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Rufus Daniel Isaacs (later Rufus Isaacs), 1st Marquess of Reading, GCB, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO, PC, KC (10 October 1860 – 30 December 1935), was an Englishmarker politician and jurist.

The son of a Jewish fruit merchant at Spitalfieldsmarker, Isaacs was educated at University College School, and then entered the family business at the age of fifteen. In 1876-77 he served as a ships-boy and later worked as a jobber on the stock-exchange, 1880-84. He was called to the bar, the Middle Templemarker, in 1887.
Lord Reading on a tiger hunt in Nepal
A prosperous lawyer, Isaacs made his name in the Bayliss v. Coleridge libel suit in 1903, and the Whitaker Wright case in 1904. In 1904, he entered the House of Commonsmarker as Liberal Party Member of Parliament (MP) for the Reading constituency, a seat he held until 1913. During this period, he served as both Solicitor General and Attorney-General in the governments of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and Herbert Henry Asquith, becoming the first Attorney-General to sit in the Cabinet in 1912. He led for the prosecution in the Seddon poisoning case in 1912. In 1913, he was made Lord Chief Justice, a position in which he served until 1921.

In 1918, Isaacs was appointed Ambassador to the United States, a position in which he served until 1919, while continuing at the same time as Lord Chief Justice. In 1921, he resigned the chief justiceship to become Viceroy of India. Although he preferred a conciliatory policy, he ended up using force on several occasions, and imprisoned Mahatma Gandhi in 1922. In MacDonald's National Government in August 1931, he briefly served as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, but stood down after the first major reshuffle in November due to ill-health.

Isaacs lived at Foxhill Housemarker in Earleymarker, adjoining Readingmarker, and was elevated to the Peerage as Baron Reading, of Erleighmarker in the County of Berkshire, in 1914, and continued to rise in the Peerage: he was created Viscount Reading, of Erleigh in the County of Berkshire, in 1916; Earl of Reading along with the subsidiary title of Viscount Erleigh, of Erleigh in the County of Berkshire, in 1917; and eventually Marquess of Reading in 1926. This is the highest rank in the Peerage reached by a Jew in British history. He was knighted in 1910, made a KCVO in 1911, a GCB in 1915, a GCSI and GCIE in 1921 (upon appointment as Viceroy of India) and a GCVO in 1922

Isaacs married Alice Edith Cohen in 1887.Lady Reading was a chronic invalid, who eventually died of cancer a year after Reading's viceroyalty ended. He then married Stella Charnaud, the first Lady Reading's secretary.

He assumed the surname Rufus Isaacs, which is still used by his male-line descendants.

Along with Alfred Mond and Herbert Samuel, Isaacs was a founding chairman of the precursor to the Israel Electric Corporation in the British Mandate of Palestine. The Reading Power Stationmarker in Tel-Avivmarker, Israelmarker, was named in his honour.

Marconi scandal

Isaacs was one of several high-ranking members of the Liberal government accused of involvement in the "Marconi scandal". An article published in Le Matin on February 14, 1913 alleged corruption in the award of a government contract to the Marconi Company and insider trading in Marconi's shares, implicating a number of sitting government ministers, including Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer; Isaacs, then Attorney General; Herbert Samuel, Postmaster General; and the Treasurer of the Liberal Party, the Master of Elibank, Lord Murray. The allegations included the fact that Isaacs' brother, Godfrey Isaacs, was managing director of the Marconi company at the time that the cabinet, in which Isaacs sat, was awarding Marconi the contract. Isaacs and Samuels sued Le Matin for libel, and as a result, the journal apologised and printed a complete retraction in its February 18, 1913 issue. The factual matters were at least partly resolved by a parliamentary select committee investigation, which issued three reports: all found that Isaacs and others had purchased shares in the American Marconi company, but while the fellow-Liberal members of the committee cleared the ministers of all blame, the opposition members reported that Isaacs and others had acted with "grave impropriety". The truth of the matter has been described as "obscure".


  • 1860-1887: Rufus Daniel Isaacs
  • 1887-1910: Rufus Daniel Isaacs, KC
  • 1910-1911: Sir Rufus Daniel Isaacs, KC
  • 1911-1914: Sir Rufus Daniel Isaacs, KCVO, KC
  • 1914-1915: The Right Honourable the Lord Reading, KCVO, KC
  • 1915-1916: The Right Honourable the Lord Reading, GCB, KCVO, KC
  • 1916-1917: The Right Honourable the Viscount Reading, GCB, KCVO, KC
  • 1917-1921: The Right Honourable the Earl of Reading, GCB, KCVO, KC
  • 1921-1922: His Excellency The Right Honourable the Earl of Reading, GCB, GCSI, GCIE, KCVO, KC
  • 1922-1926: His Excellency The Right Honourable the Earl of Reading, GCB, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO, KC
  • 1926-1934: The Most Honourable the Marquess of Reading, GCB, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO, KC
  • 1934-1935: The Most Honourable the Marquess of Reading, GCB, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO, PC, KC


  1. The Concise Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 1992.
  2. Gratzer, Walter. Eurekas and Euphorias: The Oxford Book of Scientific Anecdotes. Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 226.
  3. Lady Frances Lonsdale Donaldson, "The Marconi scandal", Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962
  4. Harford Montgomery Hyde, "Lord Reading; the life of Rufus Isaacs, First Marquess of Reading", Heinemann, 1968, pages 124,138-140
  5. Stanley Jackson, "Rufus Isaacs, first marquess of Reading", Cassell, 1936, pages 167-172
  6. Ian D. Colvin, "Carson the Statesman", Kessinger, 2005, ISBN 1417986638, page 179
  7. Michael Finch, "G.K. Chesterton: A biography", Weidenfield and Nicholson, 1986, ISBN 0297788582, pages 204-205
  8. W.J. Baker, "The history of the Marconi company 1874-1965", Routledge, 1998 ISBN 0415146240, pages 144-146
  9. H. J. Hanham (1969), The Nineteenth-Century Constitution 1815-1914: Documents and Commentary, p. 79.

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