GEORGE V. Autograph letter signed ("George R.I."), to his Prime Minister, Andrew Bonar Law, accepting his resignation, 1923
Lot 175
GEORGE V. Autograph letter signed ("George R.I."), to his Prime Minister, Andrew Bonar Law, accepting his resignation, 1923
Sold for £875 (US$ 1,463) inc. premium
Lot Details
Autograph letter signed ("George R.I."), to his Prime Minister, Andrew Bonar Law ("My dear Prime Minister"), accepting his resignation: "It is with the feelings of deepest regret that I have received your letter of today, placing your resignation in my hands & it is with the keenest sorrow that I realise the cause which compels you to take this step. In accepting your resignation I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation & gratitude for the patriotism & self sacrifice which you evinced last autumn in consenting to take up the very responsible position of Prime Minister at a time of exceptional difficulties. Your having done so was of the greatest personal assistance to me. I earnestly trust that with absolute rest & freedom from worry your health may be completely restored"; and subscribing himself "Believe me my dear Prime Minister Your very sincerely & grateful", 3 pages, engraved heading, small rust stain (presumably from a paper-clip), 8vo, Royal Pavilion, Aldershot Camp, 20 May 1923


  • THE KING ACCEPTS THE RESIGNATION OF HIS DYING PRIME MINISTER. Lloyd George's coalition had collapsed in the autumn of 1922 and Bonar Law had accepted George V's offer to form a government on 23 October 1922, although he had to be elected leader of the Conservative party before he could take up the post. This was not in fact the first time the King had asked him to form a government. He had been asked, as leader of the largest party in the Commons, in December 1916 but had advised the King to appoint Lloyd George instead, serving under him as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Although his government met with considerable success and enjoyed a healthy majority, 'Bonar Law's own health was not as good as his government's. During the general election campaign of November 1922 he had suffered from pains in his throat, which had rendered him unable to speak at one point. The problem seemed to pass, but by early April 1923 his throat was bothering him again, and in the first debates of the new parliamentary session his speeches were occasionally inaudible. On the advice of his doctor, Sir Thomas Horder, he took a month's break from work, leaving Lord Curzon to preside over the cabinet and Baldwin to lead in the Commons. But the break saw a deterioration in his condition. On arrival at Aix les Bains after a cruise he met his old friend Rudyard Kipling, who was so alarmed by his appearance that he telephoned Beaverbrook, who in turn contacted Horder. Horder examined Bonar Law in Paris on 17 May, diagnosed him to be suffering from an incurable cancer of the throat, and gave him six months to live. It seems likely that Bonar Law's one vice, tobacco, had caught up with him' (E. H. H. Green, ODNB).

    He was to die in the early hours of 30 October 1923 and was buried in Westminster Abbey on 5 November: 'Part of Bonar Law's success as leader was that he was genuinely representative of a new kind of Conservative Party. He was the first leader of the Conservatives not to be drawn from the ranks of the aristocracy (leaving aside the peculiar case of Disraeli, who spent his life imitating them), and he presided over a rapid urbanization of the party in terms of its social make-up, the geography of its support, and its policy priorities. The party he left was very different from the one that he had joined, and his own background enabled him to manage and indeed welcome this development. He was, in this respect, the first clearly modern leader of the Conservative Party' (Green, op. cit.).

    Included in the lot is a touching autograph ticket by Queen Alexander, presumably written to accompany a floral tribute: "With the deepest regard and regret of the loss of one of the greatest of England's Statesmen & the best & kindest of men – From/ Alexandra"; and a typed letter signed to Bonar Law from the Chairman of the Manchester Conservative and Unionist Association on his retirement, dated 22 June 1923, marked in the margin "Usual nice Resolution" and "Thanked 27/6".
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