William Ewart Gladstone

1809         Born on 29 December in Liverpool, the fourth son (and fifth child of six) of Sir John Gladstone and his second wife, Anne Mackenzie Robertson.

1821        Having completed his primary education, Gladstone went to Eton.

1828        Gladstone went to Christ Church College, Oxford.

1831        Gladstone made a speech at the Oxford Union against the Reform Bill arguing that electoral reform would mean revolution.
He gained a double First Degree in Mathematics and Classics.

1832        Gladstone was elected as a Tory for the borough of Newark-on-Trent under the patronage of the Duke of Newcastle.

1833        Gladstone made his maiden speech in Parliament during the Committee stage of the Emancipation Bill. He defended his father against accusations about the treatment of slaves on his plantations in the West Indies.

1834         [December] He was appointed as a Junior Lord of the Treasury in Sir Robert Peel's first administration.         

1835        [January] He was appointed Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies.

1835        [April] Peel resigned as Prime Minister and Gladstone left office.         

1839         [July] Gladstone married Catherine Glynne at Hawarden. Catherine's father Sir Stephen Glynne owned the house; he was a baronet and the local squire. Hawarden became the Gladstone home after the marriage.        

1840         [January] Gladstone began his work of rescuing and rehabilitating prostitutes in London.

1841         [September] Gladstone accepted the post of Vice-President of the Board of Trade in Peel's second ministry.

1843         [May] Peel appointed Gladstone as President of the Board of Trade. Gladstone became a member of the Cabinet.

1844         [August] The first general Railway Act was steered through Parliament by Gladstone. The legislation became known as the "Parliamentary Train Act".

1845        [February] Gladstone resigned from the Cabinet because he disagreed with the increase in the grant to Maynooth Seminary in Dublin.

1845         [December] Peel invited Gladstone to join the government as Colonial Secretary. Gladstone had to stand for re-election but failed to gain a seat until July 1847. Nevertheless, he remained a member of Peel's Cabinet.

1848         Gladstone enrolled as a Special Constable and was called out during the Chartist rallies.
He founded the Church Penitentiary Association for the Reclamation of Fallen Women, along with Bishops Wilberforce and Bloomfield.

1852        The Earl of Aberdeen formed a coalition government.
Gladstone was appointed as Chancellor of the Exchequer and presented his first budget in April 1853.

1854-6        The Crimean War. Gladstone increased Income Tax from 7d to 10½d in the � in anticipation of increased government expenditure.        

1855        Aberdeen was forced to resign because of the inept handling of the Crimean War.
Palmerston became Prime Minister and Gladstone resigned because he disagreed with Palmerston's decision to accept J.A. Roebuck's proposed Committee of Inquiry into the conduct of the war.         

1858        Gladstone became Lord High Commissioner Extraordinary to the Ionian Islands until March 1859. The islands were a British Protectorate until they were united with Greece.

1859        [June] Palmerston formed his second ministry and Gladstone became Chancellor of the Exchequer again.

1860        The Cobden Treaty was signed with France.
In his second budget, Gladstone reduced considerably the number of articles subject to customs duty. The budget reduced the cost of living and his reputation as a financier grew.

1861        The Post Office Savings Bank was established. This enabled people with small savings to open a bank account.

1862        Gladstone and his wife provided relief work on the Hawarden estate for Lancashire cotton workers who had been thrown out of work because of the blockade of Confederate ports, preventing the export of cotton.

1864        Gladstone committed himself to supporting a Bill to lower the franchise qualification. This pleased the Radicals but horrified both Queen Victoria and Palmerston.

1865        Because of his support of an extension of the franchise, Gladstone lost his Oxford University seat in the General Election. He was returned as MP for Lancashire at a later poll in the same election.

1865        Lord John Russell became Prime Minister (for the second time) following the death of Palmerston. Gladstone continued as Chancellor of the Exchequer.         

1866         Gladstone introduced the Representation of the People Bill which proposed to lower the franchise qualification. The Bill was opposed by the Conservatives and also by some Liberals.
Russell's government resigned.

1868        Gladstone was elected as MP for Greenwich following his defeat in Lancashire in the General Election.
He became Prime Minister for the first time in December. He announced that his "mission was to pacify Ireland".

1868-74        Gladstone's first ministry.

1869        Disestablishment of the Irish Church Act.

1870        Forster's Education Act
first Irish Land Act

1871        Army Regulation Act
University Test Act
abolition of the purchase of commissions in the Army

1872        Ballot Act
Licensing Act

1874         The Tories won the General Election and Disraeli became Prime Minister. Gladstone resigned.

1875         Gladstone resigned as Leader of the Liberal Party but continued to sit on the Opposition Front Bench.

1876         Gladstone's book The Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East was published. In it, Gladstone attacked Disraeli's foreign policy.

1879         Gladstone's Midlothian Campaign. He made a two-week tour of the country prior to the General Election and was received enthusiastically by the people.

1880        Gladstone was returned as MP for both Leeds and Edinburghshire at the General Election. He chose to sit for Edinburghshire; his son Herbert was elected for Leeds and his son William was elected for Worcestershire East.
Disraeli resigned without waiting for parliament to meet.
Queen Victoria asked Lord Hartington to form a ministry but he persuaded her to send for Gladstone.
Gladstone formed his second ministry and decided also to take on the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer.

1881        The Irish Coercion Act was passed, giving the Viceroy the power to detain people for as "long as was thought necessary".
The second Land Act was passed.
Disraeli died. Gladstone did not attend the funeral.

1882        Lord Frederick Cavendish (the Chief Secretary for Ireland) and T.H. Burke (the Undersecretary) were murdered in Phoenix Park, Dublin. An even more severe Coercion Bill was introduced as a result of the murders.
Gladstone resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

1884        General Gordon reached Khartoum from whence he was supposed to evacuate the people. He decided to defeat the Mahdi instead. Gladstone was forced by "jingoism" to send help to Gordon.
The third Reform Act was passed
The Redistribution of Seats Act was passed.

1885         The fall of Khartoum. Gordon and his forces were massacred two days before Lord Wolseley's relief expedition arrived. Gladstone was held to be responsible for Gordon's death and he was given the nickname "Gordon's Own Murderer" to replace the "Grand Old Man".
The government was defeated on the budget by an alliance of Conservatives and Irish Nationalists. Gladstone resigned and Lord Salisbury became Prime Minister.
Queen Victoria offered Gladstone an earldom, which he declined.

1885         [December] The "Hawarden Kite": Herbert Gladstone leaked to the press that his father was in favour of a policy of Home Rule in Ireland.

1886        The Conservatives vowed to maintain the union of Great Britain and Ireland. Gladstone and the Irish Nationalists joined forces to defeat the government. Salisbury resigned.
Gladstone became Prime Minister for the third time, combining the office with that of Lord Privy Seal.
Gladstone introduced a Home Rule Bill for Ireland which was defeated. Gladstone resigned following the Conservative victory in the General Election.

1890        The Irish-Liberal alliance ended after the O'Shea divorce case in which Charles Stuart Parnell was cited as co-respondent.

1891        Gladstone announced the "Newcastle programme" of Home Rule for Ireland, the disestablishment of the Church in Scotland and Wales, universal manhood suffrage and triennial parliaments.

1892        The Liberals won a majority in the General Election and Gladstone became Prime Minister for the fourth time, again combining the office with that of Lord Privy Seal.

1893        The second Home Rule Bill was introduced to parliament and was defeated by the House of Lords.

1894        Gladstone resigned as Prime Minister but continued to sit as an MP until the General Election when he finally retired from parliament.

1896        In his last public speech, in Liverpool, Gladstone protested against the massacres of Armenians in Turkey.

1898         [19 May] Gladstone died at Hawarden. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.


Last modified 20 April 2003