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Useful Notes / The Men of Downing Street

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Number 10. The British White House...note 

Barney: And I say, that England's greatest prime minister was Lord Palmerston!
Wade Boggs: Pitt. The. Elder.
Wade Boggs: PITT! THE! ELDER!
Barney: Okay, you asked for it, Boggs! (punches him out)
Moe: Yeah, that's showing him Barney! Heh, 'Pitt the Elder'!
Barney: LORD PALMERSTON!! (punches Moe out)
The Simpsons, "Homer at the Bat"

Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom. A varied lot, be it in the areas of appearance, influence, time, origin, personality, politics or even personal lives, though a lot went to Eton or Harrow and then Oxbridge. They have had a great deal of impact on worlds both real and fictional. They rank second only to The Presidents of the United States in being the most influential and well-known Western world leaders.

Downing Street, by the way, is named after Sir George Downing (1623–84), a major schemer whom Samuel Pepys called a "perfidious rogue". Yep, jokes have been made about that. Before becoming the headquarters of the PM, Number Ten itself was the site of a pit used for cockerel fighting; that's right, Number Ten used to be a meeting place for crooks. Jokes have been made about that as well. The house is actually several old houses joined together, one of which (known as 'the house at the back') was formerly home to both Oliver Cromwell and King William III.

Note that the title "Prime Minister" did not come into formal use until the 20th century, the original title being First Lord of the Treasury (many early prime ministers also held a second job in the cabinet), a title the PM still holds. Walpole is generally considered the first PM, but many early such figures did not use the title. In fact, the term "Prime Minister" was originally used as an insult for the figure. It was only by the time of Campbell-Bannerman that it became the official title.

Between about 1895 and 1920 the Conservatives and their Liberal Unionist allies were labeled 'Unionists' by the press (and indeed themselves). For convenience's sake Unionist PMs such as Balfour are listed as Conservatives. (Also, the Conservatives merged with Irish Unionists in the 1910s.)

As you will no doubt notice, technically this page should be called The Men and Women of Downing Street.

A list of British Prime Ministers, with pages linked for those who have had a significant impact in their own time and/or one in worlds of fiction.

Prime Ministers of the Kingdom of Great Britain

Eighteenth-century prime ministers came and went at a rate of knots, as the favours of the reigning monarch wavered. It wasn't until the "madness" of George III and the hedonistic rule of George IV (roughly 1810–30) that the prime ministers began to run the country in earnest.

George I and II

  • Sir Robert Walpole (Whig, 1721–1742) — First PM; also longest-serving PM. Also represented the constituency of King's Lynn in the House of Commons for all but the last five days of his premiership; the King made him Earl of Orford on 6 February and he resigned as prime minister on the 11th. Died in 1745.
  • Spencer Compton, 1st Earl of Wilmington (Whig, 1742–1743) — died in office.
  • Henry Pelham (Whig, 1743–1754) — Governed while also serving as MP for Sussex. Doubled as Chancellor of the Exchequer, that is, finance minister. Died in office and was succeeded by his elder brother...
  • Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle (Whig, 1754–1756)
  • William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire (Whig, 1756–1757) — Largely a figurehead for Pitt the Elder; died in 1764.
  • Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle (Whig, 1757–1762) — second time in office; died in 1768.

George III

  • John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute (Tory, 1762–1763) — First Scottish PM; died in 1792.
  • George Grenville (Whig, 1763–1765) — Governed while MP for Buckingham; doubled as Chancellor; died in 1770.
  • Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham (Whig, 1765–1766)
  • William Pitt The Elder (Whig, 1766–1768) — Also known as the Earl of Chatham, having agreed to double as Lord Privy Seal on 4 August 1766, days after taking up the premiership on 30 July as MP for Bath. Died in 1778.
  • Augustus FitzRoy, 3rd Duke of Grafton (Whig, 1768–1770) — died in 1811.
  • Frederick North, Lord North (Tory, 1770–1782) — Governed while serving as MP for Banbury. Doubled as Chancellor during his premiership and was subsequently Home Secretary for the better part of 1783. Left the House of Commons in 1790 when he succeeded his father as earl of Guilford. Died in 1792.
  • Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham (Whig, March–July 1782) — Second turn in office; recognised US independence; died in office
  • William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne (Whig, 1782–1783) — Made peace with the new US; ironically also the first general officer to serve as PM; died in 1805
  • William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland (Whig, April–December 1783) — first PM to be non-Anglican at any point in his life (converted to Unitarianism after leaving office)
  • William Pitt The Younger (Tory, 1783–1801) — youngest PM, taking office at the age of 24; governed while serving as MP for the constituency of Appleby for the first few months, then for Cambridge University from the 1784 election

Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

George III

  • Henry Addington (Tory, 1801–1804) — governed while MP for Devizes; previously Speaker from 1789 until 1801; retired from the Commons in 1805 and was created Viscount Sidmouth; as Lord Liverpool's Home Secretary from 1812 to 1822, he oversaw a crackdown on free speech; died in 1844
  • William Pitt the Younger (Tory, 1804–1806) — second spell in office, continued governing while MP for Cambridge University until he died in office
  • William Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville (Whig, 1806–1807) — son of George Grenville and first cousin of Pitt the Younger; abolished the slave trade but failed to make peace with Napoléon Bonaparte; died in 1834
  • William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland (Tory, 1807–1809) — second time officially in office, but as he was old and ill, Spencer Perceval was the real person in power. He stepped down on 4 October and died on the 30th, giving him a post-premiership of just twenty-six days.
  • Spencer Perceval (Tory, 1809–1812) — Governed while MP for Northampton; the only PM to be assassinated
  • Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool (Tory, 1812–1827) — Congress of Vienna and Treaties of Paris, end of The Napoleonic Wars and beginning of the century-long Pax Britannica; at nearly fifteen years, his is the longest premiership of the 19th century, no PM since has served a longer term; died in 1828, less than two years after leaving office

George IV

  • George Canning (Tory and later Coalition, April–August 1827) — after distinguished spells as Foreign Secretary under Lords Portland and Liverpool, he became arguably Britain's most What Could Have Been PM (119 days), since he died in office of tuberculosis after only 119 daysnote , becoming the shortest-serving PM for nearly 200 years until Liz Truss in 2022; governed while MP for Seaford
  • Frederick Robinson, 2nd Viscount Goderich (Tory, 1827–1828) — died in 1859, prior to Liz Truss the shortest-serving Prime Minister to have not died in office (that distinction goes to his predecessor George Canning).
  • Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (Tory, 1828–1830) — second and last general officer (Field Marshal) to serve as PM

William IV


  • Sir Robert Peel (Conservative, 1841–1846) — died in 1850
  • John Russell (Whig, 1846–1852) — first spell in office, during which he governed while MP for City of London
  • Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby (Conservative, February–December 1852)
  • George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen (Peelite, 1852–1855) — died in 1860
  • Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (Whig, 1855–1858) — previously a Tory until 1830; governed while MP for Tivertonnote 
  • Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby (Conservative, 1858–1859)
  • Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (Liberal, 1859–1865) — second spell in office, died in office two days before his 81st birthday
  • John Russell, 1st Earl Russell (Liberal, 1865–1866) — second spell in office and the one after he was created Earl Russell, which happened in 1861; died in 1878
  • Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby (Conservative, 1866–1868) — died in 1869
  • Benjamin Disraeli (Conservative, February–December 1868) — only ethnically Jewish PM; converted to the Church of England in his youth at his father's behest (after his father got into a tiff at his synagogue); governed while MP for Buckinghamshire during this time
  • William Gladstone (Liberal, 1868–1874) — governed while MP for Greenwich during this time
  • Benjamin Disraeli (Conservative, 1874–1880) — second spell in office, continued serving as MP for Buckinghamshire until 1876, when he was created Earl of Beaconsfield; died in 1881, a year less two days after he left the premiership
  • William Gladstone (Liberal, 1880–1885) — second time in office, during which he became the first PM to represent a Commons constituency in Scotland, namely Midlothian, which he would continue to represent in his subsequent premierships
  • Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury (Conservative, 1885–1886)
  • William Gladstone (Liberal, February–July 1886)
  • Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury (Conservative, 1886–1892)
  • William Gladstone (Liberal, 1892–1894) — only PM to serve four non-consecutive terms; oldest PM, retiring at the age of 84; died in 1898
  • Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery (Liberal, 1894–1895) — died in 1929
  • Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury (Conservative/Unionist, 1895–1902) — last PM to govern from the House of Lords; last PM not to be First Lord of the Treasury as well; died in 1903, just over a year after he left office

Edward VII

  • Arthur Balfour (Conservative/Unionist, 1902–1905) — governed while MP for Manchester East; first serving PM not to belong to the Anglican Communion (he was Presbyterian); died in 1930
  • Henry Campbell-Bannerman (Liberal, 1905–1908) — governed while MP for Stirling Burghs; first PM officially to use the title; last Liberal PM to win the popular vote and a majority of seats in a general election;note  only PM to be Father of the House (longest continuously serving MP) at the same time as he was PM; resigned as prime minister on 5 April 1908 and died on the 22nd
  • Herbert Henry Asquith (Liberal, 1908–1916) — governed while MP for Fife East; the (first) PM of World War I; died in 1928

George V

  • David Lloyd George (Liberal/National Liberal, 1916–1922) — Second PM of World War I, represented the United Kingdom at the Paris Peace Conference, and last Liberal prime minster; the party split over the issue of Irish independence. The first PM to represent a Welsh constituency, namely Caernarvon Boroughs, and the only PM to have English as a second language (after Welsh). Died in 1945.

Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

George V

  • Andrew Bonar Law (Conservative, 1922–1923) — The first PM born outside the British Isles, though still within the Empire (Canada, to be exact). Governed while MP for Glasgow Central. Led the Conservative Party to victory at the 1922 general election after breaking away from the Liberal–Conservative wartime coalition, but resigned while terminally ill with cancer in May 1923 and died that October.
  • Stanley Baldwin (Conservative, 1923–16 January 1924) — first time in office, governed while MP for Bewdley
  • Ramsay MacDonald (Labour, January–November 1924) — first prime minister from the Labour Party, governed while MP for Aberavon during this time; despite Baldwin's Tories winning the most seats at the 1923 election, he governed with confidence and supply from the Liberals
  • Stanley Baldwin (Conservative, 1924–1929)
  • Ramsay MacDonald (Labour, 1929–1931; then National Labour, 1931–1935) — governed as MP for Seaham during this time; passed the Statute of Westminster, granting the Dominions effective political and legislative independence from the British Empire; died in 1937
  • Stanley Baldwin (Conservative, 1935–1937) — last PM to serve three non-consecutive terms; PM during the Edward VIII abdication crisis; died in 1947

George VI

  • Neville Chamberlain (Conservative, 1937–1940) — governed as MP for Birmingham Edgbaston; forever associated with Head-in-the-Sand Management thanks to his signing of the Munich Agreement, stayed on after the invasion of Poland but resigned after the fall of Norway; died in November 1940 after having resigned in May
  • Winston Churchill (Conservative, 1940–1945) — the PM of World War II. Won the War, Lost the Peace(-time general election of 1945). Governed while MP for Epping until it was abolished when the 1945 election was called and subsequently governed while MP for Woodford.
  • Clement Attlee (Labour, 1945–1951) — Governed while MP for Limehouse until it was abolished when the 1950 election was called and represented Walthamstow West for the remainder of his time in the Commons. Introduced the National Health Service, the first universal health care system in history, and bulwark of the modern welfare state; first irreligiousnote  and non-Christian PM. Died in 1967.
  • Winston Churchill (Conservative, 1951–1955) — Also served (briefly) under Elizabeth II as PM. Less than a month after Elizabeth's coronation in June 1953, Churchill suffered a stroke which would lead Elizabeth to initiate the planning for his funeral. He eventually did die in 1965.

Elizabeth II

  • Anthony Eden (Conservative, 1955–1957) — governed while MP for Warwick & Leamington; resigned not just from the premiership but the Commons over the Suez Crisis, which effectively marked the end of the British Empire as a geopolitical concept (and British aspirations to superpower status alongside the USA and USSR);note  died in 1977
  • Harold Macmillan (Conservative, 1957–1963) — governed while MP for Bromley; last PM to be granted an hereditary peerage (Earl of Stockton), albeit not until 1984; died in 1986
  • Alec Douglas-Home (Conservative, 1963–1964) — pronounced "Douglas-Hume"; the last Prime Minister to sit in the House of Lords (he renounced the Earldom of Home and finished his term in the Commons, being elected at Kinross & Western Perthshire); also (and not surprisingly) the last PM to be descended from or closely related to a previous PM; died in 1995
  • Harold Wilson (Labour, 1964–1970) — Governed while MP for Huyton. Presided over the Swinging Sixties and the British Invasion. Led a strongly socially liberal government, having abolished capital punishment,note  decriminalized homosexuality, and liberalized abortion laws in his first term. Also decimalized the Pound, awarded each of The Beatles an MBE,note  and was PM the one and only time England won the World Cup (in 1966).
  • Edward Heath (Conservative, 1970–1974) — Governed while serving MP for Bexley until it was abolished at the February 1974 general election and then governed while MP for Sidcup for the four days' worth of negotiations over the subsequent hung Parliament. Took Britain into the Common Market; most recent PM to enter and exit office by means of a general election. Died in 2005.
  • Harold Wilson (Labour, 1974–1976) — last PM to be returned to office after a defeat; last PM to win four general elections (1964, 1966, Feb. 1974, Oct. 1974); last PM to leave office voluntarily.note  Died a few months before Douglas-Home in 1995.
  • James Callaghan (Labour, 1976–1979) — governed while MP for Cardiff South East; first (and to date, the only) known atheist PM;note  most recent military veteran to serve as PM; longest-lived PM, dying the day before his 93rd birthday in 2005.
  • Margaret Thatcher (Conservative, 1979–1990) — governed while MP for Finchley; the first woman of Downing Street, but many humorists felt she was more manly than her entire Cabinet; longest-serving PM of the 20th century; most recent PM to die, in 2013, and, ironically, most recent to receive a state funeral.
  • John Major (Conservative, 1990–1997) — governed while MP for Huntingdon; living; most recent PM to not have gone to university (he actually left secondary education the day before his sixteenth birthday and later took banking correspondence courses).
  • Tony Blair (Labour, 1997–2007) — governed while MP for Sedgefield; living; longest-serving Labour PM; last PM to win three general elections (1997, 2001, 2005); longest-serving PM of the 21st century so far;note  first-ever PM to be a member of the Roman Catholic Church, though he did not formally convert until after leaving office.
  • Gordon Brown (Labour, 2007–2010) — governed while MP for Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath; living; only PM with a PhD (in History, from the University of Edinburgh); the most recent PM to leave office because of a general election defeat, and the most recent one from Scotland.
  • David Cameron (Conservative, 2010–2016) — Governed while MP for Witney; living; led the first coalition government (with the Liberal Democrats, led by Nick Clegg) since the Second World War; returned to single-party government in 2015, albeit with a tiny majority. Won the referenda on the Alternative Vote and Scottish independence (he supported NO on both); lost the referendum on continued UK membership of the EU (he supported REMAIN). Unexpectedly returned to government in 2023 as Foreign Secretary, being elevated to the Lords; making him the most recent PM to subsequently serve in another Prime Minister's Cabinet, and the most recent to join Parliament's upper chamber.
  • Theresa May (Conservative, 2016–2019) — Governed while MP for Maidenhead; living; the second woman of Downing Street, taking over from David Cameron following the EU referendum; following losses in a snap election in 2017, led a minority government supported by the Northern Ireland-based Democratic Unionist Party; negotiated a withdrawal agreement with the EU but failed to get it past Parliament on three occasions;note  resigned after being forced to delay UK withdrawal from the EU past the originally scheduled date of 31 March 2019 and thus requiring participation in the EU parliamentary elections that summer, in which the Tories placed fifth; still an MP.
  • Boris Johnson (Conservative, 2019 – 6 September 2022) — Governed while MP for Uxbridge & South Ruislip; living; the second PM born outside of the British Isles, and the first outside of the British Empire/Commonwealth (in New York City, to be precise); renounced his dual American citizenship in 2016. Taking over following Theresa May's resignation, he maintained the same minority government supported by the DUP until mass defections by Conservative MPs who disagreed with their party's Brexit deal left the Tory–DUP confidence-and-supply agreement without a functioning majority, meaning he called a general election later that year, which resulted in the Conservatives regaining a solid majority with help from the Brexit Party forming an unofficial alliance with them, the party's first since before the 1992 general election. Took Britain out of the European Union, oversaw most of the COVID-19 Pandemic and became one of the firmest West European supporters of arming Ukraine amidst the 2022 invasion of the latter by Vladimir Putin's Russia. Probably the first practising Catholic PM, though he refused to confirm it, as he was baptized Catholic and married in a Catholic ceremony (the first sitting PM to wed in office in two centuries) during his tenure.note  Resigned after multiple scandals including Partygate,note  the Owen Paterson scandal,note  and the Chris Pincher scandal,note  the last of which led to mass resignations from his cabinet which ultimately forced him to announce his own. Resigned from his seat in June 2023, after an investigation into the aforementioned Partygate scandal concluded he had lied to Parliament.

Charles III

  • Liz Truss (Conservative, 6 September – 25 October 2022) — Governed while MP for South West Norfolk; living; the third woman to become Prime Minister, succeeded Boris Johnson following his resignation. Very briefly served under Elizabeth II, taking office two days before the Queen's death. For the following two weeks, politics was effectively on hold for official national mourning. However, on 23 September, her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng issued a disastrous "mini-budget" announcement which went down like a lead balloon with financial markets, sending the value of the pound plummeting and forcing the Bank of England to make an emergency intervention. The ensuing political chaos wholly eroded her authority, and she resigned as party leader on 20 October 2022, leaving office on 25 October after just 49 days as Prime Minister, smashing George Canning's 195-year-old record for the shortest-serving PM in history. She replaces Gordon Brown as the most recent PM not to win a mandate of their own, and also usurps Neville Chamberlain as the most recent PM never to face the electorate as party leader at any point during their term. Still an MP.
  • Rishi Sunak (Conservative, 25 October 2022 – present) — Governing while MP for Richmond (Yorkshire);note  living (obviously); the first British Asian and first non-White Prime Minister, succeeded Liz Truss following her resignation, having previously lost to her in the leadership election seven weeks prior. One of, if not the, wealthiest people to have been Prime Minister, with a personal fortune of £730million ($827million)note  the first Prime Minister to practice a faith other than Christianity (Hinduism)note  and at 42 years and 166 days on taking office, the youngest Prime Minister since Lord Liverpool.

In media, there have also been notable fictional British Prime Ministers, including: