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Michael Stewart, Baron Stewart of Fulham

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The Lord Stewart of Fulham
Stewart in 1965
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Foreign Affairs (1965–1966)
In office
16 March 1968 – 19 June 1970
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byGeorge Brown
Succeeded bySir Alec Douglas-Home
In office
22 January 1965 – 11 August 1966
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byPatrick Gordon Walker
Succeeded byGeorge Brown
First Secretary of State
In office
11 August 1966 – 6 April 1968
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byGeorge Brown
Succeeded byBarbara Castle
Secretary of State for Economic Affairs
In office
11 August 1966 – 29 August 1967
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byGeorge Brown
Succeeded byPeter Shore
Secretary of State for Education and Science
In office
16 October 1964 – 22 January 1965
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byQuintin Hogg
Succeeded byAnthony Crosland
Member of Parliament
for Fulham
Fulham East (1945–1955)
In office
5 July 1945 – 7 April 1979
Preceded byWilliam Astor
Succeeded byMartin Stevens
Personal details
Robert Michael Maitland Stewart

(1906-11-06)6 November 1906
Bromley, Kent, England
Died10 March 1990(1990-03-10) (aged 83)
London, England
Political partyLabour
(m. 1941)
Alma materSt. John's College, Oxford
ProfessionMember of Parliament

Robert Michael Maitland Stewart, Baron Stewart of Fulham, CH, PC (6 November 1906 – 10 March 1990) was a British Labour Party politician, life peer and Fabian Socialist who was a Member of Parliament for 34 years, and served twice as Foreign Secretary in the first cabinet of Harold Wilson.

Early life[edit]

The son of Robert Wallace Stewart, author and lecturer, and Eva Stewart née Blaxley, Robert Michael Maitland Stewart was born in Bromley.[1] He was educated at Brownhill Road Elementary School, Catford, Christ's Hospital and St. John's College, Oxford, where he graduated with a first class BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics in 1929.[2][3] Whilst at Oxford he was involved in student politics and was elected as President of the Oxford Union for Michaelmas Term 1929. He was also the president of St John's Labour Club that same year.[1]

Stewart began his career as an official in the Royal Household during 1931. He worked for a short period with the Secretariat of the League of Nations, before becoming a schoolmaster, first at the Merchant Taylors' School in London, then at Coopers' Company's School, Mile End, and then at Frome, Somerset. During World War II, Stewart served in the Middle East, joining the Intelligence Corps in 1942, before transferring to the Army Educational Corps in 1943. He was promoted to captain in 1944.

On 26 July 1941 he married Mary Birkinshaw, later Baroness Stewart of Alvechurch; they had no children.[4] They were one of the few couples who both held titles in their own right.

Political career[edit]

Stewart had contested the Lewisham West constituency in 1931 and 1935, and Fulham East in 1936; after the war he became MP for Fulham East 1945–55, then for Fulham 1955–74, and Hammersmith, Fulham 1974–79. Soon after his initial election, he was made one of the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury (more commonly known as a junior whip),[5] then a junior minister, as Under-Secretary of State for War (1947–51) and later as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply (May–October 1951). Following Labour's defeat in the 1951 election, Stewart was a rising figure on the shadow front bench, serving as Shadow Minister of Education (1955–59) and then as Shadow Minister of Housing and Local Government (1959–64).

Stewart was Fabian Summer School director in 1952 and lecturer in 1954. He was Fabian New Year School lecturer in 1954–55 and publicist in 1956. He is listed as a member of the Fabian Society International Bureau Committee during 1957–58 and was mentioned in Fabian News November – December 1964 as a former member of the Fabian Executive Committee.[1]

Government 1964–70[edit]

When Harold Wilson became Prime Minister in 1964, Stewart was appointed Secretary of State for Education and Science. He was promoted to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in January 1965 after his predecessor Patrick Gordon Walker's bid to regain a House of Commons seat in the 1965 Leyton by-election failed.[6] He was described by the press as relatively unknown to the public but was extremely well known within Fabian socialist circles. He became Secretary of State for Economic Affairs in 1966. From 1966 to 1968, he was First Secretary of State. He returned to the Foreign Office from 1968 to 1970. As foreign secretary, he was instrumental in supplying arms to support the Nigerian military dictatorship's crushing of the secessionist Republic of Biafra in the Nigerian Civil War (when up to one million people died), later saying "It would have been quite easy for me to say: This is going to be difficult – let's cut off all connexion with the Nigerian Government. If I'd done that I should have known that I was encouraging in Africa the principle of tribal secession – with all the misery that could bring to Africa in the future."[7]


A committed pro-European, Stewart was leader of the Labour Delegation to the Council of Europe in June 1970, and joint president of the Labour Committee for Europe with George Brown and Roy Jenkins. He served as a member of the European Parliament from 1975 to 1976.[1]

Stewart was a supporter of a United Ireland, supporting a peaceful resolution to the partition of Ireland.[8]

Stewart was made a member of the Privy Council in 1964. He was appointed a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) in the 1969 New Year Honours.[9] He retired from the House of Commons in 1979. He was elevated to the House of Lords, being created a life peer with the title Baron Stewart of Fulham, of Fulham in Greater London, on 5 July 1979.[10]

Brian Harrison recorded an oral history interview with Stewart, in March 1978, as part of the Suffrage Interviews project, titled Oral evidence on the suffragette and suffragist movements: the Brian Harrison interviews.[11]  Stewart discusses his teaching career and his connection with the Association for Education in Citizenship.

He died at a hospital in London on 10 March 1990, at the age of 83.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Dalyell, Tam (2004). "Stewart, (Robert) Michael Maitland, Baron Stewart of Fulham (1906–1990), politician". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/39862. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ Oxford University Calendar 1932, Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1932, p. 282.
  3. ^ Lane, A.T. (1995). Biographical dictionary of European labor leaders (Volume 2 ed.). Greenwood Press. p. 931. ISBN 0313299005.
  4. ^ Duncan Sutherland, 'Stewart , Mary Elizabeth Henderson, Baroness Stewart of Alvechurch (1903–1984)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, May 2005 accessed 1 April 2017
  5. ^ "East Fulham M.P. in Government Too – Junior Treasury Post For Captain Michael Stewart". Fulham Chronicle. No. 2993. 17 August 1945. p. 3. Retrieved 10 July 2019 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  6. ^ Thorpe, Andrew (1997). A History of the British Labour Party. London: Macmillan Education UK. pp. 158–159. doi:10.1007/978-1-349-25305-0. ISBN 978-0-333-56081-5.
  7. ^ "By Nigeria correspondent Barnaby Philips". BBC News. 13 January 2000. Archived from the original on 15 December 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2008.
  8. ^ "A United Ireland". RTÉ Archives.
  9. ^ "No. 44740". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 1969. p. 24.
  10. ^ "No. 47900". The London Gazette. 10 July 1979. p. 8714.
  11. ^ London School of Economics and Political Science. "The Suffrage Interviews". London School of Economics and Political Science. Retrieved 12 December 2023.


External links[edit]

Media related to Michael Stewart at Wikimedia Commons

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Fulham East
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Fulham
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Comptroller of the Household
(government whip)
Succeeded by
Preceded by Secretary of State for Education and Science
Succeeded by
Preceded by Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Preceded by First Secretary of State
Succeeded by
Secretary of State for Economic Affairs
Succeeded by
Preceded by Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Preceded by
as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Succeeded by
Preceded byas Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs
Party political offices
Preceded by
New position
Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party
Succeeded by