Hugh William Fortescue, 5th Earl Fortescue, KG, CB, OBE, MC, PC (14 June 1888 – 14 June 1958), styled Viscount Ebrington from 1905 until 1932, of Castle Hill in the parish of Filleigh, of Weare Giffard Hall, both in Devon and of Ebrington Manor in Gloucestershire, was a British peer, military officer, and Conservative politician.
In 1907 Fortescue joined the Royal Scots Greys. During the First World War (1914–18) he served in France as a regimental officer for the Scots Greys, followed by the Royal Corps of Signals. He was twice wounded in battle and received the Military Cross in 1917. Following the war he went to India where he served as an instructor at the Cavalry School at Sangor. He then served as aide-de-camp to Henry Rawlinson, 1st Baron Rawlinson, Commander-in-Chief in India. He returned to England in 1922 and joined the Royal Devon Yeomanry. He was promoted lieutenant colonel in command in 1924 and colonel in 1930 and in 1935 he became Colonel Commandant of the Honourable Artillery Company. At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Fortescue joined the General Staff. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for war services in 1942 and Companion of the Order of the Bath in the 1946 Birthday Honours.
Fortescue succeeded his father in the earldom in 1932 and took up his seat in the House of Lords. He served under Conservative Prime Ministers Stanley Baldwin, Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill as a Lord-in-waiting (government whip in the House of Lords) from 1936 to 1945 and under Churchill as Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms (chief government whip in the House of Lords) in 1945. During the Labour Party's term in power from 1945 to 1951, he was Chief Opposition Whip in the House of Lords. He was again Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms under Churchill from 1951 to 1955 and under Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden from 1955 to 1957. He was admitted to the Privy Council in 1952 and received the very great honour of being appointed a Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1951.
Marriage and progeny
On 8 February 1917 in London, Fortescue married Margaret Beaumont, a daughter of Wentworth Beaumont, 1st Viscount Allendale by his wife Lady Alexandrina Vane-Tempest, a daughter of George Vane-Tempest, 5th Marquess of Londonderry. By his wife he had four children:
- Hon. Diana Margaret Fortescue (17 May 1919 – 6 April 1920), who died an infant.
- (Hugh) Peter Fortescue, Viscount Ebrington (1920–1942), only son and heir apparent, killed in action during World War II fighting for his father's old regiment the Royal Scots Greys at the First Battle of El Alamein. He died unmarried. His mural monument exists in the Fortescue Chapel of St Paul's Church, Filleigh, inscribed as follows:
- "In proud and ever-loving memory of Hugh Peter, Viscount Ebrington, only son of the Fifth Earl and Countess Fortescue, Lieutenant Royal Scots Greys, who was born on 9th December 1920 and killed near El Alamein on 17th July 1942. He leaves a white unbroken glory, a gathered radiance, a shining peace"
- Lady Margaret Fortescue (13 December 1923 – 25 May 2013), eldest surviving daughter and co-heiress, who married the prominent race-horse breeder Bernard van Cutsem of Newmarket, Suffolk, and had issue. Following her inheritance (see below) Lady Margaret found herself frequently commuting the long distance between Newmarket and Devon to administer her estates at Castle Hill and at Simonsbath on Exmoor. Shortly after 1879 her grandfather Hugh Fortescue, 4th Earl Fortescue (1854–1932), Master of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds 1880/81–87, had acquired the reversion of the whole of the former Royal Forest of Exmoor after the death of Frederick Winn Knight. When Castle Hill was largely destroyed by a fire in 1934, the Fortescue family moved to Simonsbath House whilst rebuilding was in progress. Lady Margaret devoted much time to attempting to put the Exmoor estate, purchased by her grandfather largely for his sporting interest, onto a profitable footing. The marriage was unsuccessful and eventually the couple were divorced and in 1966 she resumed the surname of Fortescue. She served as a Deputy Lieutenant of Devon. In 2001 she gave a lengthy interview for the Exmoor Oral History Archive of the Dulverton and District Civic Society, which provides a valuable insight into many aspects of modern Devon history.
- Lady Elizabeth Fortescue (1 October 1926 – 17 January 2010), second daughter and co-heiress, who married William Lloyd Baxendale, Coldstream Guards, of Uckfield, Sussex, and had issue.
Death and succession
Fortescue died on his 70th birthday in June 1958, four days after the death of his wife, whose funeral he was too ill to attend. As his only son and heir apparent, Lord Ebrington, had been killed in action at the Battle of El Alamein in 1942, he left no male issue, and was therefore succeeded in the earldom by his younger brother, Denzil Fortescue, 6th Earl Fortescue (1893–1977), who also inherited Ebrington Manor in Gloucestershire, thenceforth the principal seat of the Earls Fortescue.
Although the title passed to his brother on his death, the 5th Earl left his principal and grandest seat, Castle Hill, Filleigh in North Devon, to his elder surviving daughter, Lady Margaret Fortescue (1923–2013). Castle Hill is now the home of her daughter Eleanor, Countess of Arran (née van Cutsem) and her husband Arthur Gore, 9th Earl of Arran. The 5th Earl Fortescue left his secondary Devon seat, Weare Giffard Hall, to his younger daughter Lady Elizabeth Baxendale (born 1926), who sold it in 1960.
- Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.461
- Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage, and Companionage. London: Dean & Son, Limited. 1902. p. 343.
- "Obituary: Earl Fortescue". The Times. The Times Digital Archive. 16 June 1958. p. 10.
- "No. 29886". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 1917. p. 33.
- "Earl Fortescue". The New York Times. 16 June 1958. p. 23.
- He was known by his second forename, Peter (See: Obituary, Daily Telegraph newspaper, 21 Jun 2013 )
- "Obituary: Lady Margaret Fortescue". The Daily Telegraph. 22 June 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
- Exmoor Oral History Archive, Dulverton and District Civic Society, 2001 
- Exmoor Oral History Archive
- Obituary, Daily Telegraph newspaper, 21 Jun 2013
- Monument in Filleigh Church
- Lauder, Rosemary, Devon Families, Tiverton, 2002, p.80
- http://www.wearegiffardoinfo[permanent dead link]
| Colonel Commandant and President, Honourable Artillery Company
The Marquess of Dufferin and Ava
The Marquess of Normanby
The Lord Snell
| Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms
The Lord Ammon
The Lord Shepherd
| Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms
The Earl St Aldwyn
|Party political offices|
The Lord Templemore
| Conservative Chief Whip in the House of Lords
The Earl St Aldwyn
The Lord Mildmay of Flete
| Lord Lieutenant of Devon
The Lord Roborough
|Peerage of Great Britain|
| Earl Fortescue