George Canning was the 23rd Prime Minister
coming into power in April 12 1827 but dying in office just 100 days later.
Born in London in 1770, the second child of three, his father died soon after his birth leaving his family extremely poor. His uncle took pity and paid for his education at Eton where he shone academically gaining a place at Christ Church College, Oxford. His mother went on to become an actress marrying twice and bearing another 10 children.
After gaining his master degree at Oxford, Canning joined Lincoln's Inn
in order to become a barrister but he never made it. Politics got in the way. His uncle introduced him to William Pitt who inspired him to change political allegiances from Whig to Tory. This provoked much suspicion in his new party, Pitt however managed to find Canning a constituency to stand for election in and Canning gave up law to become the member of parliament for Newport, Isle of Wight in June 1793. Canning married an heiress, Joan Scott in 1800, he had three sons and one daughter.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Canning was treasurer of the navy and later became Foreign Secretary in 1808 when the Duke of Portland was Prime Minister. He was important in strategic planning of the war, it was his idea to seize the Danish fleet which weakened Napoleon's forces. He wanted to send troops to support the Duke of Wellington who was fighting in Portugal but he was overruled by the then secretary of War Lord Castlereagh. He was furious and asked the PM to sack Castlereagh, Portland agreed but Castlereagh found out and challenged Canning to a duel.
The duel took place on Putney Heath in September 1809, both men missed with their first shots but Castlereagh shot and wounded Canning in the thigh. Both men consquently resign from the cabinet. After the death of Prime Minister, Canning's offer to become PM was rejected and thus he refused all offers of a cabinet position.
Canning served as Ambassador to Portugal and President of the Board of Control to India before returning to the cabinet again as Foreign Secretary in 1822 in Lord Liverpool's government to replace Lord Castlereagh who had committed suicide.
On the death of Lord Liverpool, Canning was asked by George III to be Prime Minister. Suspicions about Canning though were still rife within the Tory party and 7 cabinet members resigned in protest of the King's decision including the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel. Canning had to form a coalition government with the Whig party.
During his tenure, he prepared the way for the repeal of the Corn Laws and Catholic emanicaption and signed a treaty with France and Russia for the pacification of Greece. George Canning died from pneumonia on 8th August 1827, just four months after becoming Prime Minister.