edgar speyer


Michael Caines, TLS blog: Should Buchan's villain receive an apology at the Proms?

"Mark Bostridge echoes Anthony Lentin in arguing that this centenary year presents a good time for "some belated recognition" of Speyer's philanthropy, "not least his efforts in saving the Proms from extinction". How about "a gesture of homage at some point during this year's last night?"

Mark Bostridge, TLS review: Lost Harmony


"A compelling story has been created out of the circumstances and tragic drama of Speyer’s downfall."


Sean Curran, BBC Parliamentary correspondent and presenter of Today in Parliament

“Just finished "Banker, Traitor, Scapegoat, Spy?" by Anthony Lentin about treatment of Sir Edgar Speyer. Fascinating.”

The Journal of Liberal History

"A compelling tale told with skill and verve."

Diplomacy and Statecraft

"Antony Lentin is uniquely placed to deal with the peculiarities of both [history and law]; and with the case of Sir Edgar Speyer he has found a subject that will provide much food for thought... he has thrown a revealing light on the darker side of 20th-century Britain."

Iain Dale, Eastern Daily Press



Fascinating story of alleged British spy living in Norfolk


"The author of this book on Sir Edgar Speyer has uncovered some fascinating documents from the period which have been released over the last decade.  
Looking at the evidence of the time, it is easy to see how, circumstantially, the authorities could have been hugely suspicious of Speyer’s activities. One also has to bear in mind the huge suspicion of anyone who had ever had any links with Germany. Even the monarchy was the subject of some of the scurrilous chatter. Indeed anyone who had a foreign-sounding name aroused suspicion.


"He was removed from the Privy Council, a decision which the King was appalled by. He spent his remaining years in the USA.

"It really is a terrific story."





Drummed out of Britain, accused of spying, one of the giants of Edwardian Britain is revealed in this book as the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice, by W Sydney Robinson


“Antony Lentin has unearthed the trial transcript and Home Office file compiled on Speyer (bizarrely both were classified until 2003), both of which suggest that he was the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice. While the tribunal’s published report was correct in stating that Speyer had illegally sent money to Germany and dodged the censor, it is now clear he was motivated by kindness rather than treason: the beneficiaries of his charity included a former masseur fallen on hard times. Speyer’s friendships in America were similarly misinterpreted. Most pathetically of all, it is now clear that one of his chief “German contacts” was a much-loved Prussian governess whom he retained for his children.


"Speyer said he would never forgive or forget the treatment he received. No reader of this instructive and poignant study would begrudge him that uncharacteristically ignoble sentiment.”





Stephen Halliday on a forgotten tragedy of the First World War


“A man may be judged by the friends and enemies he makes. Besides Wood  (Henry Wood of the Proms) who said he could not recall Speyer’s kindness “without a lump in my throat”, his friends and admirers included an impressive roll call of his contemporaries: Edward Elgar, Winston Churchill, Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, George Bernard Shaw, Edvard Grieg, Claude Debussy, Richard Strauss, Percy Grainger and Robert Falcon Scott, whose polar expedition would never have sailed without Speyer’s support. Most remarkable was the reaction of George V, who would not accept Speyer’s resignation from the Privy Council and whose outraged reaction to the proposal to arrest him was unequivocal.


“Referring to his own German ancestry, the king cried: “Let them take me first. Let me be interned before Speyer.” Speyer’s enemies, besides Bottomley, Northcliffe and the press hounds, included the despicable Noel Pemberton Billing, MP for Hertford, who denounced him in the House of Commons under parliamentary privilege.”





Book of the Week, 5 July 2013, review by Geoffrey Alderman


“Lentin tells the story in a way that is sympathetic, but grounded in the sources. Some of the accusations against Speyer were clearly nonsensical. But in some respects, for all his sound business judgment, he was his own worst enemy - he continued to maintain personal and business contacts with Germany while still a British citizen, though living in the then neutral United States, and he continued - albeit indirectly - to trade with the German state.


“His characterisation of these as merely "trivial" offences betrays a certain naivety, or perhaps cynicism. Lentin is surely right, however, to position Speyer's fate as, at least in part, an outcome of his friendship with Asquith, the prime minister who blundered the country into a war he proved tragically incapable of waging.”