History and Tour

Earl of Liverpool

Robert Banks Jenkinson Born: 7 June 1770 in London

First entered Parliament: 7 June 1791

Age he became PM: 42 years, one day

Maiden speech: 29 February 1792 speaking against a motion censuring the Government for actions increasing the size of the Navy to combat the Russian invasion of Turkey

Total time as PM: 14 years, 305 days

Died: 4 December 1828 at Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey

Facts and figures

Education: Charterhouse and Christ’s Church College, Oxford

Family: Liverpool was the only child of his father’s first marriage. His father went on to have two more children from his second marriage. Liverpool was married twice (to Lady Louisa Theodosia Hervey and then Mary Chester), but had no children.

Interests: Art (he founded the National Gallery in 1824), literature

Biography

Restoring order

Liverpool became known for repressive measures introduced to restore order, but he also steered the country through the period of radicalism and unrest which followed the Napoleonic Wars.

Having served earlier in his career as leader of the House of Lords, Foreign Secretary and War Secretary, Liverpool was asked to form a government after the assassination of Spencer Perceval in 1812.

Few expected Liverpool to survive in office very long, as at first his government seemed very insecure.

But the opposition provided by the Whig party was weak and disunited, and Liverpool was able to draw on the talents of individuals such as Sidmouth, The Duke of Wellington, Castlereagh and Canning.

The ending of the Napoleonic Wars with France in 1815, aided by Wellington’s victories in the field, further boosted support for Liverpool.

Eleven people were killed by soliders during the infamous Peterloo massacre But after the war, unrest broke out at home, partly caused by an economic recession that started in 1817. Unemployment, a bad harvest and high prices produced riots and protests.

Actions such as the repeal of income tax and the creation of the Corn Laws tended to make the situation worse. Lord Liverpool’s government reacted by suspending habeas corpus for two years.

Things became even worse in summer 1819, when large gatherings in favour of parliamentary reform culminated in a massive public meeting in Manchester on 16 August. Soldiers attacked the crowds, killing eleven and wounding many more.

Shocking massacre

The shocking event became known as the Peterloo Massacre. Liverpool’s subsequent ‘Six Acts’ curtailed the right to hold radical meetings.

The crackdown on liberty prompted an attempt by radicals in 1820 to murder Liverpool and his Cabinet and start a radical revolution.

But the Cato Street Conspiracy, as it became known, proved unsuccessful, and the conspirators were hung or transported.

During the 1820s Liverpool’s policy became increasingly liberal, and a period of economic prosperity began.

Liverpool also returned Britain to the Gold Standard in 1819. The anti-trade union laws were repealed, and many trading restrictions were removed.

A stroke forced Liverpool to resign and he died the following year.

Quote unquote

“(I consider) the right of election as a public trust, granted not for the benefit of the individual, but for the public good.”

Did you know?

Liverpool Street (and its train station) in London are both named after the Earl.

First wife - Louisa Theodosia Hervey

Her parents separated when she was in her teens and she led a dull and isolated life with her mother in Suffolk. Her marriage to Liverpool was destined to be childless and she devoted much of her life to charitable work while enjoying the social side of her husband’s career. They were a devoted couple but she died at 54.

Second wife - Mary Chester

Liverpool married again to Mary Chester, a long-time friend of Louisa. Their marriage was short-lived though as the Earl died just three years into their union.

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