History Files

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 advice 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), 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 Poor

Nephew, Bishop Roger 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 - Nigel Poor, later the bishop of Ely, who gained the position around AD 1126, and again around 1154

c.1136 - 1139


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 Poor

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.

Henry II Plantagenet
Henry II of England and Normandy died having added half of France to his possessions, making him one of the most powerful rulers in Western Europe

c.1158 - 1196

Richard FitzNeal

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

1189 - 1196

FeatureRichard 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. It is during the later part of this period and into the early 1200s that William de Briwere serves three successive Norman kings as justiciar and sheriff of Devon (and many other places in separate terms of office). The vast wealth he accrues pays for the construction of Bridgwater Castle in Somerset (see feature link).

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.


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.


Nicholas of Ely

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



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


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


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.


John Droxford

Acting First Lord High Treasurer.

1295 - 1307

Walter Langton

Bishop of Coventry & Lichfield.


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.

Edward I
King Edward I (1239-1307), one of the most effective English kings, Edward was also one of Scotland's greatest adversaries - through his campaigns against Scotland he would come to be known after his death as Scottorum malleus, 'Hammer of the Scots'

1307 - 1310

Walter Reynolds

Bishop of Worcester. Later in 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.


Walter Langton

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


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).


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 at Canterbury (1333-48).


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.


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

Guildhall stone shield
This stone shield from the Guildhall in London shows the royal arms of Edward III after he laid claim to the French throne (around 1340), with the fleurs-de-lis on a blue field alongside the three lions of England on a red field

1330 - 1331

William Melton

Second term.

1331 - 1332

William Ayermin

Bishop of Norwich (1325-1336).

1332 - 1334

Robert Ayleston

Archdeacon of Berkshire.


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).


Robert Wodehouse

Second term.

1338 - 1340

William de la Zouche

Second term.


Sir Robert Sadington

Held the post 5 May-26 Jun.


Roger Northburgh

Bishop of Coventry & Lichfield (1321). In office 26 Jun-1 Dec.


Sir Robert Parning

Held the post 15 Jan-20 Oct.


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).


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 le Scrope

First Baron Scrope of Bolton.


Having left the office of lord chancellor in this year, Richard le Scrope, Baron Scrope of Bolton, goes on to construct Bolton Castle between 1379-1399. The magnificent structure he erects is today a fine surviving example of a quadrangular castle.

1375 - 1377

Sir Robert Ashton


Henry Wakefield

Bishop of Worcester (1375-1395). In office 14 Jan-19 Jul.

1377 - 1381

Thomas Brantingham

Bishop of Exeter.


Sir Robert Hales

Prior of the Order of St John in England.


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.

Murders on Tower Hill during the Peasants Revolt
Responsible for collecting the much-loathed (First) Poll Tax, Sir Robert Hales (on the left here) was executed on Tower Hill during the Peasants Revolt, with Archbishop Simon Sudbury of Canterbury (right) joining him

1381 - 1386

Sir Hugh Segrave


John Fordham

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

1386 - 1389

John Gilbert

Bishop of Hereford (1375-1389).


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.


Guy Mone

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

1398 - 1399

William Scrope

Son of Richard Scrope. First Earl of Wiltshire.


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.


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.


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. King Henry's much smaller army wins a startling victory at Agincourt in 1415, despite being outnumbered by the 'flower of French chivalry'.

Battle of Agincourt
The overwhelming victory for the forces of Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt destroyed the flower of French chivalry and gave all of France to a Plantagenet king


Sir Hugh Mortimer

Held the post 10 Jan-13 Apr.


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.


James Butler

Earl of Ormond & 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.


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.


Sir John Langstrother

Held the post 16 Aug-25 Oct.

1469 - 1470

William Grey

Bishop of Ely.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 showing Elizabeth I in Parliament, which was held in St Stephen's Chapel, one of the earliest parts of the modern Houses of Parliament

1572 - 1598

William Cecil

First Baron Burghley.


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.


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 Treasury Commissioner.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Charles Talbot

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


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 (United Kingdom)

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



Earl of Carlisle


1715 - 1717

Robert Walpole



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

1717 - 1718

Earl Stanhope


1718 - 1721

Earl of Sunderland



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

Prime Ministers (United Kingdom)

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 would not be a fully accepted title until 1905.

Each prime minister was asked by the reigning monarch to form a government, usually once it became clear that they were 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. The Whigs gradually transformed in the nineteenth century in the Liberals when mixed with free trade-supporting Peelites. They went on to supply several governments in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth, before tumbling from favour as the socialist Labour Party assumed dominance.

Formed in 1900 out of the burgeoning trade union movement, Labour became the main opposition when not in government itself. An especially successful period at the start of the twenty-first century as a reinvented centre-left party preceded a wilderness period in which Tory absolutist tendencies were renewed with a vengeance. This became especially apparent following the far-right libertarian-led general election victory of 2019.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Constitutional History of England Since the Accession of George the Third, 1760–1860 (Vol 1), Thomas Erskine May (Armstrong, 1895), from Indian Frontier Policy, John Ayde (2010), from An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of the Russian and Soviet Empire, James Stuart Olson, Lee Brigance Pappas, and Nicholas Charles Pappas (1994), from The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol 7: From Nadir Shah to the Islamic Republic, Gavin R G Hambly (1991), from The Jacobites: Britain and Europe, 1688-1788, Daniel Szechi (Manchester University Press, 1994), from The Hanoverian Succession: Dynastic Politics and Monarchical Culture, Andreas Gestrich & Michael Schaich (Routledge, 2016), from English Political Institutions, J A R Marriott (Oxford University Press, 1925), from The General Strike of 1926, Keith Laybourn (1993), from The Foundations of the British Labour Party: Identities, Cultures and Perspectives, 1900-39, Matthew Worley (Ashgate Publishing, 2009), and from External Links: On this day: 1 January 1973, and Discover Canada - Canada's History (Government of Canada), and Conservatives turn on Boris Johnson over handling of UK Covid crisis (The Guardian), and Government plans to restrict the right to protest (The Guardian), and Theresa May is still the most liked living PM (YouGov), and Boris Johnson defies calls to quit (The Guardian).)

1721 - 1742

Sir Robert Walpole

Whig. Resigned.


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).

10 Downing Street, London
No 10 Downing Street was a new-build when offered by the king to Robert Walpole in 1735, with him in turn gifting it to all successive first lords

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



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'



Duke of Devonshire

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

1762 - 1763

Earl of Bute

Tory. Resigned.


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 in which 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.


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 North America which 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'


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 which lead to heavy British losses, including defeats to US forces at Saratoga in 1777 and Yorktown in 1781.

Siege of Yorktown 1781
French forces were present in large numbers at the Siege of Yorktown in 1781, around 11,800 of them, added to 8,800 Continental troops to face 9,000 British and Hessian troops

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.


Marquess of Rockingham

Whig. Died in office.

1782 - 1783

Earl of Shelburne



Duke of Portland

Tory. Resigned over the king's interference.


During both of his two brief terms of office, the duke of Portland insists he is a Whig, despite heading a Tory coalition government. In December his government falls when George III announces that anyone who votes for reform of the East India Company will be considered his personal enemy.

1783 - 1801

William Pitt 'the Younger'

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


Despite the king's wishes, 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 (see feature link for details).


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 (see feature link), and real fears soon emerge that the 563-kilometre Essex coastline is being earmarked for invasion.


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 (until 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'


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. Aside from its positive effects, this also has negative effects, notably in the African kingdom of Asante.

1807 - 1809

Duke of Portland

Tory. Resigned.

1809 - 1812

Spenser Perceval

Tory. Assassinated.


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.


A crackdown on civil 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.

Peterloo Massacre, 1819
The Peterloo Massacre of 1819 began as a peaceful appeal for political reform, and ended with eighteen dead and hundreds injured


Britain abolishes the African Company of Merchants and seizes privately held land along the West African coast, incorporating it into the Gold Coast colony. Suddenly the regional power, Asante, is forced to recognise that it is not the only major power in the region and the two begin an unspoken struggle for superiority.

As far as Britain is concerned, the formalisation of the Gold Coast colony not only helps to keep the competing French and their Ivory Coast territory from expanding eastwards, but also gives Britain a foothold in influencing Asante's affairs. Only grass and bush separates the French West Africa territories to the north from Asante, while the kingdom of Dahomey borders Asante to the east so the French focus their attentions here instead.


George Canning

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


Lord Lansdowne

Whig. Coalition partner. Son of PM Earl Shelburne (1782).

1827 - 1828

Viscount Goderich

Tory. Resigned.

1828 - 1830

Duke of Wellington

Tory. Resigned.


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.


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 (see feature link).

Railway accident 1830
The remarkable inaugural day of running on the Manchester to Liverpool railway line was marred by a dreadful tragedy

FeatureIndexIn 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, only recently in a fully preserved and protected condition - see feature link for full details). 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

FeatureEarl 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 in parliament, 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).


Viscount Melbourne



FeatureFire destroys most of the parliament buildings, although St Stephen's Chapel survives (see feature link). The rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament, within the Palace of Westminster, in the design known today is completed by 1870. It lasts remarkably well, despite the increasingly acidic air pollution of London, but by the beginning of the twenty-first century it is in need of major repair and large-scale updating.

The Palace of Westminster
The rebuilt Palace of Westminster, completed in 1870 by Sir Charles Barry but still containing, at its heart, St Stephen's Chapel in which Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I held their parliaments


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.


George Maclean's time in office as governor of the Gold Coast territory for the British African Company of Merchants has been so successful for peaceful relations and trade that a Parliamentary committee has recommended that the British government permanently administer its settlements and negotiate treaties with the coastal chiefs that will define Britain's relations with them. The government does this now, reinstating crown government. Commander Henry Worsley Hill is appointed the first 'proper' governor of the Gold Coast.

Asante (bordering the Gold Coast) was growing rapidly by the early 1800s, both its empire and its capital at Kumasi which is shown here in a late nineteenth century depiction

1846 - 1851

Lord John Russell

Whig. Resigned.


Earl of Derby

Conservative. Resigned.


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. The war ends with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, a severe setback to Russian ambitions.

1855 - 1858

Viscount Palmerston

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


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.

Clive of India
The statue of Robert Clive (1725-1774), founder of the British presidency of Bengal for the East India Company, can be found today on Horse Guards Parade in London

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 (see feature link for more).

1858 - 1859

Earl of Derby

Conservative. Resigned.


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

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

1866 - 1868

Earl of Derby

Conservative. Resigned.


The United States senate purchases Russian America from Russia for just US$7.2 million. Czar Alexander of Russia allows this because he fears that the British will invade and seize it. On the other side of the fence the act is seen somewhat differently, as a threat to Britain's Pacific coast colony. As a reaction, and also as a result of the three years of planning which had preceded this moment, three months later Upper Canada and Lower Canada are united with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on 1 July under the 'British North America Act', creating the 'Dominion of Canada'.

The act of Confederation in Canada
The British North America Act of 1867 created Canadian confederation out of the various British-governed territories in North America, uniting all of them into a single body

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 the House 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.


Benjamin Disraeli


1868 - 1874

William Ewart Gladstone


1874 - 1880

Benjamin Disraeli

Conservative. Earl of Beaconsfield in 1876.

1880 - 1885

William Ewart Gladstone



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.

1881 - 1885

The Irish Republican Brotherhood launches a bombing campaign in mainland Britain, known as the Fenian Dynamite Campaign. It is aimed mainly at military, governmental, and police targets but one attack on London's underground railway network on 30 October 1883 injures seventy people at Praed Street Station (now Paddington).

Irish Republican Brotherhood
By the 1860s, the Fenian movement had largely been destroyed, many of its surviving members imprisoned, so it was replaced by the Irish Republican Brotherhood

1885 - 1886

Marquess of Salisbury



William Ewart Gladstone



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


1892 - 1894

William Ewart Gladstone


1894 - 1895

Earl of Rosebery


1895 - 1902

Marquess of Salisbury

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

1899 - 1902

The Second Boer War breaks out in South Africa in 1899, splitting the Cabinet and leading to Salisbury's resignation. It is fought between Britain, two independent Boer republics, the Orange Free State, and the South Africa republic.

1902 - 1905

Arthur James Balfour

Conservative. Nephew of Salisbury. Resigned.


The term 'prime minister' is first used in a royal warrant, being used in the order of precedence. The result is that the term is now officially recognised to describe the leader of the government. The position is outranked only by the archbishops of Canterbury and York, the moderator of the 'General Assembly of the Church of Scotland', and the lord chancellor.

Arthur James Balfour, prime minister, 1902-1905
Arthur Balfour's 'Balfour Declaration' was Britain's First World War commitment to support the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine

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.


Having jointly guaranteed in 1839 to support the neutrality of Belgium, when the country is invaded by Germany, Britain and all its territories and colonies (including Australia, Canada, and New Zealand), France, and Russia are forced to declare war against Germany and Austria at midnight on 4 August. The First World War (variously called World War I, or the Great War), has begun. Japan joins Britain against Germany, as does China, both keen on reducing the German presence in their region.

1916 - 1922

David Lloyd George

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

1916 - 1918

The Arab Revolt is triggered, nominally under British direction and with British support. It begins the liberation from Ottoman hands of much of the Near East, with Britain and the Hashemite Arabs taking control in Iraq, Kuwait, Palestine, and Syria. One of the best-known figures of this conflict is, of course, T E Lawrence, as shown dramatically in David Lean's film, Lawrence of Arabia.

In 1917, Palestine, the ancient land of the Philistines, is taken by the British from the crumbling Ottomans, and in 1917 parliament's 'Balfour Declaration' gives backing for 'a national home for Jewish people' in Palestine.

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


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 (see feature link for more on suffaragettes).

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 outside of a coalition, 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.


Stanley Baldwin

Conservative. Resigned after losing the subsequent election.


James Ramsay MacDonald



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



Faced by the General Strike in May 1926, the only one in British history, Baldwin's combination of firmness and conciliation ensures its defeat after nine days. However, workers have discovered that their collective voice has power, and government-union relations will not be the same again.

The General Strike of 1926 in Britain
The General Strike was the only one to take place in Britain, being called on 3 May 1926 and lasting nine days

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 the Czechoslovakian capital of Prague in the following year. The subsequent invasion of Poland forces Chamberlain's hand, and he declares war on 3 September 1939.

1939 - 1940

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) conducts the S-Plan (Sabotage Campaign, otherwise known as the England Campaign). They carry out bombings and acts of sabotage against the United Kingdom's civil, economic, and military infrastructure, beginning in January 1939. The introduction of wartime restrictions and increased security serve to dilute the Irish efforts, and they peter out after March 1940.

1940 - 1945

Winston Churchill

Conservative, leading a wartime coalition government.

1943 - 1944

The sitting governor-general of Canada, the earl of Athlone and his wife, Princess Alice, host Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and United States President Franklin D Roosevelt at La Citadelle in Québec on two separate occasions in 1943 and 1944. These meetings, known as the Quebec Conferences, help to decide the strategies of the Western Allies, which eventually lead to victory over Nazi Germany and Japan in 1945.

Berlin 1945
Poet Yevgeny Dolmatovski recites his works on Berlin's Pariser Platz just a few days after the German surrender - a remarkable poetry recital with the bullet-riddled Brandenburg Gate flanked by ruins and two tank barrels hovering above the heads of soldiers

1945 - 1951

Clement Attlee



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.


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).

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, is still overlooked by the Castle Rock upon which sits Edinburgh Castle, a fortress which has existed in this form since the sixteenth century

1955 - 1957

Sir Anthony Eden

Conservative. Resigned.

1957 - 1963

Harold Macmillan

Conservative. Half-American. Resigned.


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



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


1970 - 1974

Edward Heath



The United Kingdom becomes a fully-fledged member of the European Economic Community. Ireland and Denmark also join Britain in becoming the newest members of the community, bringing the total number of member states to nine. Prime Minister Edward Heath is optimistic that Britain's membership of the community will bring prosperity to the country.

Edward Heath, prime minister, 1970-1974
Edward Heath, Britain's Conservative prime minister between 1970-1974, made gaining membership in the European Economic Community a key objective

Membership applications by the UK to join the EEC have been refused in 1963 and 1967, ostensibly because the French president at the time, Charles de Gaulle, had doubted the UK's political will. It is understood, however, that his real fear had been that English will suddenly become the common language of the community - which subsequently proves to be the case.

1974 - 1976

Harold Wilson

Labour. Resigned.

1976 - 1979

James Callaghan


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 'the Iron Lady'

Conservative. First woman PM.


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


1997 - 2007

Tony Blair

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


Devolution gives back Scotland a parliament of its own to handle its internal affairs. The Scottish parliament operates from Holyrood in Edinburgh in a purpose-built construction which takes four years to complete, opening in 2004. The act also seems to pave the way for the domination of Scottish politics by the pro-independence SNP.

2007 - 2010

Gordon Brown

Labour. Former chancellor for ten years.


Following a catastrophic worldwide 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 - 2015

David Cameron

Conservative, heading a coalition government.

2010 - 2015

Nick Clegg

Liberal Democrat. Coalition partner and deputy PM.


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.

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

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.

2015 - 2016

David Cameron

Conservative, heading small majority government. Resigned.


The UK decides to isolate itself from the largest single trading market in the world - the European Union - thanks to a slim majority in a non-binding referendum. The vote on 23 June results in the prime minister, David Cameron, resigning his position as the defeated leader of the 'remain' campaign. Several million EU citizens who live and work in the UK - as well as millions who work with EU businesses from the UK - are left with years of uncertainty about their futures while Scotland plans a new independence referendum with a view to reapplying for EU membership.

Subsequent confusion within both leading political parties leaves Labour looking fractured and weak as Jeremy Corbyn's half-hearted leadership faces a challenge. For the Conservatives, a vicious leadership election battle sees several 'big' names fall, During the second round of voting the inexperienced Andrea Leadsom pulls out, leaving Theresa May as the only remaining candidate. She takes up the post of prime minister on Wednesday 13 July 2016.

2016 - 2019

Theresa May

Conservative, initially heading a small majority government.

2017 - 2019

With a small majority in parliament, and facing opposition on all sides for her hard-line stance on exiting the European Union, Theresa May realises that she will have a huge amount of trouble pushing through her demands for complete separation from European institutions (known colloquially as 'Britain's exit', or 'Brexit'). On 18 April she announces a snap election for June, banking on the hope that she will win a clear and dominant majority in parliament.

Theresa May, prime minister, 2016-2019
Peculiarly, although highly unpopular, Theresa May was, statistically speaking, the least unpopular still-living PM or former PM of her time, as measured in YouGov data

Quite the opposite occurs, with a hung parliament being delivered. May moves to form a minority government which is greatly weakened in terms of its Brexit negotiating position. Now it has to rely on Northern Irish allies, the DUP, to have a majority in parliament. Despite this, the May message shows no signs of softening and two years of parliamentary chaos follows as the Brexit debate crawls painfully towards its conclusion. That conclusion is not reached before May is forced out of office on Friday 7 June 2019 without achieving anything of note.

2019 - Present

Alexander Boris Johnson

Conservative. Would-be presidential-style bumbler.


One of the first acts of Johnson's right-leaning, semi-libertarian, pro-Brexit government is to destroy its own small majority in parliament by removing the whip from twenty-one of its own MPs (effectively firing them from the Conservative party). Now powerless and virtually friendless due to the hardline nature of his cabinet, Johnson loses seven straight parliamentary votes and is unable even to force a general election.

Somewhat surprisingly then - probably aided by the unelectable nature of the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn - he wins a major landslide election on 12 December 2019.


When the Covid-19 pandemic hits Britain, the response by Johnson's government is half-hearted, confused, contradictory, and one of knee-jerk reaction rather than forward planning. As a result the country suffers one of the highest rates of infection during the first wave.

Boris Johnson, prime minister from 2019
Often appearing during Covid-19 press briefings in a shambolic state, Johnson would deliver a rambling, semi-coherent message with few facts and few answers to questions

Second wave Covid-19 begins to take hold in December, largely due to the appearance of at least two variants which are better at transmitting infection. Christmas is largely a locked-down celebration of individual households with little permitted travelling or mixing.


A spate of activity during March sees Johnson unveil a flag-draped multi-million pound US presidential-style press conference platform in Downing Street. Decades of gradual nuclear disarmament is suddenly reversed with a vague announcement of rearmament, without specifying where the money will come from.

With the 'Policing Bill' (delayed until May), Johnson seems to be aiming towards the introduction of a far-right state in which dissent and protest is effectively outlawed. The powers it gives to the police allows them to stifle any level of perceived anti-government protest, even down to an individual on Speaker's Corner. Similar restrictions had also been introduced in Germany's Berlin in 1933 under the 'Enabling Act'. The bill passes through parliament with a Conservative majority vote.


With the Covid-19 pandemic appearing to ease in the face of majority (but not universal) vaccination, Johnson and his chancellor, Rishi Sunak, become what is thought to be the first sitting prime minister and chancellor to be criminally sanctioned. Both are given a fixed-penalty notice for breaking Johnson's own Covid laws by attending a party for his birthday at No 10. Neither offers to resign in disgrace.

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak in parliament
Lurching from one political disaster to another, Johnson steadfastly refused to resign for any of his frequent failings in office