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Lord Carrington, 1919–2018 Last Survivor of Churchill’s Government

Peter Carington, the 6th Baron Carrington, passed away on July 9. He was the last surviving person to serve in government under Winston Churchill having been a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and then Defence when Churchill was Prime Minister from 1951 to 1955. He served under five more Prime Ministers before capping his career as Secretary General of NATO in the 1980s.

Lord Carrington (to the eternal confusion of all, the title includes one more “r” than the family name) was born in London in 1919 the only son of the 5th Baron Carrington. Like Churchill, Carrington’s education consisted of public school (Eton) and Sandhurst but no university training. Instead he was commissioned into the Grenadier Guards just before the outbreak of the Second World War and remained in the army for ten years during which time he was awarded the Military Cross.

Carrington succeeded to his title upon his father’s death in 1938, but due to active war service did not take his seat in the House of Lords until 1945. He left the army in 1949 and went into politics leading to his appointment under Churchill following the General Election of 1951. Carrington also served under Sir Anthony Eden, who then appointed him High Commissioner to Australia.

After three years in Australia, Carrington returned to Britain in 1959 to serve under Harold Macmillan for four years as First Lord of the Admiralty, an office twice held by Churchill. Carrington next served as Minister without Portfolio and Leader of the House of Lords during the brief government of Sir Alec Douglas-Home. When the Conservatives returned to power in 1970, Carrington became Secretary of State for Defence under Edward Heath.

Margaret Thatcher made Carrington her first Foreign Secretary in 1979. Together they worked out a settlement leading to the independence of Zimbabwe. In 1982, Carrington famously took the blame for Britain being unprepared at the time of the invasion of the Falkland Islands by Argentina. Mrs. Thatcher was sorry to accept his resignation and successfully supported Carrington’s nomination to become Secretary General of NATO in 1984. In that office, Carrington was at the reins when Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union and the Cold War approached its peaceful climax.

When the House of Lords Act of 1999 ended his right to sit in the chamber as a hereditary peer, he was made a life peer the same year. Consequently, when Lord Carrington passed away, he was the longest serving member in the Lords as well as the oldest, the second longest serving member of the Privy Council after the Duke of Edinburgh, and the last surviving member of every Conservative government between 1951 and 1974—records of Churchillian proportions.

The Right Honourable The Lord Carrington KG GCMG CH MC PC DL was born on 6 June 1919 and died on 9 July 2018.

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