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Sunday, 18 September 2011

H. H. Asquith

Herbert Henry Asquith was born at Croft House in Morley, West Riding of Yorkshire, to woolen mill owner Joseph Dixon Asquith and his wife Emily Willans on September 12, 1852.

In his younger days Asquith (1852-1928) was called Herbert within the family, but his second wife called him Henry. However, in public, he was invariably referred to only as H. H. Asquith. "There have been few major national figures whose Christian names were less well known to the public," writes his biographer Roy Jenkins.

King Edward VII, was holidaying in Biarritz, when H. H. Asquith succeeded Henry Campbell-Bannerman as Prime Minister on April 5, 1908. His majesty refused to return to London, citing health grounds and Asquith was forced to travel to Biarritz for the official "kissing of hands" of the Monarch. This was the only time a British Prime Minister has formally taken office on foreign soil.

Asquith loved bridge and would often play long into the night even during the First World War.

It is was known that Asquith was at times the worse for drink when on the front bench. The leader of the opposition, Andrew Bonar Law, once remarked “Asquith, when drunk, can make a better speech than any of us when sober.”

His opponents gave him the nickname "Squiff" or "Squiffy", a derogatory reference to his fondness for drink.

Amid the First World War and following his loss of support in Parliament, Asquith resigned as British Prime Minister in late 1916..

Asquith served as the Liberal Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from April 5, 1908 to December 5, 1916. Until Margaret Thatcher overtook him on January 5, 1988, he was the longest continuously serving Prime Minister in the 20th century.

1919 portrait by André Cluysenaar

Asquith’s best-known descendant today is the actress Helena Bonham Carter, who is a great-granddaughter.

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