Lord Melbourne, 1779-1848


Lord Melbourne was Prime Minister of England from 1834-1841. As mentor and father-figure to the young Queen Victoria, he exerted considerable influence over the first few years of her reign. He was a man to whom career success came rather late - he was forty-eight years old before he held any major governmental office. In a profound way, his character and thinking had already been determined by experiences outside politics - particularly by his Whig social background and his disastrous marriage to Lady Caroline Lamb. In this, the first biography for twenty years, Leslie Mitchell uses the Melbourne family papers to explore the man behind a politician at the heart of early Victorian politics. William Lamb, the second Viscount Melbourne, might have held office earlier had it not been for his marriage to Lady Caroline Ponsonby, whose scandalous public affaires (including one with Byron), preceded a descent into madness and separation from her husband. Her death in 1828 freed Melbourne to take up the career which was almost his birthright. His views and subsequent political rise and survival in high office (almost by accident rather than design), reveal much about the nature of Whig politics - operating as an extension of family relationships and the expression of the shared values of an ¿lite. As Prime Minister, Melbourne became the closest adviser and father figure to the new queen, who was only eighteen years old at her accession in 1837. Her rejection of Melbourne on her marriage to Prince Albert was abrupt and devastating, and Melbourne never really recovered from it. He became a marginalized figure, out of step with the demands of a fast-changing, newly industrialized world. In this fascinating account, Leslie Mitchell fully explores the private and public life of a man destined for high office and greatly influenced by the women in his life.


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