William Pitt The Younger (28 May 1759 23 January 1806), to distinguish him from William Pitt The Elder, his father, was the youngest ever Prime Minister at the age of 24 (although at this period the term of "Prime Minister" was not used). He left office in 1801, but was Prime Minister again from 1804 until his death (making him also the youngest Prime Minister to die in office). He was succeeded by William Grenville, who led the abortive "All-the-Talents" Ministry; incidentally, Grenville was his first cousin (Pitt's mother Hester was Grenville's father George Grenville's sister) and cousin-in-law (Grenville had married Pitt's cousin Anne).
He was Prime Minister during massive upheavals in Europe and once said "Fold that (a map of Europe) up, we will not require it for 10 years" when he heard about the Battle of Austerlitz. He also had to deal with the Napoleonic Wars and the French Revolution. Although often referred to as a Tory, or "new Tory", called himself an "independent Whig" or "reform Whig" and was generally opposed to the development of a strict partisan political system.
His early premiership was marked by attempts to curb the National Debt that had been racked up by the American Revolutionary War: his two most infamous taxes were on wig powder and window glass, with the result that he single-handedly ended the 18th century fashion for wigs and a lot of contemporary British buildings still have bricked-up windows. Notably, Pitt was also responsible for formulating and overseeing the Act of Union between Britain and Ireland in the wake of the 1798 United Irish rising. This led to his resignation when he followed up with a push for Catholic emancipation, which was opposed by the King.
Perhaps his longest term influence was the solidifying of so much power under himself, the template that would lead to the Prime Minister/Cabinet relationship the UK has today.
Like father, like son.
Just as his father had a large number of places named after him, so did Pitt the Younger. Among them are: Pittsylvania County Virginia, Pittwater New South Wales, Pitt Street Sydney (The main financial precinct street), Pitt Street, Hong Kong and The Pitt's Head rock formation in Snowdonia National Forest Park (because it resembled him). While Chatham County was named after his father, Pittsboro, North Carolina was named for William Pitt the Younger.
Appears in the following works:
- William Pitt The Younger is made fun of in Blackadder The Third, where he is a teenage boy. (The actual Pitt the Younger was already dead by the time of Regency England, when the series is set.) We also meet his younger brother, "William Pitt the Even Younger" (as opposed to Blackadder's guess that he might be named "Pitt the Toddler", "Pitt the Embryo" or "Pitt the Glint-in-the-milkman's-eye.").
- The play and film The Madness of King George, as a Reasonable Authority Figure played by Julian Wadham.
- The film Amazing Grace, where he's played by Benedict Cumberbatch.
- The WWII propaganda film The Young Mr Pitt.