In July 1914, Sir Edward Grey proved his Secret Elite loyalty by sewing such seeds of destruction and infamy that he stands accused of ensuring that Britain went to war. He lied to Germany, he lied to his Cabinet colleagues and he lied to parliament. Despite these bitter accusations, here is a man whose reputation and standing in history has been protected and cultivated by the Secret Elite as part of their elaborate and systematic cover-up. Read any standard history of the First World War and Sir Edward Grey will be portrayed as the man who ‘acted splendidly (as Foreign Secretary) in a great crisis and did everything possible to avert war.'[1] Nothing could be further from the truth. The image that we have is of a much respected foreign secretary; an image still coloured by recent BBC history dramas like 37 Days. [2]

37 days BBC Drama

He was portrayed with great sympathy as an honourable and likeable English squire and remembered, of course, as the man who allegedly predicted that ‘the lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.’ [3] The pity is that he did not foresee the cost of putting out the lamps, nor ever accepted responsibility for his complicity in the declaration of an unforgiveable war. Sir Edward Grey worked in the service of the Secret Elite to deliver their war.

Lloyd George vented his spleen on Sir Edward Grey in his War Memoirs. His withering analysis of the Foreign Secretary was that he had ‘no imagination…no real understanding of foreigners…was the most insular of our statesmen … knew less of foreigners through contact with them than any minister in the government…’, and perhaps most tellingly, ‘his influence was derived from other sources.’ [4] Of course it was. Despite every advantage that education could buy, Grey was sent down [expelled] from Balliol College, Oxford in 1884 for ‘incorrigible idleness’, and when permitted to take his examinations, was awarded a third class degree in jurisprudence. [5] He was lazy and disinterested, but excelled at sport, in particular, real tennis, and his first love was nature, especially fishing and bird-watching. It is surely more than ironic co-incidence that Grey became Foreign Secretary and remained in post from 1905-1916, the longest serving continuous holder of that high office. We must remember that his background was perfectly suited to the Secret Elite, for whom he conducted a precious foreign policy. How much of that policy was dictated to him by his minders, his personal private secretary, William Tyrrell, and the senior permanent secretary at the foreign office, Sir Arthur Nicolson we do not know, but he never deviated from the Secret Elite agenda.

Over the last few weeks of July and the catastrophic first four days of August 1914, Sir Edward Grey’s posing and posturing was little more than play-acting.

Sir Edward Grey British foreign secretaryHe declared that the events in the Balkans were of little interest to him, but that was a downright lie. The Foreign Office network of high level ambassadorial intelligence kept him well informed about every twist and turn in the deteriorating relationship between Russia and Austria. Primarily, he knew about the promises made by the French President Poincare to stand with their ally against Germany. Sir George Buchanan telegrammed Grey at the Foreign Office in London on 24 July, summarising Poincaré’s visit: ‘The French ambassador gave me to understand that France would not only give Russia strong diplomatic support, but would, if necessary, fulfil all the obligations imposed on her by the alliance.’ [6] Poincaré and Sazonov had agreed the deal. When Russia went to war against Germany and Austria, France would fulfil her commitment to Russia. This telegram explicitly proved that by 24 July Sir Edward Grey knew that his world war was ordained, but the document was concealed from the world for ten years. While historians have focused on the mythical notion of Germany’s promised blank cheque to Austria which was supposedly given at Potsdam, the real blank cheque for war – which would be endorsed by Britain – was that which Poincaré signed in St Petersburg. [7]

When the Austrian Note to Serbia was made public, Asquith decried it as ‘bullying and humiliating’ [8] but in private he confided to his secret love, Venetia Stanley, that: ‘the curious thing is that on many, if not most of the points, Austria has a good and Serbia a very bad case . . . but the Austrians are quite the stupidest people in Europe’ [9]

Venetia Stanley

He knew that Grey had greatly exaggerated his reaction to the Austrian demands but could never say so in public. Indeed not. Their public stance, their pretence of outrage, represented a prepared position that aligned the British Foreign Office with the outbursts from Sazonov in Russia and Poincaré once back on French soil. By undermining Austria-Hungary they were simultaneously undermining the one nation that would stand with her: Germany.

Most members of Asquith’s Cabinet knew only what they read in the newspapers and were ignorant of the entente connivance in the Austria–Serbia dispute. Cabinet met on the afternoon of 24 July and discussed shootings in Dublin and the shipping of German guns to the Irish Volunteers at great length, and then, almost as an aside, the rapidly deteriorating Serbian crisis was raised. According to Winston Churchill, the discussion on Ireland had reached its inconclusive end and the Cabinet was about to separate when Sir Edward Grey produced the Austrian Note, the demands they were making of Serbia, which he claimed had just been brought to him from the Foreign Office. The message they wanted Cabinet members to believe was that this was ‘an ultimatum such as had never been penned in modern times’. [10]

Charles Hobhouse, the postmaster-general in Asquith’s pre-war Cabinet, wrote in his diary: “Grey broke in to say that the Ultimatum by Austria to Serbia had brought us nearer to a European Armageddon than we had been through all the Balkan troubles. He had suggested that Germany, France, Italy and the UK should jointly press Austria and Russia to abstain from action, but he was certain that if Russia attacked Austria, Germany was bound to come to the latter’s help.”[11]

Winston Churchill First Lord of the Admiralty

If Churchill’s recollection was correct, Grey must have staged the announcement for dramatic effect. We know that the Note had not ‘just been brought’ to Grey that afternoon but was handed to him in Downing Street that morning, when he had ranted at Count Mensdorff. [12] That apart, look how the Foreign Office had twisted the Note into an ‘Ultimatum’. Hobhouse even gave the word a capital letter. Notice too how in Hobhouse’s version it was not Germany that was at fault. The key to war or peace was Russia: ‘If Russia attacked Austria, Germany was bound to come in.’ That was the same Russia which had just given a blank cheque by Poincaré. What Grey did not tell his Cabinet colleagues, and what he knew for certain, was that France was pledged to take sides with Russia if war was declared on Germany. To have revealed the truth would have left the British Cabinet astounded, confused and outraged at France and Russia.

On 25 July, Sir George Buchanan in St Petersburg penned a strictly confidential telegram to Sir Edward Grey. It arrived in the Foreign Office at 10.30 p.m. The message could not have been clearer: ‘Russia cannot allow Austria to crush Serbia and become the predominant Power in the Balkans, and, secure of support of France, she will face all the risks of war.’ [13] Still Grey remained silent on this key development.

Unequivocally, Sir Edward Grey knew that war was but days away. He had two options from which to choose if he wanted to keep the peace. He could have warned Russia that in the event of war, Britain would not be involved. He could also have warned Germany that, in the event of war, Britain would not stay neutral if Belgium was invaded. He did neither. Sir Edward Grey wanted war.

1. Wilson and Hammerton, The Great War, The Standard History of the All-Europe conflict, vol. 1. p.17.
2. Terry Boardman, “37 Days” a critique,
3. Grey of Falloden, Twenty-Five Years, vol. III, p.223.
4. War Memoirs of David Lloyd George, pp55-60.
5. G.M. Treyelyan, Grey of Fallodon, pp17-20.
6. Buchanan to Grey, 24 July, BD 101, in Geiss, July 1914, p. 196.
7. Friedrich Stieve, Isvolsky and the World War, p. 215.
8. Sidney B Fay, Origins of the World War, vol. II, p. 369.
9. H.H. Asquith, Letters to Venetia Stanley, edited by Michael and Eleanor Brock, 26 July 1914, p. 125.
10. Winston Churchill, World Crisis, p. 155.
11. Edward David, Inside Asquith’s Cabinet, pp. 176–7.
12. Fay, Origins of the World War, vol. II, p. 369.
13. Buchanan to Grey, 25 July 1914, BD 125, in Geiss, July 1914, p. 213.