Samuel Hoare, the elder son of Sir Samuel Hoare, the Conservative MP for Norwich, and his wife, Katharin Louisa Hart, was born on 24th February, 1880. He was educated at Harrow and New College, where he received firsts in classical moderations (1901) and modern history (1903). After leaving Oxford University his father arranged for him to be appointed as assistant private secretary to Alfred Lyttelton, the Secretary of the Colonies.
Hoare was elected to the London County Council (LCC) in 1907. On 17th October 1909 he married Maud Lygon (1882–1962), the youngest daughter of Frederick Lygon, sixth Earl Beauchamp. The couple lived in London at 18 Cadogan Gardens. The marriage produced no children. A member of the Conservative Party he became MP for Chelsea in January 1910. Initially he associated with the progressive wing of the party and supported tariff reform, women's suffrage, and public education.
On the outbreak of the First World War Hoare became a recruiting officer in the Norfolk Yeomanry. In 1916 he was assigned to the British intelligence mission with the Russian general staff. Soon afterwards he was given the rank of lieutenant-colonel and Mansfield Smith Cumming appointed him as head of the British Secret Intelligence Service in Petrograd. Other members of the unit included Oswald Rayner, Cudbert Thornhill, John Scale and Stephen Alley.
Michael Smith, the author of Six: A History of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (2010), argued that "He (Hoare) was a rather pompous, self-regarding man, but he was nevertheless someone whom the ambassador would see him as being from the right class and who could present a personable front for Cumming's mission while the secret service work was conducted quietly behind the scenes by others like Alley."
Giles Milton, the author of Russian Roulette: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin's Global Plot (2013), has pointed out: "It was not a question of spying on the enemy: Russia was a key member of the Triple Entente (Britain, France, Russia) fighting against Germany in the First World War. However, Hoare's role was certainly of vital importance. The conflict on the Eastern Front was tying down huge numbers of German troops that could otherwise be transferred to the Western Front. A sudden influx of battle-hardened soldiers to Northern France would spell disaster for the British Tommies struggling to hold their entrenched positions in Picardie and Champagne."
John Scale recorded: "German intrigue was becoming more intense daily. Enemy agents were busy whispering of peace and hinting how to get it by creating disorder, rioting, etc. Things looked very black. Romania was collapsing, and Russia herself seemed weakening. The failure in communications, the shortness of foods, the sinister influence which seemed to be clogging the war machine, Rasputin the drunken debaucher influencing Russia's policy, what was to the be the end of it all?"
Hoare became friendly with Vladimir Purishkevich, the leader of the monarchists in the Duma, and in November 1916 he was told about the plot to "liquidate" Grigory Rasputin. Hoare later recalled that Purishkevich's tone "was so casual that I thought his words were symptomatic of what everyone was thinking and saying rather than the expression of a definitely thought-out plan."
Giles Milton, argues in Russian Roulette: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin's Global Plot (2013), that the original idea came from Hoare who believed that Rasputin was sabotaging the Russian war effort and if he was murdered "the country would be freed from the sinister influence that was striking down its natural leaders and endangering the success of its armies in the field." Richard Cullen, the author of Rasputin: The Role of Britain's Secret Service in his Torture and Murder (2010), claims that agents Oswald Rayner, John Scale and Stephen Alley were involved in the plot.
On 29th December, 1916, Purishkevich, Prince Felix Yusupov, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov, Dr. Stanislaus de Lazovert and Lieutenant Sergei Mikhailovich Sukhotin, an officer in the Preobrazhensky Regiment, were part of a conspiracy that killed Rasputin. Hoare reacted angrily when Tsar Nicholas II suggested to the British ambassador, George Buchanan, that the British agent, Osward Rayner, was involved in the plot to kill Rasputin. Hoare described the story as "incredible to the point of childishness".
According to Christopher Andrew, the author of Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community (1985): "By the time General Sir Henry Wilson arrived in Russia in February 1917, Hoare could stand it no longer. He accompanied Wilson back to England to take sick leave and did not return to Petrograd. Much to his relief, he was transferred by Cumming to Rome in May. Hoare was succeeded in Petrograd by his former deputy, Major Stephen Alley." Hoare's main responsibility was to encourage the Italian government to remain in the First World War. He remained at his Rome headquarters until the end of the war.
Hoare was re-elected to the House of Commons at the 1918 General Election, as a supporter of the David Lloyd George coalition government. He became disillusioned with Lloyd George and in 1922 he played a leading role in bringing down the coalition government in October 1922. Andrew Bonar Law became the new prime minister and he rewarded Hoare by appointing him Secretary of State for Air. In May 1923 Bonar Law resigned and was succeeded by Stanley Baldwin. Hoare retained his post and now entered the cabinet.
Hoare's biographer, Ralph James Adams, has argued: "Hoare was short and slight, even delicate, of frame. His health was never robust, and he turned to games and athletics to bolster his physique as well as to satisfy an inherent competitiveness. He became an excellent figure skater and was a tournament-level shot and tennis player throughout his life. He was fastidious about his appearance and much enjoyed wearing the symbols and uniforms related to the honours he loved receiving. He lacked charisma and, not surprisingly, he was not a compelling platform speaker. His career reflected his natural talent as an administrator and his keen ambition to achieve an important place in public life, rather than an abundance of sheer brilliance or personal charm."
Hoare was an enthusiastic supporter of air travel and in 1923 helped establish Imperial Airways. In December 1926, Hoare and his wife were on board the first civilian flight to India. As Ralph James Adams points out: "Between 1924 and 1929 the number of miles flown by British civil aviation increased from 700,000 to more than 1 million, and the number of passengers from 10,000 to more than 28,000, much of this owing to the championing of air transport by Hoare himself."
Hoare lost his post when the Conservative Party was defeated in the 1929 General Election but James Ramsay MacDonald, head of the National Government, appointed him Secretary of State for India in August 1931. In this post he steered the India Bill through Parliament in 1935 against the opposition led by Winston Churchill.
In June 1935 Stanley Baldwin appointed Hoare as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Later that year Hoare joined with Pierre Laval, the prime minister of France, in an effort to resolve the crisis created by the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. The secret agreement, known as the Hoare-Laval Pact, proposed that Italy would receive two-thirds of the territory it conquered as well as permission to enlarge existing colonies in East Africa. In return, Ethiopia was to receive a narrow strip of territory and access to the sea.
Details of the Hoare-Laval Pact was leaked to the press on 10th December, 1935. The scheme was widely denounced as appeasement of Italian aggression. Baldwin's cabinet rejected the plan and Hoare was forced to resign. Henry Channon saw Hoare make his resignation speech in the House of Commons: "At last Sam Hoare got up, and in a flash he had won the sympathy of the House by his lucidity, his concise narrative, his sincerity and patriotism. He told the whole story of his negotiations and added that not a country, save our own, has moved a soldier, a ship, an aeroplane - was this collective action? He was a Cato defending himself; for 40 minutes he held the House breathless, and at last sat down, but not before he had wished his successor better luck, and burst into tears." Hoare argued in his memoirs that he appeased Benito Mussolini in order to prevent him forming an alliance with Adolf Hitler. However, his opponents argued that his actions resulted in the Italians taking control of all Ethiopia.
Hoare had in fact been following government policy and in June 1936 he was appointed as First Lord of the Admiralty. When Neville Chamberlain replaced Baldwin in May 1937, he was given the post of Secretary of State for the Home Office. In cabinet Hoare provided support to Chamberlain and Lord Halifax, in the government's policy of appeasement. It was claimed by Claud Cockburn in his newsletter, The Week, that Hoare was a member of the pro-appeasement group, the Cliveden Set.
International tension increased when Adolf Hitler began demanding that the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia should be under the control of the German government. In an attempt to to solve the crisis, the heads of the governments of Germany, Britain, France and Italy met in Munich. On 29th September, 1938, Neville Chamberlain, Adolf Hitler, Edouard Daladier and Benito Mussolini signed the Munich Agreement which transferred to Germany the Sudetenland, a fortified frontier region that contained a large German-speaking population. When Eduard Benes, Czechoslovakia's head of state, who had not been invited to Munich, protested at this decision, Chamberlain told him that Britain would be unwilling to go to war over the issue of the Sudetenland.
Guy Liddell of MI5 passed an updated digest of the intelligence provided by Wolfgang zu Putlitz to John Curry, a member of B Branch, who was then asked to give it to Hoare, who was part of Chamberlain's inner circle of foreign policy advisers. Hoare was the first former MI5 officer to become a cabinet minister. According to Curry: "As Hoare read it, the colour faded from his cheeks. He made a few brief comments, showed no desire to have the matter discussed or elaborated, and dismissed us." Curry believed that Hoare had been shocked by Putlitz's insistence that "if we had stood firm at Munich, Hitler might have lost the initiative".
The Munich Agreement was popular with most people in Britain because it appeared to have prevented a war with Nazi Germany. However, some politicians, including Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden, attacked the agreement. These critics pointed out that no only had the British government behaved dishonorably, but it had lost the support of Czech Army, one of the best in Europe. However, Hoare loyally defended the actions of Chamberlain.
On 10th March, 1939, Hoare, addressing his constituents, predicted that the policy of appeasement would lead to a new "Goldren Age". Five days later Adolf Hitler ordered his troops to occupy Prague and seized Bohemia and Moravia, tearing up the much vaunted Munich Agreement. Public opinion in Britain was outraged and those who had been advocating appeasement were completely undermined.
On the outbreak of the Second World War. Hoare now joined the War Cabinet as Lord Privy Seal. In May 1940 Winston Churchill became prime minister and he immediately dismissed Hoare from the cabinet. At first he rejected the post of ambassador in Madrid. However, after the news of the French collapse at Sedan, he changed his mind. Sir Alexander Cadogan, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, assessed Hoare's real motives when he wrote in his diary: "Dirty little dog has got the wind up and wants to get out of this country! However, they all want to be disembarrassed of him and agreed to send him out.... The sooner we get them out of the country the better. I'd rather send them to a penal colony. He'll be the Quisling of England when Germany conquers us and I'm dead.""
Hoare's biographer, Ralph James Adams, was more charitable: "It was the end of his ministerial career. Desperate for activity, Hoare accepted Churchill's only offer, the Madrid embassy, and thus he was the only one of the major appeasers sent immediately into exile. In the end his mission was widely praised, even by Churchill, and he was credited with preventing any Spanish hazard to the allied invasion of north Africa in November 1942 and also in securing the release of thousands of allied prisoners of war interned in Spanish prisons. His greatest contribution was perhaps in striving to convince the pro-German regime of General Francisco Franco to remain out of the war."
Hoare returned to England and in July 1944 he accepted a peerage as Viscount Templewood of Chelsea. He retired from party politics but continued to campaign for penal reform and the movement to abolish capital punishment. In 1947 he became chairman of the Howard League for Penal Reform. He also published his case against hanging, The Shadow of the Gallows (1951). Hoare was also author of Nine Troubled Years (1954).
Samuel Hoare, Viscount Templewood of Chelsea, died in his London home following a heart attack on 7th May 1959.