Oliver Lyttelton, 1st Viscount Chandos

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The Right Honourable
The Viscount Chandos
INF3-14 Rt Hon Oliver Lyttelton Artist William Little 1939-1946.jpg
President of the Board of Trade
In office
3 October 1940 – 29 June 1941
Monarch George VI
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Preceded by Andrew Rae Duncan
Succeeded by Andrew Rae Duncan
In office
25 May 1945 – 26 July 1945
Monarch George VI
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Preceded by Hugh Dalton
Succeeded by Hon. Sir Stafford Cripps
Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
28 October 1951 – 28 July 1954
Monarch George VI
Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Preceded by James Griffiths
Succeeded by Alan Lennox-Boyd
Personal details
Born 15 March 1893 (1893-03-15)
Mayfair, London
Died 21 January 1972(1972-01-21) (aged 78)
Marylebone, London
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Lady Moira Osborne
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
File:Hagley, St John the Baptist - Lyttelton plot, row 2 grave 2 - photo 2 (cropped).jpg
St John the Baptist Church, Hagley, grave of Alfred Lyttelton, where also the 1st Viscount Chandos' ashes are interred.

Oliver Lyttelton, 1st Viscount Chandos KG PC DSO MC (15 March 1893 – 21 January 1972) was a British businessman from the Lyttelton family who was brought into government during the Second World War, holding a number of ministerial posts.

Background, education and military career

File:Miles Lampson & Oliver Lyttelton.jpg
Oliver Lyttelton (right) with Sir Miles Lampson at the British Embassy in Cairo in 1941.

Born in Mayfair, London, Lord Chandos was the son of the Rt. Hon. Alfred Lyttelton, younger son of George Lyttelton, 4th Baron Lyttelton. His mother was his father's second wife Edith, daughter of Archibald Balfour. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. He served in the Grenadier Guards in the First World War, where he met Winston Churchill, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Military Cross.

Business career

Chandos was managing director of British Metal Corporation, at a time when it was a major shareholder in "Metallgesellschaft A.G." a German Industrial giant which financed Hitler's Nazi party. He also served as Chairman of both the London Tin Corporation and Associated Electrical Industries.

Political career

Chandos entered Parliament as Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Aldershot in a wartime by-election in 1940 and was sworn of the Privy Council the same year. He entered Winston Churchill's war coalition as President of the Board of Trade in 1940, a post he held until 1941, and then served as Minister of State in the Middle East from 1941 to 1942 and as Minister of Production from 1942 to 1945. He was again President of the Board of Trade in Churchill's brief 1945 caretaker government. After the Conservatives' 1951 election victory, he was considered for the job of Chancellor of the Exchequer, but was seen as too linked to business and the City of London, so the job was given to Rab Butler.[1] Instead he became Secretary of State for the Colonies, which he remained until 1954. The latter year he was elevated to the peerage as Viscount Chandos, of Aldershot in the County of Southampton.

Later career

Chandos then returned to Associated Electrical Industries, and steered it to become a major British company. In 1961 he was invited to deliver the MacMillan Memorial Lecture to the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland. He chose the subject 'Jungle-or Cloister? – Some Thoughts on the Present Industrial Scene'.[2]

National Theatre

In 1962, Chandos became the first chairman of the National Theatre, serving until 1971. He then served as president until his death. His parents had been active campaigners for its development, and the Lyttelton Theatre, part of the National's South Bank complex, was named after him.

During Laurence Olivier's tenure as director of the National, Chandos was a central figure in the controversy over a proposed production of Rolf Hochhuth's Soldiers. The production had been championed by Olivier's dramaturg, Kenneth Tynan. Though Olivier, a great admirer of Winston Churchill (who essentially is accused of assassinating Polish Prime Minister General Władysław Sikorski by Hochhuth) did not particularly like the play or its depiction of Churchill (whom Tynan wanted him to play), he backed his dramaturg. There was a potential problem with the Lord Chamberlain, who might not have licensed the play due to its controversial stand on Churchill. The National's board vetoed the production and Lord Chandos damned the play as a "grotesque and grievous libel".[3]

Order of the Garter


In 1970 he was made a Knight of the Garter. His Garter banner, which hung in St. George's Chapel in Windsor during his lifetime, is now on display in the church of St John the Baptist, Hagley.[4]


Lord Chandos married Lady Moira, daughter of George Osborne, 10th Duke of Leeds in January 1920. They had three sons and one daughter. He died in Marylebone, London, in January 1972, aged 78, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Antony. Lady Chandos died in May 1976, aged 84.


  1. Howard 1987, p. 178-9
  2. MacMillan Memorial Lecture
  3. Kastan, David Scott (2006). The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature, Volume 1; "The National Theatre". New York: Oxford University Press. p. 83. ISBN 978-0195169218.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. http://www.stgeorges-windsor.org/assets/files/News%20Announcements/BannerListJune2015.pdf

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Viscount Wolmer
Member of Parliament for Aldershot
Succeeded by
Eric Errington
Political offices
Preceded by
Andrew Rae Duncan
President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by
Andrew Rae Duncan
New office Minister of State in the Middle East
Succeeded by
Richard Casey
Preceded by
The Lord Beaverbrook
as Minister of War Production
Minister of Production
Office abolished
Preceded by
Hugh Dalton
President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by
Sir Stafford Cripps
Preceded by
James Griffiths
Secretary of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by
Alan Lennox-Boyd
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Chandos
Succeeded by
Antony Lyttelton