<< Back to full list of biographies
Like many of his contemporaries, the 14th Earl was educated at Eton and then Oxford and was clearly destined for a political career. In 1822, two years after leaving Oxford, he was elected M.P. for Stockbridge, later moving to represent Preston, Windsor and then North Lancashire.
In 1830 he entered office for the first time, becoming chief secretary for Ireland. He was responsible for introducing a number of reforms in Ireland, in the areas of education, transport, tithes, the electoral franchise and so on. By 1833 he had been moved to the Colonial Office, where he was responsible for drawing up the Abolition of Slavery Bill.
After a period out of office, Lord Stanley (as he was styled until succeeding his father as 14th Earl of Derby in 1851) returned to government in 1841 as Peel’s Colonial Secretary. In 1844 he was elevated to the House of Lords with the title ‘Lord Stanley of Bickerstaffe’. He resigned from government in 1845 in protest at the proposed repeal of the Corn Laws, and became leader of the Protectionist Conservatives.
Derby’s first term as prime minister was a short-lived affair. He put together a minority government at the beginning of 1852, but resigned in December of the same year, following the defeat of the budget. After six years in opposition, he again returned to the premiership in 1858, heading another minority Conservative government which held power until 1859.
A further seven opposition years followed, after which Derby formed his third, and final, minority government, in 1866. He intended to keep office for as long as possible, but in 1868 ill health forced his resignation and he handed the premiership over to Disraeli.