The Lord Gilmour of Craigmillar
Gilmour being interviewed in 1985
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
(Government spokesman for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)
In office
4 May 1979 – 11 September 1981
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byThe Lord Peart
Succeeded byHumphrey Atkins
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
In office
15 January 1976 – 4 May 1979
LeaderMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byGeorge Younger
Succeeded byFred Mulley
In office
11 March 1974 – 29 October 1974
LeaderTed Heath
Preceded byFred Peart
Succeeded byPeter Walker
Shadow Home Secretary
In office
18 February 1975 – 15 January 1976
LeaderMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byKeith Joseph
Succeeded byWillie Whitelaw
Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
In office
29 October 1974 – 18 February 1975
LeaderTed Heath
Preceded byFrancis Pym
Succeeded byAirey Neave
Secretary of State for Defence
In office
8 January 1974 – 4 March 1974
Prime MinisterTed Heath
Preceded byPeter Carrington
Succeeded byRoy Mason
Minister for Defence Procurement
In office
7 April 1971 – 8 January 1974
Prime MinisterTed Heath
Preceded byRobert Lindsay
Succeeded byGeorge Younger
Member of Parliament
for Central Norfolk
In office
23 November 1962 – 8 February 1974
Preceded byRichard Collard
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Member of Parliament
for Chesham and Amersham
In office
28 February 1974 – 16 March 1992
Preceded byConstituency created
Succeeded byCheryl Gillan
Personal details
Ian Hedworth John Little Gilmour

(1926-07-08)8 July 1926
London, England
Died21 September 2007(2007-09-21) (aged 81)
London, England
Political partyConservative and National Liberal (before 1964)
Conservative (before 1999)
Pro-Euro Conservative (1999–2001)
Liberal Democrats (after 2001)
[citation needed]
Lady Caroline Montagu-Douglas-Scott
(m. 1951; died 2004)
Children5, including David and Oliver
RelativesTim Bouverie (grandson)
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford
City Law School

Ian Hedworth John Little Gilmour, Baron Gilmour of Craigmillar, PC (8 July 1926 – 21 September 2007) was a Conservative Party politician in the United Kingdom. He was styled Sir Ian Gilmour, 3rd Baronet from 1977, having succeeded to his father's baronetcy, until he became a life peer in 1992. He was Secretary of State for Defence in 1974, in the government of Edward Heath. In the government of Margaret Thatcher, he was Lord Privy Seal from 1979 to 1981.

Early life

Gilmour was born in London on 8 July 1926, the son of stockbroker Lieutenant Colonel Sir John Gilmour, 2nd Baronet, and his wife, Victoria, a granddaughter of the 5th Earl Cadogan.[1] His parents divorced in 1929, and his father married Mary, the eldest daughter of the 3rd Duke of Abercorn. The family had land in Scotland and he inherited a substantial estate and shares in Meux's Brewery from his grandfather, Admiral of the Fleet, the Hon. Sir Hedworth Meux.[2][3] They lived in the grounds of Syon Park in London, with a house in Tuscany.

Gilmour was educated at Eton College and read history at Balliol College, Oxford. He served with the Grenadier Guards from 1944 to 1947. He was called to the bar at Inner Temple in 1952 and was a tenant in the chambers of Quintin Hogg for two years.[3]

He bought The Spectator in 1954 and was its editor from 1954 to 1959. He sold The Spectator to the businessman Harold Creighton in 1967. The Daily Telegraph wrote that his editorship had livened up the magazine "publishing new writers such as Bernard Levin and Katharine Whitehorn and taking a strong liberal reforming stance on moral issues such as the death penalty, abortion and homosexuality; he also castigated Eden over Suez."[3] He had written an editorial denouncing the invasion of Suez as an "act of aggression".[4]

Member of Parliament

He was elected as Member of Parliament for Central Norfolk in a by-election in 1962, winning by 220 votes.[1] He held this seat until 1974, when his seat was abolished due to boundary changes, and he stood for the safe Conservative seat of Chesham and Amersham, sitting as its MP from 1974 until his retirement in 1992.[1]

In parliament, he was a social liberal, voting to abolish the death penalty, and legalise abortion and homosexuality.[1] He also supported the campaign to join the EEC. He was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Quintin Hogg from 1963. He was one of the few members to vote against the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968, regarding it as racist and designed to "keep the blacks out".[5]

Gilmour espoused the Arab cause when it was less popular in progressive circles than it later became and supported it throughout his years in the House of Commons, where his chief ally was Dennis Walters who was chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council.[4]

In government

He served in Edward Heath's government from 1970, holding a variety of junior positions in the Ministry of Defence under Lord Carrington: Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Army from 1970 to 1971, then Minister of State for Defence Procurement until 1972, then Minister of State for Defence.[1] He joined the Privy Council in 1973. He replaced Carrington in January 1974 to join Heath's Cabinet as Defence Secretary, but lost his position after Labour won the most seats in the general election at the end of February. He was in the Shadow Cabinet after the general election in February 1974 as Shadow Defence Secretary to late 1974. From the end of 1974 to February 1975 he was Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary.[1]

In opposition, Gilmour became chairman of the Conservative Research Department.[1] With Chris Patten, he wrote the Conservative Party manifesto for the October 1974 election – a second loss, by a wider margin.[1] When Margaret Thatcher became the new leader of the Conservative party, she appointed Gilmour as Shadow Home Secretary in 1975, then as Shadow Defence Secretary from 1976 to 1978.[1] He became Lord Privy Seal after the 1979 general election, as the chief Government spokesman in the House of Commons for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, working again under Lord Carrington, who, as Foreign Secretary, sat in the House of Lords.[1] He co-chaired with Carrington the Lancaster House talks, which led to the end of Ian Smith's government in Rhodesia, and the creation of an independent Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe.[1] He also negotiated with the EEC to reduce Britain's financial contribution.[1]

Backbenches and retirement

Gilmour did not enjoy good relations with Margaret Thatcher. He was a moderate who disagreed with her economic policies, and became the most outspoken "wet". During a lecture at Cambridge in February 1980, Gilmour contended, "In the conservative view, economic liberalism à la Professor Hayek, because of its starkness and its failure to create a sense of community, is not a safeguard of political freedom but a threat to it."[6] Thatcher remarked in her autobiography, somewhat sarcastically: "Ian remained at the Foreign Office for two years. Subsequently, he was to show me the same loyalty from the back-benches as he had in government."[7] Gilmour survived a reshuffle in January 1981, but was sacked in September of the same year.[1] He announced that the government was "steering full speed ahead for the rocks", and said that he regretted that he had not resigned beforehand.[citation needed]

Gilmour remained on the backbenches until 1992, and opposed many Thatcherite policies, including the abolition of the Greater London Council, rate-capping and the poll tax.[1] He was in favour of proportional representation.[1] In 1989, he was considered by discontented backbenchers as a possible future leader; in the event, he supported Sir Anthony Meyer in his leadership challenge in December 1989. However, he did not participate in frontline British politics again, and was given a life peerage by John Major on 25 August 1992, becoming Baron Gilmour of Craigmillar, of Craigmillar in the District of the City of Edinburgh,[8] of which his family were, for several hundred years, the feudal superiors.[1]

In 1999, he publicly endorsed the Pro-Euro Conservative Party in the European Parliament elections, and was threatened with expulsion from the Conservatives as a result.[9] At Question Time on 23 June 1999, Prime Minister Tony Blair described the party's reaction as a demonstration of how right-wing and anti-European the Conservative Party had become. Gilmour later said that he had stopped paying membership fees in the party after becoming a peer.[10]

Gilmour was president of Medical Aid for Palestinians from 1993 to 1996, and was chairman of the Byron Society from 2003 until his death.[1]


Gilmour was known for writing coherently from the One Nation perspective of the Conservative Party, in opposition to Thatcherism; in particular in his books Dancing with Dogma (1992) and (with Mark Garnett) Whatever Happened to the Tories (1997), and in his critical articles in journals such as the London Review of Books.

His book, Inside Right (1977) is an introduction to conservative thought and thinkers. He also wrote the books The Body Politic (1969), Britain Can Work (1983), Riot, Risings and Revolution (1992), and The Making of the Poets: Byron and Shelley in Their Time (2002).[11]

Personal life

On 10 July 1951, Gilmour married Lady Caroline Margaret Montagu-Douglas-Scott, the youngest daughter of the 8th Duke of Buccleuch and sister of John Scott, 9th Duke of Buccleuch. Their wedding was attended by several members of the British Royal Family, including Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother), and the future Elizabeth II. They lived in Isleworth, and had four sons and one daughter. On 22 February 1974, Lady Caroline Gilmour launched HMS Cardiff.[12] His wife died in 2004, but he was survived by their five children, the eldest of whom, the Hon. David Gilmour, succeeded to his father's baronetcy. Among the younger sons, Oliver Gilmour is a conductor and Andrew Gilmour (UN official) is a senior United Nations official.

His grandson is the British historian Tim Bouverie.


Lord Gilmour died from complications of a stroke and pneumonia on 21 September 2007, aged 81, at West Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth, Greater London.[1][11]

Cultural portrayals


Coat of arms of Ian Gilmour, Baron Gilmour of Craigmillar
A dexter hand holding a scroll of paper within a garland of laurel Proper.
Quartlery 1st & 4th Azure three writing pens Argent (Gilmour) 2nd & 3rd Sable on a saltire Argent a crescent Gules (Little).
Nil Penna Sed Usus (Not The Pen But Custom)[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Heffer, Simon (2011). "Gilmour, Ian Hedworth John Little, Baron Gilmour of Craigmillar". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/99085. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ "History in Portsmouth". History in Portsmouth. 20 September 1929. Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 15 May 2010.
  3. ^ a b c "Lord Gilmour of Craigmillar". The Daily Telegraph. 24 September 2007. Retrieved 28 November 2023.
  4. ^ a b Mulla, Imran; Oborne, Peter (28 November 2023). "Israel-Palestine war: Has David Cameron revived the Tory Arabist tradition?". Middle East Eye. Retrieved 28 November 2023.
  5. ^ Lattimer, Mark (22 January 1999). "When Labour played the racist card". New Statesman. Retrieved 2 December 2023.
  6. ^ Hugo Young, One of Us (1989) p 200
  7. ^ Margaret Thatcher, The Downing Street Years (HarperCollins, 1993), p. 29.
  8. ^ "No. 53032". The London Gazette. 28 August 1992. p. 14593.
  9. ^ Landale, James (8 June 1999). "Nine senior Tories back pro-euro rebels". The Times. p. 12.
  10. ^ Ward, Lucy (25 August 1999). "Ditched Tory will 'stick more pins'". The Guardian. p. 9. Retrieved 2 December 2023 – via [Gilmour] disclosed yesterday that, since he had not paid a subscription to his party since gaining his peerage in 1992, he could not be sacked
  11. ^ a b "Lord Gilmour's BBC online obituary". 21 September 2007. Retrieved 15 May 2010.
  12. ^ "Visiting British Naval Ships British High Commission, Accra". Archived from the original on 18 August 2004. Retrieved 10 February 2008.
  13. ^ Debrett's Peerage. 2003. p. 642.


Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byRichard Collard Member of Parliamentfor Central Norfolk 19621974 Constituency abolished New constituency Member of Parliamentfor Chesham and Amersham 19741992 Succeeded byCheryl Gillan Political offices Preceded byThe Lord Carrington Secretary of State for Defence 1974 Succeeded byRoy Mason Preceded byFred Peart Shadow Secretary of State for Defence 1974 Succeeded byPeter Walker Preceded byFrancis Pym Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 1974–1975 Succeeded byAirey Neave Preceded byKeith Joseph Shadow Home Secretary 1975–1976 Succeeded byWillie Whitelaw Preceded byGeorge Younger Shadow Secretary of State for Defence 1976–1979 Succeeded byFred Mulley Preceded byThe Lord Peart Lord Privy Seal 1979–1981 Succeeded byHumphrey Atkins Baronetage of the United Kingdom Preceded byJohn Gilmour Baronet(of Liberton and Craigmillar) 1977–2007 Succeeded byDavid Gilmour