Baring, Rowland Thomas, second Earl of Cromer 1877-1953, lord chamberlain to the household, 1922-38, elder son of Evelyn Baring, later first Earl of Cromer [qv.], by his first marriage, to Ethel Stanley, second daughter of Sir Rowland Stanley Errington, eleventh baronet, was born 29 November 1877 at Cairo. A bad attack of typhoid contracted in Egypt in his boyhood affected his health all his life. His mother died when he was nearly twenty-one, but the influence of her noble character helped to mould his own and remained potent throughout his career. He was educated at Eton where he made many friends, but left early by his father's wish, without particular distinction in scholarship or games, in order to learn foreign languages. His knowledge of French was unusually good in an Englishman. In 1900 he entered the Diplomatic Service, serving as third and second secretary between 1902 and 1906 at Cairo, Tehran, and St. Petersburg. He then transferred to the Foreign Office and acted as private secretary to successive permanent under-secretaries of state between 1907 and 1911 when he resigned the service.
In 1913 Lord Errington, as he then was, became a managing director of Baring Brothers and in a short time acquired a useful knowledge of finance. In 1914 he joined the Grenadier Guards, serving in the special reserve until 1920. In 1915 he became aide-de-camp to successive viceroys of India (Lord Hardinge of Penshurst [qv.] and Lord Chelmsford, qv.). The following year he was appointed assistant private secretary and equerry to King George V. In 1917 he succeeded his father as second Earl of Cromer. He acted as chief of staff to the Duke of Connaught [qv.] during his visit to India (1920-21) and to the Prince of Wales during his Indian tour (1921-2) when his knowledge of India proved of great service.
In 1922 Cromer was appointed lord chamberlain to the household, a post which he held with distinction under three sovereigns until 1938 when he became a permanent lord-in-waiting. Apprehension about the status of the monarchy during the war, despite the devotion to duty of the King and Queen, had been expressed in 1918, notably by Cromer himself and by Lord Esher [qv.]. This disquiet was soon dissipated but Cromer never forgot the need for the monarchy to adjust itself to the post-war social revolution. By his tact and imperturbability and his liberal and shrewd interpretation of his diverse functions he gave general satisfaction and very little cause for offence, according the same serious but always sympathetic attention to his social as to his political functions. Probably his work as censor of plays interested him most. He came to know a great deal about the theatre, and in this contentious field his tact and sympathy earned the respect and gratitude of dramatists and actors. In his administration and reformation of royal household affairs his business experience stood him in good stead. A sense of humour lightened the burden of his responsibilities, if on social occasions his determination to keep inviolable the confidences of his office sometimes kept it in check. Throughout his term of office he enjoyed the complete confidence and true friendship of the three sovereigns he served.
Cromer was of middle height and slim build. Never robust, he enjoyed shooting and riding but his favourite recreations were reading, family golf, and gardening. A chief virtue of his character was an endearing modesty, to which were added shrewd common sense, great tact, imperturbability and moral courage, and a farsighted liberalism of outlook. He was devoted to children, and young people were always at ease in his company. He devoted much time and trouble to the Cheyne Hospital for children, and was president of the National Hospital for Chest Diseases. At various times he was a British Government director of the Suez Canal Company, a director of the P. & O. and the B.I. steam navigation companies and various banking and insurance concerns. He was not a rich man, and these City interests were of importance to him since the office of lord chamberlain carried no pension rights. In 1934-5 he was president of the M.C.C. He received many high British honours and a variety of foreign Orders. He was sworn of the Privy Council in 1922 and rose to the rank of grand cross in the Orders of the Bath, the Indian Empire, and the Victorian, and received the Victorian Chain in 1935.
In 1908 Cromer married Lady Ruby Florence Mary Elliot, daughter of the fourth Earl of Minto [qv.] by whom he had a son and two daughters. Lady Cromer was of constant help to him in his career and his family life was ideal. Some of their happiest days were spent at a modest estate he acquired in Somerset. Cromer died rather suddenly 13 May 1953 in London and was succeeded by his only son, George Rowland Stanley (born 1918), who was governor of the Bank of England in 1961-6.
A portrait of Cromer by P. A. de László is in family possession.
John W. Wheeler-Bennett, King George VI, 1958
John Gore, King George V, 1941
H.R.H. the Duke of Windsor, A King's Story, 1951
Contributor: John Gore.