Great Victorians

This list is just my choice of prominent Victorians from all the many possibilities. The Victorian age was such a time of innovation and change, and spanning 64 years, provided a great number of people to select from. I have included those born before the Victorian era, and those who died afterwards: the main selection criteria being that they lived part of their life between 1837 and 1901. The list is far from complete and will be added to as time goes on, but if you have any burning nominations, then drop an email.

Benjamin Disraeli
21 December 1804 – 19 April 1881, British Conservative politician
William Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone, FRS, FSS (1809 – 1898) is one of the most well-known politicians of the Victorian times. He was a Liberal for most of his career. He was born into a wealthy merchant family in Liverpool. After education at Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford, he went with his brother, as was the custom of the time, on a Grand Tour, visiting many countries in Europe. He came back to stand and then be elected as Cinservative MP for Newark in 1832. He soon gained a number of influential appointments. In 1850 Gladstone become the leader of the Peelite party, and in 1852, in a Coalition government he was appointed as Chancellor of the Exchequer. By 1859 he had joined the newly formed Liberal Party and in 1868 following a general election he was appointed as Prime minister, a post he retained until 1874 being defeated by Disraeli, a Conservative. After the Liberals won power again in 1880, Gladstone was persuaded to stand as Prime Minister again and he retained the position until resignining in 1885 after a the death of General Gordon in Khartoum, in which the governement were criticised for not providing sufficient miltray support. He was reppointed as Prime Minister as soon as 1886 but only for s few months, as the parliament was forced into a general election. His fourth term as Prime Minister was after the return of the Liberals in 1892 and stayed until a political issue brought his resignation at the age of 84, Britain's oldest Prime Minister.
He lived the last four years of his life, putting his affairs in order. he bequeathed a large part of his library of books to start a library in Wales. A suspected attack of facial neuralgia turned out to be cancer and soon after diagnosis he died.
Lord Palmerston
Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, KG, GCB, PC (1784 – 1865) was born in London, to a family with Irish connections, from which the hereditary title was derived. He studied at Harrow and the University of Edinburgh. He started his parliamentary career in 1806 as Tory MP for Horsham. He later became a Liberal. He held a number of Parliamentary positions including Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Leader of the Opposition. In 1855, after several other possibilities failed, Palmerston was persuaded to form a government. He succeeded in several acts, but was defeated in a bill in 1858 and therefore resigned. He was reappointed in 1859 and continued in office until his death in 1865.
In his private life he was considered to be something of a womaniser. He married his mistress Emily, Lady Cowper, but they had no legitimate children, although it was rumoured that one of Lady Cowper's children, born before the death of her first husband, was his. Although of the same party, he had very different views to Gladstone, and although polite to each other in public it was clear that they did not agree. He was also not much liked by Queen Victoria, who regarded him as a strong and determined man with much worldly ambition.
He died at the age of 80 following a chill, which developed into a fever. He is attributed, according to folklaw, the final words: Die, my dear doctor? That is the last thing I shall do. He was the fourth person not of royal descent to be given a state funeral.
Lord Palmerston
Robert Peel
Sir Robert Peel (1788 – 1850) was a Conservative British Prime Minister for two terms, but is probably best known for creating the police force during his term as Home Secretary. He was born in Bury, Lancashire. His father was a wealhy textile manufacturer. Peel was educated at Hipperholme Grammar School, Harrow School and Christ Church, Oxford. While living at Tamworth he is credited with developing the famous Tamworth Pig. Peel married Julia, the youngest daughter of General Sir John Floyd, in 1820 and they went on to have five sons and two daughters. He became a baronet in 1830 on the death of his father.
Peel entered politics at the age of 21 as MP for Cashel, Tipperary, a so-called Rotten Borough, a constituency with a very small electorate, in this case just 24 people. As early as 1813, while Chief Secretary in Dublin, he proposed the establishment of a police force, and in 1814 the Royal Irish Constabulary was founded.
In 1822 he was elected to the Cabinet as Home Secretary but resigned in 1827 because of political differences with the Prime Minister over Catholic Emancipation, a proposal to reduce some of the restrictions placed on Roman Catholics, of which Peel was an ardent opponent. However, when the Duke of Wellington was appointed Prime Minister in 1828 Peel, standing for another rotten borough, Westbury, became Home Secretary again. He established the Metropolitan Police Force in 1829, and by 1857 all the cities of the UK were required to have a police force. Peel introduced ethical requirements of police officers which defined their conduct. These were known as the Peelian Princiiples.
After a brief period when the Tories were in opposition they gained power again in 1834 with a minority government, and Peel was appointed Prime Minister. It was a turbulent period, and little was achieved before a general election in 1835 gave power to the Whigs led by Lord Melbourne. After another election and change of government, Peel resumed as Prime Minister in 1841. It was a difficult time economically and the Peel government reintroduced Income Tax to fund the deficit in the budget. He introduced the Factory Act in 1844, which restricted working hours and introduced elementary safety laws. His other notable act was the repeal of the Corn Laws which had a bumpy passage through Parliament. It was in part a reaction to the Great Irish Famine (1844 - 1849) and sought to lift restrictions of grain imports. It took away the protection of wealthy landowners revenues, and allowed free trade.
The Corn Laws were unpopular in some quarters and the Conservatives did not get another term.
During the latter part of his life he still maintained some political influence. He had survived an assassination attempt in 1843, but in 1850 he became the victim of a horse accident. He was riding up Constitution Hill when his horse stumbled and fell on top of him. He died three days later at the age of 62. Queen Victoria paid tribute when she wrote of Peel, ‘Everyone seems to have lost a personal friend’.
Robert Peel
Cecil Rhodes
Cecil John Rhodes PC, DCL (1853 – 1902) was born in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire. He attended the local Grammar School but showed poor health and there were fears he might be consumptive. It was therefore decided he should be sent to a warmer climate to make some improvements. He set sail, and in 1870 arrived in South Africa to spend time with his brother Herbert, who was a cotton farmer in Natal. He joined Herbert and worked with him on the farm, but the land turned out to be unsuitable for cotton and the venture failed. The brothers then moved on to Kimberley where there were diamond fields operated by NM Rothschild. Rhodes spent the next 17 years buying up small diamond mines and gained a monopoly. After a devastating harvest in Cape vineyards, Rhodes turned his attention to financing fruit growing, a venture that became the cornerstone of the modern Cape fruit industry. He eventually returned to complete his studies at Oxford University, and his admiration of the Oxford education led him to later develop his own Scholarship Scheme. His financial interests continued to flourish and in 1839 he bought a claim known as the old De Beers. It was not doing well and had problems of flooding. However with others he formed the De Beers Consolidated Mines.
He became involved in Politics and was elected as Member of the Cape Parliament in 1880, and in 1890 was elected as Prime Minister. However after a disastrous incident in the Transvaal, he was forced to resign. Over the next few years Rhodes worked on his dream of creating an outpost of the British Empire in the northern territories of Africa. He acquired mineral concessions and then organised them to become British Protectorates. He wanted these areas to be self-governing, not controlled by bureaucrats in the Colonial Office in London, an idea that was not popular with some people. Nevertheless in 1889 Rhodes gained a charter for his British South Africa Company (BSAC) to rule the area. The area expanded to include Matabeleland and Mashonaland. By the end of 1894 it was over 1m km2and in 1895 the name of this territory was changed to Rhodesia. Rhodes died in 1902, aged 48, and was buried in Africa. At his death he was one of the richest men in the world.
Rhodes was every bit an Imperialist believing that the Anglo-Saxon race was destined to greatness. He wanted to make the British Empire a superpower in which all of the British-dominated countries in the empire, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Cape Colony, would be represented in the British Parliament. He is particularly remembered today for his educational programme, Rhodes scholarships, which help students from territories under British rule, formerly under British rule, and from Germany, to study at the University of Oxford.
Lord Salisbury
Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, KG, GCVO, PC (1830 – 1903) was a British Statesman and three times Prime Minister. He was born at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, and had a childhood rather devoid of affacetion. His mother died when he was ten. Coming from a long line of aristocracy he was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. He joined Lincoln's Inn briefly, but did not feel engaged by the law. He spent some time travelling the world but in 1853 he became Conservative MP for Stamford, Lincs. He had a successful few years and in 1866 he was appointed as Secretary of State for India. He was now known as Viscount Cranborne after the death of his older brother. In 1868 he inherited the title Marquess of Salisbury after the death of his father, and thus became a member of the House of Lords. He spent a few years in business but returned to government as Secretary of State for India (1874-1878) and Foreign Secretary (1878-1880). There followed a period of opposition, but in 1885 became Prime Minister, a position he held for two terms until 1892. Again a brief period as Leader of the Opposition followed, but in 1895 he was appointed as Prime Minister again. He resigned in 1902 after the death of his wife, and in poor health. He died a year later at Hatfield House.
He was considered to be a conservative (small "C") politician who was a man of great intellect. He was a true stateman combining realism and clarity of view with an ethical approach to diplomacy. He always sought to conciliate and pacify while maintaining important national interests.
Lord Salisbury
Lord Shaftesbury
Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury KG (1801 – 1885), was a politician and scoial reformer. He was educated at Harrow and Christ Church, Oxford. As was common at the time amongst the upper classes, he was largely ignored by his parents, and when the did take notice of him they were formal and intimidating. He received childhood affection from his housekeeper, Maria Millis, a model of Christian love, who became the inspiration for his later social action and philanthropy.
In 1826 he entered politics as Tory MP for Woodstock. He became involved in many acts of social reform such as the the reform of the Lunacy laws. Lunatics in London were kept in madhouses where they were chained to their beds, sleeping naked on straw, and having to lay in their own excrement. Occasionally they would be washed down in feezing cold water with no soap. Eventually commissioners were appointed to inspect Assylums, and a number of Acts passed which led to better conditions for the lunatics and less likely that sane people would be sectioned wrongly.
Another early bill on which he worked was the Ten Hours Act (1833) designed to limit employing children under 9 in factories and cotton mills. It also sought limit the working day for those under 18 to no more than ten hours. He went on to further bills of social importance and great personal benefit to a lot of poor people.
The Mines and Collieries Act (1842) sought to prevent the employment of children and women underground. From 1840 he tried to get a bill passed to prohibit the employment of climing boys as chimney sweeps. The boys were affected with scorched and lacerated skin and they sometimes suffocated. They also suffered cancer caused by the sooty conditions. It took Shaftesbury most of his politically life to get the practice banned, but he finally succeeded after the enactment of the Chimney Sweepers Act (1875).
In 1844 Shaftesbury became the president of the Ragged School Union, which ran schools for poor children. He was also an advocate of the restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land. He also served for many years as President of the British and Foreign Bible Society.
He married Lady Emily Caroline Cowper (who was possibly the illegitimate daughter of Lord Palmerston) and they had a happy marriage with ten children.
After his death, aged 84, a memorial service was held in Westminster Abbey, and the streets along the funeral route were thronged with costermongers, factory hands, chimney sweeps, flower girls and many others who had come to pay respects to the man who had done so much to help the poorer classes. A statue was erected in Piccadilly Circus in his honour, The Angel of Christian Charity, widely known - and an iconic symbol of London - as Eros.
Lord Shaftesbury