Did you know the man “Port-Harcourt” was named after, was a rapist and paedophile?

Lord Lewis Vernon Harcourt.

Lewis Vernon Harcourt, 1st Viscount Harcourt, PC (Born Reginald Vernon Harcourt; 31 January 1863 – 24 February 1922) was a British Liberal Party politician who held the Cabinet post of Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1910 to 1915. Lord Harcourt’s nickname was “Loulou”.

Harcourt was born at Nuneham Courtenay, Oxfordshire, the only surviving son of politician Sir William Vernon Harcourt and his first wife, Theresa Lister. He was originally christened with the name Reginald, in honour of his father’s university friend Reginald Cholmondeley, but when George Cornewall Lewis died just over two months after, he was rechristened with the name Lewis.He never knew his mother, who died only a day after giving birth to him. His elder brother, Julian Harcourt, had died the previous year. He was educated at Eton.

Lewis Harcourt.

He inherited the lordships of the manor of Stanton Harcourt, Nuneham Courtenay, North Hinksey, Coggs, Northmoor and Shifford in Oxfordshire.

Harcourt was private secretary to his father, Sir William, as Home Secretary from 1880 to 1885. He was Liberal Member of Parliament for Rossendale, Lancashire, from 1904 to 1916 and served as First Commissioner of Works in Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman’s 1905 ministry (appointed to Cabinet in 1907) and to H. H. Asquith’s Cabinet between 1908 and 1910 and again between 1915 and 1916. In this role he authorised the placement in Kensington Gardens of the Peter Pan statue, sculpted by George Frampton, erected on 1 May 1912.

Between 1910 and 1915, he was Secretary of State for the Colonies under Asquith. Harcourt was raised to the peerage as Viscount Harcourt, of Stanton Harcourt in the County of Oxford, in 1917.

During the debate over Chancellor David Lloyd George’s proposed “People’s Budget” Harcourt was amongst its foremost critics, with Roy Jenkins noting that he was “the most inveterate in obstructing his proposals, while posing all the time as an ardent Radical.”

Harcourt was reportedly attracted to both sexes. He reportedly attempted to sexually assault Dorothy Brett, the daughter of Viscount Esher, when she was about 15. Dorothy Brett wrote of him that “It is so tiresome that Loulou is such an old roué. He is as bad with boys as with girls… he is simply a sex maniac. It isn’t that he is in love. It is just ungovernable sex desire for both sexes”.

He was also accused of sexual impropriety by Edward James, a young Etonian who grew up to become a great collector of surrealist and other contemporary art. However, none of these accusations became public knowledge during his lifetime.

Harcourt acted as a Trustee of the British Museum, Wallace Collection, the London Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery, which has a portrait of him.

Harcourt was interested in natural history and sought to protect birds, fish and other creatures from extinction. He received an Honorary DCL from Oxford University and was also an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State in southern Nigeria, is named after him. When the port was established in 1912, there was much controversy about the name it should receive. In August 1913, the Governor-General of Nigeria, Sir Frederick Lugard wrote to Harcourt, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, that “in the absence of any convenient local name, I would respectfully ask your permission to call this Port Harcourt”. The Secretary of State replied, “It gives me pleasure to accede to your suggestion that my name should be associated with the new Port”.

Harcourt’s diaries contain a report that one of Queen Victoria’s chaplains, Revd Norman Macleod, made a deathbed confession repenting of his action in presiding over Queen Victoria’s marriage to her servant, John Brown. Little credence is given to this report, in view of the many years which would have passed from the time of the “marriage” until Harcourt recorded it.

On 1 July 1899, Harcourt married Mary Ethel, daughter of Anglo-American banker Walter Hayes Burns and his wife, Mary Lyman (née Morgan), a sister of J. P. Morgan. Through her, the family acquired the famous “Harcourt emeralds.

Mary, Viscountess Harcourt, was appointed a Lady of Grace of the Order of St John and then Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in 1918; she died 7 January 1961.

Lord and Lady Harcourt had four children.

Harcourt died in his sleep at his London townhouse at 69, Brook Street (now Savile Club) in the early hours of 24 February 1922, aged 59.An inquest was held as to the cause of death, which was ruled accidental; the underlying cause was heart failure and sudden oedema of the lungs brought on by a dose of bromidia, which he had been prescribed as a sleep aid. According to the coroner, who found extensive heart disease, the amount of bromidia he had taken would not have caused death in a healthy person. According to his valet, there was only a very small amount of bromidia left in the bottle the prior evening, which Harcourt did not take regularly.

His physician, Dr Lindsay Scott, had last seen him on 30 January and testified that Harcourt was not in very good health, being weak and with an irregular heartbeat. He said that he did not expect him to die suddenly, but admitted, “I did not think he would live many years.” The coroner dismissed the notion of suicide as “grotesque” given the evidence.

409 thoughts on “Did you know the man “Port-Harcourt” was named after, was a rapist and paedophile?

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