Biography of William Ewart Gladstone

Portrait of William Ewart Gladstone

William Ewart Gladstone was a Victorian Prime Minister.

When and Where was he Born?

29th December 1809, Liverpool, England. Christened William Ewart Gladstone.

Family Background:

William Ewart Gladstone was the fourth son of a Scottish merchant and parliamentarian Sir John Gladstone.


Eton College. Christ Church, Oxford. (Became a noted orator in the Oxford Union Debating Society).

Timeline of William Ewart Gladstone:

1832: The Duke of Newcastle was looking for a Conservative Candidate for his Newark Constituency and his friend Sir John Gladstone suggests his son would be a good MP.

1834: The Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel appoints him as his junior Lord of the Treasury.

1835: Gladstone loses his post with the resignation of Peel.

1839: He marries Catherine Glynne of Hawarden.

1841: The Tories oust the Whigs in August and Gladstone is promoted to vide President of the Board of Trade.

1843: He is promoted to President of the Board of Trade.

1844: He is responsible for the introduction of the Railway Bill which meant that railway companies had to carry Third Class passengers at less than one penny per mile.

1845: The Duke of Newcastle refuses to support his candidacy for Newark as he was upset by Gladstone’s support for the Corn Laws. Although he was no longer an MP he is still allowed to remain in the cabinet as Colonial Secretary.

1847: The Whig Lord John Russell ousts the Tories and becomes Prime Minister, thus Gladstone is out of a job. At the following General Election he is returned as an MP by Oxford University but his party remains in opposition. Eventually a coalition Government is formed by Lord Aberdeen with Lord John Russell as Foreign Secretary and Gladstone as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

1852: Gladstone makes his first really great speech against Disraeli’s budget.

1859: The Whig Lord Palmerston becomes Prime Minister in June and offers Gladstone the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer again. He was responsible for many reforms including the abolition of paper duty which meant the newspapers could be printed more cheaply. He also spoke up in favour of Edward Baine’s plan to give the vote to more people in the working class although they were heavily defeated.

Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament, London taken from the London Eye  (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1865: The voters at Oxford University were annoyed by Gladstone’s defection to the Whigs in July and he loses his seat. He now moves to Lancashire. Lord John Russell the new Prime Minister asks him to become the Leader of the House as well as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

1866: Gladstone introduces the Government’s new Reform Bill. Failing to get their reforms past the House of Commons Russell’s government resign on the 19th June. The Conservatives under Lord Derby now become the Government. Benjamin Disraeli the Leader of the House of Commons argues that the Conservative’s now looked as if they were anti-reform.

1867: Disraeli proposes a new Reform Act”. Despite resignations by some Tories such as Lord Cranborne, the Conservatives are supported by Gladstone and his followers and the Bill is passed. The “Reform Act” gave the vote to every male adult householder living in a borough constituency. Male lodgers paying over £10 for unfurnished rooms were also granted the vote. Altogether all this applied to over one and a half million men. The reforms also took away MP’s from constituencies where there were less than 10,000 inhabitants and redistributed them to the new thriving towns of Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds.

1868: At the General Election the Conservative’s are defeated and Gladstone becomes the new leader of the Liberals and Prime Minister.

1870: The Education Act is passed which set up school boards in Britain.

Statue of Gladstone, Manchester
Statue of William Ewart Gladstone outside Manchester Town Hall. (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1872: The Ballot Act is brought in to bring secret voting to stop landlords and factory owners intimidating their men into voting against their wishes.

1874: The Conservative’s regain Government with a majority of 46.

1880: Gladstone, now MP for Midlothian, and the Liberals are returned to power with an overwhelming majority.

1884: The “Reform Act” becomes law after the Conservative led House of Lords finally allowed it. This added another 6 million men to the amount of people who could vote.

1886: Gladstone and the Liberals win another General Election. Gladstone try to get Parliament to accept Irish Home Rule and there is much opposition within his own party. He is defeated in the polls later in that year.

Statue of Gladstone, London
Statue of William Ewart Gladstone outside Clement Danes Church, The Strand, London. (copyright Anthony Blagg).

1892: Gladstone wins the General Election.

1893: Irish Home Rule Bill is eventually passed in the House of Commons but is defeated by the Lords.

1894: Gladstone resigned from office in March.

When and Where did he Die?

19th May 1898, Hawarden, Flint, Wales of a cancer which started in his cheekbone and then spread..

Age at Death:



1839 to Catherine Glynne of Hawarden.

Site of Grave:

Westminster Abbey, London, England.

Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey, London (copyright Anthony Blagg)

Places of Interest:


The House of Commons.


Fusque, Fettercairn, Laurencekirk, Kincardineshire, AB30 1DN.
Gladstone’s Land, 477B, Lawn Market, Royal Mile, Edinburgh.



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