Dundas, Lawrence John Lumley, second Marquess of Zetland 1876-1961, public servant and author, was born in London 11 June 1876, the elder surviving son of the third Earl, later the first Marquess, of Zetland, viceroy of Ireland (1889-92), and his wife, Lady Lilian Selina Elizabeth Lumley, third daughter of the ninth Earl of Scarbrough. Educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, he joined the staff of Lord Curzon [qv.], then viceroy of India, as an aide-de-camp in 1900, having previously visited Ceylon, Egypt, and Kashmir. In the autumn of the same year he set out for home via Baluchistan, Persia, and Russia. In the next few years he travelled extensively, spending twelve months in China and Japan.
For some years a prospective Conservative candidate, and unsuccessful at Richmond in Yorkshire in 1906, the Earl of Ronaldshay, as he was from 1892 until he succeeded his father in 1929, entered Parliament at a by-election in 1907 as member for the Hornsey division of Middlesex. He held this seat through successive elections until 1916. He again visited India in 1911-12 and served in 1912-14 as a member of the royal commission on the public services in India. In 1917 he took up the post of governor of Bengal in which he served with marked success until 1922. With dexterity, resolution, and sympathy, he dealt with the stresses of the concluding years of the war; with terrorism; with the rise of non-co-operation; with the anxieties of the Muslim community over the fate of Turkey consequent on the Paris peace conference; with grave disorders in Calcutta in 1921; and with the introduction in that year of the diarchical system of government under the India Act of 1919. On the material side he did much for irrigation, agriculture, and for the rural co-operative movement, and he initiated a major campaign against malaria. His wise and tactful handling secured him throughout the full support of his Indian ministers in dealing with political unrest. He left Bengal with established respect and popularity among both Indians and the important European commercial population and was commemorated by a portrait by Fiddes Watt and a statue by John Tweed.
Appointed GCIE in 1917, he was made GCSI in 1922 and sworn of the Privy Council. He made no attempt to re-enter the House of Commons; declined the high commissionership in Egypt which went to Lord Lloyd [qv.]; and was disappointed of the viceroyalty of India in succession to Lord Reading [qv.]. In 1931 he refused an invitation to serve on the commission about to be appointed by the League of Nations to study the causes of dispute between China and Japan. But the report in 1930 of the Simon commission brought immediate recognition of the value he could make to the solution of the Indian problem. An active and constructive member of the Indian Round Table conferences of 1930-2, and of the joint select committee of both Houses of Parliament, from which there emerged the Government of India and the Government of Burma Acts of 1935, he was the obvious successor when Sir Samuel Hoare (later Viscount Templewood) [qv.] moved from the India Office to the Foreign Office in June 1935. Zetland's success in piloting the India and Burma Bills through the House of Lords, in face of the doubts as to their wisdom entertained by important elements in Parliament, was a marked personal achievement.
When Zetland took office, the viceroyalty of Lord Willingdon [qv.] was soon to be followed, in 1936, by that of Lord Linlithgow [qv.]. The close and understanding personal terms on which Zetland and Linlithgow were to work together over four testing years contributed greatly to the handling of the major political issues which marked the period. In 1937 came the introduction of provincial autonomy and the decision of the Congress majority in six provinces to take office, consequent on personal explanations given by Linlithgow with Zetland's approval. In the same year came the separation of Burma from India, when Zetland became in addition first secretary of state for Burma and worked in close liaison with the governor, Sir Archibald Cochrane. There were preparations for the federation of India to which the necessary minimum of princely adherences had not been obtained by the time the outbreak of war put an end to further progress. Major issues in a different field were the Waziristan operations of 1936-8; the United Kingdom trade agreement with India; the Chatfield defence commission; and Muslim reactions to the Anglo-Egyptian treaty and the settlement of the Palestine question.
On the outbreak of war in 1939 the viceroy proclaimed a state of war emergencyóIndia not being a dominion came automatically into the war on proclamation. The Princes and the Muslim League ministries gave immediate support to the war effort. The Congress had already committed itself to non-co-operation in the event of war unless India herself was free and now sharply condemned the proclamation of war without India's consent. The Congress ministries resigned. The remaining months of Zetland's period of office were spent in earnest endeavours by himself and the viceroy to remove misunderstandings about British war aims and the constitutional future of India. In March 1940 Zetland was wounded and had a narrow escape from death when Sir Michael O'Dwyer [qv.] was shot dead in London by one Udhan Singh. When Churchill formed his Government in May, L. S. Amery [qv.] succeeded Zetland whose approach to the Indian problem differed so fundamentally from Churchill's that his inclusion in the Government was scarcely possible.
Thereafter Zetland devoted himself primarily to his extensive and varied non-official interests. In addition to his duties as a great landowner in Yorkshire and Scotland, he was an active supporter of the Territorial movement. As a steward of the Jockey Club in 1928-31 he had done much for racing, and his family colours were carried by a number of winners from his stud over many years. Provincial grand master of freemasons of the north and east ridings of Yorkshire from 1923 to 1956, he continued to play a prominent part in county business in Yorkshire as lord-lieutenant of the north riding from 1945 to 1951, and in Scotland as governor of the National Bank of Scotland. He was active in the Royal Central Asian, the India, and the Royal Asiatic societies. President of the Royal Geographical Society (1922-5) and a trustee until 1947, he took an active interest in its work and gave full support to the Mount Everest expedition of 1924. He played no small part in building up the National Trust, of which he was chairman from 1931 until 1945.
In the field of authorship, his contribution was important. He published a striking trilogy of books on India and her neighbours: Lands of the Thunderbolt: Sikhim, Chumbi and Bhutan (1923); India, a Bird's-eye View (1924); and The Heart of ¬ry‚varta, A study of the Psychology of Indian Unrest (1925). All show his deep feeling for Indian philosophy and thought. It was to the profound impression created by the last, which had the distinction of being translated into Sanskrit, that he owed his election to the British Academy in 1929. In a different field there followed the authorized biography of Curzon (3 vols., 1928) which he was invited to write by the literary executors of his former chief; his edition (2 vols., 1929) of the letters of Disraeli to Lady Bradford and Lady Chesterfield; and in 1932 the authorized biography of the first Earl of Cromer. In 1935, shortly before becoming secretary of state for India, he published Steps Towards Indian Home Rule. He received the honorary LLD of Cambridge and of Glasgow and the honorary Litt.D. of Leeds. He was appointed K.G. in 1942.
Zetland was conciliatory, persuasive, but unbending on any issue of principle, and wholly indifferent to personal considerations. The range of his activities and the success with which he pursued them testify to the skill with which he organized his life and his capacity to combine a mastery of significant detail with a full appreciation of broader issues.
He married in 1907 Cicely Alice (died 1973), daughter of Colonel Mervyn Archdale; they had two sons and three daughters. The younger son was killed while serving with the RAF in 1942. The elder, Lawrence Aldred Mervyn (born 1908), succeeded to the titles when his father died at the family residence of Aske in Yorkshire 6 February 1961.
A portrait by Sir Oswald Birley of Zetland in the robes of the Garter hangs in the house of the Royal Geographical Society. A portrait by R. Hedley, in hunting costume, is at Aske; another, by T. C. Dugdale, in masonic regalia, is in Freemasons' Hall, Duncombe Place, York.
The Marquess of Zetland, Essayez, 1956
Sir Gilbert Laithwaite in Proceedings of the British Academy, vol. xlvii, 1961
Contributor: Gilbert Laithwaite