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A Real Companion and Friend:
The diary of William Lyon Mackenzie King

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Behind the Diary

A King's Who's Who Biographies

Edouard Handy (1910-?)

Edouard Handy with Mackenzie King, 1940


Edouard Handy with Mackenzie King, 1940

Edouard Handy was King's Principal Secretary from 1936 to 1950. He became the most important person on his staff, and is mentioned often in the diary. He worked long hours, including weekends, and accompanied King on his travels. For many years, King dictated the diary to him. After King's death, the literary executors consulted Handy about how to handle the diary, and he assisted in preparing photostats relating to King's political career. Handy is shown to the right of Mackenzie King in this photograph.

Edouard Handy was King's Principal Secretary, from 1936 to 1950. King wrote: "I took on a young Fr. Cdn. Handy, of whom Skelton thinks well...." (Diary, January 8, 1936) Handy came from the Franchise Office, and was the only French-speaking member of King's close staff. He became the most important person on King's staff and in his official household.

Handy worked all hours of the day and night, including weekends, and accompanied King on his travels. They took meals, went for walks and attended movies together. The diary contains many complimentary references to Handy, such as: "Handy, faithful as ever, was on hand at 10, having been to mass...." (Diary, September 10, 1939) King trusted him implicitly, dictated the diary to him and did not proofread it after Handy transcribed it.

King sounded him out on political issues, even asking his opinion on the draft proclamation of war: "I read it aloud to Handy." (Diary, September 10, 1939) When required, Handy and his wife helped to entertain King's guests. For example, on one occasion they served tea to King's nephew Arthur and took him to a movie. (Diary, January 4, 1941)

Handy helped King with all manner of personal errands. In the course of the San Francisco conference which set up the United Nations, King noted: "... H. and I went in search of shirts and under-garments. We succeeded in getting some." (Diary, April 28, 1945) When King was in England and caught a bad cold, he took "some hot lemonade and a little Scotch which H. made up specially for me." (Diary, October 9, 1945)

Handy and his wife named one of their sons Lyon Marc, in honour of King's nephew and namesake, called Lyon, who was killed during the Second World War.

In 1945, Handy won a competition for the position of Assistant Secretary (bilingual) of the Air Transport Board. The next day King made arrangements so that Handy could stay with him for the time being, but would be sure not to lose out on anything, "either in the present or the future." (Diary, July 8, 1945)

When King went to Government House to resign as Prime Minister, Handy went with him. King wrote: "This being an historic occasion, I was anxious that it should have associations with Handy...." (Diary, November 15, 1948)

Handy continued to serve in a wide variety of tasks after King retired. In July 1950, Handy had left for three weeks' vacation with his family, but when King suffered a heart attack, Handy was notified and he hurried back. He was there, with other staff members and members of King's family, when Mackenzie King died, July 22, 1950.

King bequeathed $10,000 to Handy. The literary executors consulted him about how they should handle the diary, and he assisted in the preparation of photostats relating to King's political career.

Later, Handy became Secretary of the National Capital Commission.

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