Henry Matthews, Viscount Llandaff: The Unknown Home Secretary

Author(s): Roger Ward 

ISBN: 9781781557150
£10.49 £14.99
A fascinating portrait of a cosmopolitan and Catholic outsider on the inside of British 19th-century Tory politics and power.
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  • A fascinating portrait of a cosmopolitan and Catholic outsider on the inside of British 19th-century Tory politics and power

  • The only published biography of the first Catholic to sit in the British Cabinet 

  • With his private papers burned and his reputation damned, Henry Matthews is an elusive and enigmatic character, now deftly reconstructed and reassessed
Longest serving Home Secretary until Theresa May – his tenure covering the Ripper murders, Fenian violence and social unrest – Henry Matthews is notable as the first Catholic member of the Cabinet during a time of continued prejudice; yet this enigmatic character has been largely ignored or written-off.

Roger Ward challenges hostile judgements and examines Matthews’ life and career in the context of turbulent times. A successful barrister, he entered the world of 19th- century politics as MP for an Irish constituency before becoming the sole Conservative MP in Chamberlain-controlled Birmingham.

Championed by Lord Randolph Churchill, he found himself unexpectedly propelled into Salisbury’s government of 1886-1892 but lost his protector and was left to face a hostile press and Commons. Despite being born into solid Herefordshire gentry, Matthews grew up in Ceylon and was educated in Paris – multi-lingual, cosmopolitan and ill at ease in the brute ranks of the Tory party.

Lone Catholic in Cabinet, lone Conservative in Birmingham with no political coterie, he was an outsider on the inside. Raised to the peerage in 1895, Matthews dedicated his life to Catholic causes. On his death, he left instructions to burn his private papers, leaving tantalisingly few traces of a fascinating career.

BOOK ISBN 9781781557150
FORMAT 234 x 156 mm
BINDING Paperback
PAGES 112 pages
ILLUSTRATIONS 28 black-and-white photographs



Roger Ward graduated from London University in 1960, completed a P.G.C.E at Cambridge University in 1961 and a London University M.A. in 1971. Beginning his career as a schoolteacher in London, he moved to Birmingham in 1973 as Lecturer in History at Birmingham College of Education. In 1973 he joined the Social Science Faculty of Birmingham Polytechnic, later the University of Central England. He ended his career there as a Principal Lecturer and Course Director. In 2005 he published a standard work on Birmingham politics, City-state and Nation. Birmingham’s Political History 1830-1940. He has been a contributor to many books and journals and has lectured extensively. He is currently Visiting Professor at Birmingham City University.