|Lord Palmerston engraving|
If the 1840s was Peel's decade, the following decade belonged to Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865), Foreign Secretary in Lord John Russell’s Whig government and later Prime Minister.
Early careerPalmerston was the eldest of five children of the 3nd viscount. He inherited his peerage in 1802 at the age of seventeen, and as it was an Irish peerage, he always sat in the Commons. The family owned East Sheen in London, Broadlands in Hampshire and 10,000 acres in County Sligo. The name of the title was taken from the village of Palmerston on the family estates outside Dublin.
Although he is always seen as a Victorian politician, intellectually and culturally he was a product of the Georgian age. He was educated first at Edinburgh University and then at St John’s College Cambridge, where he identified himself as a supporter of Pitt the Younger. In the general election of 1807 he contested Pitt's old seat, Cambridge University. He lost, but on the following day he was returned for Newport, a pocket borough on the Isle of Wight. However, he sat for the university from 1811 to 1831.
In 1809 he became secretary at war (a non cabinet post) in Spencer Perceval's Tory government. He continued to serve as secretary for war in the administrations of subsequent prime ministers, George Canning, Viscount Goderich and the duke of Wellington. But he resigned from Wellington’s government in May 1828 over its refusal to allow even moderate parliamentary reform. After twenty years of being continuously in government, he now found himself on the opposition benches. From being a Tory he became a Whig.