
jobs which the nation needs done.
We must recast, remodel, and reconstruct.
'One of the most notable historians of the First World War
'is Margaret MacMillan.'
-Nice to see you, how are you?
'She's also my auntie Margie,
'another member of the Lloyd George dynasty.'
Lloyd George understood the power of the word.
I mean, he was a great orator himself,
and I think he grasped, earlier than a lot of people,
the power of the new form of mass media, which was the mass newspaper.
I mean, these newspapers had circulations of a million or more,
his speeches were reported all over the British Empire.
And he was a great orator.
I mean, if you read them now, they still read very well.
By the summer of 1914,
Lloyd George was second only to Prime Minister Herbert Asquith
in the Liberal government.
He'd been primarily focused on domestic matters,
but like many British politicians since - Tony Blair, for example -
Lloyd George was to be defined by foreign affairs.
As Britain basked in that last summer of peace,
even senior politicians, like Lloyd George, didn't see it coming.
Here he is in a photograph taken just six days before
the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
He's watching Trooping the Colour,
seemingly without a care in the world.
But the shooting in Sarajevo triggered a slide towards war
which international diplomacy was powerless to prevent.
During the tense discussions that led up to
the British government's declaration of war in 1914,
Lloyd George was a pivotal figure.
Not only was he probably the most popular member of cabinet,
but he still had that reputation
from his old anti-Boer War campaigning
as a bit of a pacifist.
So if he'd come out strongly against going to war, it's hard to see
how the government could have taken Britain into the struggle.
I think Lloyd George was a key swing member.
I mean, we don't know exactly what happened
in those crucial cabinet meetings over the weekend,
but we have enough diaries, and enough letters, enough reminiscences
to get a picture.
And I think the Cabinet was very badly divided,
but he became convinced, it appears, in the course of that weekend
that Britain had no choice but to enter the war.
And I think if he'd joined the very determined bunch -
the minority, but very determined -
who said that Britain should stay out of the war,
it would have split the Liberal Party.
And if there was anything the Liberals worried about
more than going to war, it was letting the Tories back in.
You get a real sense of the tension and of the personal toll
that all this decision-making was having on the participants
in a series of notes written by Lloyd George
to his wife, Margaret, back in Wales.
On the 27th of July 1914, he wrote,
"Austria, Serbia is pandemonium let loose."
Little did he know how true that would prove.
The following day, 28th, he wrote, "War trembling in the balance."
The day after, "Very grave Cabinet this morning."
And finally, on the 3rd of August,
"I am moving through a nightmare world these days.
"I am horrified at the prospect of it,
"but I must bear my share of the ghastly burden,
"though it scorches my flesh to do so."
On the following day, the 4th of August 1914,
Britain declared war against Germany.
Once war was declared,
the British Expeditionary Force was dispatched to France,
and the Navy deployed.
But this was a war that wasn't supposed to happen.
Britain only had a small standing army,
and there was an urgent need to recruit more soldiers.
Unlike his colleagues,
Lloyd George was a recognisably modern politician.
He was seen as crucial in appealing for volunteers
and setting out the case for war.
Lloyd George quickly became the public face of the government.
He would tour the country making speeches and meeting the people.
He gave one particularly famous speech in London
on the 19th of September 1914,
just a few weeks after the outbreak of war.
In that speech, he set out the government's case for war.
He was an incredibly gifted orator,
he'd learned his skills in the dissenting chapels of Criccieth,
but on this particular night, he was nervous.
He was worried that he wouldn't be able to play his audience,
as he so usually did, like a violin.
He rehearsed and rehearsed,
and was struggling to get the tone right.
"My Lords, ladies and gentlemen," he started,
"I've come here this afternoon to talk to my fellow countrymen
"about this great war and the part we ought to take in it."
And he went on to list the reasons why he thought it was correct
that His Majesty's government had sided with Belgium and France
It's full of soaring rhetoric, it's wonderful stuff,
but it also contains passages that would, perhaps, be more accessible
for the man on the street,
showing that he had a real grasp of communicating in that era.
He makes a joke,
he says that the Kaiser's troops are all six foot two,
and the Kaiser's allies are all six-foot-two nations,
"but, ah, the world owes much to the little five-foot-five nations."
A reference, of course, to places like Belgium and Wales,
but also, a reference to his own height -
he was only five foot six,
and the audience loved it.
We're told they laughed.
It's difficult now to fully grasp how good he was as a speaker.
Lloyd George was kind of more outgoing, more communicative,
more willing to listen to other people.
And the way that he described his experience of speaking was that
he felt he could actually sort of see into the minds of his audience,
that he could read them,
he could understand what their thoughts and feelings were,
and was then able to play back to them
what they really wanted to hear.
Towards the end of the speech,
one of the most powerful sections deals with the opportunity
for young people to get involved,
to enlist and fight for King, Empire,
and the cause of civilisation.
He says, "I envy you young people, your opportunity.
"It's a great opportunity.
"An opportunity that comes only once in many centuries
"to the children of men.
"For most generations,
"sacrifice comes in drab and weariness of spirit.
"It comes to you today, and it comes today to us all
"in the form of the glow and the thrill
"of a great movement for liberty.
"It impels millions throughout Europe to the same noble end."
The speech did the job.
It electrified the audience, the public,
and even his cabinet colleagues.
It was so popular that it was published as a pamphlet
and it sold hundreds of thousands.
But not for the first time, when it comes to politicians,
David Lloyd George's real feelings
didn't quite match his soaring oratory.
At exactly the same time that he was down here in London
eulogising a sacrifice of young men in the name of liberty,
he was also writing to his wife, who was up in North Wales,
about their sons, Gwilym and Richard.
I've got the letter here. It makes interesting reading.
He wrote, "They're pressing the Territorials to volunteer for war.
"Gwilym mustn't do that yet.
"I'm dead against carrying on a war of conquest to crush Germany
"for the benefit of Russia.
"I'm not going to sacrifice my nice boy for that purpose.
"You must write, telling him he must, on no account,
"be bullied into volunteering abroad."
Well, that is straightforward hypocrisy -
saying one thing in public,
but a very different thing in private.
I can understand why he didn't want his sons to go and fight in the war,
but it's pretty rich coming from a man who is encouraging
everyone else to send their sons into harm's way.
Eventually, the two boys did go and fight on the Western Front,
but I think that really shows Lloyd George to be
the slippery customer he definitely was.
I suppose he was a normal human being with frailties
and, I think he was always, I suspect,
something of a physical coward.
But I think he didn't like the thought of death,
he didn't like the thought of illness.
Apparently, he was the most terrible hypochondriac if he got sick.
Which is true, of course, of a lot of men,
so maybe he wasn't unusual in that!
But he also, I think, was probably afraid of pain and death.
And he was very devoted to his children.
So, no, it's not admirable for him to say,
when other people's sons are going off to fight,
"For God's sake, don't let our sons join up,"
but it's a very human sort of thing to do.
Nothing demonstrates Lloyd George's dubious reputation more
than his relationship with women.
He married his first wife, Margaret, in 1888,
when they were both in their early 20s.
But in the years leading up to the First World War,
he was cited in two divorce cases.
Not for nothing was he nicknamed The Goat.
Lloyd George's private life has attracted almost as much attention
as his political life.
He was a serial womaniser.
His wife, Margaret, chose to spend most of her time
back in North Wales,
so when he was alone in London, he carried on a series of affairs,
sometimes with other politicians' wives.
He became infamous -
the marching song Lloyd George Knew My Father had a second verse -
Lloyd George knew my mother.
In 1911, though, he would meet a woman
who became almost his alternative wife.
He developed a lifelong attachment to her,
and would eventually marry her after his wife, Margaret, died.
By 1914, he basically had two wives.
She was Frances Stevenson.
When they met, she was 25 years old - half Lloyd George's age.
She'd been at school with his eldest daughter
and was now a tutor to his youngest, Megan.
Before long, Lloyd George asked her to become his private secretary.
An unusual job for a woman.
Frances is a very remarkable, feminist pioneer in her own right,
at a time when there were no female senior civil servants in Whitehall,
and nobody questioned that she was not up to the job
or she was there for ornamental or decorative or sexual reasons.
And she did a very efficient and very discreet job.
And, as he had done years earlier with Margaret,
he made it absolutely clear that his career was sacrosanct.
He wasn't going to have any scandal, any divorce,
any question of leaving his wife,
but he made her the offer to become his mistress-come-secretary
on, what she called, his terms, and she accepted those terms.
It was a very explicit relationship
and I think, actually, his wife, Margaret, understood it as well.
I used to go and see him when I had an afternoon off.
I very often went up to the House of Commons
and I would get a ticket for the latest gallery.
Then I would go and see him in his room afterwards
and have a cup of tea with him.
And from that time on, there wasn't anybody else but LG.
One of the reasons that no-one suspected the relationship, really,
was that Frances was no-one's idea of a mistress.
She did look very demure and proper,
as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.
And the press, in those days, did not write about affairs
unless they reached the divorce court.
There was a genuine thing,
scandals of this sort simply were not reported.
If Lloyd George had certain vices, drink wasn't one of them.
He'd campaigned for temperance,
and now he saw alcohol as a serious threat to the war effort.
# ..is Lloyd George's beer. #
Thank you very much.
The single worst thing about being
David Lloyd George's great-great-grandson
was knowing that whenever me and my mates were thrown out of the pub
at 11 o'clock every single night,
it was my great-great-grandfather's fault!
Lloyd George became convinced during the war
that booze was a greater threat than the Kaiser.
And he did what he could to cut down the alcohol consumption
of the British public.
He was very concerned about days lost in munitions production
because of hungover workers or people not turning up.
As a result, he managed to bring in
the strictest licensing laws in British history.
He forced pubs to close at 9.30 at night,
and the British government even watered down beer.
This, as you can imagine, was wildly unpopular.
There was a song, very current at the time,
which went, "It's a pub-stitute, it's a substitute,
"the worst thing that's happened in this war is Lloyd George's beer!"
# But the worst thing that's ever happened in this war
# Is Lloyd George's beer. #
But drink was the least of their problems,
the war was going badly,
the British had been driven back
through France and Belgium by the Germans,
and only a last-gasp defence of Paris had saved the French capital.
By Christmas 1914, it was becoming a stalemate,
both sides had dug in.
Lloyd George visited British troops in France at the end of 1914,
he was appalled by what he found.
The British Army hadn't been expecting
to fight large-scale European warfare in 1914,
so some of its equipment was inappropriate,
and it just didn't have enough stuff.
The factories back in the UK were swamped, overwhelmed by the demand.
That meant that, particularly, there wasn't enough guns
or ammunition, and what there was was often defective -
half the shells were failing to explode.
Back in Britain, Lloyd George used his PR skills to highlight the issue
and used it as an opportunity to criticise Kitchener and the army.
With friends like the press baron Lord Northcliffe pumping out
tub-thumping headlines, it was dubbed the Shell Crisis,
and it was made very clear
that Lloyd George was the man to solve it.
On one occasion, rather cheekily,
he brought a piece of a shell right in here to this chamber.
He held it up and he said in a speech,
"I do not know whether I'm in order, Mr Speaker, in showing this,
"but it is one of the greatest difficulties of all
"in turning out shells.
"It is the fuse of a high explosive.
"This is supposed to be simple,
"but it takes 100 different gauges to turn it out."
With that flourish,
he finished off a piece of consummate parliamentary theatre.
The Shell Crisis of 1915 is a real crisis
and it's one that hits every belligerent state.
Russia starts running out of shells, the French run out of shells,
nobody had anticipated
that the First World War would last so much longer
and that they would require such huge amounts of armaments.
There was a real situation
where one looks at some of the battles that are being waged
in the spring of 1915 by both the French and the British,
and the men do not have enough shells.
There is a very real crisis there,
and it is not a case that this was manufactured
or leaked to the press artificially,
it was leaked to the press because there was a sense of anger
that the situation's got so bad, and that men are dying
because, as it seemed, Britain hasn't prepared adequately.
The furore in the press did the job.
A new Ministry of Munitions was created
with Lloyd George as the boss.
Some office space was found
in Whitehall Gardens, in Central London.
When Lloyd George strode in,
removal men were still emptying the place
of the furniture of the previous occupants.
Lloyd George was in his element -
he had a blank sheet of paper, and sweeping powers.
The first thing he did was get on the telephone
to try and recruit captains of industry -
men who had, as he put it, push and go.
They may not have known anything about armaments production,
but they knew how to get stuff done.
When you are in a national crisis, you can't afford to say,
"Oh, we must go through the proper channels."
What you need to do is get the very best brains,
the very best talents, the most energetic people in.
And what Lloyd George did is he brought in businesspeople,
he brought in scientists, he brought in advisers,
he was very flexible in how he did it.
And, of course, he did sometimes bypass the normal channels,
but I think it was absolutely necessary.
His realisation that there had to be
some kind of fundamental shake-up was right.
If you think that fighting World War I was a good idea,
then, certainly, the qualities which Lloyd George brought
in terms of his energy, in terms of his inventiveness,
his innovative approach to government,
was certainly very much what was needed.
And it worked.
By the end of the war,
the Ministry of Munitions had a staff of 65,000 people,
and controlled an army of 3 million workers.
Many members of that huge workforce were women.
Before the war, Lloyd George had been seen as
an enemy of the Women's Suffrage Movement.
In 1913, it even attempted to blow up his house in Surrey.
Now the suffragettes suspended their campaign
and joined the war effort.
If anything justifies Lloyd George's reputation
as the man who won the war,
it has to be the fact that he helped to put the British economy
on a wartime footing.
And around the country there is still a little bit of evidence
of that enormous transformation.
Take this place near Lloyd George's hometown in North Wales -
it was, and still is, a locomotive workshop,
but in 1916, it was repurposed to making shells.
Women were a crucial part of the war effort.
And of course, what happened is men went off to fight,
the jobs that they'd been doing had to be filled somehow
and the women came in to fill them.
And so the old arguments that women shouldn't be able to vote
because they couldn't cope with difficult things
and they couldn't drive things like tractors or railways
or they couldn't make things, simply fell down.
That is the key reason why women got the vote at the end of the war.
Because it was seen that they had played a huge part in the war,
you couldn't argue any more that they weren't capable
of participating in society.
And Lloyd George, I think, like a lot of people, changed his mind.
Wow, this is great.
Look at all this machinery. Oh, look up there.
That's a shaft.
That would have been connected to a giant steam engine out there,
and belts would have powered all of the lathes in here.
There were about 50 women working here, apparently,
recruited from local farms and homes.
They made the shells,
and then those shells were sent off elsewhere
to be filled with explosives,
also by female munitions workers.
This relatively small space, I think,
gives you a sense of the scale of what Lloyd George achieved.
Imagine timesing this workshop by about 20,000
and you get an idea of how he transformed Britain
into a society and an economy able to wage total war.
But at exactly the same time as Lloyd George was solving
the munitions problem,
in secret he was facing a crisis of his own
involving his mistress, Frances Stevenson.
What documents have you got for me here?
This affair is incredibly well documented,
because Frances, very efficiently, kept a diary
from quite early in the relationship.
She's still living at home with her parents,
who disapprove, understandably, when they realise what is happening.
So she is worried, in this diary extract here,
about upsetting her parents.
"The long and the short of it is, as much as I love Mamma and Dada,
"I hate to cause them pain.
"But the idea of our love child will have to go for the time being."
And this is important,
because in early 1915, she discovered that she was pregnant.
Really? I didn't know that.
And so, Lloyd George, in the crisis of the war,
was possibly distracted by the fact that Frances was pregnant.
There was clearly... She accepted, he accepted.
She says, "The idea of our love child will have to go
"for the time being."
So she had an abortion.
-This was her pregnant...
-This was her pregnancy in early 1915.
..coming to terms with the fact she's going to have an abortion
-for his career.
-Yes, for his career.
And, she writes here, "I do not think I can ever repay him
"for his goodness to me the last fortnight or three weeks.
"He has been husband, lover and mother to me.
"I never knew a man could be so womanly and tender.
"He has watched and waited on me devotedly
"until I cursed myself for being ill and causing him all this worry.
"There was no little thing that he did not think of for my comfort.
"No tenderness that he did not lavish on me.
"I have, indeed, known the full extent of his love."
So at this moment during the war,
when he had all these other things to think of,
he was still taking enormous care of Frances
and making sure she was looked after and recovered.
-I'd never heard that story. That's incredible.
What other surprises and secrets have you got for me here?
Well, there's a nice little token of their love here,
which is this little pocketbook that Lloyd George had made.
So that he could carry Frances' picture around with him.
Looking very demure and proper.
Who is this letter from over here?
This is Lloyd George to Frances.
-Ah, so that's his handwriting?
He wrote in a stubby pencil, and it's very difficult to read,
but this is in 1915.
"Now, Pussy, I have made up my mind to disappoint myself, and you.
"I have two days of most important and trying work in front of me.
"Conferences and decisions
"upon which the success of the department depends,
"and I must reserve all my strength for them.
"Meanwhile, help me to restrain myself,
"as I am lost for my passion for you in a consuming flame,
"and it burns up all wisdom and prudence and judgment in my soul.
"Help me, cariad bach.
"You are everything to me now.
"My failure or success will depend entirely on you,
"you possess my soul entirely.
"Your own D, forever."
-You know, it's quite passionate stuff.
-That is passionate stuff.
He was as persuasive in his writing as he was in his oratory.
-He was irresistible, I think.
That was his... You know, they said he could charm the birds off a tree,
and he was a very powerful personality.
Well, that was a strange experience.
Because on one level, as a family member,
it's pretty distressing reading about
your great-great-grandfather's love affairs
and his aborted love child,
and an incredible self-obsession and ambition
that seemed to have crowded out the feelings of anybody else.
He may have been a great man,
but he's one who is clearly not that compassionate.
So on another level, you do find yourself attracted to him
as a lover, as a human,
and you almost feel yourself wishing him all the best
in that relationship, cos he clearly loved her very much.
He clearly felt, at that time of his life, he couldn't live without her.
I feel a bit conflicted.
There was also conflict in the government.
After the Shell Crisis, and the failure of the Gallipoli landings,
Asquith's Liberals had been forced into coalition
with the Conservatives.
But by late 1916,
all sides were losing patience with the leadership of the government -
a change had to come.
The Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, well, he wasn't up to the job.
He was an ageing, distracted Edwardian gentleman.
He was not the man to prosecute total war in the industrial age.
He refused to get out of bed before 8.30 in the mornings,
his cabinets had too many people in them,
no minutes were taken,
and decisions rarely got made.
When his son was killed on the Western Front
in September 1916,
any enthusiasm he had for the job seemed to drain away.
It was widely regarded
that Lloyd George should be the man to take over.
The characteristic phrase
that was always associated with Asquith was "wait and see",
because what he was very good at was manipulating party divisions,
using the kind of policy of delay
in order to wait and see what happened.
Now, fine when you're talking about an issue of domestic politics,
but when you're fighting the greatest war
that history has ever seen,
then it becomes much more problematic.
Lloyd George absolutely jumps on the bandwagon here.
He is an incredibly ambitious man.
This was someone who said he will sacrifice everything,
even love, to get to the top.
Although, he will not sacrifice honesty, he claims.
This is someone who was absolutely determined to get the top job,
and who sees Asquith, very early on,
as someone who's potentially a lame duck.
Had Lloyd George not taken over in 1916,
nobody can be sure how the war would have gone.
Asquith was out of his depth. He was past it.
He was always rather a ditherer,
but he was dithering particularly strongly in 1916.
And I've no doubt at all
that Lloyd George wanted to do the right thing for Britain.
Initially, he was prepared to take over
without the title of Prime Minister.
He offered Asquith the right to remain titular Prime Minister
while he ran the war.
Lloyd George's own interest was running the war, winning the war.
'Asquith tried to cling on to power in the coalition,
'but without the support of the Conservatives, he was doomed.'
'On the 7th of December 1916,
'David Lloyd George became Prime Minister.'
If you love history, it doesn't get better than this.
This is the staircase in 10 Downing Street.
The men and women who have made the modern world
walked up and down these stairs for generations.
And on the walls,
pictures of all the former prime ministers.
You've got Wellington down there, there's Palmerston there, Gladstone,
the titanic figures of the 19th century.
Moving into the 20th century here.
And it's a special moment for me because right here
is my great-great-grandfather, David Lloyd George.
Even though I'm aware of his failings, and try and be critical,
it's always a very special moment passing this photograph for me,
because, unlike all the previous holders of this office,
he made it through talent alone.
He wasn't born into an aristocratic family,
he didn't have a huge amount of money or connections.
And therefore, I can't help looking at this picture without...
a twinge of excitement and pride.
As soon as Lloyd George was installed here at Number Ten,
he made a key decision.
It seems obvious to us now, but it was controversial at the time.
He formed a team of just five people -
his war cabinet.
They met every day, their meetings were minuted,
decisions were made.
Now, that was something that's been emulated by war leaders ever since -
Churchill in the Second World War, Thatcher and the Falklands -
but at the time,
some people thought he was gathering too much power to himself,
he was looking too presidential.
He is projecting a very dynamic image.
He's trying very much to present himself as
somebody who is everywhere all at once,
who's involved in directing all kinds of things.
He admired Napoleon Bonaparte,
who worked famously long hours and was very bureaucratic.
He often talks about appealing to the people during the war,
going over the heads of government, going over the heads of parliament,
to go and talk directly to the people.
He's very much aware that he needs to be seen.
And he has a great relationship with the media.
He's also very good friends with big business.
So he's very much a radical moderniser,
and he's someone who's, I think, dynamic,
and trying to give that impression of being everywhere at once.
In power, Lloyd George's energy and sense of improvisation
infused the government with a sense of urgency.
Right across London, temporary buildings were thrown up
to house the new bureaucrats needed to run the rejuvenated war effort.
Downing Street was no exception.
I'm here in the garden,
and under Lloyd George, this became known as the Garden Suburb.
Huts were built here
and in those huts would have been special advisers,
all overseen by someone today we would refer to as a tsar -
someone brought in from the outside world,
from industry, to run a government department.
This was Lloyd George the outsider shaking up how things were done.
Another thing that Lloyd George did was reach out to the Empire,
because the Empire, it's often forgotten, was enormously important
in the British war effort in the First World War.
Without the soldiers coming from India,
a million soldiers from India,
without the soldiers coming from Canada, Australia,
New Zealand, South Africa,
from all over the world, from Newfoundland,
the British would not have been able to keep the armies
they kept on the field,
and without the resources and money coming from the Empire.
And the Empire was beginning to feel really neglected.
It was one of the big complaints that they had against Asquith,
that he just wasn't consulting them, he was taking them for granted.
And Lloyd George said, almost the moment he became Prime Minister,
I'm going to go and talk to all the Empire leaders.
And I think this was important.
I think he gave a sense that we're all in this together.
Lloyd George's biggest legacy, in general,
is the impact upon the British state.
What he does is, actually, changes the machinery of government
and reforms it
in such a way as to make sure that the instructions
that are going down from the top are actually getting implemented.
But when it came to actual military matters,
he was not particularly well-informed,
and essentially didn't really have a strategy
for what was going to be done to replace
what he thought was the failed strategy of the generals.
By this stage of the war,
Lloyd George had hit the pinnacle of his power.
He was untouchable in the political sphere.
But his relationship with the military wasn't quite as simple.
He was becoming increasingly frustrated
by the lack of progress on the Western Front,
and the terrible casualties that were building up.
Now, he had been able to wrangle the Navy,
but with the army, it was a different matter.
There the unstoppable force of David Lloyd George
hit the immovable object of Sir Douglas Haig.
Lloyd George's relationship with the generals
during the First World War has come under immense scrutiny,
and there's a long-running historical debate about it.
But what seems very clear is that a bad relationship
between your prime minister and your commander-in-chief,
while your state is engaged in total war,
is a bad situation for everybody.
I think Lloyd George is correct that Haig has many flaws
and actually, possibly, isn't the best commander-in-chief
for the British war effort.
Ultimately, Lloyd George is someone who, I think, sees through Haig.
He has this famous quote where he says,
"Haig was brilliant to the top of his boots,"
but Lloyd George is scared to go very public, I think,
about his dislike of Haig
and his belief that Haig isn't winning the war.
Instead he intrigues against him,
and it's something that, really, the generals don't like,
and there's a sense of Lloyd George not being trustworthy.
And they don't like that lack of straight talking.
I think, with the military,
you always get a sort of very strong sense
of esprit de corps, which is absolutely understandable.
They're doing something that others don't have to do.
It's a bit like the police and firemen as well.
They're risking their lives, they're dealing with issues
that most of us don't ever have to deal with.
And I think one of their strengths is they stick by each other,
but, of course, it's also a weakness
when it comes to dealing with civilian society,
because they don't like to be told what to do
and they don't like to be questioned.
And I suspect in the case of Lloyd George,
they would like it even less.
He couldn't sack Haig
because the conditions of the Tories joining the coalition
was that Haig should remain commander-in-chief
for the duration of the war.
And Lloyd George knew the coalition would collapse
if he tried to get rid of Haig.
Haig was a very established figure, a friend at court.
He couldn't do anything about replacing him,
so he tried to get round him in various ways.
They hated each other,
but Lloyd George couldn't get rid of him.
Do you think some members of the establishment,
and including the King himself,
did they think that Lloyd George was
potentially dangerous, revolutionary?
I think they thought Lloyd George was a danger to the establishment,
to the settled order, the established order of things.
They didn't think he was likely to be part of a putsch,
or anything as extreme as that,
but they thought he was a man they had to keep an eye on.
In wartime, there's always a risk for the royal family
that a particular political leader, or military figure,
might become more popular than the monarch himself.
There's a fear that Lloyd George is accruing too much power to himself,
and that perhaps he might threaten British democracy
and the constitutional order.
So, in many ways, a dislike for him.
However, some of this is also, I think, partially class-based,
and also the fact that he's Welsh,
and he's coming from a Welsh nationalist background as well.
So there are many reasons why Lloyd George doesn't quite fit in.
In contrast, Haig is incredibly respectful of the monarch,
his wife is a lady-in-waiting,
he has the ear of the King,
and is in constant correspondence with him.
So there's quite a different approach here.
I suppose I know most about
Lloyd George's military, diplomatic and strategic role
during and after the war,
so it was really interesting to hear about Lloyd George's successes
on the home front as a domestic politician.
It did sound like he really did galvanise the nation
to win World War I.
So much so that the King was jealous that he might be setting himself up
as a dictator - fascinating.
It's not surprising that the King began to feel a little threatened
by Lloyd George's popularity.
His image was everywhere -
he was on the front page of newspapers and magazines,
he was always in the newsreels.
This is Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey.
He loved playing golf here.
He was always being photographed playing golf.
It was very near his country house,
and he played here alongside leading figures
of the British establishment -
newspaper editors, aristocrats, and high-ranking politicians.
Lloyd George was always an intensely image-conscious politician
and by being photographed here playing golf in Surrey,
I believe he was saying to the British people
that all was essentially well with their world,
and even during the darkest days of the war,
he had supreme confidence that victory would be theirs.
There's some quality in some leaders which speaks to people,
and it's very hard to define,
and I don't think it can be learned or can be taught,
but I think Lloyd George had something of that.
I mean, what's really interesting,
if you look at the cartoons of the time,
they show this little bouncy Lloyd George,
and I think people felt, "Here's someone in charge.
"Thank goodness, he knows what he's doing.
"He's going to take us in the right direction."
But in early 1917,
Britain needed all of Lloyd George's energy and determination.
The British Isles are surrounded by the sea,
and Britain was dependent on maritime trade
for its wealth, its food and its war supplies.
The Germans knew this,
and in 1917 they decided to get their U-boats to sink
every single ship they could find in British waters.
The Germans thought that if they could sink 600,000 tonnes
of shipping a month,
the British would be forced to sue for peace.
Now, in April 1917, they hit that target,
and there were food and fuel shortages in the UK.
But the following month Lloyd George struck back
with a system that would help stop the rot.
The idea of convoy was actually nothing new.
Basically, you gather lots of ships together,
they travel as a pack,
and you give them a naval escort to protect them.
But the Admiralty didn't really like the idea,
because they thought it was providing the Germans
with, actually, a bigger target.
And also, they didn't trust
the merchant captains would be able to stay on station.
But Lloyd George championed it.
He believed that travelling together would be strength in numbers,
and that naval escort would help to make a difference.
And it worked.
Of the nearly 9,000 ships that travelled in convoy,
only 27 were lost through the rest of the war.
And in that time,
300 ships travelling by themselves were sunk by U-boats.
For the rest of the war,
the German fleet was unable to seriously threaten
But if the war at sea was won,
on the Western Front, things were still desperate.
In spring 1918, the Germans broke through
and almost reached Paris.
But this is where Lloyd George's war machine took over.
Helped by vast numbers of guns,
huge amounts of ammunition,
and tens of thousands of fresh American troops,
the Allies halted the German advance and pushed them back.
At 11am, on the 11th of November 1918,
the guns on the Western Front fell silent
as the Armistice came into effect.
Lloyd George addressed the nation.
He said, "Thus, at 11 o'clock this morning,
"came to an end the cruellest, and most terrible war
"that has ever scourged mankind.
"I hope we may say that, thus, this fateful morning
"came an end to all wars."
Well, sadly, we know that wasn't to be.
But Lloyd George was wildly popular, he was hailed as a hero.
His friend, the Conservative leader Andrew Bonar Law, said
that if he wished, he could be Prime Minister for life.
Well, we know now that that too would not come to pass.
Here's Lloyd George's portrait
in one of the corridors in the Palace of Westminster.
Hanging alongside some of the most celebrated and famous statesmen
of British history.
In 1918, Lloyd George reached rock-star levels
of fame and adulation.
And it seems to me that compared to that high,
he's now faded into obscurity.
Back then, he was a powerful presence on the world stage.
Re-elected in 1918 by a landslide
at the head of a Conservative-dominated coalition,
he was a key mover at the Paris Peace Conference.
This is when Lloyd George earned the famous title
"the man who won the war",
but did he lose the peace?
For the first half of 1919, Lloyd George was here in Paris,
negotiating what would become the Treaty of Versailles.
Dealing with the post-war German settlement,
thinking about things, for example,
like how much the defeated Germans would have to pay in reparations.
The question is, how successful was he?
I think Lloyd George did play an important role.
He believed very strongly in the British Empire,
and he believed strongly in promoting
the power and influence of the British Empire.
But he was pragmatic.
And he knew that a continent which had
a disaffected, perhaps revolutionary Germany at its heart,
would not be a happy place.
He also knew that Britain's prosperity, in the end,
depended on trade, and one of its great trading partners
before the First World War was Germany.
So you have a peace settlement which, I think, wasn't that bad,
but the German public thought it was deeply unfair,
and so did the German elites, pretty much right across the board.
And so the treaty was never accepted,
it was always seen as unfair,
and that was going to be, of course, an absolutely poisonous issue
in between the wars,
and one of the things that Hitler used to get himself into power.
There are issues in Lloyd George's character
that I think we do see recurring in leaders across the 20th century
in terms of overconfidence.
And when you look at Lloyd George in the post-war moment,
he is a very good diplomat,
but the skills that you have as a wartime leader
are not the skills you need for, necessarily, making the best peace.
And actually, he continues to play the war leader
right into the post-war period,
and it's an absolutely fatal mistake.
Here in Versailles, Lloyd George dominated the international scene,
one of the most powerful men in the world,
literally redrawing the map of the world.
Back home, things weren't going so well.
As we know from recent history,
a coalition between the Liberals and the Conservatives...
was always going to end in tears.
One of the problems with the First World War
is that it was so massive, and so costly,
that when it ended, people thought, "The world's got to be better now."
And of course, what happened after the war,
there was almost immediate slump
and a lot of people were thrown out of work,
and the world certainly didn't look that better.
And I think, what a lot of people said in Britain was,
"Where was all this we were promised?"
And I think Lloyd George had to deal with the disappointments.
There was a burden of expectations
which was way beyond what anyone, or any institution
or any country could satisfy.
And so I think there was widespread disillusionment.
His image, particularly in the early 1920s,
as Prime Minister is somebody who likes to swan around the world,
spending a lot of time in the sunshine.
More congenial to talk to your fellow world leaders
than to deal with the nitty-gritty retailer of domestic politics.
At one of these official visits is an amazing glimpse, on film,
of Lloyd George's love triangle.
Here, caught for a second on the right, is Frances Stevenson.
Then walking into shot, Lloyd George's wife, Margaret.
This all remained secret,
what did become public was a cash for honours scandal
which dwarfs any more recent examples.
There was a lot of personal corruption about him.
He once sold shares in a South American gold mine,
knowing there wasn't a gold mine, there wasn't any gold.
He was personally, undoubtedly corrupt,
there's no question about that.
Sold peerages in a way they've never been sold before,
apart from the reign of Henry VIII.
But it's not surprising that Lloyd George had double standards,
cos he did.
One thing which the establishment did resent,
and was a contribution to him being forced out of Downing Street,
was his blatant way in which Lloyd George went about it,
and also, the fact that he started selling honours to people
who the Conservatives thought
they ought to have been selling honours to.
You know, first of all, what he was doing wasn't actually illegal.
It was subsequently made illegal.
this was not something that he was doing for his own personal benefit.
He wasn't spending the money on luxury houses for himself,
he was spending it on building up a political fund,
because he knew that he was politically vulnerable.
He only had a small number of MPs in the House of Commons.
So, what he was doing was flogging off knighthoods
in order to fund his future political strategy.
The honours scandal enraged the Conservative Party,
and he was finally kicked out of office in 1922.
He hoped to return to power, but he never did,
remaining in the political wilderness for about 20 years
until his death in 1945.
He'd achieved a huge amount,
both as a reforming chancellor,
and as a wartime leader,
and yet, today he's not really remembered.
Certainly not on the same plain as someone like Winston Churchill.
The establishment never embraced Lloyd George,
and Lloyd George never embraced the establishment.
He took their money, he slept with their wives,
he used them to come to power,
but he never felt a member of the establishment,
and they never embraced him and never wanted him.
And yet the lesson of British history -
if you look at William Pitt the Elder, Churchill -
win the war, and then don't stick around
-to try and sort the peace out.
Trying to sort the peace out undermines your reputation forever.
-Yes, he did make mistakes,
and I'm certainly not going to defend him for those.
And there are bits in his later career which are not edifying
and we tend to remember those.
He went off to see Hitler, his wife refused to go with him.
She said, "I'm not going anywhere near that man, you're mad to go."
And sadly, he didn't listen to her.
And I think he probably was, in 1939, he was an old man,
he was getting sick,
he was going to die in the course of the war,
and I think he probably was on the side of those
who didn't want to go to war,
who didn't want to stand up to Hitler.
Does that make him a wicked man?
No, I think it just, again, makes him very human.
Making this programme and meeting the historians has convinced me
that David Lloyd George did make a substantial contribution
to Allied victory in the First World War.
But he had terrible shortcomings -
he was deceitful, he was corrupt.
And all that means he's not a classic hero,
but one-dimensional heroes belong in mythology, not in history.
And I think, maybe, my great-great-grandfather,
like all the powerful men and women that ruled in the past,
perhaps like all of us, was capable of greatness,
but also of failure.
At the end of the First World War, Britain's prime minister David Lloyd George was a national hero, hailed as 'the man who won the war'. A hundred years after he became PM, Lloyd George's great-great-grandson Dan Snow explores his famous forebear's life and asks why he's not better remembered, why he's not as famous a wartime leader as his friend and protege Winston Churchill. It's a tale of sex and scandal, success and failure, with Dan discovering some home truths from his family's history.
Dan's journey starts in north Wales in the village of Llanystumdwy, where Lloyd George was raised by his uncle after his father's death. It's an area Dan knows well from childhood holidays visiting his grandmother. He climbs Moel y Gest, a rocky outcrop overlooking the sea, a view virtually unchanged since Lloyd George's day. Taking the Ffestiniog railway up into the mountains Dan travels in Lloyd George's own railway carriage, reputedly a place when he would enjoy some private time with his secretary.
Like Lloyd George, Dan journeys from Wales to Parliament, filming in the House of Commons where his ancestor made such an impact. Initially Lloyd George was a radical Liberal, causing outrage by opposing the Boer War in 1899, but ten years later he was chancellor of the exchequer, introducing some of the most important legislation of the early 20th century. His budget of 1909 brought in national insurance and old age pensions and, as his biographer Roy Hattersley tells Dan, laid the foundations of the welfare state.
When Britain went to war in August 1914, Lloyd George was a pivotal member of the cabinet. Historian Margaret Macmillan, an expert on the First World War and another descendant of Lloyd George, points out that if he'd come out against the war the Liberal government would have fallen. Once war was declared Lloyd George was important in recruiting the new citizen's army, making speeches across the country. But in private he was making sure his sons didn't volunteer straightaway, another example of Lloyd George's double dealing.
Lloyd George's private life is as famous as his politics. Before the war he had a string of affairs, but by 1914 he was involved with his secretary Frances Stevenson. Half his age, she was a pioneering female civil servant and a constant companion during the First World War. Meeting her biographer John Campbell, Dan discovers some shocking secrets about their relationship during the war years.
Lloyd George's most significant work in the early years of the war was in munitions production. Britain, like all the other warring countries, was running out of shells. He revolutionised the war economy, creating a huge workforce, including many women, to produce the vast numbers of guns and ammunition needed to wage total war. Dan visits an engineering works in north Wales which in 1917 was turned over to armaments production.
But Lloyd George's dynamism wasn't reflected in the rest of the government, especially the prime minister Herbert Asquith. At the end of 1916 after the failure of the Somme, matters came to a head and Asquith was forced to resign to be replaced by Lloyd George. He was the first man from such humble origins to become prime minister.
In spring 1918, the Germans broke through and almost reached Paris, but the Allies fought back. This is when Lloyd George's war machine came into the effect - the huge amount of munitions he helped create, along with the newly arrived American troops, forced the German army into retreat, finally signing the Armistice on November 11th 1918.
In 1918, Lloyd George was wildly popular and re-elected by a landslide, but his post-war career was less successful. Dan visits the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles where Lloyd George signed the famous treaty, but many think that this fuelled German resentment and led to the Second World War twenty years later. At home, the 'land fit for heroes' which Lloyd George had promised didn't materialise and there was a post-war slump. When it was revealed that he'd sold honours to fund his Liberal Party his days were numbered, and he was finally ousted by his Conservative coalition partners in 1922.
Until his death in 1945 Lloyd George was a figure in the wilderness, never returned to power and further damaging his reputation with an ill-advised visit to Hitler in 1936. He was, as Dan concludes, a flawed hero, but one from whom he's proud to be descended.