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Peel was the eldest son of the 1st Baronet, a calico manufacturer, landowner and M.P.. Initially educated at home, he later attended Harrow and then Oxford. The young Peel opted not to follow his father and grandfather into the family business, preferring to head straight for parliament. He used his father’s influence to secure the vacant seat at Cashel, and entered the Commons immediately.
Peel soon gained in political standing and by 1812 had been invited to join the Irish administration as chief secretary - a post he held for the next six years. His next government post was as Home Secretary between 1822 and 1827 and then between 1828 and 1830. His tenure there was notable for the consolidation of the criminal law and the introduction of the police force.
Political life in the 1830s was marked by the increasing division amongst the Tories. Peel trod a careful path and eventually emerged to lead the new Conservatives. By 1834 he had become Prime Minister, but it was to be a short-lived tenure. He resigned 1835, after just four months, following the defeat of his Irish Tithe Bill.
Peel returned to power in 1841 and led an active government. One of its most notable achievements was the repeal of the Corn Laws - an undertaking which was to split the Conservative Party in two. In the unsavoury atmosphere that followed, the protectionists amongst the Conservatives combined with the Whigs to defeat the government’s Irish Coercion Bill. Peel promptly resigned. He never returned to office, being thrown from his horse in 1850 and dying a few days later.