On this day in history….7th December 1783

On this day in history : 7th December 1783 – William Pitt (the Younger) becomes Prime Minister, at the age of just 24….

William Pitt the Younger – John Hoppner – Public domain

Pitt was born on the 28th of May 1759, in Hayes, Kent…. He was the son of William Pitt, the Elder, Earl of Chatham – and another powerful politician who had served as Prime Minister…. Pitt the Elder led Britain to great victory in the Seven Years’ War but lost office soon after….and began to prepare his son for a position of future power….

The young Pitt suffered bouts of illness throughout his childhood – possibly as a result of the stress of being pushed by his father…. However, he worked hard at his studies (Pitt was educated at home as his father did not advocate the public school system) and at the age of 14 he entered Cambridge University….

Pitt graduated Cambridge when he was 17, after the death of his father…. He took advantage of the system of the time – being from a wealthy family he did not have to take an examination to graduate…. On leaving university he decided to go into public service….

Pitt was elected to Parliament at the age of 21….in 1782 he became Chancellor of the Exchequer for the Conservative Party…. After the defeat in the House of Lords of the East India Bill, King George III dismissed the then coalition government and asked Pitt to form a new government…. William Pitt the Younger served as Prime Minister until 1801….and then again from 1804 until his death in January 1806…. He held office throughout the period of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and was fundamental in shaping British politics….

Monument to Pitt the Younger by J.G. Bubb – situated in the Guildhall, London…. This huge monument faces one of equal size in tribute to his father, William Pitt the Elder. Photo courtesy : Stephencdickson CC BY-SA 4.0

On this day in history….22nd November 1990

On this day in history : 22nd November 1990 – Margaret Thatcher announces that she is standing down as the UK’s Prime Minister – after Michael Heseltine launched a challenge to her leadership….

Margaret Hilda Roberts was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, in 1925….

Margaret Hilda Roberts, aged 12 or 13 in 1938 – Attributed to Mr. Lee – Public domain

She married businessman Denis Thatcher in 1959 and they became the parents of twins…. During the 1960s Mrs Thatcher progressed quickly through the ranks of the Conservative Party and it was in 1967 that she joined the Shadow Cabinet – sitting in opposition to Harold Wilson’s Labour Government….

A Conservative victory in the 1970 election saw Margaret Thatcher become Secretary of State for Education and Science in Edward Heath’s government…. Labour came back into power in 1974 and Mrs Thatcher acted as joint Shadow Chancellor…. She replaced Edward Heath as leader of the Conservatives in February 1975…. It wasn’t long before she became known as the ‘Iron Lady’ – a nickname she herself embraced and given to her by a Soviet journalist in 1976….

Mrs Thatcher, late 1975 – Marion S. Trikosko – Public domain

In March 1979 Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan was defeated by a vote of no confidence and on May the 3rd a general election took place – which was won by the Conservatives, with a 44 seat majority in Parliament…. The following day Margaret Thatcher was sworn in – making her Britain’s first woman Prime Minister….

Margaret and Denis Thatcher in Northern Ireland, late 1982 – OGL 3

In 1987 Mrs Thatcher was elected for a third term but soon began to alienate some members of her own party – particularly over her poll-tax policies and opposition to integrating Britain further into the EU…. The cracks began to appear and in 1990 she failed to win a majority in the Conservative Party’s annual vote for selection of a leader and so she withdrew her nomination…. Six days later John Major, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, succeeded her as leader of the Conservative Party and subsequently became Prime Minister….

Margaret Thatcher’s three consecutive terms in office made her the longest serving Prime Minister since 1827…. After retiring from the House of Commons she was given a life Peerage as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, Lincolnshire – which entitled her to sit in The House of Lords…. She died on the 8th of April 2013 following a stroke….

The Right Honourable Baroness Thatcher – The Margaret Thatcher Foundation CC BY-SA 3.0

On this day in history….28th November 1990

On this day in history : 28th November 1990 – A tearful Margaret Thatcher makes her last speech as Prime Minister outside No.10 Downing Street….

Mrs Thatcher had formally tended her resignation to the Queen earlier that morning…. John Major had been elected as her successor by the Conservative party the previous day – after a leadership challenge had been mounted by Michael Heseltine on the 14th of November…. Mrs Thatcher reportedly regarded her ousting as a betrayal….

As she appeared outside No.10 it was to applause from the gathered Press…. She addressed the reporters : “Ladies and Gentlemen”….her voice cracking on the ‘Gentlemen’….”We’re leaving Downing Street for the last time after eleven-and-a-half wonderful years, and we’re very happy that we leave the United Kingdom in a very, very much better state than when we came here eleven-and-a-half years ago”….

Mrs Thatcher went on to thank the staff who had supported her and to say what a privilege it had been to serve the country…. She finished by wishing John Major all the luck in the world – adding “He’ll be splendidly served and he has the makings of a great Prime Minister”….

After her speech she and husband Denis were driven to Buckingham Palace where they had a half hour meeting with the Queen – and then returned to their home in Dulwich, South London…. Margaret Thatcher remained MP for Finchley until 1992….

On this day in history….23rd October 1922

On this day in history : 23rd October 1922 – Andrew Bonar Law becomes the British Prime Minister – with a tenure of just 209 days it is the shortest of the twentieth century….

Andrew Bonar Law – Bain News Service – Public domain

Canadian born Bonar Law, who was of Scottish descent, was the first British Prime Minister to be born outside of the British Isles…. He was born on the 16th of September 1858 and the family moved back to Scotland in 1870…. After leaving school at 16 he initially worked in the iron industry before entering the House of Commons after the 1900 General Election….

When Herbert Asquith formed his coalition government in May 1915 Bonar Law was made Secretary of State for the Colonies and was a member of the War Committee…. After David Lloyd George replaced Asquith in 1916 he became Chancellor of the Exchequer and then Leader of the House of Commons….

Andrew Bonar Law – Bain Collection, Library of Congress – Public domain

Bonar Law retired as Leader of the House of Commons in March 1921, due to ill health…. However, when Lloyd George was removed from office n October 1922 he agreed to become Prime Minister and formed his own Conservative government…. But his health continued to deteriorate and on the 20th of May 1923 he resigned…. Bonar Law died of throat cancer on the 30th of October 1923; his funeral was held at Westminster Abbey…. He is often referred to as ‘the unknown Prime Minister’….

Andrew Bonar Law by James Guthrie – Public domain