The dictionary provides two definitions of "halifax". The first is the biographical name of the 1st Earl of Halifax, Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, English statesman and diplomat; he also was known as Baron Irwin, or Viscount Halifax. He was the British viceroy of India from 1925 to 1931, foreign secretary from 1938 to 1940, and ambassador to the United States from 1941to 1946.
Wood was the fourth son of the 2nd Viscount Halifax, a leader of the Anglo-Catholic movement in Yorkshire. He was born in 1881 with an atrophied left arm that had no hand. Educated at Eton and Oxford, in 1910, he entered Parliament and for the next 30 years had a successful political career. During World War I, he served with the Yorkshire dragoons in France and was assistant secretary to the ministry of national service from 1917 to 1918. After the war, he was successively undersecretary of state for the colonies, president of the board of education and minister of agriculture.
In 1925, he was appointed viceroy of India and raised to the peerage as Baron Irwin. His term of office in India coincided with a period of ferment among both Hindus and Muslims, but his own faith enabled him to work with Gandhi, the most powerful figure among Indian nationalists at that time.
On his return from India, he again became president of the board of education and succeeded to his father’s viscountcy. Thereafter he was lord privy seal, leader of the House of Lords, and lord president of the council, before being appointed foreign secretary in 1938. His tenure of the foreign office was controversial because by accepting that appointment he was identified with Chamberlain’s policy of “appeasement” toward Hitler. As lord privy seal he had visited Hitler and Hermann Göring in 1937, and accompanied Chamberlain on a visit to Mussolini in 1939.
Halifax had been close to Chamberlain before becoming foreign secretary, so when Chamberlain resigned in 1940 he hoped Halifax would succeed him as prime minister. The issue was decided otherwise at a meeting between Chamberlain, Halifax, and Churchill. Halifax remained foreign secretary for the first seven months of Churchill’s ministry, but in December was named British ambassador to the United States. In that post he served the Allied cause during World War II, in recognition of which he was created earl of Halifax in 1944.
Named British delegate to the San Francisco Conference in March 1945, he attended the first sessions of the United Nations. In 1946, he resigned as ambassador and in 1957 published his memoirs, “Fullness of Days.” Halifax died on Dec. 23, 1959.
I’m thinking that’s not the definition of “Halifax” you expected, but hope you were as fascinated by the details of this historic figure’s life as I was. Next week, we’ll look at Webster’s second definition of the word.