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Lord Dartmouth visits his namesake college in Hanover to talk Brexit

  • Before boarding Dartmouth Coach, William Legge, the 10th Earl of Dartmouth, says goodbye to friend Kathy Rines, of, Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, in Hanover. ((Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • William Legge, the 10th Earl of Dartmouth, takes a stroll on the Dartmouth College Green before catching the Dartmouth Coach bus to Boston on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 9/28/2019 10:26:45 PM
Modified: 9/28/2019 10:26:42 PM

HANOVER — Lord Dartmouth arrived by Dartmouth Coach to visit Dartmouth College last week.

The British businessman and former politician confessed his eyes “misted over” when he first glimpsed his hereditary title emblazoned on the side of the bus when he boarded it in Boston for the ride. He was taken aback again when he arrived in Hanover.

Back home in the county of Devon in southwest England, where Lord Dartmouth lives about 15 miles from the town of Dartmouth, “You only see the word ‘Dartmouth’ on road signs,” he told an audience who had come to hear him deliver a public lecture on Brexit at the college Tuesday night.

“By contrast, you see ‘Dartmouth’ here everywhere,” the British peer marveled.

Lord Dartmouth, the 10th Earl of Dartmouth — known by his family name, William Legge — made his fourth visit last week to the American college named after his ancestor, the 2nd Earl of Dartmouth, who helped raise money for Eleazar Wheelock’s plan to found a college to educate native Americans before falling out with Wheelock after the clergyman’s plans changed to cater to the sons of colonists.

Even as a boy growing up, Legge was aware his family had a link to something far away in America: a copy of the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine every month would plop through the mail slot in the door addressed to his father, the 9th Earl of Dartmouth, Legge recalled over a breakfast of corned beef hash, poached eggs, black beans and a side of mustard Wednesday morning at Lou’s Restaurant & Bakery in Hanover.

Legge, who first laid eyes on the college named after his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather when he was touring the U.S. at age 19 in 1970, said last week he’d made his first visit to Hanover in a decade “to participate in a very minor way” in the college’s yearlong 250th anniversary.

Legge’s itinerary included a Sunday reception at Dartmouth College President Phil Hanlon’s house with student leaders followed by a Class of 1971 dinner at the Dartmouth Outing Club at Occom Pond.

On Monday, Legge toured the Hood Museum of Art, where he got to view the 1756 portrait of his ancestor, William Legge, the 2nd Earl of Dartmouth, painted by Italian portraitist Pompeo Batoni.

“It belonged to my cousins,” he said later. “I would have kept it.”

After the museum tour, in honor of his 70th birthday (“scary thing,” Legge said), there was a dinner hosted for him in the faculty lounge of the Hopkins Center for the Arts, which was attended by former Dartmouth President Jim Wright and his wife, Susan Wright; John Stomberg, director of the Hood Museum of Art; and Mary Lou Aleskie, director of the Hopkins Center, among other Dartmouth dignitaries.

Jim Wright said he was introduced through mutual friends to Legge in New York City shortly after Legge inherited his peerage upon the death of his father, Gerald Legge, in 1997.

The Wisconsin state college-educated Wright and the Eton-Oxford-Harvard educated Legge have socialized numerous times over the years on both sides of the pond, Wright said.

“I’ve always found him a very generous, a good person, and we’ve enjoyed talking with him,” Wright said of his and his wife’s friendship with Legge. “His mother invited us to her home for tea. That was very interesting.”

(Legge’s mother, Raine McCorquodale, was the daughter of best-selling British romance novelist Dame Barbara Cartland, and married Earl Spencer, the father of Princess Diana, which made Legge and the late Princess of Wales and divorced wife of Prince Charles, stepsiblings).

After college, Legge worked in Abu Dhabi for a couple years after a friend told him the Middle East was the “land of opportunity.”

“It wasn’t,” Legge recounted succinctly.

From there it was Harvard Business for two years, followed by six years in New York City working “in business” (he declined to be more specific) before becoming, like his father, a chartered accountant.

The earl’s speech

Legge’s visit to Dartmouth was not all receptions, feasts and hobnobbing with Ivy League nobility.

As a two-term, 10-year member of the European Parliament representing South West England who stepped down in July, Legge was to deliver a lecture about the UK’s national referendum to leave the leave the European Union, known as Brexit.

Arguably the most contentious issue in modern British history that has led to the ouster of two prime ministers and plunged a third — current Prime Minister Boris Johnson — into a tenuous position, holding onto power as the Conservative Party leader has lost a governing majority in Parliament.

Legge, a champion of withdrawing from the trade block, marshaled data during Tuesday’s lecture in Filene Auditorium that he said illustrated how membership in the 28-nation European Parliament forfeits the UK’s economic sovereignty and suborns it to lesser economic powers.

“It’s become more and more of a state,” Legge said of the 751-seat body based in Brussels. “It has a flag, a supreme court, an anthem, and it would even like to have an army. That is a very different form of common market that the people voted for.”

“We give away very significant power to the EU and the commissioners,” Legge told the audience, relating that the UK has “less autonomy” in relation to Brussels than “the state of New Hampshire has to the federal government in the United States.”

(On Wednesday morning, however, Legge deflected questions about Brexit, explaining he is “not in politics” any longer since he retired as a member of the European Parliament. He said he wanted to focus on recognizing Dartmouth’s semiquincentennial instead).

Dartmouth students interested in understanding the workings of the European Parliament also have had an inside track and rare opportunity to witness the proceedings firsthand. Over the years the earl had accepted “between eight and 10” students from the college to spend up to six months each as interns in his Brussels office.

Don Pease, professor of English at Dartmouth and head of the college’s Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program, which co-sponsored Legge’s Tuesday night lecture on Brexit, said the 10th Earl of Dartmouth’s presence on campus was “not only a symbolic event.”

“It was an event to enable students who attended the lecture and attended the receptions and met him to get a feel for the legacy,” he said.

Legge has “genuine affection for Dartmouth, the students and the history of the institution,” said Pease, co-chair of the college’s 250th anniversary events. “He comes from a tradition in which legacies are valued.”

John Lippman can be reached at

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