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Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms

Kings of England

 

 

 

English Parliament

While the Anglo-Saxon kings of England had the Witenagemot (or Witan) council to advise them on major decisions, the old system was swept away by the Norman conquerors of 1066. William I brought the system of Curia Regis with him, whereby the king would sometimes seek advise from a council of tenants-in-chiefs and church members on proposed laws.

With the level of bureaucracy rising in the medieval court (a traditional feature of all Anglo-Saxon governments), in around 1126 the king split control of the treasury away from all other duties. The new head of the king's treasury, the Lord High Treasurer, held the third-highest position in the land. This was the post which later became the First Lord of the Treasury and then Prime Minister. The other duties came to be controlled by the Lord Great Chamberlain.

c.1126 - 1136

Nigel

Nephew of Roger, bishop of Salisbury. First Lord High Treasurer.

c.1126 - 1133

Nigel Poor (or Nigel of Ely as he is later known after becoming the bishop of Ely) is appointed Lord High Treasurer by the Norman king, Henry I. He controls the royal treasury for both England and the duchy of Normandy. In 1133 the vacant bishopric of Ely is secured for him by his uncle, Roger of Salisbury, and he is consecrated by Archbishop William de Corbeil. He holds onto his treasury post until 1136 when he is removed by King Stephen.

Henry I

Henry I was responsible for appointing the first Lord High Treasurer of England

 

c.1136 - 1139

Adelelm

Cousin. Nephew of Roger, bishop of Salisbury.

1139 - 1154

There is no recorded treasurer for the period of the Anarchy or civil war between Stephen and Matilda in Norman England. Nigel is reconciled with Stephen in 1145, and from 1147 he witnesses charters for the king on an occasional basis. There is no record of him being involved in treasury affairs, but he does witness the charter that leaves England to the son of Matilda, Henry Plantagenet.

Plantagenet Parliament

A century and-a-half of monarchical dominance saw little reform until the reign of the Plantagenet King John (1199-1216). When the barons rebelled in 1215 and forced John to sign Magna Carta, they set the founding principles for parliament and constitution, even though at the time they were merely guarding their own interests. Magna Carta defined rights, legal practices, and 'good lordship' - what subjects could expect from their monarch and superiors.

When Edward I summoned his Model Parliament in 1295 he set the pattern for the rule of kings for the next four centuries. These early Parliaments were not merely at the monarch's disposal, and would not always enact the legislation set before them.

c.1154 - 1158

Nigel

Second term.

c.1154 - 1158

Nigel is present at the coronation of Henry II Plantagenet and is then summoned to reorganise the exchequer. In about 1158 Nigel pays the king to appoint his son in his place.

c.1158 - 1196

Richard FitzNeal

Son. Dean of Lincoln and bishop of London (1189).

1189 - 1196

Richard is appointed bishop of London in 1189, but continues to serve as the king's treasurer until he is removed in 1196 and replaced with William of Ely, another relative.

1196 - 1215

William of Ely

Archdeacon of Cleveland (1201-1215?).

1215 - 1217

John returns to England after being defeated at the Battle of Bouvines in 1214 and is forced to sign Magna Carta by the disaffected barons on 15 June 1215. There is no first lord for two years after this, but following the appointment of Eustace of Fauconberg in 1217, the post becomes a more permanent one.

1217 - 1228

Eustace of Fauconberg

Bishop of London (1221-1228).

1228 - 1233

Walter Mauclerk

Bishop of Carlisle (1223-1246).

1233 - 1234

Peter des Rivaux

Canon of St Paul's.

1234 - 1240

Hugh de Pateshull

Canon of St Paul's & Bishop of Coventry (1239-1241).

1240 - 1252

William Haverhill

Canon of Lichfield.

1252 - 1258

Philip Lovel

Archdeacon of Coventry.

1258

Despairing over Henry III Plantagenet's increasingly autocratic rule, seven leading barons force him to swear an oath on the Provisions of Oxford. This serves to abolish absolutist Anglo-Norman monarchy. Instead, a council of fifteen barons deals with the government's business.

1258 - 1260

John Crakehall

Archdeacon of Bedford.

1260 - 1263

John of Caux

Abbot of Petersborough.

1263

Nicholas of Ely

Held the post 6 May-19 July. Bishop of Worcester (1266-1268).

1263

Henry

Prior of St Radegund. Held the post July-November.

1263

John Chishull

Acting First Lord High Treasurer. Held the post in November.

1263 - 1264

Roger de la Leye

Acting First Lord High Treasurer. Held the post 30 Nov-3 Nov.

1264 - 1265

Henry

Second term.

1265 - 1270

Thomas Wymondham

Preceptor of Lichfield.

1270 - 1271

John Chishull

Second term. Bishop of London (1273-1280).

1271 - 1273

Philip of Eye

Canon of St Paul's.

1273 - 1280

Sir Joseph Chauncy

Prior of the Knights of St John in England.

1280 - 1283

Richard Ware

Abbot of Westminster.

1284 - 1290

John Kirkby

Bishop of Ely (1286-1290).

Kirkby is probably the architect of reforms to the treasury which include updated book-keeping methods, improved debt collection, and information on sources of income.

1290 - 1295

William of March

Bishop of Bath & Wells (1293-1302). Dismissed.

1295

John Droxford

Acting First Lord High Treasurer.

1295 - 1307

Walter Langton

Bishop of Coventry & Lichfield.

1295

Just a little over five weeks after Walter Langton becomes First Lord High Treasurer, Edward I Plantagenet summons the Model Parliament on 13 November, generally regarded as the first representative assembly.

1307 - 1310

Walter Reynolds

Bishop of Worcester. Later archbishop of Canterbury (1314-27).

1310 - 1311

John Sandall / Sandale

Provost of Wells. Later Bishop of Winchester (1316-1319).

1311 - 1312

Walter Norwich

Acting First Lord High Treasurer.

1312

Walter Langton

Second term. Held the post 23 Jan-17 May.

1312

Walter Norwich

Second term. Held the post 17 May-4 Oct.

1312 - 1314

John Sandall

Second term.

1314 - 1317

Walter Norwich

Third term.

1317 - 1318

John Hotham

Bishop of Ely (1316-1337).

1318

John Walwayn

Canon of St Paul's & Hereford. Held the post 10 Jun-16 Nov.

1318 - 1319

John Sandall

Bishop of Winchester. Third term.

1319 - 1320

Walter Norwich

Acting First Lord High Treasurer. Fourth term.

1320 - 1321

Walter de Stapledon

Bishop of Exeter (1308-1326).

1321 - 1322

Walter Norwich

Acting First Lord High Treasurer. Fifth term.

1322 - 1325

Walter de Stapledon

Second term. Murdered.

1326 - 1330

Stapledon is associated in the popular mind with the misdeeds of Edward II Plantagenet. After the king flees before the advancing troops of Queen Isabella, Stapledon is murdered in London on 15 October 1326. The subsequent period is an unstable one as Edward II is mysteriously killed and Edward III overthrows Isabella.

1325 - 1326

William Melton

Archbishop of York (1317-1340).

1326 - 1327

John de Stratford

Bishop of Winchester. Later archbishop of Canterbury (1333-48).

1327

Adam Orleton

Bishop of Hereford (1333-1345). Held the post 28 Jan-28 Mar.

1327 - 1328

Henry Burghersh

Bishop of Lincoln (1320-1340).

1328 - 1329

Thomas Charlton

Bishop of Hereford (1327-1344).

1329 - 1330

Robert Wodehouse

Archdeacon of Richmond.

1330

Edward III Plantagenet overthrows Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimer, and gains the throne.

1330 - 1331

William Melton

Second term.

1331 - 1332

William Ayermin

Bishop of Norwich (1325-1336).

1332 - 1334

Robert Ayleston

Archdeacon of Berkshire.

1334

Richard Bury / Richard Aungerville

Resigned. Bishop of Durham (1333-1345).

1334 - 1337

Henry Burghersh

Second term.

1337 - 1338

William de la Zouche

Dean of York. Later archbishop of York (1342-1352).

1338

Robert Wodehouse

Second term.

1338 - 1340

William de la Zouche

Second term.

1340

Sir Robert Sadington

Held the post 5 May-26 Jun.

1340

Roger Northburgh

Bishop of Coventry & Lichfield (1321-58). Held post 26 Jun-1 Dec.

1341

Sir Robert Parning

Held the post 15 Jan-20 Oct.

1341

The separation of Edward III Plantagenet's Parliament into two 'houses' or chambers occurs when the Commons meet separately from the Lords for the first time. By now the treasury is under great strain due to the costs of the early part of the Hundred Years' War.

1341 - 1344

William Cusance

1344 - 1356

William Edington

Bishop of Winchester (1346-1366).

1356 - 1360

John Sheppey

Bishop of Rochester (1352-1360).

1360 - 1363

Simon Langham

Bishop of Ely. Later archbishop of Canterbury (1366-1368).

1363 - 1369

John Barnet

Bishop of Bath & Wells (1363-66). Later bishop of Ely (1366-73).

1366

Former First Lord High Treasurer William Edington is elected archbishop of Canterbury by Edward III Plantagenet, but he declines due to ill health.

1369 - 1371

Thomas Brantingham

Bishop of Exeter (1370-1394).

1371 - 1375

Richard Scrope

First Baron Scrope of Bolton.

1375 - 1377

Sir Robert Ashton

1377

Henry Wakefield

Bishop of Worcester (1375-1395). Held the post 14 Jan-19 Jul.

1377 - 1381

Thomas Brantingham

Bishop of Exeter.

1381

Sir Robert Hales

Prior of the Order of St John in England.

1381

Responsible for the much-hated poll tax, Hales is beheaded on 14 June on Tower Hill during the Peasants Revolt, along with Simon Sudbury, the archbishop of Canterbury.

1381 - 1386

Sir Hugh Segrave

1386

John Fordham

Bishop of Durham (1382-1388). Held the post 17 Jan-24 Oct.

1386 - 1389

John Gilbert

Bishop of Hereford (1375-1389).

1389

Thomas Brantingham

Second term. Held the post 4 May-20 Aug.

1389 - 1391

John Gilbert

Bishop of St David's (1389-1397). Second term.

1391 - 1395

John Waltham

Bishop of Salisbury (1388-1395).

1395 - 1398

Roger Walden

Became archbishop of Canterbury in 1398.

1398

Guy Mone

Bishop of St David's (1397-1407).

1398 - 1399

William Scrope

Son of Richard Scrope. First Earl of Wiltshire.

1399

Closely involved with Richard II Plantagenet, and effective head of his government during the king's absence, William Scrope is executed by Henry IV of Lancaster after his successful invasion of England.

Lancastrian Parliament

With the accession of the censorial and oppressive king Henry IV of Lancaster, the post of Lord High Treasurer continued its recent high turnover rate. No less than twenty-four incumbents held the post in the fifty-six years between Henry's coup in 1399 to the beginning of the Wars of the Roses in 1455.

1399 - 1401

Sir John Norbury

1401 - 1402

Laurence Allerthorp

Canon of London.

1402

Henry Bowet

Bishop of Bath & Wells. Held the post 27 Feb-25 Oct.

1402 - 1403

Guy Mone

Second term.

1403 - 1404

William de Ros

Seventh Baron de Ros.

1404 - 1407

Thomas Nevill

Fifth Baron Furnivall.

1407

The Commons are given power over taxation, and is usually called only when the monarch needs to raise money through taxes.

1407 - 1408

Nicholas Bubwith

Bishop of London.

1408 - 1410

Sir John Tiptoft

1410 - 1411

Henry Scrope

Third Baron Scrope of Masham. Executed for treason.

1411 - 1413

Sir John Pelham

1413 - 1415

Thomas Fitzalan

Twelfth Earl of Arundel.

1414 - 1415

Full equality of the Commons and Lords is established, and the following year the First Serjeant at Arms, Nicholas Maudit, is appointed.

1416

Sir Hugh Mortimer

Held the post 10 Jan-13 Apr.

1416

Sir Robert Leche

Held the post 17 Apr-23 Nov.

1416 - 1421

Henry FitzHugh

Third Baron FitzHugh.

1421 - 1422

William Kinwolmarsh

Dean of St Martin's le-Grand.

1422 - 1426

John Stafford

Bishop of Bath and Wells.

1426 - 1432

Walter Hungerford

First Baron Hungerford.

1432 - 1433

John Scrope

Fourth Baron Scrope of Masham.

1433 - 1443

Ralph de Cromwell

Third Baron Cromwell.

1443 - 1446

Ralph Boteler

First Baron Sudeley.

1446 - 1449

Marmaduke Lumley

Bishop of Carlisle.

1449 - 1450

James Fiennes

First Baron Saye and Sele.

1450 - 1452

John Beauchamp

First Baron Beauchamp of Powick.

1452 - 1455

John Tiptoft

Son of Sir John Tiptoft (1408). First Earl of Worcester.

1455 - 1485

The Wars of the Roses begin with Richard, Duke of York's victory at the Battle of St Albans. Lancastrians are pitched against Yorkists in England for the next thirty years.

1455

James Butler

Fifth Earl Ormond & First of Wiltshire. Held post 15 Mar-29 May.

1455 - 1456

Henry Bourchier

First Viscount Bourchier. Great-grandson of Edward III.

1456 - 1458

John Talbot

Second Earl of Shrewsbury.

1458 - 1460

James Butler

Second term.

1460 - 1461

Henry Bourchier

Second term. Now also First Earl of Essex.

1461

The change in regime in England between the houses of Lancaster and York witnesses a more peaceful handover of power in Parliament than previously.

Yorkist & Lancastrian Parliaments

The first High Treasurer of the Yorkist reign, John Tiptoft, returned from pilgrimage to England in 1461 and received the Order of the Garter from Edward IV of York. However, he presided over the executions of Lancastrians with exceptional cruelty, having them beheaded, quartered, and impaled.

1462 - 1463

John Tiptoft

Second term.

1463 - 1464

Edmund Grey

First Baron Grey de Ruthin.

1464 - 1465

Walter Blount

First Baron Mountjoy.

1466 - 1469

Richard Woodville

First Earl Rivers.

1469

Sir John Langstrother

Held the post 16 Aug-25 Oct.

1469 - 1470

William Grey

Bishop of Ely.

1470

John Tiptoft

Third term. Held the post 10 Jul-18 Oct.

1470 - 1471

Sir John Langstrother

Second term.

1471 - 1483

Henry Bourchier

Third term.

1483 - 1484

Sir John Wood

1484 - 1485

John Tuchet

Eighth Baron Audley.

Tudor Parliament

The Wars of the Roses came to an end in 1485 with the accession of Henry VIII (although there would be occasional flare-ups until 1499). The old order was swept away and a new series of powerful and influential High Treasurers involved themselves freely in the monarch's affairs, playing powerful political games and increasing their own influence and position in the Tudor court. One of the best known, Thomas Howard, third duke of Norfolk, was uncle to Henry VIII's wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, and he used both of them to increase his own influence at court. He also played a role in securing the throne for the Catholic Mary Tudor.

1486 - 1501

John Dynham

First Baron Dynham.

1501 - 1524

Thomas Howard

Second Duke of Norfolk.

1512

The Lords meet in the Parliament chamber. By this time, the Tudor monarchs are consolidating a state of affairs whereby they call and close Parliament as and when they need it, primarily for raising taxes.

1523

For the first time (as far as is known) the Speaker, Thomas More, requests free speech.

1524 - 1546

Thomas Howard

Son. Third Duke of Norfolk.

1536

Wales is represented in the House of Commons for the first time as part of the stipulation of the first of two Acts of Union.

1542

The second of the Acts of Union is passed whereby the legal system in use in Wales is annexed to that of England. English law prevails in Wales as part of the intended creation of a single state.

1544

The term 'House of Lords' is first used to describe the Upper Chamber. The Lower Chamber becomes known as the Commons. In 1548 the House of Commons is granted a regular meeting place by Henry VIII Tudor in the form of St Stephen's Chapel, which had previously been a royal chapel. The chapel remains in use (albeit in greatly altered form) until it is destroyed by fire in 1834, but the tradition of sitting on the chapel's choir stalls is established and is still in force today.

1547 - 1549

Edward Seymour

First Duke of Somerset.

1550 - 1572

William Paulet

First Marquess of Winchester.

1553 - 1554

In her first Parliament, Mary Tudor passes legislation declaring the marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon valid and herself legitimate (incidentally bastardising younger sister Elizabeth for the second time in her life). A year later, the English Papal legate, Reginald Pole, addresses Parliament in the presence of Mary and her Spanish husband. He counsels the English on the error they have made in embracing Protestantism and welcomes them back to Catholicism with open arms. Just two years later he is created archbishop of Canterbury.

Elizabeth I in Parliament
An engraving of Elizabeth I in Parliament, held in St Stephen's Chapel

 

1572 - 1598

William Cecil

First Baron Burghley.

1579

FeatureThe pilgrims of the Mayflower are not the first English settlers in the New World, but they are among the first to survive the ordeal. Sir Humphrey Gilbert claims the first English base in Newfoundland, comprising mainly Portuguese and French fishing villages, but he sinks with his ship in a storm before making it home.

1599 - 1608

Thomas Sackville

First Earl of Dorset.

Stuart Parliament

FeatureAlmost straight away, the tensions between Catholics and Protestants in England made themselves known in the boldest possible way. In 1605, Catholic plotters, unhappy with Stuart King James' unsympathetic attitude towards their faith (which he also shared) decided to try and blow up Parliament at the state opening, thereby leaving the way open for a Catholic takeover of Britain. The plot was uncovered well in advance, the protagonists tracked, and the attempt foiled, but the event is still celebrated every year at Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes Night, on 5 November.

1608 - 1612

Robert Cecil

Son of William Cecil. First Earl of Salisbury.

1612

From this point forwards, the running of the treasury is frequently entrusted to a commission instead of a single individual. The commissioners are referred to as 'Lords Commissioners of the Treasury', and are given a number based on their seniority. The most senior of them is still the First Lord.

1612 - 1613

Henry Howard

First Earl Northampton. First Lord Commissioner of the Treasury.

1613 - 1614

Thomas Egerton

First Baron Ellesmere.

1614 - 1618

Thomas Howard

First Earl of Suffolk.

1618 - 1620

George Abbot

Archbishop of Canterbury (1611-1633).

1620 - 1621

Henry Montagu

First Viscount Mandeville.

1621 - 1624

Lionel Cranfield

First Earl of Middlesex.

1624 - 1628

James Ley

First Earl of Marlborough.

1628 - 1635

Richard Weston

First Earl of Portland.

1635 - 1636

William Laud

1636 - 1641

William Juxon

Bishop of London.

1640

Battling against Parliament's attempts to reign in his vision of absolute monarchy, Charles I Stuart, desperate to raise funds, is still forced to summon Parliament after an eleven year gap. The acrimonious 'Short Parliament' lasts for just three weeks in April before it is dismissed by the king. By November, the king's position has worsened after defeat by the Scots in the Second Bishops' War, and this time the 'Long Parliament' remains in sitting.

1641 - 1643

Edward Littleton

First Baron Lyttleton of Mounslow.

1643 - 1646

Francis Cottington

First Baron Cottington.

1642 - 1651

FeatureIn 1642, Charles I Stuart attempts to arrest five leading Members of the Commons for treason, and the Speaker voices his allegiance to Parliament rather than the monarch. Parliament's cause against Charles has simmered for years while it has continually blocked his attempts to rule absolutely as he believes is his divine right. Now Charles raises his standard, declaring war on a Parliament which is determined to force a confrontation. In 1645 the Royalists are routed at the Battle of Philiphaugh, defeating Charles I's cause in Scotland, and the archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, is executed at Tower Hill.

When Parliament finally wins the war, it realises it doesn't know what kind of rule to offer the country, even going so far as to offer Oliver Cromwell the crown, as the Puritan (extreme Protestant) forces turn Britain into a kind of police state. It also abolishes the House of Lords during the Commonwealth period.

Stuart Parliament (Restored)

In 1557 Parliament offered the Protector Oliver Cromwell the title of king in the 'Humble Petition and Advice'. He rejected it. On 8 May 1660, the year after Cromwell's death, Parliament was proclaiming Charles II the new Stuart king of England. When he returned from exile, the House of Lords also resumed, as did a full Commons, almost as if nothing had happened.

1660

Sir Edward Hyde

Also Lord Chancellor.

1660 - 1667

Thomas Wriothesley

Fourth Earl of Southampton.

1667 - 1670

George Monck

First Duke of Albemarle. Died in office.

1670 - 1672

The Commission of the Treasury continues to function without the First Lord for the remainder of its full term.

1672 - 1673

Thomas Clifford

First Lord Clifford of Chudleigh.

1673

The Roman Catholic Thomas Clifford finds himself unable to comply with the Test Act of 1673, which places restrictions on Catholics holding high office, and resigns. A few months later he commits suicide.

1673 - 1679

Thomas Osborne

First Viscount Latimer.

1679

Arthur Capell

First Earl of Essex. Held the post 26 Mar-21 Nov.

1679 - 1684

Laurence Hyde

Son of Sir Edward Hyde (1660). First Earl of Rochester.

1679 - 1681

Between 1679-1681, Charles II's Lord Chancellor, Anthony Ashley-Cooper, First Earl Shaftesbury, leads the fight to get Parliament to pass an Act of Exclusion which will exclude the Catholic James from gaining the throne. Shaftesbury and his 'Country' supporters organise petitions and fight three elections in intense campaigning which is very well organised. It is this organisation which changes the nature of politics. Shaftesbury has created the first political party in English history: the liberalist Whigs. The gentry, in opposition to him and supporting the king's right to absolute power, become known as the Tories. In fact each party labels the other; Whigs originating with Whiggamores, 'sour, bigoted, money-grubbing' Scotsmen who had marched on Edinburgh just a few years earlier; Tories, or Toraidhe, describes Irish papist bands who had recently ravaged estates and manor houses in Ireland.

At the end of this period, in 1681, Parliament meets in Oxford for one week, the last time it meets outside London. Charles II Stuart dissolves it and rules without it for four years until his death, a result of the disagreements between them.

1684 - 1685

Sidney Godolphin

First Baron Godolphin.

1685 - 1686

Laurence Hyde

Second term.

1687 - 1689

John Belasyse

First Baron Belasyse.

1688 - 1689

The Glorious Revolution which sweeps William III of Orange and Mary II Stuart to power also establishes a Declaration of Rights which is read before Parliament and the joint monarchs on 13 February 1689. This creates a constitutional monarchy and limits the power of the sovereign over Parliament.

1689 - 1690

Charles Mordaunt

First Earl of Monmouth.

1690

Sir John Lowther

Held the post 18 Mar-15 Nov.

1690 - 1697

Sidney Godolphin

Second term.

1697 - 1699

Charles Montagu

Also Chancellor of the Exchequer.

1699 - 1700

Ford Grey

First Earl of Tankerville.

1700 - 1701

Sidney Godolphin

Third term.

1701 - 1702

Charles Howard

Third Earl of Carlisle.

1702 - 1710

Sidney Godolphin

Fourth term.

1707

The last use of a royal veto occurs when Queen Anne refuses to give Royal Assent to the Scottish Militia Bill. Later in the same year, the Union of England and Scotland sees the old parliaments of both nations dissolved and a new, single Parliament formed (1707-2000), meeting for the first time in Great Britain.

1710 - 1711

John Poulett

First Earl Poulett.

1711 - 1714

Robert Harley

First Earl of Oxford & Mortimer.

1714

Charles Talbot

First Duke of Shrewsbury. Held the post 30 Jul-13 Oct.

1714

The Treasury Commission is made permanent, with the most senior member occupying the position of head of any ministry which governs in the king's name.

First Lords of the Treasury

Following the Union of England and Scotland in 1707, the joint kingdoms were to be ruled from a single Parliament at Westminster in London. This arrangement lasted until 2000, when devolution gave Scotland back a parliament of its own. Already standing as possibly the earliest law-making body in the world, the British Parliament came to be known as the 'Mother of all Parliaments'.

The post of First Lord of the Treasury had been entrusted to the most senior member of the commission of treasury lords from 1612 onwards. From 1714 this commission was made permanent, with the first lord being viewed as the natural head of any ministry. In later years, while the post of Prime Minister was usually held by the same individual as the treasury post, this wasn't always the case. The division was especially noticeable in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, but after 1905 the two posts were united as one.

1714 - 1715

Earl of Halifax

Whig.

1715

Earl of Carlisle

Whig.

1715 - 1717

Robert Walpole

Whig.

1717

The Septennial Act extends the length of Parliaments to seven years.

1717 - 1718

Earl Stanhope

Whig.

1718 - 1721

Earl of Sunderland

Whig.

1721

Sunderland is replaced by Sir Robert Walpole who, while not actually recognising the term 'prime minister' himself, fulfils the duties of one.

Prime Ministers of Great Britain

The Hanoverian George I came to the throne in 1714. His poor English and his desire to concentrate more on his European dominions meant he entrusted power in Britain to his ministers, and by 1721 one of the foremost of these was Robert Walpole. In that year he obtained the posts of First Lord of the Treasury (the first, or prime, ministerial post), Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Leader of the House of Commons, and effectively governed from that date (along with Lord Townsend until 1730). However, while he is rightly recognised as the country's first prime minister, it is not a title he would have recognised at the time. In fact it was regarded as a term of abuse, and wouldn't be an accepted title until 1905.

Each prime minister was asked by the reigning monarch to form a government, usually once it became clear that he (or she) was the most popular choice (following victory in a general election, for example). The Whigs were the strongest party (more of a grouping than an organised party in the 1700s). They stood for a constitutional monarchy and were opposed to absolutist rule, which the Tories supported.

1721 - 1742

Sir Robert Walpole

Whig. Resigned.

1735

Walpole, now the favourite of George II of Hanover after many years of hard work, is gifted the new building at 10 Downing Street as his official residence as first lord. He donates the residence to all future first lords (rather than prime ministers). Similarly, 11 Downing Street is the residence of the Second Lord of the Treasury (rather than the Chancellor of the Exchequer, although the two posts are always held by the same individual).

A poor showing in a war against Spain in 1739 and a general election in 1741 forces Walpole to resign and move up to the House of Lords. His twenty year term of office is the longest of any 'prime minister'.

1742 - 1743

Earl of Wilmington

Whig. A 'stop-gap' PM. Died in office.

1743 - 1754

Henry Pelham

Whig.

1748

The War of the Austrian Succession is a wide-ranging conflict that encompasses the North American King George's War, two Silesian Wars, the War of Jenkins' Ear, and involves most of the crowned heads of Europe in deciding the question of whether Maria Theresa can succeed as archduke of Austria and, perhaps even more importantly, as Holy Roman Emperor. Austria is supported by Britain, the Netherlands, the Savoyard kingdom of Sardinia, and Saxony (after an early switchover), but opposed by an opportunistic Prussia and France, who had raised the question in the first place to disrupt Habsburg control of central Europe, backed up by Bavaria and Sweden (briefly). Spain joins the war in an unsuccessful attempt to restore possessions lost to Austria in 1715.

The War of Jenkins' Ear pitches Britain against Spain between 1739-1748, while King George's War is fought between Britain and France in the French Colonies in 1744-1748, and the First Carnatic War of 1746-1748 involves the struggle for dominance in India by France and Britain. Taking office after a fifty-six day gap following his predecessor's resignation, Pelham is successful in ending the war, achieving peace with France and trade with Spain through the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. Austria is ultimately successful, losing only Silesia to Prussia.

War of the Austrian Succession
The War of the Austrian Succession saw Europe go to war to decide whether Maria Theresa would secure the throne left to her by her father, but several other issues were also decided as a wide range of wars were involved in the overall conflict

 

1754 - 1756

Duke of Newcastle

Whig. Brother of Henry Pelham. Resigned.

1757 - 1762

Duke of Newcastle

Whig. Formed power-sharing coalition with Pitt. Resigned.

1757 - 1762

Earl of Chatham, Pitt 'The Elder'

Whig.

1762

Duke of Devonshire

Whig. Lacklustre PM dominated by Pitt the Elder. Resigned.

1762 - 1763

Earl of Bute

Tory. Resigned.

1763

The first Tory and first Scottish-born MP to hold office, Bute's eleven month term of office ends the Seven Years' War against France. Unpopular because he is a Scot at a time when the Jacobite Rebellion is still fresh in people's minds, he resigns after a spate of verbal and physical attacks upon his person.

1763 - 1765

George Grenville

Whig. Sacked by George III of Hanover.

1765

Grenville, unpopular at home with the king and the people, attempts to regain favour by lowering domestic taxes at the expense of the British Colonies, introducing the Stamp Act. The laws give rise to widespread protests in America that eventually boil over into the War for Independence, or Revolutionary War. In fact, a great amount of time over the subsequent decade is given over to the discussion of just how to treat the colonies, none of it entirely effective.

1765 - 1766

Marquess of Rockingham

Whig. Sacked by George III of Hanover.

1766 - 1768

Earl of Chatham, Pitt 'The Elder'

Whig.

1768 - 1770

Duke of Grafton

Whig. Resigned.

1770 - 1782

Lord North

Tory. Resigned.

1770 - 1782

Best known as the man who loses [some of] the British Colonies in North America, Lord North serves for a disastrous twelve years in office. Entering into the war with the king's support, and the king's direction as to the military campaigns in the colonies, he makes tactical errors that leads to heavy British losses, including the defeats to US forces at Saratoga in 1777 and Yorktown in 1781. At home in 1780, anti-Catholic unrest known as the Gordon Riots breaks out in London, with rioters agitating for the repeal of the Catholic Relief Act. North watches the riots from his home at 10 Downing Street.

1782

Marquess of Rockingham

Whig. Died in office.

1782 - 1783

Earl Shelburne

Whig.

1783

Duke of Portland

Tory. Resigned over the king's interference.

1783

During both of his two brief terms of office, Portland insists he is a Whig, despite heading a Tory government.

1783 - 1801

William Pitt 'the Younger'

Tory. Son of Pitt the Elder. Youngest PM. Resigned.

1784

The India Act establishes dual control of the East India Company, and centralises British rule in India by reducing the power of the governors of Bombay and Madras and increasing that of the position of governor-general.

FeatureJohn Palmer of Bristol sees his suggestion for the establishment of a mail coach system being taken up by William Pitt at the suggestion of Lord Camden. These provide a more speedy and cost-effective system of transport for the post than with the previous system.

1789

FeatureThe country is placed on a semi-war footing following the French Revolution. Britain finds itself at war with France almost continuously for the next three decades, and real fears soon emerge that the 350-mile Essex coastline is being earmarked for invasion.

1801

The Act of Union with Ireland is passed on 1 January, creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Irish Parliament is dissolved (1801-1923). A hundred Irish MPs enter the House of Commons, and Irish Peers elect representatives from among their number to sit in the Lords.

Napoleon and Josephine feast upon England
Napoleon and Josephine feast upon England, from plates containing the Bank of England, St James’, and the Tower, whilst the hand of God declares judgement on the French forces: you have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting (LC-USZC4-8790)

1801 - 1804

Henry Addington

Tory. The first middle class PM. Resigned.

1804 - 1806

William Pitt 'the Younger'

Tory.

1806 - 1807

Lord Grenville

Whig. Son of George Grenville (1763). Resigned.

1806 - 1807

Charles Fox

Whig. Coalition partner. Died in office.

1806 - 1807

Grenville reluctantly forms a cross-party alliance of MPs which becomes known as the 'Ministry of all The Talents'. It is a coalition between Grenville's supporters, the Foxite Whigs, and the supporters of former Prime Minister Henry Addington (now Lord Sidmouth). Grenville, as First Lord of the Treasury, and Fox, as Foreign Secretary, are joint leaders. Grenville's ministry is mostly unsuccessful, failing to make peace with France or to accomplish Catholic emancipation. It does, though, result in one momentous achievement - the abolition of the slave trade in 1807.

1807 - 1809

Duke of Portland

Tory. Resigned.

1809 - 1812

Spenser Perceval

Tory. Assassinated.

1812

Spenser Perceval becomes the only serving PM to be assassinated when he is shot in the House of Commons by businessman John Bellingham, a merchant who has incurred business debts in Russia. Attempts to recover compensation from the government for his losses have already been refused, so he seeks revenge.

1812 - 1827

Earl of Liverpool

Tory. One of the youngest leaders. Resigned through ill health.

1820

A crackdown on liberty following the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester in 1819 prompts an attempt by radicals to murder Liverpool and his Cabinet and start a radical revolution. However, the Cato Street Conspiracy, as it becomes known, proves unsuccessful, and the conspirators are hung or transported.

1827

George Canning

Tory. Died in office after the shortest term as PM.

1827

Lord Lansdowne

Whig. Coalition partner.

1827 - 1828

Viscount Goderich

Tory. Resigned.

1828 - 1830

Duke of Wellington

Tory. Resigned.

1829

Sir Arthur Wellesley, brother of Richard, once governor-general of British-administered India, is the hero of the Battle of Waterloo and the Peninsula War in Spain against imperial France, for which he had been created duke of Wellington in 1815. Now, also known as the 'Iron Duke', he succeeds in passing the Catholic Emancipation Bill.

1830

FeatureSir Arthur Wellesley shakes the hand of MP William Husskisson as the two heal a long-standing rift during the very first run of the Manchester to Liverpool railway service. Seconds later, Husskisson becomes the world's first victim of a railway accident.

FeatureIn the same year, the first passenger-carrying railway in the south of England opens. The Canterbury & Whitstable Railway consists of several innovations, including the world's first passenger-carrying railway bridge (demolished 1969) and footpath tunnel (which still survives, albeit not in a fully preserved and protected condition). It is the first of a torrent of new railway lines to be built over the next thirty years or so, heralding the golden age of railways.

1830 - 1834

Earl Grey

Whig. Resigned.

1832 - 1833

Railway Walks IndexFeatureEarl Grey's most remarkable achievement is the Reform Act, which sets in train a gradual process of electoral change. Around 130 years of parliamentary reform begin with this act and culminates in universal suffrage for men and women over the age of eighteen, plus secret ballots and legitimate constituencies. Grey also introduces restrictions on the employment of children, and sees the abolition of slavery in the British empire in 1833. Today he is more famous for the mixture of tea flavoured with bergamot oil which is named after him (he is also featured heavily in the 2008 film, The Duchess).

1834

Viscount Melbourne

Whig.

1834

Fire destroys most of Parliament. The rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament, within the Palace of Westminster, in the design known today is completed by 1870.

The Palace of Westminster
The rebuilt Palace of Westminster, completed in 1870 by Sir Charles Barry

 

1834

Duke of Wellington

Tory. Listed, although he refused the invitation to become PM.

1834 - 1835

Sir Robert Peel

Tory. PM for five months.

1835 - 1841

Viscount Melbourne

Whig. Resigned.

1837 - 1841

Melbourne is Victoria of Saxe-Coburg's first prime minister, and she trusts him greatly. Their close relationship is founded in his responsibility for tutoring her in the world of politics and instructing her in her role.

1841 - 1846

Sir Robert Peel

Tory. Resigned.

1841 - 1846

Peel's period in government - as prime minister and in other offices - is a milestone for social reform. Landmark legislation cuts working hours for women and children, creates cheap and regular rail services, and reorganises the policing of London, changing society in radical ways. His other major achievement - repealing the Corn Laws in 1846 - splits his party, but earns him lasting popular fame for his humanitarian gesture.

1846 - 1851

Lord John Russell

Whig. Resigned.

1852

Earl of Derby

Conservative. Resigned.

1852

The Conservative party is an evolution of the Tories, although it is a term that is not universally used at first. The earl of Derby is regarded as the father of the modern Conservative Party, and the term 'Tory' is still interchangeable with 'Conservative' today.

1852 - 1855

Earl of Aberdeen

Tory. Resigned.

1854 - 1856

Aberdeen is effectively blamed for failings when Britain and France join the Ottoman empire in the Crimean War against Russia.

1855 - 1858

Viscount Palmerston

Tory. Once out of office he forms the Liberal Party in 1859.

1858

Responding successfully to the Indian Mutiny of 1857, Palmerston supports a lenient approach in the face of British calls for hard treatment. In February 1858 he introduces the Government of India Bill to transfer the administration of India from the East India Company to the Crown.

FeatureLater the same year, the Great Stink seeps into the Palace of Westminster and forces Benjamin Disraeli to run from the chamber. A program of sewer building is instigated right away, being completed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette in 1869.

1858 - 1859

Earl of Derby

Conservative. Resigned.

1859

A coalition of Whigs has been evolving into the Liberal party since 1852 under Lord Aberdeen, but Viscount Palmerston formalises the arrangement, creating the Liberal party. As its leader he returns to office just a few days later as the first Liberal PM. The term 'Liberal' is first used to describe the party in 1868. He is succeeded by the last of the old Whigs not to be part of the coalition.

1859 - 1865

Viscount Palmerston

Liberal. Died in office.

1865 - 1866

Earl Russell

Whig. Formerly Lord John Russell (1846). Resigned.

1866 - 1868

Earl of Derby

Conservative. Resigned.

1867

Upper and Lower Canada are united with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on 1 July under the Britain North America Act. By enacting this, Parliament creates the dominion of Canada.

1867 - 1868

Derby's third term in office is responsible for the landmark Second Reform Bill of 1867, a milestone in the democratisation of Britain. His successor, Disraeli, strikes up a remarkable rapport with Victoria of Saxe-Coburg, while in Parliament he faces William Gladstone across the Dispatch Box, a match that becomes Britain's most famous parliamentary rivalry. The queen dislikes Gladstone as much as she likes Disraeli. The contrast in their physical appearances and their styles is stark, and the animosity between them is strong.

1868

Benjamin Disraeli

Conservative.

1868 - 1874

William Ewart Gladstone

Liberal.

1874 - 1880

Benjamin Disraeli

Conservative. Earl of Beaconsfield in 1876.

1880 - 1885

William Ewart Gladstone

Liberal.

1881

Gladstone's Liberal government passes the Sunday Closing (Wales) Act 1881, which bans the sale of alcohol in Welsh pubs on the Sabbath. It is an act that will change the culture, politics, and even the architecture of Wales for over a century. Sponsored by prominent Welsh nonconformists in the Liberal party, such as future Prime Minister David Lloyd George, the act is not repealed until 1961. It is also the first piece of Wales-only legislation passed by Westminster since the 1542 Act of Union, and is the first recognition in law of a distinct Welsh identity.

1885 - 1886

Marquess of Salisbury

Conservative.

1886

William Ewart Gladstone

Liberal.

1886

Gladstone returns to power in coalition with Irish Nationalists with 'Home Rule' (devolution) for Ireland still the dominant issue. The bill splits the Liberals and Gladstone resigns. He loses the resulting general election when the 'Liberal Unionists' - those who want Ireland to be ruled from Westminster - break away from Gladstone's Liberals to fight as a separate party. Most Liberal Unionists are of the 'Whig' or propertied faction of the party, so when they go they take most of the money with them.

1886 - 1892

Marquess of Salisbury

Conservative.

1892 - 1894

William Ewart Gladstone

Liberal.

1894 - 1895

Earl of Rosebery

Liberal.

1895 - 1902

Marquess of Salisbury

Conservative. Resigned. Last serving PM to sit in the Lords.

1899 - 1902

The Boer War breaks out in South Africa in 1899, splitting the Cabinet and leading to Salisbury's resignation.

1902 - 1905

Arthur James Balfour

Conservative. Nephew of Salisbury. Resigned.

1905

First used in a royal warrant, the term 'prime minister' is now officially recognised to describe the leader of the government.

1905 - 1908

Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman

Liberal. Resigned but died in 10 Downing Street.

1908 - 1916

Herbert Henry Asquith

Liberal. Resigned.

1908 - 1910

At the start of his ministry, Asquith's government ushers in some of the predecessors of the Welfare State. Old Age Pensions are introduced and Unemployment Exchanges (job centres) are set up. David Lloyd George's attempt in 1909 to introduce a budget which taxes the rich is blocked by the House of Lords, leading to two general elections in 1910. The Liberals win with a 'peers against the people' campaign slogan. The budget is passed and, in 1911, the Parliament Act becomes law. The Act states that the Lords can only veto a Commons bill twice, and institutes five-yearly general elections.

1916 - 1922

David Lloyd George

Liberal. 'The Welsh Wizard,' or 'The Goat'.

1917

The 'Balfour Declaration' gives British backing for 'a national home for Jewish people' in Palestine.

1918

FeatureLloyd George wins the election by a huge majority in 1918, following his successful handling of the last years of the First World War. It is the first election in which any women are allowed to vote, thanks to the 1918 Representation Act. It is also the first to return a woman as a member of parliament; Constance Markiewicz, elected for Dublin St Patrick as one of seventy-three Sinn Fein MPs who all refuse to take up their seats in the Commons.

Mrs Emily Pankhurst
The suffragette movement before the First World War had played a vital role in creating a growing awareness of the campaign to give the vote to women

1919 - 1922

On 29 November 1919 the first female member of parliament to take up her seat is American-born Lady Nancy Astor. However, the later years of the Lloyd George government are beset by problems. The Liberal party never runs the government again, being demoted to the country's third party behind the Conservatives and the new Labour party which has been born out of the trade union movement.

1922 - 1923

Andrew Bonar Law

Conservative. Canadian-born son of a Scottish clergyman.

1923

Stanley Baldwin

Conservative. Resigned after losing the election.

1924

James Ramsay MacDonald

Labour.

1924

Ramsay MacDonald's first ever Labour government has a small majority in the House but it is destroyed during the subsequent election campaign when a newspaper publishes the notorious 'Zinoviev' letter. Although later accepted to be a fraud, the letter ruins MacDonald's anti-Communist credentials.

1924 - 1929

Stanley Baldwin

Conservative.

1926

Faced by the General Strike in May 1926, the only one in British history, Baldwin's combination of firmness and conciliation ensures its defeat.

1929 - 1935

James Ramsay MacDonald

Labour. Resigned.

1935 - 1937

Stanley Baldwin

Conservative. Retired.

1937 - 1940

Arthur Neville Chamberlain

Conservative. Resigned.

1938 - 1939

Famous for just one political act, Chamberlain meets German chancellor Adolf Hitler in Munich in 1938. The result of the meeting is an agreement that Britain and Germany will never again go to war. "I believe," he declares on his return to Britain, "it is peace for our time." However, the success of 'appeasement' is short-lived. Hitler occupies Prague the following year. The subsequent invasion of Poland forces Chamberlain's hand, and he declares war on 3 September 1939.

1940 - 1945

Winston Churchill

Conservative.

1945 - 1951

Clement Attlee

Labour.

1945

The Attlee government institutes a remarkable social and economic programme characterised by radicalism: the foundation of the National Health Service; the nationalisation of heavy industries and the Bank of England; a huge building programme; and a new national insurance scheme. In international affairs, the government oversees the dismantling of empire, the Berlin airlift during the Russian blockade of the city in 1948-1949, and the formation of NATO.

1951 - 1955

Sir Winston Churchill

Conservative. Resigned due to ill health.

1953

Some elements of Scottish society takes umbrage at one specific detail of the impending coronation of Elizabeth Windsor. As there had never been an Elizabeth I of Scotland, there could hardly be an Elizabeth II now. The rector of the University of Glasgow, John MacCormick launches a legal challenge against Elizabeth's right to use 'the second' in Scotland, but this fails. It is Winston Churchill who comes up with a compromise. Any future monarch of England and Scotland should use the highest applicable numbering in both countries combined, so that a King James would be James VIII (following on from Scotland's James VII) and a Henry would be Henry IX (following on from England's Henry VIII).

1955 - 1957

Sir Anthony Eden

Conservative. Resigned.

1957 - 1963

Harold Macmillan

Conservative. Half-American. Resigned.

1963

Macmillan, known for his quote, 'you've never had it so good', finds his government fatally tainted by the 'Profumo Affair' which links showgirl Christine Keeler to Secretary of State for War John Profumo and the Soviet naval attaché to London (as depicted in the film, Scandal).

1963 - 1964

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Conservative.

1963

Douglas-Home is the only peer to take advantage of a recent change in the law which allows hereditary peers to disclaim (or 'drop') their titles, which in turn means they are able to become members of parliament. Formerly the Fourteenth Earl of Home, Douglas-Home assumes office when Harold Macmillan retires due to ill health. He is also the last PM to be 'selected' as leader of the Conservatives by the monarch (therefore giving her a say in who becomes prime minister). From this point on, the Conservative Party chooses its leaders through internal voting.

1964 - 1970

Harold Wilson

Labour.

1970 - 1974

Edward Heath

Conservative.

1974 - 1976

Harold Wilson

Labour. Resigned.

1976 - 1979

James Callaghan

Labour.

1978 - 1979

The 'Winter of Discontent' sees mass strikes, household waste collected into small mountains in public parks, and a general damaging of the government's reputation. Callaghan is forced to hold a general election in 1979, which he loses.

1979 - 1990

Margaret Thatcher

Conservative. First woman PM. 'The Iron Lady'.

1982

One of Thatcher's most memorable acts is the leading of Britain through a successful Falklands War against Argentina. She wins a second term of office largely on the strength of this. However, her imposition of the 'poll tax' on individuals rather than householders brings about widespread public disobedience and greatly damages her reputation.

The sinking of the Belgrano
The sinking of the Argentine cruiser the General Belgrano was an act of the first stage of the Falklands War, fought at sea before British troops landed on the islands themselves

 

1990 - 1997

John Major

Conservative.

1997 - 2007

Tony Blair

Labour. Leader of the so-called 'New Labour' modernised party.

2000

Devolution gives Scotland back a parliament of its own to handle its internal affairs.

2007 - 2010

Gordon Brown

Labour. Former chancellor for ten years.

2010

Following a catastrophic world financial collapse in 2008-2009, and the resultant economic depression, the popularity of the New Labour government, and especially with Gordon Brown as unelected prime minister, is relatively low. The general election on 6 May 2010 sees the Conservatives win the most seats, but not enough to gain a majority, resulting in a hung parliament. Several days of meetings between the various parties follow, but when it becomes clear that Labour is too inflexible to make a Liberal Democrat-Labour alliance work, it is the Conservative-Liberal Democrat alliance which becomes a reality. A formal coalition government, the first since the Second World War, is headed by the Conservative party leader, David Cameron, the youngest prime minister since the earl of Liverpool in 1812, and sees Liberals sharing elements of power for the first time since 1922.

2010 - Present

David Cameron

Conservative, heading a coalition government.

2010 - Present

Nick Clegg

Liberal Democrat. Coalition partner and deputy prime minister.

2012

The rumbling discontent by Argentina over the ownership of the Falkland Islands sparks further controversy. Argentine President Cristina Kirchner has long been known to be using the issue to mask her growing unpopularity at home during the thirtieth anniversary of the war to expel Argentine troops from the island. Despite repeated assurances by the islands' residents themselves that they are quite happy to remain British, Kirchner ignores them completely, instead attempting to score political points and garner support amongst likeminded governments. However, Argentina's military power is so weak after years of cut-backs and purges that it is unable to offer a convincing military threat to the islanders' independence.

David Cameron and Cristina Kirchner
President Kirchner fails in an attempt to 'handbag' British Prime Minister David Cameron at the G20 industrial nations summit on 19 June 2012