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William Lyon Mackenzie King

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MacKenzie King was one of three children born in Berlin, Ontario to John King and Isabel Grace Mackenzie. His father was a lawyer, so King not only attended the Berlin schools, tutors were hired to teach him additional politics, science, and math.  At the University of Toronto, he earned three degrees in the 1890s. In 1896 he earned his LLB from Osgoode Hall Law School. King was appointed Deputy Minister at the head of the Canadian government’s Department of Labour in 1900. He was first elected to Parliament in a 1908 and appointed as the first-ever Minister of Labour the following year.  He served as the Prime Minister for three non-consecutive terms from 1921–1926, 1926–1930 and 1935–1948. King’s mother, brother Macdougall King, and favorite sister Isabel, all died within a few years of each other. His guilt over leaving his mother to pursue his 1917 election campaign in North York, and finding her dead when he returned, may have sparked his interest in communing with the deceased.King was never a member of the Spiritualist Church and remained a Presbyterian. He was introduced to spiritualism by the Marchioness of Aberdeen. Lady Aberdeen told him of Mrs. Etta Wriedt, an American “direct-voice” medium who was well known and respected. During seances, he communicated with his mother, his brother and sister, and such friends as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Sir Wilfrid Laurier.Most of King’s contacts with mediums in Britain were made through Miss Mercy Phillimore, secretary of the London Spiritualist Alliance. She said “Mr. King was an investigator. He did accept the spirit hypothesis and he had the courage to say so, but he never ceased to be critical in appraising evidence. He was a highly intelligent man with shrewd judgment, and to say he consulted mediums for advice in statecraft is preposterous. It is also outrageous, an insult to his memory.”Mrs. Helen Hughes, a Glasgow medium  who sat with Mr. King for many years, said, “It was as if he had his mother living over here in Britain—what would any son do, if he came here on business? He’d look her up; he’d want to see her and talk to her. He didn’t want her advice about public affairs, for he knew more about them than she did. He wanted to know how she was…and wanted to talk to her about family matters.”On January 20, 1948, King called on the Liberal Party to hold its national convention to choose St. Laurent as the new leader of the Liberal Party. Three months later, King retired after 22 years as prime minister. In October of that year, he grew ill in London and was visited by King George VI, Winston Churchill, and Prime Minister Nehru of India. King died in 1950, at his country estate in Kingsmere from pneumonia.  

Additional Reading:

Dawson, Robert Macgregor (1958). William Lyon Mackenzie King: A Political Biography 1874–1923. University of Toronto Press. Fraser, Blair (1951) “The Secret Life of Mackenzie King, Spiritualist. Macleans Ottawa Editor December 15, 1951

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