Tuesday, December 21, 2010

In Memoriam: Benjamin Disraeli

He was said to be Queen Victoria's favourite Prime Minister, as much for his personality as his politics; Britain's first (and, to date, only) Jewish Prime Minister was not only a senior statesman with nearly forty years in Parliament, but also a prolific if quotidian novelist, famous (at least around the Pop Culture Institute) for his quote: 'When I want to read a novel I write a novel!'

PhotobucketHe married well, to Mary Anne Lewis, the wealthy widow of Wyndham Lewis, MP; although the difference in their ages (she was 12 years older than him) was a scandal in its time, and many presumed he'd married her only for her money, it was a happy marriage.

First invited to form a government in February 1868 following the retirement of the Earl of Derby, he was defeated in that December's general election; his second ministry, though, proved more durable. Returned to power following the election of 1874, Disraeli was created Earl of Beaconsfield in 1876 (his wife having been created Viscountess Beaconsfield in her own right in 1868), and served until defeated in the election of April 1880 by his old rival, Liberal William Gladstone.

Born on this day in 1804, Benjamin Disraeli died in April 1881; he was portrayed to perfection by Sir Antony Sher in the 1997 film Mrs. Brown opposite none other than Dame Judi Dench.

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