The 14th Earl of Derby

R. E. Foster examines the reputation and political stature of a three-times prime minister.

The 14th Earl of Derby is the longest-serving leader of a British political party since 1815, and the first of only four people to have held the office of Prime Minister on at least three separate occasions. But who today would rank him alongside such 19th-century political giants as Peel, Palmerston, Gladstone and Disraeli? Even Derby’s modern biographer has dubbed him the ‘Forgotten Prime Minister’. Neither does Derby figure much in the pantheon of the Conservative Party. Whilst there are those who make a case for either Peel or Disraeli as its modern founder, few, if any, would makes the case for Derby. Yet Derby played a part in the unmaking of Peel and a fundamental one in the making of Disraeli. Has the 14th Earl been underestimated?

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