The Times/1931/Obituary/Charles Prestwood Lucas
Sir Charles Lucas
Historian of the Empire
In Sir Charles Lucas, whose death in his seventy-eighth year is announced on another page, the British Imperial Service loses one of its oldest members, and one who was also distinguished as the historian of the British Colonial development.
Charles Prestwood Lucas was born on August 7, 1853, the youngest boy in a large family of boys and girls at Crickhowel, a small town of Breconshire, situated in the Usk Valley, in the midst of the picturesque scenery of the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons. His native hills and valleys were always dear to him, and, throughout his life, walking there or in other romantic districts was his favourite exercise. His people were of considerable local distinction. His father, Dr. Henry Lucas, was the "beloved physician" of the neighbourhood and took a large share in its concerns; his services to his fellow-citizens are commemorated by a monument in the centre of the town. His other was a daughter of Archdeacon Bevan, the leading Churchman of the mid-Victorian period in South Wales. While Charles Lucas was still a small boy his eldest sister married Sir Joseph Bailey, the head of a family which derived its wealth from the Glamorganshire coalfields, who lived at Glanusk Park, close to Crickhowel, and who, after sitting in Parliament for ore than a quarter of a century, was raised to the peerage as Lord Glanusk, and became Lord Lieutenant of Breconshire.
Charles Lucas was a studious and precocious lad. In 1865 he won a scholarship at Winchester, being placed first on a roll which contained the names of several men who gained distinction in after life, such as Lord Parmoor, Sir John Prescott Hewett, Walter Leaf (who renounced the scholarship he had obtained and went to Harrow), Sir Reginald Antrobus, and G. E. Buckle (formerly Editor of The Times). At school he was a steady and successful work, holding for his last two years the position of top boy, though he was never appointed to the post of Prefect of Hall or official head of the school. He could have easily have obtained a Winchester Scholarship at New College, Oxford; but he preferred to try his fortune in open competition, and won an open exhibition at Balliol. There he was up with H. H. Asquith, a year or two his senior, and with Alfred Milner, his contemporary. He duly gained his first classes in Classical Moderations and in Literae Humaniores (1876), and won the Chancellor's Medal for a Latin essay. But he did not stand for a Fellowship, though he was much gratified when in later life All Souls elected him a Fellow, in 1920, because of his great services to Colonial history.
Charles Lucas had determined to enter the Civil Service and shortly after taking his degree he passed first on the Civil Service Examination List, as he had on the Winchester roll, and was appointed to the Colonial Office. His work in life was now marked out from him, and he applied himself to it with the steadiness and thoroughness which distinguished his character. He had always earned the respect of his contemporaries at school and college by his uprightedness and straightforwardness but a certain modest shyness, which never entirely left him, had limited the circle of his friends. In the congenial duties, however, of the office he opened out and developed, and before any years had acquired there a high reputation for knowledge and efficiency, The majesty of the British Empire, the marvellous development of the British Colonial system, fired his imagination. He projected and brought out "An Historical Geography of the British Colonies," the introduction to which and several of the subsequent volumes he wrote himself—a work indispensable to the student of Colonial and Imperial progress. He had a high regard for those if his chiefs, such as Lord Carnarvon and Sir Robert Herbert (for many years Permanent Under-Secretary), who were strongly imbued with Imperial ideals, and he warmly welcomed the appointment of Mr. Chamberlain in 1895 to the post of Colonial Secretary. Under him he rose to a leading position in the office, being appointed in 1897 Assistant Under-Secretary of State and head of the Dominions Department. He threw himself whole-heartedly into his chief's plans, including preferential tariffs, for developing and consolidating the Colonial Empire.
Perhaps this devotion to ideas which were frowned upon and repudiated by the Liberals, who came into power at the close of 1905, cost Lucas the permanent headship of the office, a post for which both his official standing and his unequalled knowledge of the work marked him out. Perhaps the diffidence to which allusion has been made may have been thought to be a drawback. Anyhow, he was twice passed over when a vacancy occurred, once in favour of a distinguished Civil servant from another office, but the second tie in favour of a member of his own Colonial service. Thereupon he retired in 1911, at the age of 58, and in the following year was crated, in recognition of his services, K.C.B. He had been a K.C.M.G. since 1907 and acted as Registrar of the Order.
In retirement, as in office, our Colonial Empire and its history remained his principal interest. He had visited several of the Dominions and had many friends among Dominion statesmen. He fostered these friendships by supporting and frequenting the Royal Colonial Institute, now the Royal Empire Society, of which body he served for several years as chairman. He wrote numerous books on Colonial history:—"The Canadian War of 1812," "A History of Canada," and "The Partition and Colonization of Africa]]"; and in his latter years he was largely engaged in editing a great work, "The Empire at War," explaining the record of the Colonies and Dominions in war, particularly in the Great War of 1914-1918. The volumes appeared between 1920 and 1926, much of the writing being by his own pen.
Sir Charles Lucas wa a man of high ideals in private as in public life, and he did not limit his services to his fellow-men by his official duties. From his earliest years in London he devoted many hours every week to teaching and work at the Working Men's College in Great Ormond-street, the institution which was founded by F. D. Maurice and Tom Hughes. In later years he became for a time principally responsible for its management.
He did not marry; and his house in St. George's square was presided over for many years by two unmarried sisters, the survivor of whom died in 1923. He rejoiced in a large troop of nephews and nieces, grand-nephews and grand-nieces, among whom he was a most popular uncle. His eldest sister, the Dowager Lady Glanusk (grandmother of the present peer), to whom he was greatly attached and who he used to visit frequently at Hay Castle, survives him.