Guinness, Rupert Edward Cecil Lee, second Earl of Iveagh 1874-1967, philanthropist, was born in London 29 March 1874, the eldest of the three sons of Edward Cecil Guinness [qv.], who was created Earl of Iveagh in 1919, and his wife, Adelaide Maria, daughter of Richard Samuel Guinness, MP, of Deepwell, county Dublin, a distant cousin of her husband. Rupert Guinness was born heir to great family wealth and also to the heavy responsibilities carried by his father who in 1868 became the sole proprietor of the St. James's Gate Guinness brewery in Dublin and in 1886, when Guinness became a public company, its first chairman. Rupert Guinness took on the chairmanship of the Guinness Company in 1927 when his father died, and held it for thirty-five years, during which the company developed under his guidance and grew into a multinational group with worldwide interests and activities. In 1962 he relinquished the chairmanship to his grandson (Arthur Francis) Benjamin Guinness.
Rupert Guinness was educated at a preparatory school, St. George's in Ascot, and then at Eton (1888-93). He was a slow reader and achieved no success at all in academic subjects, except in science where his passionate curiosity in practical scientific questions became evident, a quality which marked many of the activities of his long and full life. He was very powerfully built and was said to be one of the strongest boys who ever went to Eton. Besides rowing in the Eton eight which won the Ladies plate at Henley (1893), he won the diamond sculls in 1895, and in 1896 by winning both the diamond sculls and the Wingfield sculls he became undisputed amateur champion. The two later successes were achieved during a year he spent at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Water, however, continued to exercise its attraction. In 1903 he built a 90 ft. racing yawl, the Leander, with which he won the King's Cup at Cowes and the Vasco Da Gama Challenge Cup in Portugal. He was later asked by the Admiralty to raise the naval force that became the London division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, a task which he undertook during the nine years preceding the outbreak of World War I, at which time he took over command of the division.
In 1899 he became a director of Arthur Guinness, Son & Co. Ltd., but had little opportunity to become much involved with the company's affairs because of the outbreak of the Boer War, and in 1900 he was in South Africa working with the Irish hospital, donated to the war effort by his father, as aide to its commander, Sir William Thomson [qv.]. He was appointed CMG in 1901 for his services in South Africa.
Returning to England, Rupert Guinness began to interest himself seriously in politics and, after becoming a member of the London County Council, was adopted in 1903 as Conservative candidate for the Haggerston division of Shoreditch, but there were five years of hard political work to come before he reached Westminster. In 1903 he married Gwendolen Florence Mary Onslow 1881-1966, who was born 22 July 1881, the elder daughter of William Hillier Onslow, the fourth Earl of Onslow [qv.] and his wife, Florence Coulston, daughter of the third Baron Gardner. Gwendolen Onslow had lived a rather sheltered life at Clandon Park in Surrey and for a large part of each year in France. She was a good linguist, with strong intellectual interests, and held pronounced political views, derived from her family background. She had a distinguished career herself in politics and her first experience of them, shared with her husband, was the seven years of political work in their East End constituency. In the general election of 1908 Rupert Guinness was elected to Westminster and served as the member for Haggerston, Shoreditch, until 1910, when he failed to hold the seat in a general election. After this setback Rupert and Gwendolen Guinness, both enthusiastic supporters of imperialist ideals, visited Canada and were immensely struck by the opportunities in this new country for enterprising emigrants from home. Guinness determined to establish an organization in which emigrants could be effectively taught and trained for the very different conditions of life in Canada. He bought Woking Park Farm with 550 acres, close to his own estate at Pyrford, and set up the training establishment he had in mind. By 1914 it had trained over 200 future emigrants. Gwendolen Guinness sought to establish a similar training organization for women in Canada, but war prevented its development.
Guinness was appointed CB in 1911. In 1912 he was elected member for the south-eastern division of Essex, a constituency which later became the borough of Southend. He continued his uninterrupted representation of the borough until he succeeded in 1927, on his father's death, to the earldom of Iveagh. His wife stood at the by-election caused by this event and was elected. She in her turn continued to represent the borough with great success and an increasing majority at each election until she retired from politics in 1935 after eight years in the House of Commons.
Rupert Guinness's interest in science and the practical applications of scientific research was stronger at this time of his life than his interest in politics, and he was particularly fascinated by the techniques and potentialities of preventive medicine. He was fortunate in being able to combine his interest with the material means to support research and ensure that results were carried through. He involved himself deeply in the running of the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine, endowed by his father, of which he was a governor for many years. He took a close interest in the work of (Sir) Almroth Wright [qv.] and (Sir) Alexander Fleming [qv.], both of whom became his lifelong friends, and this interest resulted in the setting up of the Wright-Fleming Institute of Microbiology, of which he was chairman for the greater part of the Institute's life, and which made many contributions to medical knowledge in the fields of allergy control, antibiotics, and preventive medicine techniques.
Rupert Guinness's scientific interest was also strongly directed towards agricultural questions and particularly the problems of dairy farming. He was convinced of the possibility of reducing the incidence of bovine TB in children by producing clean milk. Before 1914 he had designed and made bottling and sterilizing equipment for use with his dairy herd at Pyrford. He stimulated and financed practical and successful research at the Rothamsted Institute, with (Sir) E. John Russell [qv.], the director, and Dr Hanneford Richards, into the best ways of making and storing farmyard manure. His intense and practical interest in farming questions was strongly developed on a much larger scale, after the war, when he was involved in very large-scale farming at Elveden in Suffolk.
The outbreak of World War I found Rupert Guinness commanding the London division of the RNVR and anxious to find the right employment in the war effort for the thousand trained men, collected and trained largely by his own efforts in the preceding years. To his and their dismay they found themselves limited to military activities on land only. It was hard to accept after so many years of patient preparation. Rupert Guinness's efforts were then directed to the carrying out of recruiting drives throughout the country, which were vigorous and successful. In 1916 he was promoted to acting captain and made ADC to the King, the first RNVR officer to be so honoured.
His large London house, 11 St. James's Square, had been turned by his wife into an office for the organization of relief measures for prisoners of war. Gwendolen Guinness was appointed a member of the National Prisoners of War Fund and in 1920 was appointed CBE for the extensive work which she did in this field.
In 1916 they both went again to Canada, his mission this time being to find volunteers to serve in the Royal Navy. This was a difficult and frustrating assignment and was only partially successful. Finally he was demobilized to do what he was perhaps above all qualified to do for the war effort, namely, grow and produce more food at home.
Work undertaken with the Rothamsted Institute on clean milk and on the use of farmyard manure was carried out at Rupert Guinness's Pyrford farm, with his dairy herds there. One discovery from this work led to the establishment of the Agricultural Developments Company to work and put on the market ADCO, a material made basically from straw which, when mixed with refuse, made usable manure.
Tuberculin-tested milk was now being produced from the Pyrford herd and the battle had been joined to make it available to people everywhere. In 1920 Rupert Guinness—or Viscount Elveden as he had now become since the elevation to an earldom of his father in 1919—became one of the founders and the first chairman of the Tuberculin Tested Milk Producers Association, with offices in St. James's Square. This active pioneer work for clean milk eventually led to universal acceptance of the principles involved and a big reduction in the incidence of bovine TB in children.
Rupert Guinness had been working closely also with the Research Institute in Dairying of University College, Reading, with its first director, Professor Stenhouse-Williams, and later with his successor, Professor H. D. Kay, and by contributing substantial material help to the Institute enabled it to set up its own experimental farm, Shinfield Manor, near Reading. The major part he played in the development of the Institute was publicly recognized in the conferment of the degree of honorary D.Sc. by the university of Reading, of which he later became chancellor. Lady Elveden was closely involved in this pioneer agricultural work at Pyrford. Her interest was recognized when she was asked to open the new National Institute for Research in Dairying in 1924. Another of the agricultural organizations to which they both gave help and lifelong affection was the very successful Chadacre Agricultural Institute, founded by his father, near Bury St. Edmunds. He was chairman of the Institute for a great many years.
In 1926 the Elvedens paid a six-month visit to India, at the time when Lady Elveden's brother-in-law, Lord Irwin (afterwards the first Earl of Halifax) [qv.], was viceroy. On 7 October in the following year the first Earl of Iveagh died and Lord Elveden inherited the great Elveden estate. The house was vast and magnificent and the estate probably provided the finest shooting in the land. The upkeep of both on the Edwardian scale would have been a colossal and probably impossible task, physically and financially. Lord Iveagh had very many other responsibilities, his chairmanship of the Guinness Company, his many charitable, scientific, and agricultural commitments, his other houses and estates in England, Ireland, and Italy. Lady Iveagh was an active member of Parliament and had many activities in public life. The idea of running and managing Elveden in the old style was daunting. For one year, however, it was maintained in full to cover the visit to Elveden in 1928, with a shooting house-party, of King George V and Queen Mary. From then on, however, the emphasis in Elveden management changed and Lord Iveagh started the task, which he had set himself, of converting Elveden into an efficient and economic farming unit. He intended to establish a tuberculin-free dairy herd on the huge scale that Elveden farming required. He intended to show that the light breckland of the Elveden estate could be used efficiently for food production, and that the wasteland could be reclaimed for effective farming as well as for supporting game. The enterprise was an immense one and the planning, labour, and investment required was on a large scale. It began with an extensive programme of destruction of pests and fencing and draining of reclaimed land. The work of farming it was largely experimental and novel methods were needed. He improved the fertility of much of the light land by a policy of heavy cropping of lucerne. By the end of his life Elveden had the largest dairy farm in England: producing over half a million gallons of milk a year. The experiment succeeded largely because of Lord Iveagh's driving persistence and determination to carry it through and because he had the means to experiment on so large a scale, and the resources to be able to accept losses on the farm in the early years before the enterprise could become fully efficient and eventually profitable.
The entire Elveden establishment could not be maintained, but during the 1930s Lady Iveagh maintained and used the new wing of the house. She was deeply engaged in politics and entertained political friends there. She became chairman of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations. She was active in the House of Commons and was a most competent broadcaster and speaker. Lord Iveagh also took on many duties in public life. He was a lieutenant of the City of London, deputy lieutenant of Surrey and Essex. He received honorary degrees from universities in Britain and Ireland in recognition of his agricultural work. In both countries he supported a great many causes covering scientific, medical, agricultural, and direct charitable endeavours and took an active part in the direction of as many of them as possible. He took a particularly active part as chairman in directing and expanding the Guinness Trust in England and the Iveagh Trust in Dublin, housing charities established originally by the first Lord Iveagh.
In the 1930s also the Guinness Company had taken the important step of building a major new plant, the Park Royal brewery, to brew Guinness stout in London. The decision to build was made during the economic war with Ireland and followed very direct talks between the Government and Lord Iveagh. One important consequence of this decision was that during the war of 1939-45 the Company was able to keep production going reasonably well in both countries and maintain a supply of Guinness throughout Great Britain.
Shortly before the outbreak of war Lord Iveagh presented his splendid Dublin town-house in Stephens Green, which he had inherited from his father, to the Republic of Ireland and, named Iveagh House, it became the Department for Foreign Affairs of the Irish Government.
Throughout World War II the concentration at Elveden was on increasing production of food and the successes achieved resulted in wide acclaim in this country, but just as the war was ending Lord and Lady Iveagh suffered the shattering blow of the death on active service in Holland of their only son Arthur, a major in the 55th Suffolk and Norfolk Yeomanry. In 1936 he had married Lady Elizabeth Hare, younger daughter of the fourth Earl of Listowel, and left three children, the eldest of whom, (Arthur Francis) Benjamin, was to succeed Lord Iveagh as head of the family and chairman of the Guinness Company.
Recognition of Lord Iveagh's achievements in so many fields came in full measure in later life. In 1955 he was appointed to the Order of the Garter. When he was presented with the first Landowners gold medal at the Royal Agricultural Society in 1958, nonagenarian Charles Bathurst, Viscount Bledisloe [qv.], handed it over to the eighty-five-year-old Lord Iveagh with the words it is so nice to give it to an up and coming young man. In 1964 Iveagh was made a fellow of the Royal Society, an honour which moved him deeply.
The Guinness Company moved after the war into a new phase of growth and diversification, industrially and geographically, and Lord Iveagh was pleased to encourage and preside over these developments. He presided also over the massive celebrations of the bicentenary of the Guinness Company in 1959. Now he began to consider the time had come to give up some of the many offices he still held. He resigned from the chairmanship of the Wright-Fleming Institute in 1957. In 1962 he resigned from the chairmanship of the Guinness Company and he and Lady Iveagh gave up their regular prize-giving visits to Chadacre. In 1963 he resigned from the chancellorship of Trinity College, Dublin. He was sad not to be able to attend the ceremony at Trinity when John F. Kennedy was presented with an honorary degree. As chancellor he had conferred honorary degrees on Sean T. O'Kelly [qv.] and Eamon De Valera. Both Lord and Lady Iveagh felt that in his last years they had successfully tidied up and disengaged from the innumerable enterprises in which they had together spent their lives. She died at Pyrford 16 February 1966 and he died soon after, also at Pyrford, 14 September 1967. They were survived by their three daughters. They are buried at Elveden.
There are portraits of both Lord and Lady Iveagh at the Park Royal offices of Arthur Guinness, Son & Co. Ltd.; a portrait of Rupert and his brother Ernest by J. Sant (1891); a portrait of Lord Iveagh by H. Oliver; a portrait of Lady Iveagh by John Gilroy and a portrait of Lord and Lady Iveagh, standing in coronation robes, also by John Gilroy; and a portrait of Lord Iveagh by the same artist (1955) at Iveagh House, St. James's Square, London.
H. D. Kay in Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, vol. xiv, 1968
G. Martelli, The Elveden Enterprise, 1952
Contributor: R. A. McNeile