Born in 1788 and succeeded to the title of 'Sir' Robert Peel in 1830 when he inherited his father's baronetcy. Although not aristocracy himself, being the son of a cotton mill owner, Robert received an aristocratic upbringing, being educated at Harrow and then Christchurch college Oxford. Was British Prime Minister twice in a glittering political career that saw him become Irish chief secretary at the tender age of 22 and became Home secretary by the age of 34.

In his time as Home Secretary he established the Metropolitan Police force, hence the words "Bobby" and "Peeler" became slang words for policeman.

His first stint as Prime Minister was at the helm of the infamous '100 days ministry', which needless to say was not long-lived. However, the ministry was not entirely without merit as it set up a commission to look into church reform and laid the groundwork for a future Conservative recovery in 1840. His second ministry lasted from 1841 until 1846 when he was brought down by his own party after the repeal of the Corn Laws. During his second period of office Peel was instrumental in Factory and Bank reform as well as continuing Britain's moves away from mercantilism and towards free trade.

Robert Peel is considered by many as the founder of the modern Conservative party as he first layed out Conservative principles as being different from those of traditional Toryism in his Tamworth Manifesto of 1834. However, among scholars of 19th century British political history Peel will probably be seen as most noteworthy for the utter distrust shown towards him by his party colleagues, who never forgave him for his u-turn on Catholic emancipation in 1829 and his commitment to free trade

Sir Robert Peel died in 1850 after falling off his horse, he was sadly missed by the British public because he was seen as a true statesman. He had spent the intervening 4 years between his removal as Prime Minister and his death leading a small faction of 'Peelite' MPs, who although in political isolation did hold the balance of power in the House of Commons for a short amount of time. From this group of pariah politicians did emerge William Gladstone, Peel's protégé, who went on to become a Liberal Prime Minister.

sources:'Sir Robert Peel' by T.A. Jenkins, 'The extension of the franchise 1832 to 1931' by Bob Whitfield and too many history lessons:-)

back to the British Prime Ministers node