List of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom
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The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is the head of Government of the United Kingdom, and chairs Cabinet meetings. There is no specific date when the office of Prime Minister first appeared, as the role was not created but rather evolved over a period of time. The term was used in the House of Commons in 1805; it was certainly in Parliamentary use by the 1880s, and in 1905 the post of Prime Minister was officially given recognition in the order of precedence. Modern historians generally consider Sir Robert Walpole, who led the government of Great Britain for 21 years in 1721–42, as the first Prime Minister to serve; Walpole is also the longest-serving British prime minister by this definition. However, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was the first titular[clarification needed] Prime Minister, and Margaret Thatcher the longest-serving Prime Minister to be officially referred to as such.
Strictly, the first "prime minister" of the United Kingdom (of Great Britain and Ireland) was William Pitt the Younger. The first Prime Minister of the current British state, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, was David Lloyd George, although the country was not renamed officially until 1925 when Stanley Baldwin was Prime Minister.
Due to the gradual evolution of the post of Prime Minister, the title is applied to early Prime Ministers only retrospectively; this has sometimes given rise to academic dispute. William Pulteney, 1st Earl of Bath and James Waldegrave, 2nd Earl Waldegrave are both sometimes listed as Prime Ministers. Bath was invited to form a ministry following the resignation of Henry Pelham in 1746, as was Waldegrave in 1757 following the dismissal of William Pitt the Elder (the predominant minister of the first Devonshire ministry). Neither was able to command sufficient Parliamentary support to form a government; Bath stepped down after two days, and Waldegrave after four. Modern academic consensus does not consider either man to have held office as Prime Minister, and they are not listed.
Prior to the creation of the United Kingdom, the Treasury of England was led by the Lord High Treasurer. From Tudor times, the Lord High Treasurer was regarded as one of the Great Officers of State and was often (though not always) the dominant figure in the government: Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (Lord High Treasurer, 1547–49) served as Lord Protector to his nephew Edward VI; William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley (Lord High Treasurer, 1572–98) served Elizabeth I as chief advisor; Burghley's son Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury (Lord Privy Seal and Secretary of State; Lord High Treasurer, 1608–12) succeeded his father as chief minister to Elizabeth I and then James I.
From the 17th century onwards, the Treasury was often run not by a single individual (the Lord High Treasurer) but by a commission (i.e. a committee) of Lords of the Treasury, led by the First Lord of the Treasury. The last Lords High Treasurer, Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin (Lord High Treasurer, 1702–10) and Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer (Lord High Treasurer, 1711–14), led the government of Queen Anne.
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. In 1714–17, the ministry was led by Viscount Townshend, who was nominally Northern Secretary, having[clarification needed] three different First Lords. In 1717–21 Lords Stanhope and Sunderland led the administration jointly, with Stanhope managing foreign affairs and Sunderland managing domestic affairs. Stanhope died in February 1721 and Sunderland resigned in April 1721; Townshend and Walpole returned to office. From that point, the holder of the office of First Lord also unofficially held the position of "prime minister". It was not until the 20th century that the title of Prime Minister was constitutionally recognised. The Prime Minister still holds the title of First Lord of the Treasury by constitutional convention.
- Downing Street
- Historical rankings of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom
- List of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom by tenure
- Living Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom
- Records of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom
- List of current heads of government in the UK and dependencies
- Royal prerogative in the United Kingdom
- List of British governments
- List of successful votes of no confidence in British governments
- List of United Kingdom general elections
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