William Ewart Gladstone

1809 - 1898

Sir William Gladstone
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Sir William Gladstone

British Prime Minister. Although born in Liverpool, Gladstone's parents were Scottish (his father was born in Leith) and the family lived at Fasque House (Aberdeenshire). Following an education at Eton and Oxford, he was elected as a Conservative Member of Parliament for Newark in 1832 and was appointed to a junior Treasury post by Peel. Having lost his earlier seat, Gladstone was elected as MP for Oxford University in 1847 and became Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Earl of Aberdeen's administration, a post he retained under Palmerston. On 18th April 1853, he gave the longest budget speech to date lasting 4¾ hours. He moved to the Liberal party and again lost his seat, but was re-elected for South Lancashire in 1866. By 1868 Gladstone was Prime Minister for the first time, a post he occupied on no less than four occasions, the last at the age of 82. In 1880, he was elected to a Scottish constituency after the famous Midlothian Campaigns of 1879-80.

During these campaigns, Gladstone toured Edinburgh, the Lothians and Borders making notable (and lengthy) speeches on issues of the day. His audiences were large; for example, 20,000 in Edinburgh, 5000 in Dalkeith and 4000 at Stow. Living at Dalmeny House, as guest of the 5th Earl of Rosebery who managed his campaigns, Gladstone also spoke at Corstorphine, Cramond, Gilmerton, Loanhead, Bonnyrigg, Penicuik, Juniper Green, Balerno, Ratho, Mid Calder. West Calder, Linlithgow, Hawick, Galashiels, Peebles and Innerleithen, together with Glasgow, Hamilton, where he saw Hamilton Palace and described its condition as "deeply mournful", Inverkeithing, Dunfermline and Aberfeldy. He represented Midlothian until he retired from politics in 1895.

Gladstone introduced significant parliamentary reforms, extending the right to vote and outlawing corrupt practices. He also worked unsuccessfully for Irish home rule and was a Rector of the University of Glasgow.

Buried in Westminster Abbey (London), Gladstone featured on a postage stamp in 2009, one of ten featuring eminent Britons, commemorating the bicentenary of his birth.

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