David Lloyd George was the Churchill of WWI, prime minister since 1916 when he pledged “to win the war at any cost.” He was, in 1919, together with Georges Clemenceau and Woodrow Wilson, a leading architect of the Treaty of Versailles.
A radical Liberal, Lloyd George had risen from humble beginnings in Wales, thanks to a brilliant mind, extraordinary political gifts, unusual charm and a remarkable oratorical talent. When describing his personality, Margaret MacMillan, the author of Paris 1919, who happens to be his great granddaughter, also mentioned an uncanny ability to know what other people were thinking. He had that in common with Hitler.
In the ’thirties, when Lloyd George was in his seventies, he believed that Hitler was “really a great man” and the “greatest German of the age.” On September 4, 1936, he visited Hitler at his Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden. The Führer greeted him, seizing an outstretched hand warmly between his own. In the words of Stella Rudman, the author of Lloyd George and the Appeasement of Germany, 1919–1945, he “assumed the demeanour of a distinguished uncle reunited with his favorite nephew.”
There are a number of explanations:
1. Once out of power, but still a member of Parliament, Lloyd George had become increasingly mischievous and a great nuisance to a succession of governments. He was frequently denounced for his “cynicism” and “defeatism.”
2. He was far from the only member of the British elite, though not of the traditional upper class, who was impressed by Hitler.
3. He was senile.
4. The British did not know what to do with their elder statesmen.
5. By far the most cogent explanation is that he felt culpable for the harshness of the Treaty of Versailles and did not blame Hitler for doing everything he could to undo it. There is no question that in Paris in 1919 Lloyd George tried hard to moderate the terms, but could not prevail over Clemenceau.
Margaret MacMillan quotes his private secretary, Philip Kerr (page 196):
“He will stand no more nonsense either from French or Americans. He is taking the long view about the Peace, & insists that it should be one that will not leave bitterness for years to come & probably lead to another war.”
However, Lloyd George signed the treaty and suffered afterwards from such severe remorse that it led to total, inexcusable delusion.
Based on a review by Will Robinson in the Times Literary Supplement, October 7