Sir Edward Heath and Lord James Callaghan to be given Westminster Abbey memorials


David Mercer
Tuesday 27 March 2012 12:16
Former prime ministers Sir Edward Heath (left) and Lord James Callaghan are to be honoured by Westminster Abbey with memorial stones
Former prime ministers Sir Edward Heath (left) and Lord James Callaghan are to be honoured by Westminster Abbey with memorial stones

Westminster Abbey is to honour two former prime ministers from the 1970s with memorial stones.

Sir Edward Heath and Lord James Callaghan will become the first premiers to receive dedications at the Abbey for more than half a century - and the move marks the centenary of Lord Callaghan's birth.

The memorial stones for Heath, who served as prime minister between 1970 and 1974, and Callaghan, the premier from 1976 to 1979, are expected to be unveiled later this year.

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Rev Dr John Hall, said: "The men and women who have contributed most to our island story and our nation's international influence are memorialised in the Abbey, including most prime ministers of the 19th century and of the first half of the 20th century.

"And yet no prime minister since 1956 has a memorial in the Abbey.

"I have decided, with the support of those closest to them, to include two prime ministers from the 1970s, each of whom gave dutiful service in their own time. The announcement falls on the 100th anniversary of James Callaghan's birth.

"Although he and Edward Heath were on the opposite side of many political arguments, they were both of that remarkable generation that served in the Second World War and continued to devote their lives to the service of their nation and of the world. It is fitting that we should honour them."

Sir Edward Heath, who became a Conservative MP in 1949, took Britain into the European Economic Community as prime minister in 1971.

After serving as Deputy Chief Whip and Chief Whip between 1960 and 1963, he was Lord Privy Seal with Foreign Office responsibilities and handled the first common market negotiations.

He became leader of the Conservative Party in 1965 following the resignation of Sir Alec Douglas Home. He died in 2005 at the age of 89.

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, who became a Labour MP in 1945, held lead roles in all four offices of state; as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1964 to 1967, Home Secretary from 1967 until 1970, and Foreign Secretary, from 1974 to 1976, as prime minister following when Harold Wilson's unexpected resignation. He died in 2005 at the age of 92.

The ashes of a number of 20th-century prime ministers are buried in Westminster Abbey, including Andrew Bonar Law (prime minister between 1922-23), Neville Chamberlain (1937-40), and Clement Attlee (1945-51).

There are already memorials to the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury (1895-1902), Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1905-08), Herbert Henry Asquith (1908-16), David Lloyd-George (1916-22), Stanley Baldwin (1923-24, 1924-29, 1935-37), Ramsay MacDonald (1924, 1929-31, 1931-35), and Sir Winston Churchill (1940-45, 1951-55).


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