William Burdett-Coutts MP by Elliot & Fry, 1870. © National Portrait Gallery x197066.
Showdown in Parliament
Following vocal opposition from some MPs and other prominent figures, a debate was held in Parliament on the “resentment aroused amongst relatives of fallen soldiers” by the Commission’s philosophy and methods.
Copy of William Burdett-Coutts’ speech to Parliament, 4 May 1920 © CWGC.
With some coaching from Rudyard Kipling, the MP William Burdett-Coutts eloquently presented the case for our work. Assuring the House that the Commission was guided by “infinite consideration and sympathy”, he emphasised the breadth of military, religious and diplomatic figures who had been consulted in developing the cemeteries. He declared that “Nothing could be further from the truth than to say that the Commission is animated by the spirit of officialdom and bureaucracy”; rather, it strove to represent “the union of all, in motive, in action and in death”.