Although people living in monarchies have no choice in being ruled by ex-Bullingdon heads of state, membership of the club has not harmed the careers of former members entering democratic politics. If anything, membership of the Bullingdon, though not quite as vital as attendance of Eton College (which has produced 19 British Prime Ministers and countless MPs), actually seems to prepare alumni for a career in politics. Indeed, so many political figures have served as members of the Bullingdon that current politicians have been reserved for the next section. Here we will concentrate on notable examples of an older vintage.
The most infamous ex-Buller politician is, without doubt, Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902). Whilst an Oxford student, Rhodes’s belief in British Imperialism was strengthened by his course of study, and doubtless by his encounters with Bullingdon members, most of whom came from the English aristocracy: Rhodes continued to wear his Bullingdon finery on formal colonial occasions after leaving Oxford. Rhodes would go on to secure a monopoly on diamonds, financed by the ever-powerful Rothschild Group, and to serve as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, during which his policies openly discriminated against black Africans. His statue controversially still stands at Oriel College.
Lord Randolph Churchill (1849-1895), father of Sir Winston Churchill, was also a Bullingdon member. It is clear that Randolph really got into the spirit of the club, for he is known to have become involved in a particularly Buller-esque escapade, when after a dinner he drank so much brandy and champagne that he awoke the next morning with amnesia and a sleeping prostitute. He later suffered from syphilis, but in spite of youthful indiscretions, Lord Churchill went on to serve as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Leader of the House of Commons, and Secretary of State for India.
John Profumo (1915-2006) also graduated from the Bullingdon to Westminster, and displayed some characteristic Buller-behaviour whilst in office. One former lover became a Nazi spy, and Profumo is known to have written to her whilst serving as an MP. Whilst Secretary of State for War and a member of the Privy Council he began a relationship with 19-year-old Christine Keeler, who was also involved with a Soviet diplomat. His political career ended after he lied to the House of Commons about his relationship with Keeler. The incident became known as the âProfumo Affair’, and is a popular subject for dramatisation.
With wealth comes political influence, and so we must also mention the Buller’s connections with the financial world. Two heads of the powerful Rothschild banking family have been members of the club: Jacob, 4th Baron Rothschild, and his son and heir, Nathaniel Philip Rothschild. The latter was accused in 2012 of surreptitiously attempting to arrange a large donation to the Conservative Party from a Russian billionaire (illegal in UK politics). The family has a long history of donating to the Conservatives, the party of choice for Bullingdon alumni. Another banking dynasty, the Barings, also numbers eleven ex-Bullingdon members.