UK Prime Ministers 1721 to Present Day

Boris Johnson UK Prime MInister

This timeline details all UK Prime Ministers from 1721 to present day

Sir Robert Walpole 1st Earl of Orford
Whig Party
4th April 1721 – 16th February 1742  
The term ‘Prime Minister’ was first used to describe Walpole as the most important man in government and the term has been used ever since. He was successful in the elections of 1722, 1727, 1734 and 1741. He resigned amid criticism of his leadership and retired to the House of Lords.
Spencer Compton 1st Earl of Wilmington
Whig Party
16th February 1742 – 27th August 1743
Took over after the resignation of Robert Walpole. Died while in office.
Henry Pelham
Whig Party
27th August 1743 – 16th March 1754
Took over after the death of Spencer Compton. Won the 1747 election. Died in office.
Thomas Pelham Holles 1st Duke of Newcastle
Whig Party
16th March 1754 – 16th November 1756
Took over after the death of his brother Pelham. Won 1754 election but was replaced for poor performance during the Seven Years War
William Cavendish 4th Duke of Devonshire
Head of Whig Caretaker Government
16th November 1756 – 25th June 1757
Became head of a caretaker government during the Seven Years War. Became unpopular after executing Admiral Byng.
Thomas Pelham Holles 1st Duke of Newcastle
Whig Party
2nd July 1757 – 26th May 1762
Appointed Prime Minister to replace caretaker government. Won 1761 election but was forced to resign by King George III
John Stuart 3rd Earl of Bute
Tory Party
26th May 1762 – 8th April 1763
Became Prime Minister after the King forced Newcastle to resign. However Bute was dismissed by the King two years later.
George Grenville
Whig
16th April 1763 – 13th July 1765
Became Prime Minister after the Earl of Bute resigned. Was dismissed by the King after two years in office
Charles Watson-Wentworth 2nd Marquess of Rockingham
Whig Party
13th July 1765 – 30th July 1766
Became Prime Minister after Grenville was dismissed by the King. Government fell due to its poor foreign policy.
William Pitt the Elder 1st Earl of Chatham
Whig Party
30th July 1766 – 14th October 1768
Became Prime Minister when Rockingham’s government fell. Resigned due to ill health.
Augustus FitzRoy 3rd Duke of Grafton
Whig Party
14th October 1768 – 28th January 1770
Became Prime Minister following the resignation of William Pitt the Elder due to ill health. Resigned in January 1770 following criticism of the government’s foreign policy.
Frederick North Lord North
Tory Party
28th January 1770 – 4th July 1782
Became Prime Minister following the resignation of Grafton. Won the 1774 and 1780 elections. Died while in office.
Charles Watson-Wentworth 2nd Marquess of Rockingham
Whig Party
27th March 1782 – 4th July 1782
Became head of the government after Lord North resigned. Died while in office
William Petty-FitzMaurice 2nd Earl of Shelburne
Whig Party
4th July 1782 – 2nd April 1783
Became head of the government after the death of Rockingham
William Cavendish Bentinck 3rd Duke of Portland
Whig Party
2nd April 1783 – 19th December 1783
Became head of a coalition government after Shelburne’s government fell.
William Pitt the Younger
Tory Party
19th December 1783 – 17th March 1801
Became UK Prime Minister when Portland’s coalition government fell. Won 1784, 1790 and 1796 elections but resigned in 1801 when he came into conflict with the King over Catholic Emancipation.
Henry Addington
Tory Party
17th March 1801 – 10th May 1804
Took over following the resignation of Pitt over Catholic Emancipation. He won the 1802 election
William Pitt the Younger
Tory Party
10th May 1804 – 23rd January 1806
Took over following the resignation of Addington. Died while in office.
William Wyndham Grenville 1st Lord Grenville
Whig Party
11th February 1806 – 31st March 1807
Won the 1806 election which was held following the death of William Pitt.
William Cavendish Bentinck 3rd Duke of Portland
Tory Party
31st March 1807 – 4th October 1809
Took over as party leader when Grenville’s Whig led coalition fell. Won the 1807 election but with a very small majority.
Spencer Perceval
Tory Party
4th October 1809 – 11th May 1812
Took over as leader of the Tory party after Portland suffered a stroke. He was assassinated in May 1812.
Robert Banks Jenkinson 2nd Earl of Liverpool
Tory Party
8th June 1812 – 9th April 1827
Took over as leader of the Tories after Spencer Perceval was assassinated. Won the 1812, 1818, 1820 and 1826 elections. Was forced to resign after suffering a cerebral haemorrhage.
George Canning
Tory Party
10th April 1827 – 31st August 1827
Took over after Liverpool suffered a cerebral haemorrhage
Frederick John Robinson 1st Viscount Goderich
Tory Party
31st August 1827 – 21st January 1828
Took over when George Canning died
Arthur Wellesley Duke of Wellington
Tory Party
22nd January 1828 – 16th November 1830
Became UK Prime Minister after Goderich resigned. Won the 1830 election but without a clear majority and was unable to form a government.
Charles Grey 2nd Earl Grey
Whig Party
22nd November 1830 – 16th July 1834
Despite losing the 1830 election became Prime Minister as only person able to form a government. Won the 1831 election with a clear majority and after the introduction of the Reform Bill the Whigs increased that majority in the 1832 election.
William Lamb 2nd Viscount Melbourne
Whig Party
16th July 1834 – 14th November 1834
Took over as Prime Minister after Earl Grey resigned. Was dismissed by the King.
Arthur Wellesley Duke of Wellington
Tory Party
17th November 1834 – 10th December 1834
Caretaker Prime Minister for Robert Peel who was in Italy when the Tories unexpectedly came to power following the dismissal of Melbourne’s Whig government by the King.
Sir Robert Peel
Conservative Party
10th December 1834 – 8th April 1835
Took over from Wellington. Lost the 1835 election.
William Lamb 2nd Viscount Melbourne
Whig Party
18th April 1835 – 18th August 1837 – 29th August 1841
Won the 1835 election with a clear majority. Won 1837 election but did not have a majority so formed a minority government. Lost the 1841 election to the Conservatives.
Sir Robert Peel
Conservative Party
30th August 1841 – 19th June 1846
Won 1841 election. Government defeated in 1846 over Corn laws issue
Lord John Russell
Whig Party
30th June 1846 – 21st February 1852
Took over when Peel’s government collapsed over the Corn Laws. Won 1847 election
Edward Smith Stanley 14th Earl of Derby
Conservative Party
23rd February 1852 – 17th December 1852
Won the 1852 election but government collapsed when the Chancellor’s budget was vetoed by the House of Commons
George Hamilton Gordon 4th Earl of Aberdeen
Head of Peelite-Whig Coalition
19th December 1852 – 30th January 1855
Took over when Lord Derby’s government collapsed. Resigned over investigation into Crimean War
Henry John Temple 3rd Viscount Palmerston
Whig Party
6th February 1855 – 19th February 1858
Took over when Lord Aberdeen resigned. Won 1857 election but was a minority government which collapsed in 1858
Edward Smith-Stanley, Earl of Derby
Conservative Party
20th February 1858 – 11th June 1859
Took over when Palmerston’s minority Whig government collapsed
Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston
Liberal Party
12th June 1859 – 18th October 1865
Won 1859 General election as leader of the new Liberal Party taking over from Conservatives. Returned for second term following the 1865 general election. Died while serving as Prime Minister
John Russell, Earl Russell
Liberal Party
29th October 1865 – 26th June 1866
Took over as leader of Liberal government when Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston died
Edward Smith-Stanley, Earl of Derby
Conservative Party
28th June 1866 – 27th February 1868
Took over as leader of a Conservative government when John Russell’s Liberal government collapsed
Benjamin Disraeli
Conservative Party
27th February 1868 – 1st December 1868
Took over as leader of the Conservative government when Edward Smith-Stanley, Earl of Derby resigned due to ill health
William Ewart Gladstone
Liberal Party
3rd December 1868 – 17th February 1874
Won the 1868 General Election
Benjamin Disraeli
Conservative Party
20th February 1874 – 21st April 1880
Won the 1874 General Election, became Earl of Beaconsfield in 1876
William Ewart Gladstone
Liberal Party
23rd April 1880 – 9th June 1885
Won the 1880 General Election
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil Marquess of Salisbury
Conservative Party
23rd June 1885 – 28th January 1886
Won the 1885 election but as head of a minority government
William Ewart Gladstone
Liberal Party
1st February 1886 – 20th July 1886
Introduction of the Home Rule Bill split the Liberals and forced another election
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil Marquess of Salisbury
Conservative Party
25th August 1886 – 11th August 1892
Won 1886 general election
William Ewart Gladstone
Liberal Party
15th August 1892 – 2nd March 1894
Won 1892 election as head of a minority Liberal government
Archibald Primrose Earl of Rosebery
Liberal Party
5th March 1894 – 22nd June 1895
Took over as leader of the Liberals following the resignation of Gladstone
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil Marquess of Salisbury
Conservative Party
25th July 1895 – 11th July 1902
Served for two terms following victory at the 1895 and 1900 elections. Resigned in 1902 in favour of his nephew.
Arthur Balfour
Conservative Party
11th July 1902 – 5th December 1905
Took over as leader of the Conservative Party after his uncle the Marquis of Salisbury resigned
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman
Liberal Party
5th December 1905 – 7th April 1908
Took over as UK Prime Minister after the resignation of Arthur Balfour. Won the subsequent election held in 1906. Resigned due to ill health in April 1908 and died shortly afterwards
Herbert Henry Asquith
Liberal Party
Served 7th April 1908 – 25th May 1915
Became leader of the Liberals after Campbell-Bannerman resigned due to ill health. Remained in office even though the elections held from January to February 1910 and from 3rd – 19th December 1910 both resulted in a hung parliament. December 1910 was the last election to span a number of days.
Herbert Henry Asquith
Head of Liberal Led Wartime Coalition
25th May 1915 – 7th December 1916
A new wartime coalition was formed for the duration of World War One
David Lloyd George
Head of Liberal Led Wartime Coalition
7th December 1916 – 14th December 1918
Became leader of World War One Wartime coalition government after Asquith’s coalition government collapsed
David Lloyd George
Liberal Party
14th December 1918 – 19th October 1922
First election held following the passing of the universal suffrage act
Andrew Bonar Law
Conservative Party
23rd October 1922 – 23rd May 1923
Resigned after less than a year in office due to ill health
Stanley Baldwin
Conservative Party
23rd May 1923 – 16th January 1924
Became leader of the Conservative Party after Bonar Law resigned due to ill health
Ramsay MacDonald
Labour Party
22nd January 1924 – 4th November 1924
Although Stanley Baldwin’s Conservative Party won the election held on December 6th 1923 they did not have a majority. Ramsay MacDonald, leader of the Labour Party, gained the backing of the Liberal party and formed the first labour government on 22nd January 1924
Stanley Baldwin
Conservative Party
4th November 1924 – 5th June 1929
Won election from Labour and became Prime Minister for the second time
Ramsay MacDonald
Labour Party
5th June 1929 – 24th August 1931
The 1929 election resulted in a hung parliament which saw MacDonald elected as Prime Minister for the second time but with no majority in parliament
Ramsay MacDonald
Head of Labour Led National Coalition
24th August 1931 – 7th June 1935
Without an overall majority MacDonald formed a National coalition government
Stanley Baldwin
Head of Conservative Led Coalition
7th June 1935 – 28th May 1937
Returned for a third spell as Prime Minister but resigned in May 1937
Neville Chamberlain
Head of Conservative Led Coalition
28th May 1937 – 10th May 1940
Became leader of the Conservative Party following the resignation of Stanley Baldwin. He followed a policy of appeasement in response to the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany. He declared war on Germany in September 1939 and resigned in May 1940.
Winston Churchill
Head of Conservative Led War Coalition
10th May 1940 – 23rd May 1945
Took over as leader of the Conservative led war coalition government after Chamberlain resigned. He remained in position throughout the Second World War.
Winston Churchill
Head of Conservative Caretaker Coalition
Served 23rd May 1945 – 26th July 1945
Caretaker coalition formed following the end of World War Two in Europe
Clement Atlee
Labour Party
26th July 1945 – 26th October 1951
Shock election victory for the Labour Party in the first election after World War Two.
Sir Winston Churchill
Conservative Party
26th October 1951 – 7th April 1955
Became UK Prime Minister for the third time at the age of 76 yrs. Remained in office until forced to resign due to worsening ill health.
Sir Anthony Eden
Conservative Party
7th April 1955 – 10th January 1957
Took over as leader of the Conservative Party after Churchill resigned. He subsequently resigned as leader of the Conservative Party in January 1957 due to ill health
Harold MacMillan
Conservative Party
10th January 1957 – 19th October 1963
Became leader of the Conservative Party when Anthony Eden resigned due to ill health. He won the 1959 election but resigned in 1963.
Sir Alec Douglas Home
Conservative Party
19th October 1963 – 16th October 1964
Became leader of the Conservative Party in October 1963 when Harold MacMillan resigned as leader. Had to give up his peerage in order to become Prime Minister
Harold Wilson
Labour Party
16th October 1964 – 19th June 1970
Spent two periods at head of government
Edward Heath
Conservative Party
19th June 1970 – 4th March 1974
Resigned after 1974 election resulted in a hung parliament
Harold Wilson
Labour Party
4th March 1974 – 5th April 1976
February 1974 election left hung parliament. Wilson became Prime Minister of minority government after Edward Heath resigned office. October 1974 election gave Labour Party a small majority
James Callaghan
Labour Party
5th April 1976 – 4th May 1979
Took over after Harold Wilson resigned from office
Margaret Thatcher
Conservative Party
4th May 1979 – 28th November 1990
The UK’s first female Prime Minister won three elections at head of Conservative Party. Was replaced by John Major after his successful leadership challenge.
John Major
Conservative Party
28th November 1990 – 2nd May 1997
Became UK Prime Minister after successfully challenging Margaret Thatcher as leader of the Conservative Party.
Tony Blair
Labour Party
2nd May 1997 – 27th June 2007
Youngest ever Prime Minister. He was Prime Minister during the Iraq War . Won three elections and stood down in June 2007.
Gordon Brown
Labour Party
27th June 2007 – 11th May 2010
Became UK Prime Minister following resignation of Tony Blair.
David Cameron
Head of Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition
11th May 2010 – 7th May 2015
David Cameron was forced to form a Coalition with the Liberal Democrats because the Conservatives had no clear majority following the General Election.
David Cameron
Conservative Party
8th May 2015 – 13th July 2016
David Cameron won a majority at the General Election. He resigned on 24th June 2016 following the EU Referendum result showed a majority voted to leave the EU.
Theresa May
Conservative Party
13th July 2016 – 7th June 2019
Took over after David Cameron resigned. Called a snap election in April 2017 which was held on 8th June. Theresa May gained the most seats but did not have a majority. She formed an agreement with the DUP (Democratic Union Party) of Northern Ireland to form a minority government. She tried, unsuccessfully to deliver Brexit but resigned when her deal did not have the support of her party.
Conservative Party
24th July 2019 – Present
Elected leader of the Conservative Party and took over from Theresa May. Vowed to take the UK out of the EU on 31st October with or without a deal. Controversially prorogued parliament for 5 weeks on 9th September 2019, a move which was overturned by the High Court. Won a clear majority in the December 2019 election and took the UK out of the EU on 31st January 2020. 

 

Published Apr 02, 2013 @ 8:56 am – Updated – May 25, 2020 @ 11:19 am

Harvard Reference for this page:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2017 – 2020). UK Prime Ministers 1721 to Present Day Available: https://www.totallytimelines.com/uk-prime-ministers-1721-present-day Last accessed [date]