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Lord North

Lord North Born : 13 April 1732 in Albermarle St., Piccadilly, London

First entered Parliament: 15 April 1754

Age he became PM: 37 years, 290 days

Maiden speech: 1 December 1757, seconding the Address to the Throne at the opening of Parliament

Total time as PM: 12 years, 58 days

Died: 5 August 1792 at Grosvenor Square, London

Facts and figures

Nicknames: “Boreas” (the north wind) and “Lord-deputy North”

Education: Eton and Trinity College, Oxford

Family: North was the eldest of 6 children. He was married to Anne Speke, and had four sons and three daughters

Interests: Enjoyed dancing in his youth


Disastrous PM

Best known as the man who lost Britain’s American colonies, Lord North served for a disastrous twelve years as prime minister.

A hard-working and sound administrator, North had served in the governments of Newcastle and Chatham, rising to the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer.

North watched the Gordon Riots in London from Downing Street He was fiercely loyal to King George III, who liked his moderate policies and used him to lead the party of royal allies he had nurtured in the Commons.

Against North’s own inclinations, the King persuaded him to form a government in 1770.

North’s time as prime minister was dominated by ongoing problems in the American colonies, now reaching boiling point.

He appreciated that the real issue at stake was not just taxation but power, and led Britain into the War of Independence, with the full approval of King George III.

Tactical errors

The war turned out to be a disaster. North made tactical errors that led to heavy British losses, including the defeats at Saratoga in 1777 and Yorktown in 1781.

He pleaded in vain with George III to allow him to resign, but he was not allowed this escape route until the war was over, allowing the blame to rest firmly with him.

Things went from bad to worse at home as well as abroad. In 1780 anti-Catholic unrest known as the Gordon Riots broke out in London, with rioters agitating for the repeal of the Catholic Relief Act. North watched the riots from his home at 10 Downing Street.

He resigned in 1782 after a vote of no confidence.

Quote unquote

“Men may be popular without being ambitious, but there is hardly an ambitious man who does not try to be popular.”

Did you know?

Ironically, North’s family home is now a school for Americans in England.


Somerset-born Anne Speke was ‘plain in person but with excellent good sense’. Married to Lord North at 16, she had seven children and was Ranger of Bushey Park from 1771 until she died.

Lord North once jokingly called himself, his wife and one of their daughters ‘three of the ugliest people in London.’

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