National Records of Scotland

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Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930)

Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930)

Prime Minister, 1902-1905

Arthur James Balfour was elected to Parliament in 1874 and acted as private secretary to his uncle, Lord Salisbury, leader of the Conservative Party. He was Secretary of State for Scotland, then Chief Secretary for Ireland and leader of the House of Commons before taking over as Prime Minister in 1902. He resigned in December 1905 and was succeeded by Henry Campbell-Bannerman as Prime Minister and Bonar Law as party leader. During the First World War he was First Lord of the Admiralty and then Foreign Secretary under the coalition government of Lloyd George. On 2 November 1917 he issued a government statement, known as the Balfour declaration, on 'the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people'. After the war he was honorary president of the League of Nations, president of the British Academy and was made a knight of the Garter and earl of Balfour and viscount Traprain. He died at his brother's home, Fisher's Hill, on 19 March 1930 and was buried at Whittingehame.

Learn more about A J Balfour’s family and estate, and his political activities in our feature Across the divide: A J Balfour and Keir Hardie in 1905.

Birth in 1848

Arthur James Balfour was born on 25 July 1848, the son of James Maitland Balfour of Whittingehame and Lady Blanche Mary Harriet Gascoyne Cecil. The entry in the Old Parish Register for Whittingehame shows that he was baptised on 2 August by the Reverend James Traill, minister of Trinity Episcopal Chapel in Haddington. The witnesses were Charles Balfour of Balgonie, John Balfour of Balbirnie and the Reverend John Lumsden.

Birth and baptism entry for Arthur James Balfour

Birth and baptism entry for Arthur James Balfour (70 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 724/3

1851 and 1861 censuses

In 1851 Arthur James Balfour, 2, was a visitor at Thirlestane Castle, home of Lord Lauderdale. The census record for Lauder shows the Balfour parents were nephew and niece to the head of household.

1851 census record for Arthur James Balfour

1851 census record for Arthur James Balfour (53 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1851/748/7, page 4

In 1861 Arthur J Balfour, 12, scholar, was enumerated at Whittingehame House with his family. The 1861 census record shows that his mother was head of household and a fund holder. There were two visitors and 16 servants.

1861 census record for Arthur James Balfour

1861 census record for Arthur James Balfour continued

1861 census record for Arthur James Balfour (24 and 110 KB jpegs)
National Records of Scotland, 1861/724/3, pages 5-6