Henry Duke, 1st Baron Merrivale

Henry Edward Duke, 1st Baron Merrivale PC (5 November 1855 – 20 May 1939) was a British judge and Conservative politician. He served as Chief Secretary for Ireland between 1916 and 1918.

The Lord Merrivale

Chief Secretary for Ireland
In office
31 July 1916  5 May 1918
MonarchGeorge V
Prime MinisterH. H. Asquith
David Lloyd George
Preceded byAugustine Birrell
Succeeded byEdward Shortt
Member of Parliament
for Exeter
In office
April 1911  June 1918
Preceded byHarold St Maur
Succeeded byRobert Newman
Majority1 (0%)
In office
15 January 1910  10 February 1910
Preceded bySir George Kekewich
Succeeded byHarold St Maur
Majority26 (0.2%)
Personal details
Born5 November 1855 (1855-11-05)
Died20 May 1939 (1939-05-21) (aged 83)
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)Sarah Shortland (d. 1914)
Alma materNone

Background and education

Duke was the second son of William Edward Duke, a granite merchant of Merrivale, Devon, and his wife Elizabeth Ann (née Lord). From a modest background, he was educated locally and did not attend a public school or university.

In early life Duke worked as a journalist for the local newspaper the Western Morning News, but at the age of 25 he came to London to cover the House of Commons. While in London he began to study law, and was called to the Bar, Gray's Inn, in 1885. He at first worked on the Western circuit but later established a successful legal practice in London. He was a recorder for Devonport and Plymouth from 1897 to 1900 and for Devonport alone until 1914, and was made a Queen's Counsel in 1899.

Political career

In 1900 Duke was elected to the House of Commons for Plymouth as a Unionist, a seat he held until 1906 when he was defeated. He returned to Parliament in the January 1910 general election as the representative for Exeter. He lost the seat in the December 1910 election by only four votes, but regained it by a single vote after an election petition in April 1911 due to closeness of the result, and held it until 1918 when he resigned for the appointment of Lord Justice of Appeal.

Duke sat on the front opposition bench during the early years of the First World War and was admitted to the Privy Council in 1915. In July 1916 he was appointed by Prime Minister H. H. Asquith to succeed Augustine Birrell as Chief Secretary for Ireland, with a seat in the cabinet, after Birrell had resigned due to the consequences of the Easter Rising. Duke's tenure as Chief Secretary saw the troubles in Ireland continue and he resigned in May 1918.

Judicial career

After his resignation Duke was knighted and appointed a Lord Justice of Appeal. In 1919 he was made President of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High Court of Justice, a post he held until 1933. A notable case he decided was Balfour v. Balfour. On 19 January 1925 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Merrivale, of Walkhampton in the County of Devon.[1]


Lord Merrivale married Sarah, daughter of John Shorland, in 1876. They had one son and a daughter. His wife died in 1914. Merrivale survived her by 25 years and died in May 1939, aged 83. He was succeeded in the barony by his only son, Edward.


  • Henry Duke, Esq. (1855–1899)
  • Henry Duke, Esq., QC (1899–1900)
  • Henry Duke, Esq., QC, MP (1900–1901)
  • Henry Duke, Esq., KC, MP (1901–1906)
  • Henry Duke, Esq., KC (1906–1910)
  • Henry Duke, Esq., KC, MP (1910)
  • Henry Duke, Esq., KC (1910–1911)
  • Henry Duke, Esq., KC, MP (1911–1915)
  • The Rt Hon. Henry Duke, KC, MP (1915–1918)
  • The Rt Hon. Lord Justice Duke (1918–1919)
  • The Rt Hon. Sir Henry Duke (1919–1925)
  • The Rt Hon. The Lord Merrivale, PC (1925–1939)



  1. "No. 33013". The London Gazette. 20 January 1925. p. 449.


  • Kidd, Charles, Williamson, David (eds.) Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage (1990 ed.) (New York: St Martin's Press, 1990)
  • Legg, L.G. Wickham (ed.) The Dictionary of National Biography: 1931-1940. Oxford University Press, 1949.
  • Burke's Peerage and Baronetage (106th ed.) (London 2002)
  • Leigh Rayment's Peerage Pages
  • Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sigismund Mendl
Ivor Guest
Member of Parliament for Plymouth
With: Hon. Ivor Guest
Succeeded by
Thomas Dobson
Charles Mallet
Preceded by
Sir George William Kekewich
Member of Parliament for Exeter
Jan. 1910Dec. 1910
Succeeded by
Harold St Maur
Preceded by
Harold St Maur
Member of Parliament for Exeter
1911 – 1918
Succeeded by
Robert Newman
Political offices
Preceded by
Augustine Birrell
Chief Secretary for Ireland
Succeeded by
Edward Shortt
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Merrivale
Succeeded by
Edward Duke
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