After Number 10: Former Prime Ministers in British Politics by K. Theakston

By K. Theakston

Having misplaced an election, been thrown out by means of their get together, or retired on grounds of ill-health, what do former British top ministers do? within the first publication to examine the lives, political roles and impact of former best ministers, Theakston analyzes all of the former best ministers from Walpole within the 18th century to Blair at the present time.

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He spent most of his time in this period on family and private pursuits, busy ‘farming, hunting, and planting’, living mainly at the Burton Pynsent estate in Somerset he had inherited from a benefactor. There can be little doubt about his happy marriage to his wife Hester (made a peeress in her own right in 1761), whose devoted care helped him through his illnesses and who was also a political aide. In the early 1770s he seems to have enjoyed playing the ‘old doting daddy’ to his five children (then teenagers), all educated at home, his favourite, William (who became PM himself five years after his father’s death), being carefully coached as an orator and debater.

Although a notorious and fussy hypochondriac, he was, as his biographer Reed Browning says, usually healthy (though he had a recurring intestinal problem) and able to enjoy outdoor activity until the last year of his life, when he was crippled by serious illness. 17 When a Whig ministry was formed in July 1765 under Lord Rockingham, Newcastle (aged 72) returned to office. Most of his Cabinet colleagues were now several decades younger than him and he had been a power in the land and a Secretary of State before the new prime minister (aged just 35) had even been born.

In February and March 1766 he had one last triumph, playing a leading role in pushing the ministry’s repeal of the Stamp Act through the House of Lords and also helping persuade a doubtful George III that the policy of conciliation of the American colonies in the interests of trying to revive British trade was right. 18 ‘Seventy-three and ambition are ridiculous comrades’, wrote Horace Walpole but even now Newcastle would not retire from politics and public life, though Walpole to Shelburne 23 he knew he would not hold office again.

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