This week we look at Victoria's Prime Ministers following the death of Lord Palmerston in 1865. Victoria was heavily into mourning Prince Albert, but the efforts of Lord John Russell and the Earl of Derby to introduce electoral reform started to coax her back into national affairs. However, it was the rivalry of the two great politicians of the age - the charming Benjamin Disraeli and the severe William Gladstone - saw her re-emerge as a dominant figure. To Victoria's great distress, Gladstone proved to be the candle that wouldn't blow out, replacing her favoured Disraeli and Salisbury before finally retiring and allowing the reluctant Rosebery to become her final (new) PM.
Having looked at Victoria's personal life, we now look at the events of her reign through her Prime Ministers. In this first of two episodes, we encounter the first six of her ten leaders. Her first PM, Melbourne, was an old-school Whig with a penchant for anecdotes and little work, while Sir Robert Peel's efforts to modernise the Conservative party saw a split that threw politics into confusion for the next ten years. Lord John Russell (Whig) and the Earl of Derby (Conservative) both struggled to hold their respective governments together, while the Earl of Aberdeen's talented coalition was brought down by the Crimean War. Victoria had positive relationships with all five, but it was the roguish, charming, womanising, unpredictable Lord Palmerston who came to dominate, winning the support of the public and overseeing the formation of the Liberal Party.