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Herbert Meredith Marler, Notary Turned Politician

Herbert Meredith Marler was born in Montreal on March 7, 1876. He was the eldest child of William de Montmollin Marler and his wife Josephine Charlotte Howard, who had been married on June 1, 1875. After attending Montreal College, Marler studied law at McGill University, graduating in 1898. He began to work as a notary for his father’s firm, while still living at home.

Black and white photograph of a man wearing a robe.

Herbert Meredith Marler, Montreal, 1898. Photograph by Wm. Notman & Son.

Marler married Beatrice Isabel Allan in Montreal’s Christ Church Cathedral on April 9, 1902. Beatrice was one of Montreal’s most sought-after young women, because she was the granddaughter of two important men: Andrew Allan, the co-founder of the Allan Line Royal Mail steamship company which linked Great Britain with America, and Mathew Hamilton, the founder of the Sun Life Insurance Company. The couple had three children: George Leonard, born in 1903, Adelaide Edythe in 1907, and Howard Meredith in 1908.

Black and white photograph of a woman posing near a column, wearing her wedding dress with lace and a veil.

Beatrice Isabel Allan, Montreal, 1902. Photograph by Wm. Notman & Son.

Marler was very interested by the announcement in 1907 that Grantham Hall of Drummondville was for sale. His grandfather, George Leonard Marler, had lived in Drummondville and been a friend and a close associate of Frederick George Heriot, the town’s founder in 1815. Herbert Marler’s father, William de Montmollin, was born there in 1849. Marler and his wife did not need any further encouragement, and they bought Grantham Hall as a summer residence.

Black and white photograph of two parents and their three young children walking hand in hand on a sidewalk, in front of stone buildings.

George Leonard Marler, Beatrice Isabel Allan, Adelaide Edythe, Herbert Meredith Marler, and Howard Meredith Marler, around 1936.

Less than a year after the outbreak of World War I, Marler enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces. He was posted as a lieutenant to the 1st Regiment of the 245th Battalion of the Canadian Grenadier Guards on April 20, 1915. However, his battalion was never sent overseas. On November 10, 1917, Marler, by then promoted to the rank of Major, was transferred to the Canadian Expeditionary Force Officer Reserve. With his military career at a dead end, Marler opted for a career in public service. He decided to make the leap into federal politics after the Armistice was declared in November 1918, as a means to have influence in society. He ran as a Liberal against the incumbent minister C. C. Ballantyne in the Montreal riding of St. Laurent and St. George, winning the seat against all expectations by a comfortable majority. The Liberals and their leader, William Lyon Mackenzie King, formed the new government. Marler was made a minister without portfolio after a couple of years as a member of Parliament, and then was named to Her Majesty’s Privy Council for Canada, which allowed him to use the title of Honourable. He ran again during the elections of 1925, but lost the seat to his Conservative opponent.

When Mackenzie King became Prime Minister again in 1926, he did not forget Herbert Marler. In 1929, he asked Marler to lead a new legation in Tokyo, Japan, where he would fulfill the role of Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Minister. Marler sold the majority of his Canadian assets to devote himself to his new posting in Japan. He became Sir Herbert when he was named Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in 1935, after having successfully fostered trade relations with the East. Marler was then transferred to the same post in Washington in 1936, where he worked until he fell gravely ill in 1939. Herbert Meredith Marler passed away at Montreal’s Royal Victoria Hospital on January 31, 1940; he was 63 years old.

Black and white photograph of several men wearing suits or uniforms in front of a tree in the city.

Kenneth Kirkwood, Hugh Keenleyside, Herbert Meredith Marler, and J. A. Langley, members of the Canadian legation in Japan, 1929.