The 14th Earl of Derby

Robert Blake traces the career of Edward Geoffrey Stanley, a low-profile leader who nevertheless became British Prime Minister three times: firstly in 1852; then from 1858-59; and lastly from 1866-68.

The 14th Earl of Derby has made nothing like the impression upon posterity that he made upon his contemporaries. Most people who think of nineteenth-century Prime Ministers think of him probably last, if indeed they remember him at all. This is partly because, unlike almost every other Prime Minister, he has never been the subject of an adequate biography.

The family papers remain private and have been seen by very few people; the only biographies of him that exist are based on public knowledge and are not of great value. This is regrettable, for his career covered some of the most eventful years of the century, and a full scale life of Derby would be of the greatest interest to all who study the political history of Victorian England.

There are perhaps other reasons for his relative obscurity. There is no definite policy or achievement that we associate with his name. This can be explained by a unique feature of his career as Prime Minister. He is the only Prime Minister of modern times who never secured a parliamentary majority.

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