ROBERT BOOTHBY by Robert Rhodes James


A Portrait of Churchill's Ally
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 A masterly biography of Robert Boothby, a Conservative politician now little remembered, whose Parliamentary career spanned more than 50 years during the interwar and post-WW II period. Here, James, British historian and M.P. (Anthony Eden, 1987, etc.), offers a portrait with far greater significance than the subject might suggest. Based on unfettered access to most of Boothby's papers, James's study provides unusual insight into the characters of both Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan. Boothby, a charismatic, ebullient figure, regarded as one of the best orators of his time, was also considered a possible Conservative Prime Minister. Elected to the House of Commons in his 20s and shortly thereafter appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to Churchill when the future P.M. was Chancellor of the Exchequer, Boothby seemed destined for the highest office. But his very brilliance, his unwillingness to subordinate his judgment to the demands of the party, and his recklessness in financial matters--all contributed to the failure of that promise. The most significant cause, however, may have been his affair with Lady Dorothy Macmillan, Harold's wife, which lasted from 1930 until her death in 1967. That, and a minor scandal just after he had taken office as Minister of Food during WW II, helped to destroy his reputation. As a result, a politician who had been right on almost every major issue of importance, from the economy in the 1930's to the danger from Nazi Germany, became ultimately no more than a peripheral figure. But Boothby's career gives an unusual view of the ruthlessness of Churchill in his treatment of one of his main supporters, and of the determination and charity with which Macmillan faced his own unhappiness, ultimately even giving Boothby a peerage. A fascinating insight into British politics through the life of someone who knew everyone of significance, and who possessed an unusual capacity to tell the truth, however much it hurt him. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-670-82886-6
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1991