PRIME MINISTER, or PREMIER, in England, the first minister of the Crown. Until 1905 the office of prime minister was unknown to the law, 1 but by a royal warrant of the and of December of that year the holder of the office, as such, was given precedence next after the archbishop of York. The prime minister is the medium of intercourse between the cabinet and the sovereign; he has to be cognizant of all matters of real importance that take place in the different departments so as tc exercise a controlling influence in the cabinet; he is virtually responsible for the disposal of the entire patronage of the Crown; he selects his colleagues, and by his resignation of office dissolves the ministry. Yet he was until 1905, in theory at least, but the equal of the colleagues he appointed. The prime minister is nominated by the sovereign. " I offered," said Sir Robert Peel on his resignation of office, " no opinion as to the choice of a successor. That is almost the only act which is the personal act of the sovereign ; it is for the sovereign to determine in whom her confidence shall be placed." Yet this selection by the Crown is practically limited. No prime minister could carry on the government of the country for any length of time who did not possess the confidence of the House of Commons. The prime minister has no salary as prime minister, but he usually holds the premiership in connexion with the first lordship of the treasury, the chancellorship of the exchequer, a secretaryship of state or the privy seal. Sir Robert Walpole must be regarded as the first prime minister that is, a minister who imposed harmonious action upon his colleagues in the cabinet. This was brought about partly by the capacity of the man himself, partly by the lack of interest of George I. and II. in English home affairs. This creation, as it were, of a superior minister was so gradually and silently effected that it is difficult to realize its full importance. In previous ministries there was no prime minister except so far as one member of the administration dominated over his colleagues by the force of character and intelligence. In the reign of George III. even North and Addington were universally acknowledged by the title of prime minister, though they had little claim to the independence of action of a Walpole or a Pitt.
British Prime Ministers. Sir R. Walpole . . 1721-1742 Earl of Shelburne John, Lord Carteret (afterwards Mar- Afterwards Earl quess of Lans- Granville) . . . 1742-1744 downe) . . . 1782-1783 Henry Pelham . . 1744-1754 Lord North ( afterDuke of Newcastle . 1754-1756 wards Earl of GuilWilliam Pitt and .ford .... 1783 Duke of Newcastle 1756-1762 W. Pitt . 1783-1801 Earl of Bute . . 1762-1763 H . Addington ( afterGeorge Grenville . 1763-1765 war d s Viscount Marquess of Rock- Sidmouth) . . 1801-1804 1765-1766 w Pitt .... 1804-18066 1807-1809 1809-1812 ingham Chatham Duke of Grafton Lord North Marquess of Rock- rqu ngh ,766-1767 . 1767-1770 . 1770-1782 Spencer Perceval of Portland ingham 1782 Earl of Liverpool G. Canning . .
1812-1827 1827 1 The first formal mention in a public document appears to be in 1878, where, in the opening clause of the treaty of Berlin, the earl of Beaconsfield is referred to as " First Lord of Her Majesty's Treasury, Prime Minister of England."
Viscount Goderich (afterwards Earl of Ripon) . . . 1827-1828 Duke of Wellington . 1828-1830 Earl Grey . . . 1830-1834 Viscount Melbourne 1834 Sir R. Peel . . . 1834-1835 Viscount Melbourne 1835-1841 Sir R. Peel . . . 1841-1846 Lord John Russell (afterwards Earl Russell) . . . 1846-1852 Earl of Derby . .1852 Earl of Aberdeen . 1852-1855 Viscount Palmerston 1855-1858 Earl of Derby . . 1858-1859 Viscount Palmerston 1859-1865 Earl Russell . . 1865-1866 Earl of Derby . . 1866-1868 B. Disraeli ( afterwards Earl of Beaconsfield) . . 1868 W. E. Gladstone . 1868-1874 B. Disraeli ( Beaconsfield) .... 1874-1880 W.E.Gladstone. . 1880-1885 Marquess of Salisbury .... 1885-1886 W. E. Gladstone. . 1886 Marquess of Salisbury .... 1886-1892 W.E.Gladstone. . 1892-1894 Earl of Rosebery . 1894-1895 Marquess of Salisbury .... 1895-1902 A. J. Balfour . . 1902-1905 Sir H. Campbell- Bannerman . . 19051908 H. H. Asquith . . 1908-
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)