John Barnes, Historian

Sir Edward Wakefield, 1st Baronet (1903 – 1969)

After a successful career in the Indian Civil Service, which culminated in his appointment at the age of 43 as Joint Secretary of the Political Department in the Government of India, Wakefield refused attractive offers from both successor states when India and Pakistan came into existence in 1947. He explained that he had spent much of his life in the service of the Crown and did not feel disposed to serve a different master. His brother, Wavell, was already a Conservative MP and Edward Wakefield regained West Derbyshire from the Labour Party in February 1950.

Appointed an assistant Whip in 1954, he became a Lord Commissioner of the Treasury in 1956, Comptroller of HM Household in October 1958, Vice Chamberlain in 1959 and Treasurer of the Household in 1960. He was amongst Heath’s most trusted lieutenants, but when Redmayne was appointed to succeed him as Chief Whip, the deputy’s job went to Michael Hughes-Young.

In March 1962 Wakefield was made a Baronet and appointed as the first Commissioner for Malta under the new constitution. Difficult negotiations between Britain and Malta followed in which Wakefield took part, but eventually Malta achieved its independence and it was announced that Wakefield would serve briefly as the first High Commissioner 1964-65.

Edward Birkbeck Wakefield was born on 24 July 1903. Educated at Haileybury and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took a first in both parts of the Classical Tripos, he joined the Indian Civil Service in 1927 and was appointed to the Political Department three years later. He served in the Punjab, Rajputana, Kathiawar, Baluchistan, Central India, Tibet and the Persian Gulf. He was Chief Minister of Kalat State 1933–1936, of Nabha State 1939–1941 and of Rewa State 1943–1945. As he recalled, he had acted, somewhat unusually, as a Chief Minister in a Mohammedan state, a Sikh state and a Hindu state. From 1946 until August 1947 he served first under Wavell and then under Mountbatten and was Joint Secretary to the Political Department in Delhi. He was made CIE in 1945.

He had married in 1929 Constance Lalage, the daughter of Sir John Thompson KCSI KCIE. They had two sons and two daughters. Their elder daughter tragically died in the Quetta earthquake of 1935 and their younger daughter died in 1962.

Wakefield won the bronze medal of the Royal Humane Society for saving life from drowning in 1936.

He was elected as Conservative Member of Parliament for West Derbyshire in 1950, holding the seat until 1962. While on the backbenches he took a keen interest in the affairs of the Sudan, defending the position of the Sudanese when faced by the intrigues of General Neguib, but subsequently in June 1954, he wrote to The Times to defend the Government’s position over the Sudanese constitution and the agreement it made with Egypt in the previous year. Another letter to The Times in March 1954 made the ingenious suggestion that there should be differential payments for part-time and full-time MPs, but the suggestion fell on stony ground. After his appointment as an assistant whip in 1954, he held a series of appointments in the Whips’ Office, which culminated with his appointment as Treasurer of the Household, 1960–1962.

He resigned from the House of Commons in March 1962, when he was appointed as Commissioner for Malta, 1962–1964, becoming High Commissioner 1964–1965. A strong Christian, he saw Malta as an important bastion of the Christian West.

He was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire in 1945, and was created a Baronet of Kendal in the County of Westmorland, in 1962. He wrote a memoir, Past Imperative, which was published in 1966.

Wakefield died on 14 January 1969, aged 65, and was succeeded in the baronetcy by his son Humphrey.