Cecil, Lord Edward Herbert Gascoyne- 1867-1918, soldier and civil servant, was born in London 12 July 1867, the fourth son of Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, third Marquess of Salisbury [qv.], by his wife, Georgiana Caroline, daughter of Sir Edward Hall Alderson [qv.]. Educated at Eton, Edward Cecil entered the army (Grenadier Guards) in 1887. At the earliest opportunity he escaped from routine duties. He served in the Dongola expedition (1896), accompanied a diplomatic mission to Abyssinia (1897), witnessed the capture of Khartoum (1898), and was besieged in Mafeking (1900). Still seeking experience, he joined the Egyptian army, and was appointed in 1903 agent-general of the Sudan government and director of intelligence at Cairo. He then passed into the Egyptian government, becoming under-secretary of state in the ministry of finance in 1905, and financial adviser in 1912. As adviser, he was not greatly concerned to increase Egyptian revenues, counting a contented people a greater blessing than an overflowing treasury. But he was not always able to reconcile his ideals with the stern responsibilities of his office.
The European War of 1914-1918 disclosed Cecil's reserve of courage and resource. Being the chief British adviser, he had to assume both direction of, and responsibility for, the conduct of the Egyptian civil administration in the difficult interval between Lord Kitchener's suspension of his own functions as high commissioner and their devolution upon Sir Henry McMahon—an interval during which Turkey, the sovereign of Egypt, took up arms against the Allies. Moreover, all the difficulties of establishing a war-time protectorate and of governing under unprecedented circumstances had to be met. He became the link between civil and military powers, and counsellor of all in perplexity. The temper of Egypt, and particularly of Cairo, was less certain in 1914-1915 than later, when large military forces were at hand; and expectation of attacks from the East by the Turks, and from the West by the Senussis, added to the internal danger. Cecil's confidence, however, never deserted him. When Sir Henry McMahon took over the high commissionership, he remained the power behind the throne; but with the succession of Sir Reginald Wingate in 1917 his position became less satisfactory, and, feeling himself no longer necessary, he grew anxious to do war service at home. In 1918 his functions were delegated, and he left Egypt. Shortly after his return to England, however, he was stricken without warning by a fatal illness. He met it with his habitual resolution and composure, and died at Leysin, Switzerland, 14 December 1918.
Cecil was a notable and inspiring figure of the British occupation of Egypt—a civil servant of sympathy and insight and a polished gentleman. He was a generous almsgiver, a brilliant talker, and a witty writer, as is seen in the pages of The Leisure of an Egyptian Official (published after his death in 1921), his single contribution to literature.
Cecil married in 1894 Violet Georgina, younger daughter of Admiral Frederick Augustus Maxse [qv.], by whom he had one son and one daughter.
Contributor: P. G. E. [Percival George Elgood]