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About

A new generation of the family of David Maxwell Fyfe, who are members of professional theatre company English Cabaret, tell the story of his journey from Nuremberg to Strasbourg onstage and online.

Tom Blackmore, his eldest grandson first came across letters exchanged between his grandparents whilst David was a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials in 1998, and after studying, transcribing, and putting them into order, made them the basis for a play, Making History which was staged in Sevenoaks and Oxford.

To launch the Kilmuir Papers website he made Under an English Heaven, a film with a choral underscore by Sue Casson based on the poems of Rupert Brooke who David quoted in his closing speech at Nuremberg. This music grew into song cycle Dreams of Peace & Freedom, which draws on David's words, and those that inspired him to tell the story of the creation of ECHR through his eyes, the eyes of one who was there.

Since its premiere at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2014, the show has notably played the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg (where the trials were held), the Palace of Westminster in London and the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights in Oxford, as well as a series of other venues in the UK. The words of his great grandfather are spoken by Robert Blackmore, while his sister Lily is lead singer, as well as speaking words of her great grandmother Sylvia.

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Who was David Maxwell Fyfe?

David Maxwell Fyfe sitting on a rock

David Maxwell Fyfe was born in Edinburgh, 29 May 1900, the only son of William Thompson Fyfe and Isabella Fyfe (née Campbell).

 

He was educated at George Watson's College, Edinburgh, and Balliol College, Oxford.

 

On 15 April 1925 he married Sylvia Margaret Harrison, with whom he had three daughters.

After Oxford he worked for the British Commonwealth Union and acted as political secretary to Sir Patrick Hannon, 1921-2 studying law in his spare time. He was called to the Bar by Gray's Inn, 1922 and joined the chambers of George Lynskey in Liverpool the same year.

 

In 1924 he first stood as a Conservative candidate, for Wigan, and was adopted as Conservative candidate for Spen Valley in 1927, but was forced to withdraw in 1929 when the Conservative Party reached a deal with the Liberal Party that allowed the sitting Member of Parliament, Sir John Simon, to contest the election unopposed.

 

At a by-election in July 1935 he was elected as Conservative Member of Parliament for Liverpool West Derby,  winning the seat again at the General Election later that year.

David Maxwell Fyfe in a boe tie

He was one of the youngest, at the age of thirty four, to become a King's Counsel, and in 1936 was made a Bencher of Gray's Inn. He served as Recorder of Oldham from1936 - 42.

 

In March 1939 he joined the Army Officers' Emergency Reserve and was later sent to the Judge Advocate-General's Department. However, he was badly injured during an air raid in September 1940.

 

He was Deputy Chairman, 1941-3, and Chairman, from 1943, of the Conservative Party's Central Committee on Post-War Problems.

 

In 1942 he was made Solicitor-General, a post he held until 1945, when he became Attorney-General, 1945.

 

At the Nuremberg Trials (1945-6) he served as British Deputy Chief Prosecutor heading the British legal team and conducting its day-to-day business in the courtroom, including his famous cross-examination of Hermann Goering.

 He was Shadow Minister of Labour from 1945 - 1951; a member of the Industrial Policy Committee, from 1946; and Chairman of a Committee of Inquiry into the Conservative Party, which resulted in the Maxwell Fyfe Report, published in two parts in October 1948 and July 1949.

 

In 1947 at the invitation of Winson Churchill he joined the Committee of the United European Movement, and was a member of the Assembly of the Council of Europe, where he was particularly involved in drafting the European Convention on Human Rights.

 

He was Home Secretary from 1951 - 1954.

 

In 1954 he was made Lord Chancellor, a position he held until 1962.

He was knighted in1942, and made a Privy Counsellor in 1945. In 1953 he was created Knight Grand Cross in the Royal Victorian Order; Viscount Kilmuir in 1954; and 1st Earl of Kilmuir and Baron Fyfe of Dornoch in 1962.

 

He held honorary degrees from the Universities of Oxford, Manitoba, Edinburgh and Wales; was Rector of the University of St Andrews, from 1956; and Visitor of St Antony's College, Oxford, from 1953.

 

He died at Withyham, Sussex, on 27th January 1967.

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