Sir Aitken served as a Minister during both World Wars. He controlled much of the British media, owning the country's three major newspapers. Titles he held included Lord Privy Seal, Minister of War Production, Minister of Supply, Minister of Aircraft Production, Minister of Information, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and Member of Parliament.
|Full Name||William Maxwell Aitken|
|Birth Date||May 25, 1879|
|Death Date||June 9, 1964|
|Died||Leatherhead, Surrey, England, UK|
|Cause of Death||cancer|
|Education||University of New Brunswick|
|Father||William Cuthbert Aitken|
|Mother||Jane Noble Aitken|
Gladys Henderson Drury
Marcia Anastasia Christoforides
Robert Traven Donaldson Aitken
Joseph Magnus Aitken
Arthur Noble Aitken
Allen Anderson Aitken
Janet Gladys Aitken
Maxwell Aitken, 2nd Baronet Beaverbrook
Peter Rudyard Aitken
When Aitken was still a young man struggling to pay the bills in 1898, he was hired as an associate at the law firm of Richard Bedford Bennet, who would later become the Prime Minister of Canada. At the time, Bennet was simply campaigning for a place on the council of his local neighborhood. Aitken helped him with the campaign, which in the end was successful. Bennet left the law firm shortly after, and so did Aitken.
Aitken was a close friend of Rudyard Kipling, and named his third child for him.
Aitken encouraged Arnold Bennett to begin writing.
Norman Mailer was Aitken's grandson-in-law.
After moving to England in 1910, Aitken became close frinds with Bonar Law, who would later go on to become British Prime Minister. The two men had different personalities, but many similarities: they both were from the New Brunswick area of Canada, were sons of reverends, and were successful businessmen. Aitken helped Law with investment and law, and Law helped Aitken rise politically.
Aitken was knighted by George V of England in 1911.
H.H. Asquith, the British Prime Minister, did not get along well with Aitken, and prevented him from recieving political advancements during his time in office. Aitken also believed that Asquith was doing a poor job of managing the country during World War I.
Arthur Balfour and Aitken frequently disagreed over political matters, and had plenty of clashes.
Aitken was an admirer of cartoonist David Low, and first approached him about working for The Evening Standard in 1926. Though Aitken offered Low double his current salary, he refused. In 1929, Aitken came back, determined to lure the artist over to his side. Low again tentatively declined, but then went over to call on Aitken one day at Cherkley Court. He found the businessman sitting in bed reading. Aitken promised Low four half-pages a week, but Low still had more questions. "Dammit, Low!" Aitken burst out. "Do you want to edit the paper, too?" After that, Low was successfully made a cartoonist of Aitken's paper, and his coming was proudly advertised. Aitken allowed Low free and relatively unchecked expression and reign, unheard of at the time.
Aitken was a devoted opposer of Stanley Baldwin. In his papers, he often published scathing reports of him, and instructed his writers to search out any and all evidence that they could use against Baldwin. He campaigned for Baldwin's removal from political office for 15 years. Baldwin himself said of Aitken that he had "Power without responsibility - the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages."
Michael Foot was an employee of Aitken's, though in 1947 he released some confidential information to the public on a few questionable business practices that Aitken used.
Aitken was enraged by the 1942 film In Which We Serve, by Noel Coward, because Coward included a shot of The Daily Express, Aitken's star newspaper, floating in a trash bin with an ignorant headline. After seeing the film, Aitken ordered the Coward's names and films never be printed or reported on anywhere in any of his papers. There were rumors that Aitken had others on his "blacklist" to be boycotted from the news as well - including Thomas Beecham, Paul Robeson, and Haile Selassie. Aitken denied that any of these three men were on any sort of "blacklist," but admitted to Coward.
Aitken was a close friend of Winston Churchill, who appointed him Minister of Aircraft Production. Churchill saw Aitken as instrumental to the war effort of World War II, saying "his personal force and genius make this Aitken's finest hour." Often, we stayed up talking into the early hours of the morning.
Ernest Bevin could not stand to be around Aitken, much less work with him. When Aitken was promoted by Churchill to Minister of Supply in 1941, Bevin refused to let Aitken take on any of his old responsibilities (Bevin himself had been moved to another, related post). In 1942, Bevin again disagreed with Aitken over shipbuilding matters, and declared that he absolutely refused to work with him. Aitken resigned 12 days later, and was given a post elsewhere, away from Bevin.
Aitken worked closely with W. Averell Harriman during World War II.
Aitken was the first British politician to meet with Joseph Stalin since Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union, when he headed a diplomatic mission to Moscow in 1941. Aitken was quite impressed with Stalin, and the two men got along well. Aitken returned to England with favorable intentions toward the Soviet leader, and advised Churchill to ally himself with Stalin and send forces to aid the Russians against Hitler's attack.
Aitken was a friend of H.G. Wells, who appreciated his fiery, law-breaking streak. Cleverly, Wells said of Aitken "If ever Max ever gets to Heaven, he won't last long. He will be chucked out for trying to pull off a merger between Heaven and Hell after having secured a controlling interest in key subsidiary companies in both places, of course."
Aitken accompanied Churchill on several war meetings with Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom he became very close to. The two were such good friends that Churchill feared they would never get any work done.
Aitken employed Evelyn Waugh as a journalist, and the experience was so terrible that Waugh based two villains on Aitken: Lord Copper in Scoop and Lord Monomark in Vile Bodies.
Maple, Canada - Born here, 1879.
Miramichi, Canada - Grew up here, 1880 - 1897.
Fredericton, Canada - Attended university here, worked here, 1897 - 1898.
St. John, Canada - Lived here briefly, 1898.
Calgary, Canada - Lived here, 1898 - 1900.
Toronto, Canada - Was often here. Visited mentor's deathbed here, 1904.
Halifax, Canada - Lived and worked here, 1900 - 1904.
Montreal, Canada - Lived and worked here, 1904 - 1910.
Niagara Falls, New York, USA - Oversaw building of hydro station here, 1909.
London, England, UK - Lived here, 1910 - 1911. Worked here, 1911 - 1964.
Manchester, England, UK - Brought printing presses here, 1919.
Leatherhead, Surrey, England, UK - Lived primarily here, 1911 - 1964. Died here, 1964.