List of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom

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painting of Robert Walpole
painting of William Pitt the Younger
photograph of Benjamin Disraeli
photograph of Henry Campbell-Bannerman

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is the head of the Government of the United Kingdom, and chairs Cabinet meetings. There is no specific date for when the office of Prime Minister first appeared, as the role was not created but rather evolved over a period of time through a merger of duties.[1] The term had been used in the House of Commons as early as 1805,[2] and it was certainly in parliamentary use by the 1880s.[3] In 1905 the post of Prime Minister was officially given recognition in the order of precedence.[4] Modern historians generally consider Sir Robert Walpole, who led the government of Great Britain for over twenty years from 1721,[5] as the first Prime Minister. Walpole is also the longest-serving British prime minister by this definition.[6] However, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was the first and Margaret Thatcher the longest-serving Prime Minister officially referred to as such in the order of precedence.[7] The first to officially use the title was Benjamin Disraeli, who signed the Treaty of Berlin as "Prime Minister of her Britannic Majesty" in 1878.[8]

Strictly, the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (of Great Britain and Ireland) was William Pitt the Younger.[9] The first Prime Minister of the current United Kingdom, i.e. the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, was Bonar Law,[10] although the country was not renamed officially until 1927, when Stanley Baldwin was the serving Prime Minister.[11]

Due to the gradual evolution of the post of Prime Minister, the title is applied to early prime ministers only retrospectively;[12] this has sometimes given rise to academic dispute. Lord Bath and Lord Waldegrave are sometimes listed as prime ministers.[13] Bath was invited to form a ministry by George II when Henry Pelham resigned in 1746,[14] as was Waldegrave in 1757 after the dismissal of William Pitt the Elder,[15] who dominated the affairs of government during the Seven Years' War. Neither was able to command sufficient parliamentary support to form a government; Bath stepped down after two days,[13] and Waldegrave after three.[15] Modern academic consensus does not consider either man to have held office as Prime Minister,[16] and they are therefore not listed.

Before 1721[edit]

Prior to the Georgian era, the Treasury of England was led by the Lord High Treasurer.[17] By the late Tudor period, the Lord High Treasurer was regarded as one of the Great Officers of State,[17] and was often (though not always) the dominant figure in government: Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (Lord High Treasurer, 1547–1549),[18] served as Lord Protector to his prepubescent nephew Edward VI;[18] William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley (Lord High Treasurer, 1572–1598),[19] was the dominant minister to Elizabeth I;[19] Burghley's son Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, succeeded his father as chief minister to Elizabeth I (1598–1603) and was eventually appointed by James I as Lord High Treasurer (1608–1612).[20]

By the late Stuart period, the Treasury was often run not by a single individual, i.e. Lord High Treasurer, but by a commission of Lords of the Treasury,[21] led by the First Lord of the Treasury. The last Lords High Treasurer, Lord Godolphin (1702–1710) and Lord Oxford (1711–1714),[22] ran the government of Queen Anne.[23]

After the succession of George I in 1714, the arrangement of a commission of Lords of the Treasury (as opposed to a single Lord High Treasurer) became permanent.[24] For the next three years, the government was headed by Lord Townshend, who was appointed Secretary of State for the Northern Department.[25] Subsequently, Lord Stanhope and Lord Sunderland ran the government jointly,[26] with Stanhope managing foreign affairs and Sunderland domestic.[26] Stanhope died in February 1721 and Sunderland resigned two months later;[26] Townshend and Robert Walpole were then invited to form the next government.[27] From that point, the holder of the office of First Lord also usually (albeit unofficially) held the status of Prime Minister. It was not until the Edwardian era that the title prime minister was constitutionally recognised.[12] The Prime Minister still holds the office of First Lord by constitutional convention,[28] the only exceptions being Lord Chatham (1766–1768) and Lord Salisbury (1885–1886, 1887–1892, 1895–1902).[29]

From 1721[edit]

Contents by century and monarch
18th to 19th century
20th to 21st century
     Whig (17)      Tory (11)      Conservative (17)      Peelite (1)      Liberal (7)      Labour (6)      National Labour (1)
Portrait Prime Minister
(Birth–Death)
Term of office & mandate[a]
Duration in years and days
Ministerial offices
held as Prime Minister
Party Government Monarch
(Reign)
Ref.
painting The Right Honourable
Robert Walpole
1st Earl of Orford
KGKBPC

MP for King's Lynn[§]
(1676–1745)
3 April
1721
11 February
1742
1722 Whig Walpole–Townshend George I
Coat of Arms of Great Britain (1714-1801).svg
(1714–1727)
[30]
1727 George II
Coat of Arms of Great Britain (1714-1801).svg
(1727–1760)
1734 Walpole
1741
20 years and 315 days
painting The Right Honourable
Spencer Compton
1st Earl of Wilmington
KGKBPC

(1673–1743)
16 February
1742
2 July
1743
Whig Carteret [31]
1 year and 137 days[†]
painting The Right Honourable
Henry Pelham
FRS

MP for Sussex
(1694–1754)
27 August
1743
6 March
1754
Whig [32]
Broad Bottom I
1747 Broad Bottom II
10 years and 192 days[†]
painting His Grace
Thomas Pelham-Holles
1st Duke of Newcastle
KGPCFRS

(1693–1768)
16 March
1754
11 November
1756
1754 Whig Newcastle I [33]
2 years and 241 days
painting His Grace
William Cavendish
4th Duke of Devonshire
KGPC

(1720–1764)
16 November
1756
29 June
1757
Whig Pitt–Devonshire [34]
1757 Caretaker
226 days
painting His Grace
Thomas Pelham-Holles
1st Duke of Newcastle
KGPCFRS

(1693–1768)
29 June
1757
26 May
1762
1761 Whig Pitt–Newcastle [35]
George III
Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1801-1816).svg
(1760–1820)
[b]
Bute–Newcastle
(ToryWhig)
4 years and 332 days
painting The Right Honourable
John Stuart
3rd Earl of Bute
KGPC

(1713–1792)
26 May
1762
8 April
1763
Tory Bute [36]
318 days
painting The Right Honourable
George Grenville

MP for Buckingham
(1712–1770)
16 April
1763
10 July
1765
Whig
(Grenvillite)
Grenville
(mainly Whig)
[37]
2 years and 86 days
painting The Most Honourable
Charles Watson-Wentworth
2nd Marquess of Rockingham
KGPCFRS

(1730–1782)
13 July
1765
30 July
1766
Whig
(Rockinghamite)
Rockingham I [38]
1 year and 18 days
painting The Right Honourable
William Pitt
1st Earl of Chatham
PCFRS

MP for Bath (1766)[§]
(1708–1778)
30 July
1766
14 October
1768
1768 Whig
(Chathamite)
Chatham [39]
2 years and 77 days
painting His Grace
Augustus FitzRoy
3rd Duke of Grafton
KGPC

(1735–1811)
14 October
1768
28 January
1770
Whig
(Chathamite)
Grafton [40]
1 year and 107 days
painting The Right Honourable
Frederick North
Lord North
KG

MP for Banbury
(1732–1792)
28 January
1770
27 March
1782
1774 Tory
(Northite)
North [41]
1780
12 years and 59 days
painting The Most Honourable
Charles Watson-Wentworth
2nd Marquess of Rockingham
KGPCFRS

(1730–1782)
27 March
1782
1 July
1782
Whig
(Rockinghamite)
Rockingham II [38]
97 days[†]
painting The Right Honourable
William Petty
2nd Earl of Shelburne
KGPC

(1737–1805)
4 July
1782
26 March
1783
Whig
(Chathamite)
Shelburne [42]
266 days
painting His Grace
William Cavendish-Bentinck
3rd Duke of Portland
PCFRS

(1738–1809)
2 April
1783
18 December
1783
Whig Fox–North [43]
261 days
painting The Right Honourable
William Pitt the Younger

MP for Appleby (1784) →
Cambridge University[‡] (1784–1801)
(1759–1806)
19 December
1783
14 March
1801
1784 Tory
(Pittite)
Pitt I [44]
1790
1796
17 years and 86 days
painting The Right Honourable
Henry Addington

MP for Devizes
(1757–1844)
17 March
1801
10 May
1804
1801 Tory
(Addingtonian)
Addington [45]
1802
3 years and 55 days
painting The Right Honourable
William Pitt the Younger

MP for Cambridge University
(1759–1806)
10 May
1804
23 January
1806
Tory
(Pittite)
Pitt II [46]
1 year and 259 days[†]
painting The Right Honourable
William Grenville
1st Baron Grenville
PCPC (Ire)

(1759–1834)
11 February
1806
25 March
1807
1806 Whig All the Talents
(WhigTory)
[47]
1 year and 43 days
painting His Grace
William Cavendish-Bentinck
3rd Duke of Portland
KGPCFRS

(1738–1809)
31 March
1807
4 October
1809
1807 Tory
(Pittite)
Portland II [48]
2 years and 188 days
painting The Right Honourable
Spencer Perceval
KC

MP for Northampton
(1762–1812)
4 October
1809
11 May
1812
Tory
(Pittite)
Perceval [49]
2 years and 221 days[†]
painting The Right Honourable
Robert Jenkinson
2nd Earl of Liverpool
KGPCFRS

(1770–1828)
8 June
1812
9 April
1827
1812 Tory
(Pittite)
Liverpool [50]
1818
1820 George IV
Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1816-1837).svg
(1820–1830)
1826
14 years and 306 days
painting The Right Honourable
George Canning
FRS

MP for Seaford
(1770–1827)
12 April
1827
8 August
1827
Tory
(Canningite)
Canning
(CanningiteWhig)
[51]
119 days[†]
painting The Right Honourable
Frederick John Robinson
1st Viscount Goderich
PC

(1782–1859)
31 August
1827
8 January
1828
Tory
(Canningite)
Goderich [52]
131 days
painting Field MarshalHis Grace
Arthur Wellesley
1st Duke of Wellington
KGGCBGCHPC

(1769–1852)
22 January
1828
16 November
1830
1830 Tory Wellington–Peel [53]
2 years and 299 days William IV
Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1816-1837).svg
(1830–1837)
painting The Right Honourable
Charles Grey
2nd Earl Grey
KGPC

(1764–1845)
22 November
1830
9 July
1834
1831 Whig Grey [54]
1832
3 years and 230 days
painting The Right Honourable
William Lamb
2nd Viscount Melbourne
PCPC (Ire)

(1779–1848)
16 July
1834
14 November
1834
Whig Melbourne I [55]
122 days
painting Field MarshalHis Grace
Arthur Wellesley
1st Duke of Wellington
KGGCBGCHPC

(1769–1852)
17 November
1834
9 December
1834
Tory Wellington Caretaker [56]
23 days
painting The Right Honourable
Sir Robert Peel
BtFRS

MP for Tamworth
(1788–1850)
10 December
1834
8 April
1835
Conservative Peel I [57]
120 days
painting The Right Honourable
William Lamb
2nd Viscount Melbourne
PCPC (Ire)FRS

(1779–1848)
18 April
1835
30 August
1841
1835 Whig Melbourne II [58]
1837 Victoria
Coat of arms of the United Kingdom (1837-1952).svg
(1837–1901)
6 years and 135 days
painting The Right Honourable
Sir Robert Peel
BtFRS

MP for Tamworth
(1788–1850)
30 August
1841
29 June
1846
1841 Conservative Peel II [57]
4 years and 304 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Lord John Russell
FRS

MP for the City of London
(1792–1878)
30 June
1846
21 February
1852
1847 Whig Russell I [59]
5 years and 237 days
engraving The Right Honourable
Edward Smith-Stanley
14th Earl of Derby
PCPC (Ire)

(1799–1869)
23 February
1852
17 December
1852
1852 Conservative Who? Who? [60]
299 days
engraving The Right Honourable
George Hamilton-Gordon
4th Earl of Aberdeen
KTFRSEFRSPCFSA Scot

(1784–1860)
19 December
1852
30 January
1855
Peelite Aberdeen
(PeeliteWhig–et al.)
[61]
2 years and 43 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Henry John Temple
3rd Viscount Palmerston
KGGCBPCFRS

MP for Tiverton
(1784–1865)
6 February
1855
19 February
1858
1857 Whig Palmerston I [62]
3 years and 14 days
engraving The Right Honourable
Edward Smith-Stanley
14th Earl of Derby
PCPC (Ire)

(1799–1869)
20 February
1858
11 June
1859
Conservative Derby–Disraeli II [63]
1 year and 112 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Henry John Temple
3rd Viscount Palmerston
KGGCBPCFRS

MP for Tiverton
(1784–1865)
12 June
1859
18 October
1865
1859 Liberal Palmerston II [64]
1865
6 years and 129 days[†]
photograph The Right Honourable
John Russell
1st Earl Russell
KGPCFRS

(1792–1878)
29 October
1865
26 June
1866
Liberal Russell II [59]
241 days
engraving The Right Honourable
Edward Smith-Stanley
14th Earl of Derby
KGPCPC (Ire)

(1799–1869)
28 June
1866
25 February
1868
Conservative Derby–Disraeli III [65]
1 year and 243 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Benjamin Disraeli

MP for Buckinghamshire
(1804–1881)
See also § Main articles:1 Conservative [66]
27 February
1868
1 December
1868
279 days
photograph The Right Honourable
William Ewart Gladstone
FSS

MP for Greenwich
(1809–1898)
See also § Main articles:2 Liberal Gladstone I [67]
3 December
1868
17 February
1874
1868
5 years and 77 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Benjamin Disraeli
1st Earl of Beaconsfield
KGPCFRS

MP for Buckinghamshire
(1874–1876)[§]
(1804–1881)
See also § Main articles:1 Conservative Disraeli II [68]
20 February
1874
21 April
1880
1874
6 years and 62 days
photograph The Right Honourable
William Ewart Gladstone
FRSFSS

MP for Midlothian
(1809–1898)
See also § Main articles:2 Liberal Gladstone II [69]
23 April
1880
9 June
1885
1880
5 years and 48 days
photograph The Most Honourable
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil
3rd Marquess of Salisbury
KGPCFRSDL

(1830–1903)
23 June
1885
28 January
1886
Conservative Salisbury I [70]
220 days
photograph The Right Honourable
William Ewart Gladstone
FRSFSS

MP for Midlothian
(1809–1898)
See also § Main articles:2 Liberal Gladstone III [69]
1 February
1886
20 July
1886
1885
170 days
photograph The Most Honourable
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil
3rd Marquess of Salisbury
KGPCFRSDL

(1830–1903)
25 July
1886
11 August
1892
1886 Conservative Salisbury II [71]
6 years and 18 days
photograph The Right Honourable
William Ewart Gladstone
FRSFSS

MP for Midlothian
(1809–1898)
See also § Main articles:2 Liberal Gladstone IV [69]
15 August
1892
2 March
1894
1892
1 year and 200 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Archibald Primrose
5th Earl of Rosebery
KGPCFRS

(1847–1929)
5 March
1894
22 June
1895
Liberal Rosebery [72]
1 year and 110 days
photograph The Most Honourable
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil
3rd Marquess of Salisbury
KGPCFRSDL

(1830–1903)
25 June
1895
11 July
1902
1895 Conservative Salisbury III
(Con.Lib.U.)
[73]
1900 Salisbury IV
7 years and 17 days Edward VII
Coat of arms of the United Kingdom (1837-1952).svg
(1901–1910)
photograph The Right Honourable
Arthur Balfour
FRSFBADL

MP for Manchester East
(1848–1930)
12 July
1902
4 December
1905
Conservative Balfour [74]
3 years and 146 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman
GCB

MP for Stirling Burghs
(1836–1908)
5 December
1905
5 April
1908
1906 Liberal Campbell-Bannerman [75]
2 years and 123 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Herbert Henry Asquith
KCFRS

MP for East Fife
(1852–1928)
5 April
1908
5 December
1916
Liberal Asquith I [76]
Jan.1910 Asquith II
George V
Coat of arms of the United Kingdom (1837-1952).svg
(1910–1936)
Dec.1910 Asquith III
Asquith Coalition
(Lib.Con.–et al.)
8 years and 245 days
photograph The Right Honourable
David Lloyd George
OM

MP for Caernarvon Boroughs
(1863–1945)
6 December
1916
19 October
1922
Liberal Lloyd George War [77]
1918 Lloyd George II
(Lib.Con.)
5 years and 318 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Bonar Law

MP for Glasgow Central
(1858–1923)
23 October
1922
20 May
1923
1922 Conservative
(Scot.U.)
Law [78]
210 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Stanley Baldwin
JP

MP for Bewdley
(1867–1947)
22 May
1923
22 January
1924
Conservative Baldwin I [79]
246 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Ramsay MacDonald

MP for Aberavon
(1866–1937)
22 January
1924
4 November
1924
1923 Labour MacDonald I [80]
288 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Stanley Baldwin
JPFRS

MP for Bewdley
(1867–1947)
4 November
1924
4 June
1929
1924 Conservative Baldwin II [81]
4 years and 213 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Ramsay MacDonald
FRS

MP for Seaham
(1866–1937)
5 June
1929
7 June
1935
1929 Labour MacDonald II [82]
National Labour National I
(N.Lab.Con.–et al.)
1931 National II
6 years and 3 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Stanley Baldwin
JPFRS

MP for Bewdley
(1867–1947)
7 June
1935
28 May
1937
1935 Conservative National III [83]
Edward VIII
Coat of arms of the United Kingdom (1837-1952).svg
(1936)
George VI
Coat of arms of the United Kingdom (1837-1952).svg
(1936–1952)
1 year and 356 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Neville Chamberlain
FRS

MP for Birmingham Edgbaston
(1869–1940)
28 May
1937
10 May
1940
Conservative National IV [84]
Chamberlain War
2 years and 349 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Winston Churchill
CHTDFRS

MP for Epping (1940–1945)
Woodford[‡] (1945)
(1874–1965)
10 May
1940
26 July
1945
Conservative Churchill War [85]
Churchill Caretaker
(Con.L.Nat.)
5 years and 78 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Clement Attlee
CHFRS

MP for Limehouse (1945–1950)
Walthamstow West[‡] (1950–1951)
(1883–1967)
26 July
1945
26 October
1951
1945 Labour Attlee I [86]
1950 Attlee II
6 years and 93 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Sir Winston Churchill
KGOMCHTDDLFRSRA

MP for Woodford
(1874–1965)
26 October
1951
5 April
1955
1951 Conservative Churchill III [87]
3 years and 162 days Elizabeth II
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.svg
(1952–present)
photograph The Right Honourable
Sir Anthony Eden
KGMC

MP for Warwick & Leamington
(1897–1977)
6 April
1955
9 January
1957
1955 Conservative Eden [88]
1 year and 279 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Harold Macmillan
FRS

MP for Bromley
(1894–1986)
10 January
1957
18 October
1963
Conservative Macmillan I [89]
1959 Macmillan II
6 years and 282 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
KT

MP for Kinross & Western Perthshire[c]
(1903–1995)
19 October
1963
16 October
1964
Conservative
(Scot.U.)
Douglas-Home [90]
364 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Harold Wilson
OBEFRSFSS

MP for Huyton
(1916–1995)
16 October
1964
19 June
1970
1964 Labour Wilson I [91]
1966 Wilson II
5 years and 247 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Edward Heath
MBE

MP for Bexley (1970–1974)
Sidcup[‡] (1974)
(1916–2005)
19 June
1970
4 March
1974
1970 Conservative Heath [92]
3 years and 259 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Harold Wilson
OBEFRSFSS

MP for Huyton
(1916–1995)
4 March
1974
5 April
1976
Feb.1974 Labour Wilson III [91]
Oct.1974 Wilson IV
2 years and 33 days
photograph The Right Honourable
James Callaghan

MP for Cardiff South East
(1912–2005)
5 April
1976
4 May
1979
Labour Callaghan [93]
3 years and 30 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Margaret Thatcher
FRSHonFRSC

MP for Finchley
(1925–2013)
See also § Main articles:3 Conservative Thatcher I [94]
4 May
1979
28 November
1990
1979
1983 Thatcher II
1987 Thatcher III
11 years and 209 days
photograph The Right Honourable
John Major

MP for Huntingdon
(born 1943)
28 November
1990
2 May
1997
Conservative Major I [95]
1992 Major II
6 years and 156 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Tony Blair

MP for Sedgefield
(born 1953)
See also § Main articles:4 Labour Blair I [96]
2 May
1997
27 June
2007
1997
2001 Blair II
2005 Blair III
10 years and 57 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Gordon Brown

MP for Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath
(born 1951)
See also § Main articles:5 Labour Brown [97]
27 June
2007
11 May
2010
2 years and 319 days
photograph The Right Honourable
David Cameron

MP for Witney
(born 1966)
See also § Main articles:6 Conservative Cameron–Clegg
(Con.L.D.)
[98]
11 May
2010
13 July
2016
2010
2015 Cameron II
6 years and 64 days
photograph The Right Honourable
Theresa May

MP for Maidenhead
(born 1956)
See also § Main articles:7 Conservative May I [99]
13 July
2016
Incumbent
2017 May II
2 years and 132 days

See also[edit]

Main articles

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Legend for cells listed in the sixth column from right:
    •  1722  and  1841 —cells coloured containing a linked year
      indicates general elections won by the government (e.g. 1722) or those that led to its formation (e.g. 1841);
    •  1830 —cells shaded grey containing a linked year
      indicates elections held resulting in no single party winning a majority in the Commons;
    •  — —cells coloured containing a dash
      indicates the formation of a majority government without an election;
    •  — —cells shaded grey containing a dash
      indicates the formation of a minority government or a coalition government during a hung parliament.
  2. ^ George III did not appoint his final prime minister. His son George, Prince of Wales, served as Regent from 1811, appointing Liverpool as Prime Minister in 1812 (Englefield et al. 1995, pp. 102, 363).
  3. ^ Douglas Home disclaimed his peerage as the Earl of Home on 23 October 1963. He was elected an MP on 7 November.

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Hennessy 2001, pp. 39–40.
  2. ^ Castlereagh 1805.
  3. ^ Eardley-Wilmot 1885; Macfarlane 1885.
  4. ^ Marriott 1923, p. 83.
  5. ^ Clarke 1999, p. 266; Hennessy 2001, pp. 39–40.
  6. ^ BBC News 1998.
  7. ^ Mackay 1987; Marriott 1923, p. 83.
  8. ^ Bogdanor 1997.
  9. ^ Burt 1874, p. 106; Castlereagh 1805.
  10. ^ Law 1922.
  11. ^ Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927.
  12. ^ a b Leonard 2010, p. 1.
  13. ^ a b Carpenter 1992, p. 37.
  14. ^ Leonard 2010, p. 47.
  15. ^ a b Leonard 2010, p. 65.
  16. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2011.
  17. ^ a b Chisholm 1911f.
  18. ^ a b Pollard 1904.
  19. ^ a b Chisholm 1911a.
  20. ^ Chisholm 1911c.
  21. ^ Chapman 2002.
  22. ^ Fisher Russell Barker 1890; Stephen 1890.
  23. ^ Morrill 2018.
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