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Rupert Guinness, 2nd Earl of Iveagh

Rupert Edward Cecil Lee Guinness, 2nd Earl of Iveagh KG CB CMG VD ADC FRS, (29 March 1874 – 14 September 1967), was an Anglo-Irish businessman, politician, oarsman and philanthropist. Born in London, he was the eldest son of Edward Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh. He served as the twentieth Chancellor of the University of Dublin from 1927 to 1963, succeeding his father who was Chancellor between 1908 and 1927.


Rupert Guinness was educated at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge.[1] In 1900 he served in the Boer War with the Irish Hospital Corps. He was the Unionist MP 1908-1910 for the East End constituency of Haggerston and 1912-1927 for Southend. He served as a Captain in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and was commanding officer of HMS President (London Division RNVR) from 1903 until 1920. In 1927 he succeeded his father as Earl of Iveagh and chairman of the family brewing business in Dublin and for thirty-five years directed its consolidation at home and its expansion abroad with the establishment of breweries in London and in Nigeria and Malaya.

A keen agriculturist, he cleverly transformed the barren sandy-soiled shooting estate at Elveden in Suffolk into a productive farm by ploughing in brewers' grains over decades, thereby creating humus.

Rupert had by this time established his reputation as an able politician and enthusiastic supporter of science. Lord Iveagh had earlier persuaded his father to endow the Lister Institute for Preventive Medicine and served on the governing board; he became interested in the Wright-Fleming Institute of microbiology. Rupert also helped form the Tuberculin Tested Milk Producers Association researching into the eradication of tuberculosis-infected cattle, and was instrumental in establishing the National Institute for Research into Dairying, at Shinfield, Berkshire.

In 1927 several of the most able students came from the Chadacre Agricultural Institute, to assist in the transformation of the Elveden Estate and help him with his revolutionary ideas. The brightest was a 21-year-old Victor Harrison, who arrived in 1933. Chadacre finally closed in 1989, but the Trust continues to this day, chaired by the present Lord Iveagh. Its income is used to support agricultural research work.

Lord Iveagh realised the land had to be made more profitable and manure would be needed and therefore, in 1932 he started to buy in dairy cattle, keeping only those that passed the TB Test. In 1927 there were 120 cows, by 1962 there were 715 plus 816 young stock. Lord and Lady Iveagh took a keen interest in their Dairy Herds and prepared a 'family tree', which was regularly up dated, for every animal in their possession.

He donated generous sums to Dublin hospitals and in 1939 presented to the Government his Dublin residence, Iveagh House (80 St Stephen's Green), now the Department of Foreign Affairs, and gave the gardens to UCD.

World War II

At the outbreak of war the Ministry of Agriculture instigated a ploughing-up campaign as part of the 'War Effort'. Lord Iveagh agreed to increase the arable area as requested. 600 acres (2.4 km2) were ploughed, 200 acres (0.8 km2) of which were Lucerne leys, and the rest old lands that had been used for game and had gone out of cultivation. This proved discouraging, crops failing to cover the expense of growing them. The following year Lord Iveagh was asked to plough another 1000 acres (4 km²) and agreed to make the attempt even though the previous efforts had proved unsuccessful. All had to be fenced against rabbits and the wire was difficult to obtain.

The new ground yielded more crops than anticipated, but later the whole project was dealt a severe blow. The War Office announced its intention of using a large area of the estate as a tank training ground and despite the need for food production, many of the new crops were ruined, and fences torn down, allowing the ingress of rabbits, which were more destructive than the tanks. After a great deal of damage had been done, it was agreed to fence off small areas of the land for cultivation. The value of the ploughing-up experiment had been largely lost and an enormous amount of much needed food had gone to waste. Undeterred, Lord Iveagh obtained permission from the War Office to cultivate portions of the requisitioned lands that were hardly used and by the end of the war had regained much of the lost ground - which was successfully cropped. Leys had also been increased by another 1000 acres (4 km²). Some of the extra area had been obtained from old pasture land but most of it was gained from previously untouched heath.

His only son, Arthur Onslow Edward Guinness, Viscount Elveden, was killed in action in Belgium in 1945, being an unlucky victim of a V-2 rocket strike.


For several years the Forestry Commission had coveted parts of Elveden Estate for extending Thetford Forest, but Lord Iveagh's success with farming brought a settlement in his favour in 1952.

It was during Rupert's management that the Guinness World Records started. The brewery was always on the look-out for good promotional ideas to bring the Guinness name to the public’s attention. One of these ideas came about when Sir Hugh Beaver, then the managing director, went on a shooting party in 1951. He became involved in an argument about which was the fastest game bird in Europe, the golden plover or the grouse, and he realized that a book, published by Guinness, that supplied answers to this sort of question might prove popular.

Sir Hugh’s idea became reality when the McWhirter twins, Norris and Ross, who had been running a fact-finding agency in London, were commissioned to compile what became the Guinness Book of Records. The first edition was published in 1955 and went to the top of the British bestseller lists by Christmas that same year.

Since then Guinness World Records has become a household name and the book has sold more than 80 million copies in 77 different countries and 38 different languages. It has also prompted successful television shows around the world, and the launch of the website in the year 2000.

Rupert became a Knight of the Garter KG in 1955.

He retired from Guinness in 1962 in favour of his grandson, Lord Elveden and was elected FRS in March 1964 at ninety for his services to science and agriculture. Lord Iveagh died in his sleep at his house in Woking, Surrey, September 14, 1967.


He was married to Gwendolen Onslow, (daughter of the William Onslow, 4th Earl of Onslow) who succeeded him as Member of Parliament for Southend-on-Sea.

  • Their son Arthur (1912–45) married Lady Elizabeth Hare, a daughter of the 4th Earl of Listowel, in 1936. Arthur was killed in action in 1945. They had two children, Benjamin, who became the third earl, and Henrietta (1942-1978).[2]
  • The couple's eldest daughter, Lady Honor Guinness, married the Conservative politician and diarist Sir Henry 'Chips' Channon in 1933. Henry Channon succeeded Gwendolen Guinness as MP for Southend in 1935.
  • In 1938 Lady Florence Guinness married Alan Lennox-Boyd, then an MP but later 1st Viscount Boyd of Merton.
  • Another daughter, Lady Brigid, married the ci-devant Prince Frederick of Prussia in 1945.


Rupert Guinness began rowing at Eton; he won the School Sculls 1892 and was part of the Eton eight which won the Ladies' Challenge Plate at Henley Royal Regatta in 1893. At Cambridge, he joined Third Trinity Boat Club but, according to Vanity Fair's pen picture of him, "had the bad luck to develop a weakness of heart, which kept him from his place in the Cambridge eight."[3]

While an undergraduate, he joined Thames Rowing Club to have a London base to train with Bill East, the 1891 English professional sculling champion.[4] He also joined Leander Club.

Helped by coaching from East, he became a successful sculler, winning the Diamond Challenge Sculls at Henley in 1895 and 1896,[5] and the Wingfield Sculls,[6] for the amateur sculling championship of the Thames and Great Britain, in 1896. The sculling boat in which he did so now hangs in the River & Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames.

He was President of Thames RC from 1911 until his death and was also the first President of the Remenham Club, from 1914 until 1938.[7]

Rupert Edward Cecil Lee Guinness, established S.C.A.R.P.A. the footwear company, an acronym for Calzaturieri Asolani Riuniti Pedemontana Anonima (Association of Footwear Manufacturers from the mountain area of Asolo). Incidentally, it was during his management that the very first edition of the Guinness Book of World Records was released in 1955.[8]


External links

  • Hansard 1803–2005:
  • Web tour of Iveagh House
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Randal Cremer
Member of Parliament for Haggerston
1908Jan. 1910
Succeeded by
Henry Chancellor
Preceded by
John Hendley Morrison Kirkwood
Member of Parliament for South East Essex
Succeeded by
Frank Hilder
New constituency Member of Parliament for Southend
Succeeded by
The Countess of Iveagh
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Edward Guinness
Earl of Iveagh
Succeeded by
Benjamin Guinness
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