Author(s): Simon Ball
From the playing fields of Eton, to the trenches of the First World War and on to Churchill's government, four exceptional young men - Harold Macmillan, Lord Salisbury, Oliver Lyttleton and Harry Crookshank - supported, conspired and vied with each other to reach the pinnacle of political power in 20th-century Britain. This brilliant collective biography illuminates the personalities, tensions, and bonds of class and politics that were to inextricably link their lives for over half a century.
'Politics is not a flat race, it is a steeplechase', as Churchill once told Macmillan, and these men reached the starting line at the same time. They arrived at Eton in 1906, all survived the horrors of the Western Front in the same battalion of the Grenadier Guards, and all served in Cabinet under Winston Churchill during the Second World War. They helped Churchill regain Downing Street in 1951 and once more joined his Cabinet as senior figures. They were friends, colleagues and sometimes enemies as they argued and fought their way up the political ladder for over forty years, through some of the most pivotal moments of Britain's 20th-century history - the end of the Empire, the beginnings of the Cold War, and the Suez crisis.
Through this biography, Ball presents an extraordinary portrait of ruthless political ambition and intrigue up until Macmillan's resignation as Prime Minister in 1963. Not only does he expose the political machinations and historical forces which underpinned their alliances and eventual rifts, but he reveals the influences of family, social rank and individual character which were to shape the lives and fortunes of these four fascinating men.
Ball's book draws on years of original research in many archives, from public records to personal diaries, and he has had exclusive access to the Salisbury papers, closed to the public until 2022. Lucid, insightful and alive with detail, The Guardsmen is a work of immense scholarship that presents a gripping account of the workings of politics during the 20th century.