History and Tour

Henry Pelham

Henry Pelham Born : 25 September 1694 in Laughton, Sussex

First entered Parliament: 28 February 1717

Age he became PM: 48 years, 336 days

Maiden speech: His first recorded speech in the House of Commons was on 6 May 1720 on the establishment of insurance companies

Total time as PM: 10 years, 191 days

Died: 6 March 1754 in Arlington St, London

Facts and figures

Nickname: “King Henry the Ninth”

Education: Westminster School and Hart Hall, Oxford

Family: Henry Pelham was the third son and ninth of 11 children. He was married to Lady Catherine Manners and had two sons and six daughters


Experience and stability

A loyal follower of Walpole, Pelham served as prime minister for ten years. He brought experience and stability to the role, uniting factions, squashing an attempt to overthrow the King at home, and ending a long-running war with European neighbours.

Pelham came from a political dynasty. The son of a long-serving MP, Pelham’s brother was the Duke of Newcastle, and the two reached the top of the political tree together - Newcastle went on to follow Pelham as prime minister.

Henry Pelham was a Lord of the Treasury under Walpole, and was his close friend and ally. He refused to take over from Walpole in 1742 out of friendship for the fallen prime minister, but took over the office after Wilmington’s death the following year.

One of Pelham’s strengths as prime minister was his ability to unite different political factions.

George II, however, was less keen on Pelham. In 1746 Pelham’s term was briefly interrupted by an initially hostile George II, who wanted to replace him with the Earl of Granville.

But Granville could not command the support of Parliament, and Pelham was reinstated three days later.

Pelham’s premiership saw attempts at social and financial reform, not all of which were successful.

Peace with France

He was successful in ending the War of the Austrian Succession in 1748, achieving peace with France and trade with Spain.

At home Pelham helped to straighten out the national finances, made a doomed attempt to strengthen the rights of Jews, and approved an Act adopting the Gregorian calendar, which moved the beginning of the year from 25 March to 1 January.

Legislation establishing the British Museum was also passed during Pelham’s term. Harrassed and wearied by his duties, Pelham died in office in 1754. He is said to have ‘eaten too much and exercised too little’ and had a succession of illnesses during his life.

Quote unquote

On the House of Lords: “Let them alone; they make better speeches for us than we can make for ourselves.”

Did you know?

In 1746 Pelham successfully put down Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Rebellion, dealing severely with Jacobite sympathisers.


Pelham was married to Lady Catherine Manners, daughter of the 2nd Duke of Rutland, who was also an MP. Her dowry enables him to buy half of the family estates in Lincolnshire. The couple had eight children together.

She was keeper of Greenwich Park and outlived her husband by 26 years before dying in Whitehall, London.

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