David Lloyd George is one of Britain’s most well-known figures of the 20th century. First elected as the Member of Parliament for Carnarvon Boroughs in 1890, he remained active in politics until his death in 1945. During that time he held many important positions, including Secretary of State for War, Chancellor of the Exchequer and, most famously, Prime Minister from 1916, during the latter half of the Great War, until 1922. What is not commonly know is that a section of Lloyd George’s personal library resides here at Kent. It was purchased from his son, Lord Tenby, in 1964, initially as part of the regular stock, and was later moved to Special Collections. His library contains items covering a huge array of subjects, and here we take a peek at some of the most interesting items.
It is well known that Lloyd George and Winston Churchill were great friends, and Churchill consulted him often throughout his political career. Many of Lloyd George’s books were gifted him by the authors, and one of the most remarkable items in our collection is a copy of Great Contemporaries by Churchill, complete with a dedication inscription from the future Prime Minister. Alongside this we have a full set of Churchill’s World Crisis, some of which are also signed by the author.
A common theme throughout Lloyd George’s library is that of religion. One of my favourite items in the collection is a brown leather bound bible, with handles built into the cover. There is also a copy of Spurgeon’s Sermons, bound in green leather and stamped with Lloyd George’s name in gold on the cover. These items perfectly illustrate how much bindings can add to the significance or beauty of an item.
So far my absolute favourite item I that have catalogued from this fantastic collection is a selection of French pamphlets by Maximilien Robespierre, a hugely influential man during the French revolution. This is less for the content of the book than the many interesting features the item has collected over the course of its life. Firstly, it appears to have been signed in two places by Robespierre himself, in 1791 and 1792 respectively. Alongside Lloyd George’s bookplate is the bookplate of Alphonse Peyrat, reading ‘Ex Libris Alpse Peyrat Vivre Libre ov movrir,’ and we also know that the book once bore the bookplate of Arconati Visconti, although this was lost when the book was rebound. We also know from the dedication letters that the item was given to Lloyd George by the daughter of Alphonse Peyrat.
Most intriguing of all is a very small fragment of leather pasted to a blank page at the end of the book. An accompanying note claims this leather was taken by a Monsieur Baudemont from the table of the dying Robespierre, and is stained by his blood. Whether or not this is true, it is a truly fascinating relic.
Finds like these are what make my job so enjoyable, and also extremely surprising! It’s not every day you find a book stained by the blood of a dying revolutionary, but the day I discovered it was certainly one of the most interesting days I’ve had at Kent!
The Lloyd George collection is still in the process of being catalogued, so who knows what enthralling items lie just around the corner…