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Charles Lindley Wood, 2nd Viscount Halifax, was born in 1839, the eldest son of Sir Charles Wood, 1st Viscount Halifax, and his wife Lady Mary, the daughter of Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, and Mary Elizabeth Ponsonby.
Educated at Eton and Christ Church College, Oxford, he was a lifelong friend of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII and later served as his Groom of the Bedchamber. In 1869 he married Lady Agnes Elizabeth Courtenay, the only daughter of the 11th Earl of Devon. The couple had four sons and two daughters together, although three of their sons died in childhood.
Wood was a follower of the Oxford Movement, a movement of High Church members which sought to maintain England’s Catholic heritage and ultimately to seek a reunion between Anglicanism and Catholicism. In 1868 he agreed to be president of the English Church Union (ECU), an organisation founded as The Church of England Protection Society in 1860 to defend Anglo-Catholicism and its practitioners and uphold the principles of the Movement. He held the position until 1919 and then again from 1927 to 1934. After succeeding his father as 2nd Viscount Halifax in 1885 he was able to use his position in the House of Lords to defend the Catholic cause in parliament.
The 2nd Viscount hoped ultimately for a reunion of the Church of England with Rome and to this end he initiated two dialogues with the Roman Catholic church. The first, in the 1890s, saw him act as a channel of communication between the Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Leo XIII, resulting in the establishment of a commission of Catholic theologians and historians in Rome to examine the matter. The commission rejected Anglican ordinations as null and void, as set out in the Pope’s 1896 papal bull ‘Apostolicae curae.’
Wood tried again in the 1920s in what came to be known as the ‘Malines Conversations.’ In this second attempt he was supported by theologians Charles Gore, founder of the Society of the Resurrection, W. H. Frere, an original member of the Society, B. J. Kidd and Joseph Armitage Robinson. Wood approached the sympathetic Belgian Cardinal Mercier, bolstered by a letter of commendation from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Mercier’s death, and the Pope’s opposition, resulted in the failure of the talks, but Wood published the reports of the conversations in 1928 as ‘The Conversations at Malines, 1921-1925’ and ‘Notes on the Conversations at Malines.’
He died on 19 January 1934 at the family home of Hickleton Hall, near Doncaster, and was succeeded by his only surviving son, Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, as 3rd Viscount Halifax.