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LETTER to VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD from PARLIAMENT HOUSE, HOUSE of REPRESENTATIVES, CANBERRA

This interesting flight cover had much to recommend it, and there was brisk bidding on Ebay auctions, starting at USD 11.70 with a final bid of USD 1,080, beating out a major Australian auction house. The vendor described its main features extremely well, but missed out on what was for me the major feature, the significance of the addressee, over and above his title and the original address of the House of Lords.

It was sent with three OS perfined stamps, the 1 shilling 4 pence green-blue KGV head, the 6d chestnut Roo on Map of Australia, and the 1d green KGV head, cancelled with 2 copies of PARLIAMENT HOUSE CANBERRA/ 715 P 22AP31/ F.C.T. postmark. It was addressed to Viscount Cecil of Chelwood K.G., House of Lords, Westminster, England, and was readdressed to a private address of 16 South Eaton Place SW1, (London). The addressee wrote 'First Experimental Air Mail, Australia-England at top left, whereas the purple cachet at lower left stated that it was the First Official Air Mail Flight, Melbourne to England (Figure 1).

There were 2 markings on the reverse, the blue Coat of Arms of the Kangaroo and Emu with shield and star, and the HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES beneath, found on the flap, as well as an incomplete reception postmark of the HOUSE OF COMMONS/ 15 MY/ (1931). This was described by Eustis as Flight 188 (Figure 2).

Edgar Algernon Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 1 ST Viscount of Chelwood, previously known as Lord Robert Cecil (born Sept 14, 1864 - died Nov 24, 1958) was a lawyer, politician and diplomat. He was the son of Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3 RD Marquess of Salisbury and 3 times Prime Minister of England.

The education that Robert absorbed at home until he was thirteen was superior and far more interesting, than that in the four years that followed at Eton College. He won renown as a debater at Oxford and at the age of 23 he was admitted to the Bar in 1887. He was fond of saying that the cleverest thing he ever did was to marry Lady Eleanor Lambton, two years later. From 1887 to 1906, Cecil's career was a legal one, and he also collaborated in writing a book, Principles of Commercial Law.

In 1906 he was elected as a member of the Conservative Party to the House of Commons until 1910, then lost two elections, but was re-elected as an independent Conservative in 1911 and remained in the Commons until 1923. He was 50 years old at the outbreak of World War I and in 1915 he became under-secretary for foreign affairs for a year, with other ministerial duties until 1918. He became interested in the avoidance of war and became an early architect advocating the development of the League of Nations. He was involved in this League for almost 30 years up to its demise in 1946.

In 1927 he was dissatisfied with the attitude of the British Cabinet towards the League and he resigned from governmental office, although he remained an official delegate to the League as late as 1932, and then worked independently to mobilize public opinion to support the League. In this period he wrote the Way of Peace in 1928 and the Great Experiment in 1941, both in support of the League of Nations. His past and later career was full of many honours including senior positions at 2 British universities, multiple honorary degrees at British and international universities, the Peace Award of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation in 1924 and most significantly the Nobel Peace Prize in 1937.

In 1946 he participated in the final meeting of the League of Nations at Geneva, ending his speech with the sentence: "The League is dead; long live the United Nations!" He was 81 and he lived another 13 years, occasionally occupying his seat in the House of Lords. He died on 24 November 1958, and his title died with him, as he left no heirs. The first and last Viscount of Chelwood (Figure 3).


 
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