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Alone at the Top
The Path to Power
Leading Canada
Private Life
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Banner: First Among Equals
William Lyon Mackenzie King banner
William Lyon Mackenzie King.

Will the real Mackenzie King please stand up?

For no other leader in Canadian politics was the dichotomy between public and private self more striking than with William Lyon Mackenzie King. His public image, the one for which so many Canadians repeatedly voted, was a dull, mild-mannered conciliator. Against thunderers like R. B. Bennett and the relentlessly logical Arthur Meighen, King was a quiet, safe and comfortably vague alternative.

Yet King led Canada for twenty-two years, through half the Depression and the whole of the Second World War. Such an accomplishment required political acuity, decisiveness and occasionally ruthlessness, all of which King was capable! And behind the image of the stuffy bachelor, King was a spiritualist. Caught up in the fad of spiritualism in the 1920s, King continued to hold séances throughout his life. With a few close friends and sometimes a medium, King regularly communicated with the spirits of his mother (to whom he was excessively devoted), his grandfather (the leader of the 1837 Rebellion, William Lyon Mackenzie), his predecessor Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the great nineteenth-century British Liberal Prime Minister Gladstone, as well as Saints Luke and John, all of who advised him on his career and politics!

While King was alive, of course, few had any inkling of this other side of his life. However, he kept a diary in which he recorded his activities with those of this world and the next.

Source: Canada's Prime Ministers, 1867 - 1994: Biographies and Anecdotes. [Ottawa]: National Archives of Canada, [1994]. 40 p.

Mackenzie King: main page

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