54 Albion Rd, Broadstairs CT10 2UR, UK
University of Oxford, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3PA
The Albany, Albany Court Yard, Mayfair, London W1J 0LR
17 Wilton St, London SW1X 7AX, UK
Arundells, 59 Cathedral Close, Salisbury SP1 2EN, UK
Salisbury Cathedral Salisbury, Wiltshire Unitary Authority, Wiltshire, England
Sir Edward Richard George "Ted" Heath KG MBE (9 July 1916 – 17 July 2005) was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1970 to 1974 and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1965 to 1975. Heath served for 51 years as a Member of Parliament from 1950 to 2001. Outside politics, Heath was also a world-class yachtsman and a talented musician.
Edward Heath was born at 54 Albion Road, Broadstairs, Kent on 9 July 1916, the son of William George Heath (1888–1976), a carpenter who built air frames for Vickers during the First World War, and was subsequently employed as a builder and Edith Anne Pantony (1888–1951), a lady's maid. His father was later a successful small businessman after taking over a building and decorating firm. Heath's paternal grandfather had run a small dairy business, and when that failed worked as a porter at Broadstairs Station on the Southern Railway. Edward was four years old when his younger brother, John, was born; there was no question that Edward was the "favoured brother." Heath was known as "Teddy" as a young man. He was educated at Chatham House Grammar School in Ramsgate, and in 1935 with the aid of a county scholarship he went up to study at Balliol College, Oxford.
A talented musician, Heath won the college's organ scholarship in his first term (he had previously tried for the organ scholarships at St Catharine's College, Cambridge, and Keble College, Oxford) which enabled him to stay at the university for a fourth year; he eventually graduated with a Second Class Honours BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics in 1939. While at university Heath became active in Conservative Party politics. On the key political issue of the day, foreign policy, he opposed the Conservative-dominated government of the day ever more openly. His first Paper Speech (i.e. a major speech listed on the Order Paper along with the visiting guest speakers) at the Oxford Union, in 1936, was in opposition to the appeasement of Germany by returning her colonies, confiscated during the First World War. In June 1937 he was elected President of the Oxford University Conservative Association as a pro-Spanish Republic candidate, in opposition to the pro-Franco John Stokes (himself later a Conservative MP). In 1937–38 Heath was chairman of the national Federation of University Conservative Associations, and in the same year (his third at university) he was Secretary and then Librarian of the Oxford Union. At the end of the year he was defeated for the Presidency of the Oxford Union by another Balliol candidate, Alan Wood, on the issue of whether the Chamberlain government should give way to a left-wing Popular Front. On that occasion Heath supported the government. In his final year Heath was President of Balliol College Junior Common Room, an office held in subsequent years by his near-contemporaries Denis Healey and Roy Jenkins, and as such was invited to support the Master of Balliol Alexander Lindsay, who stood as an anti-appeasement 'Independent Progressive' candidate against the official Conservative candidate, Quintin Hogg, in the 1938 Oxford by-election. Heath, who had himself applied to be the Conservative candidate for the by-election, accused the government in an October Union Debate of "turning all four cheeks" to Adolf Hitler, and was elected as President of the Oxford Union in November 1938, sponsored by Balliol, after winning the Presidential Debate that "This House has No Confidence in the National Government as presently constituted". He was thus President in Hilary term 1939; the visiting Leo Amery described him in his diaries as "a pleasant youth". As an undergraduate, Heath travelled widely in Europe. His opposition to appeasement was nourished by his witnessing first-hand a Nuremberg Rally in 1937, where he met leading Nazis Hermann Göring, Joseph Goebbels, and Heinrich Himmler at an SS cocktail party. He later described Himmler as "the most evil man I have ever met". He was in Germany for two months to learn German, but did not keep up any fluency in the language in later life. In 1938 he visited Barcelona, then under attack from Spanish Nationalist forces during the Spanish Civil War. On one occasion a car in which he was travelling came under machine-gun fire, while on another a bomb hit his hotel whilst he was observing an air raid from outside. In the summer of 1939, accompanied by his Jewish friend Madron Seligman, he travelled to Danzig and Poland. They made the return journey by hitchhiking and rail across Germany through mobilising troops, returning to Britain just before the declaration of war.
In the 1960s, Heath had lived in the Albany, off Piccadilly; at the unexpected end of his premiership, the French couple living there refused his demand that they move out so that he could have his flat back ("So much for European Unity!" Heath later wrote in his memoirs). For four months, Heath took the flat of Conservative MP Timothy Kitson; Kitson declined his offer to pay rent but later recalled an occasion when his own watch broke, and Heath in response invited him to take one of a large collection that he had been given on his travels.
In July 1974, the Duke of Westminster, a major London landowner and ardent Europhile, allowed Heath to rent a property in Wilton Street, Belgravia, for an annual rent of £1,250, a tenth of the market value. The house had three storeys and a basement flat for Heath's housekeeper, and he continued to use it as his London home until old age prevented him from climbing the stairs.
In February 1985, Heath acquired a Wiltshire home, Arundells, in the Cathedral close at Salisbury, where he resided until his death twenty years later. In January 2006, it was announced that Heath had placed his house and contents, valued at £5 million in his will, in a charitable foundation, the Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation, to conserve the house as a museum to his career. The house is open to the public for guided tours from March to October; displayed therein is a large collection of personal effects as well as Heath's personal library, photo collections, and paintings by Winston Churchill.
Heath never married. He had been expected to marry childhood friend Kay Raven, who reportedly tired of waiting and married an RAF officer whom she met on holiday in 1950. In a four-sentence paragraph of his memoirs, Heath claimed that he had been too busy establishing a career after the war and had "perhaps ... taken too much for granted". In a 1998 TV interview with Michael Cockerell, Heath said that he had kept her photograph in his flat for many years afterwards. His interest in music kept him on friendly terms with female musicians, including pianist Moura Lympany. When Heath was prime minister she was approached by the Conservative MP Tufton Beamish, who said: "Moura, Ted must get married. Will you marry him?" She said she would have done but was in love with someone else. She later said the most intimate thing Heath had done was to put his arm around her shoulder. Bernard Levin wrote at the time in The Observer that the UK had to wait until the emergence of the permissive society for a prime minister who was a virgin. In later life, according to his official biographer Philip Ziegler, at dinner parties Heath was "apt to relapse into morose silence or completely ignore the woman next to him and talk across her to the nearest man"; others at the time claimed Heath was just not talkative at parties. Heath's status as a bachelor led to speculations and rumours, some quite wild, about his private life. The public assumed that he was "queer", there were many innuendos in Private Eye about it, and homophobic chants could be heard outside Downing Street during protests by trade unionists against his Industrial Relations Bill. John Campbell, who published a biography of Heath in 1993, devoted four pages to a discussion of the evidence concerning Heath's sexuality. While acknowledging that Heath was often assumed by the public to be gay, not least because it is "nowadays ... whispered of any bachelor", he found "no positive evidence" that this was so "except for the faintest unsubstantiated rumour" (the footnote refers to a mention of a "disturbing incident" at the beginning of the Second World War in a 1972 biography by Andrew Roth). Campbell ultimately concluded that the most significant aspect of Heath's sexuality was his complete repression of it. Brian Coleman, the Conservative Party London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden, claimed in 2007 that Heath, in order to protect his career, had stopped cottaging in the 1950s. Coleman said it was "common knowledge" among Conservatives that Heath had been given a stern warning by police when he underwent background checks for the post of privy councillor. Heath's biographer Philip Ziegler wrote in 2010 that Coleman was able to provide "little or no information" to back up this statement, that no man had ever claimed to have had a sexual relationship with Heath, nor was any trace of homosexuality to be found in his papers, and that "those who knew him well" insist that he had no such inclination. He believes Heath to have been asexual. Although he does mention a letter from one "Freddy", who seems hurt that "Teddie" had spurned his advances. Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, who was Heath's friend and former private secretary, stated his belief that Heath was asexual, saying that he "never detected a whiff of sexuality in relation to men, women or children." Another friend and confidant, Sara Morrison, former Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party, said Heath had "effectively" told her "that he was sexless". Charles Moore, in his authorised biography of Margaret Thatcher, said that Bill Deedes believed that Thatcher "seemed convinced" Heath was gay, whilst Moore believed it is "possible" that Thatcher's reference, in interview in 1974, to Heath not having a family, was a deliberate hint that he was gay, in order to discredit him. Thatcher certainly seems to have disliked Heath. "When I look at him and he looks at me," she once remarked, according to Ziegler, "it doesn't feel like a man looking at a woman, more like a woman looking at another woman."
When he moved to Arundells in 1985, Heath hired Derek Frost, life partner of Jeremy Norman, to modernise and redecorate the house in Salisbury. He became friends of sorts with the couple, in a typically stand-offish manner. When they asked Heath why he had not supported homosexual law reform (He was either absent from the debates in the 60s or voted against Lord Aran's first Bill in May 1965), he replied that he had always been in favour but that "the rank and file of the party would never have stood for it." Norman's view is that Heath was "a deeply closeted gay man" who "decided early in life to sublimate his sexuality to his political ambitions." In later life, Heath voted for the lowering of the age of same-sex consent to eighteen and then sixteen. Similarly, Michael McManus, who was Heath's private secretary in the 1990s and helped with his memoirs, writes in his book on gay conservative politicians that he "was left in no doubt whatsoever that Heath was a gay man who had sacrificed his personal life to his political career, exercising iron self-control and living a celibate existence as he climbed the "greasy pole" of preferment."
In his will, Heath, who had no descendants, left only two legacies: £20,000 to his brother's widow, and £2,500 to his housekeeper.
In August 2003, at the age of 87, Heath suffered a pulmonary embolism while on holiday in Salzburg, Austria. He never fully recovered, and owing to his declining health and mobility made very few public appearances in the last two years of his life, his last one being at the unveiling of a set of gates at St Paul's Cathedral dedicated to Sir Winston Churchill on 30 November 2004. In his final public statement Heath paid tribute to James Callaghan, who died on 26 March 2005, saying "James Callaghan was a major fixture in the political life of this country during his long and varied career. When in opposition he never hesitated to put firmly his party's case. When in office he took a smoother approach towards his supporters and opponents alike. Although he left the House of Commons in 1987 he continued to follow political life and it was always a pleasure to meet with him. We have lost a major figure from our political landscape". Sir Edward Heath died at his home from pneumonia at 7.30pm on 17 July 2005, at the age of 89. He was cremated on 25 July 2005 at a funeral service attended by 1,500 people. On the day after his death, the BBC Parliament channel showed the BBC results coverage of the 1970 election. A memorial service was held for Heath in Westminster Abbey on 8 November 2005, which was attended by 2,000 people. Three days later his ashes were interred in Salisbury Cathedral. In a tribute to him, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair stated "He was a man of great integrity and beliefs he held firmly from which he never wavered".
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