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British Prime ministers (1828-1900)  


This table (still being developed) also shows significant political events.

Tory/Conservative Liberal/Whig Peelite-Liberal coalition


Wellington had taken office after internal disputes in the brief (liberal) Tory administration of Lord Goderich (F.J. Robinson).

22 January 1828

Duke of Wellington (Arthur Wellesley) (1st time); hard-line Tory

May 1828

Canningites (progressive Tories) left the cabinet after disagreement on disposal of seats of rotten boroughs.

July 1830

election (on death of George IV): 30 Whig gains.

15 November 1830

Wellington was defeated on a motion to examine the accounts of the Civil List. The introduction of Catholic Emancipation had lost him the support of the traditional Tories, while his resistance to parliamentary reform had alienated more progressive forces.

16 ;November ;1830

Earl Grey (Charles Grey); Whig cabinet also containing some radicals and Canningites

April 1831

Grey dissolved after defeat on an amendment to his Parliamentary Reform Act.

June 1831

election: Whigs returned.

9 May 1832

Grey resigned when his Reform Act was defeated by the Tory majority in the House of Lords. The Tories refused to take office, and allowed the Act to pass into law.

December 1832

election (following 1832 Parliamentary Reform Act): 320 Liberals, 190 Radicals and Irish separatists, 150 Conservatives

9 May 1832

Grey resigned due to cabinet disunity on Irish Coersion Act and proposals to appropriate the surplus revenue of the Irish church; other ministers remained.

16 July 1834

Viscount Melbourne (William Lamb) (1st time); conservative Whig


Melbourne dismissed by King William IV after Melbourne proposed to replace cabinet member Lord Althorp (who had been elevated as 3rd Earl Spencer to the House of Lords on the death of his father) by Lord John Russell; William considered Russell too radical (and also objected to Melbournes Irish church proposals. This was the last time that a British soverign dismissed his prime minister.

17 November 1834

Duke of Wellington (2nd time); as caretaker, Peel being on holiday in Italy at the time.

10 December 1834

Sir Robert Peel (1st time)


Peel dissolved parliament after being defeated by the "Litchfield House compact" (Whigs and Irish) on appropriation of surplus Irish Church revenues.

January 1835

election: 290 Conservatives, 218 Whigs, 150 Radicals and Irish separists.


Peel suffered six defeats in as many weeks, and resigned.

18 April 1835

Viscount Melbourne (2nd time)

July 1837

election (after death of William IV): 313 Conservatives, 345 Liberals

May 1841

Melbourne dissolved parliament after defeat by 1 vote on no-confidence motion, hoping that a popular programme (repeal of the Corn Laws, and introduction of the ballot (secret voting)) would bring victory in the subsequent election.

July 1841

election: 367 Conservatives, 291 Liberals

27 August 1841

Melbourne resigned after defeat on Amendment to the Address.

30 August 1841

Sir Robert Peel (2nd time)


Peel was defeated on an Irish Coercion Bill, after opposition by Tory protectionists to the repeal of the Corn laws in 1846 split the party

6 July 1846

Lord John Russell (1st time)


election: 324 Conservatives, 332 Liberals

20 February 1851

Russell defeated on Radical election reform proposal after losing Irish support after anti-Catholic remarks; Stanley unable to form government; Russell returned.

19 December 1851

Palmerston (Foreign secretary) was dismissed by Russell after giving unauthorized support to the coup by Napoleon III of France; cabinet fell.

20 February 1852

Palmerston led government defeat on Amendment to Millitia Act; Russell resigned.

27 February 1852

Earl of Derby (Edward Geoffrey Stanley) (1st time); minority Conservative cabinet


Derby dissolved parliament after defeat on Disraeli's budget proposals


election: 330 Conservatives (including Peelites), 324 Liberals

28 ;December ;1852

Earl of Aberdeen (George Hamilton-Gordon); Peelite/Liberal coalition ("Who? Who? ministry")


Aberdeen resigned after parliamentary censure of conduct of Russian ("Crimean") war

10 February 1855

Viscount Palmerston (Henry John Temple) (1st time)


Palmerson dissolved parliament after defeat on a motion concerning his agressive anti-Chinese policy


election: 264 Conservatives, 390 Liberals (including Peelites)


Palmerston resigned after rejection of his Conspiracy to Murder Bill, introduced after the Orsini bomb attempt on Napoleon III

25 February 1858

Earl of Derby (2nd time), minority cabinet


Derby defeated after dissolving parliament


election: 297 Conservatives, 357 Liberals

18 June 1859

Viscount Palmerston (2nd time)

6 July 1865

Plamerston dissolved parliament.


election: 288 Conservatives, 370 Liberals

18 October 1865

Palmerston died.

30 October 1865

Earl Russell (2nd time)

26 June 1865

Russell resigned after his moderate Parliamentary Reform Bill was defeated by the "Abullamites"

6 July 1866

Earl of Derby (3rd time), minority cabinet


Derby resigned on grounds of ill health

28 February 1868

Benjamin Disraeli (1st time), minority cabinet

3 May 1868

Disraeli defeated on an opposition Irish Church resolution. He introduced a far-reaching Parliamentary Reform Act, which also necessitated a new election.

November 1868

election: 271 Conservatives, 387 Liberals


Disraeli resigned without meeting parliament

9 December 1868

William Ewart Gladstone (1st time)


Seven year parliamentary period elapsed; decline in Liberal party elan and unity


election: 342 Conservatives, 251 Liberals, 59 Irish Nationalists

20 February 1874

Benjamin Disraeli (from 12 August 1876: Earl of Beaconsfield) (2nd time)


Disraeli dissolved parliament in a period of economic depression and mounting unemployment, after by-election results seemed to indicate an increase in Conservative popularity.

3 April 1880

election: 238 Conservatives, 353 Liberals, 61 Irish Nationalists

28 April 1880

William Ewart Gladstone (2nd time)


Gladstone resigned after defeat on proposed increase in beer and spirit duties; Liberal party divided on Irish question, and country shocked by failure to relieve Gordon at Khartoum

24 June 1885

Marquis of Salisbury (Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil) (1st time), minority cabinet


Salisbury's caretaker minority cabinet dissolved parliament, which was anyway approaching the end of its seven year term

November 1885

election: 251 Conservatives, 333 Liberals, 86 Irish Nationalists

6 February 1886

William Ewart Gladstone (3rd time)

June 1886

Gladstone dissolved parliament after defeat of Irish Home Rule Bill; Liberal Unionists leave Liberal party.

July 1886

election: 317 Conservatives, 77 Liberal Unionists, 191 Liberals, 85 Irish Nationalists

3 August 1886

Marquis of Salisbury (2nd time)

29 June 1892

Salisbury dissolved parliament approaching end of term.


election: 268 Conservatives, 46 Liberal Unionists, 272 Liberals, 80 Irish Nationalists

11 August 1892

Salisbury's government resigned after vote of no-confidence.

15 August 1892

William Ewart Gladstone (4th time)

3 March 1894

Gladstone resigned following the rejection of his second Irish Home Rule Bill (passed by the Commons) by the House of Lords on 8 September 1893.

5 March 1894

Earl of Rosebury (Archibald Primrose)


Weak Liberal government resigned after defeat on army estimates

25 June 1895

Marquis of Salisbury (3rd time)


Salisbury formed temporary coalition with Devonshire and Chamberlain, and subsequently dissolved to obtain majority.


election: 340 Conservatives, 71 Liberal Unionists, 177 Liberals, 82 Irish Nationalists


Salisbury dissolved, to exploit Liberal party being divided on South African war.


election: 334 Conservatives, 68 Liberal Unionists, 184 Liberals, 82 Irish Nationalists, 2 Labour


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