Robert Peel

Infobox Prime Minister
honorific-prefix = The Right Honourable
name =Sir Robert Peel, Bt

order =Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
term_start =30 August 1841
term_end =29 June 1846
monarch =Victoria
predecessor =The Viscount Melbourne
successor =The Lord John Russell
term_start2 =10 December 1834
term_end2 =8 April 1835
monarch2 =William IV
predecessor2 =The Duke of Wellington
successor2 =The Viscount Melbourne
order3 =Chancellor of the Exchequer
term_start3 =2 December 1834
term_end3 =8 April 1835
monarch3 =William IV
predecessor3 =The Lord Denman
successor3 =Thomas Spring Rice
birth_date =birth date|1788|2|5|df=y
birth_place =Bury, Lancashire, England
death_date =death date and age|1850|7|2|1788|2|5|df=y
death_place =Westminster, London, England
alma_mater =Christ Church, Oxford
party =Conservative|

Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet (5 February 1788 – 2 July 1850) was the Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 December 1834 to 8 April 1835, and again from 30 August 1841 to 29 June 1846. He helped create the modern concept of the police force while Home Secretary (leading to officers being known as "bobbies", in England, or Peelers, in Ireland, to this day), oversaw the formation of the Conservative Party out of the shattered Tory Party, and repealed the Corn Laws.


Peel was born in Ramsbottom, Bury, Lancashire, England to the industrialist and Member of Parliament Sir Robert Peel, 1st Baronet. His father was one of the richest textile manufacturers of the early Industrial Revolution. Peel was educated first at Hipperholme Grammar School, then at Harrow School and finally Christ Church, Oxford, where he took a double first in classics and mathematics. He is also believed to have briefly attended Bury Grammar School. While living in Tamworth, he is credited with the development of the Tamworth Pig by breeding Irish stock with some local Tamworth pigs.

Early political career

The young Peel entered politics at the young age of 21 as MP for the Irish rotten borough of Cashel, Tipperary. With a scant 24 voters on the rolls, he was elected unopposed. More importantly, his sponsor for the election (besides his father) was the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Sir Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington, with whom Peel's political career would be entwined for the next 25 years. Peel made his maiden speech at the start of the 1810 session, when he was chosen by the Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, to second the reply to the king's speech. His speech was a sensation, famously described by the Speaker, Charles Abbot, as "the best first speech since that of William Pitt." [Gash, "Mr. Secretary Peel", 59-61; 68-69.]

For the next decade he occupied a series of relatively minor positions in the Tory governments: Undersecretary for War, Chief Secretary for Ireland, and chairman of the Bullion Committee (charged with stabilizing British finances after the end of the Napoleonic Wars). He also changed seats twice: first picking up another rotten borough, Chippenham, then becoming MP for Oxford University in 1817.

He later served as MP for Tamworth from 1830 until his death. His home was Drayton Manor. His home Drayton Manor is no longer standing, but it is home to Drayton Manor Theme Park.

Home Secretary

Peel was considered one of the rising stars of the Tory party, first entering the cabinet in 1822 as Home Secretary. As Home Secretary, he introduced a number of important reforms of British criminal law: most memorably establishing the Metropolitan Police Force (Metropolitan Police Act 1829). He also changed the Penal code reducing the number of crimes punishable by death. He reformed the gaol system, introducing payment for gaolers and education for the inmates.

He resigned as Home Secretary after the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, became incapacitated and was replaced by George Canning. Canning favoured Catholic Emancipation, while Peel had been one of its most outspoken opponents. Canning himself died less than four months later and, after the brief premiership of Lord Goderich, Peel returned to the post of Home Secretary under the premiership of his long-time ally the Duke of Wellington. During this time he was widely perceived as the number-two in the Tory Party, after Wellington himself.

However, the pressure on the new ministry from advocates of Catholic Emancipation was too great and an Emancipation Bill was passed the next year. Peel felt compelled to resign his seat as MP representing the graduates of Oxford University (many of whom were Anglican clergymen), as he had stood on a platform of opposition to Catholic Emancipation (in 1815 he had, in fact, challenged to a duel the man most associated with emancipation, Daniel O'Connell). Peel instead moved to a rotten borough, Westbury, retaining his Cabinet position. Peel's protege Gladstone later emulated Peel by serving as MP for Oxford University from 1847 to 1865, before himself being defeated for his willingness to disestablish the Irish Church.

Police reform

It was at this point that he established the Metropolitan Police Force for London based at Scotland Yard. The 1,000 constables employed were affectionately nicknamed 'Bobbies' or, somewhat less affectionately, 'Peelers' (both terms are still used today). Although at first unpopular, they proved very successful in cutting crime in London, and by 200 all cities in the UK were being directed to form their own police forces—see Policing in the United Kingdom. (Actually, the authorities in Stalybridge, Cheshire had set up their own police force some two years earlier and so Peel was aware of this success of "police forces" before he "introduced" them in London. Fact|date=February 2007 The city of Glasgow, Scotland had also had its own police force since 1800.) Known as the father of modern policing, Robert Peel developed the Peelian Principles which defined the ethical requirements police officers must follow in order to be effective. His most memorable principle was, "the police are the public, and the public are the police."

Researchers [Susan A. Lentz and Robert H. Chaires, "The Invention of Peel's Principles: A Study of Policing 'Textbook' History", Journal of Criminal Justice 35 (2007) 69-79] have since concluded that Peel's list of principles was more likely authored by twentieth century policing scholars than by Peel himself. While Peel discussed the spirit of some of the principles in his speeches and other communications, Lentz and Chaires found no proof that he ever actually compiled a formal list.

Whigs in power (1830-1834)

The Middle and Working Classes in England at that time, however, were clamoring for reform, and Catholic Emancipation was only one of the ideas in the air. The Tory ministry refused to bend on other issues and were swept out of office in 1830 in favour of the Whigs. The following few years were extremely turbulent, but eventually enough reforms were passed that King William IV felt confident enough to invite the Tories to form a ministry again in succession to those of Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne in 1834. Peel was selected as Prime Minister but was in Italy at the time, so Wellington acted as a caretaker for the three weeks until Peel's return.

First term as Prime Minister (1834-1835)

This new Tory Ministry was a minority government, however, and depended on Whig goodwill for its continued existence. As his statement of policy at the general election of January 1835, Peel issued the Tamworth Manifesto. The issuing of this document is often seen as one of the most crucial points at which the Tories became the Conservative Party. In it he pledged that the Conservatives would endorse "modest" reform, but the Whigs instead formed a compact with Daniel O'Connell's Irish Radical members to repeatedly defeat the government on various bills. Eventually Peel's ministry resigned out of frustration and the Whigs under Lord Melbourne returned to power. The only real achievements of Peel's first administration was a commission to review the governance of the Church of England. This ecclesiastical commission being the forerunner of the Church Commissioners. A further achievement was a rapid gain in seats in the House of Commons which was around 100 seats in the 100 days Peel's Ministry lasted.

Leader of the Opposition (1835-1841)

In May 1839, he was offered another chance to form a government, this time by the new monarch, Queen Victoria. However, this too would have been a minority government and Peel felt he needed a further sign of confidence from his Queen. Lord Melbourne had been Victoria's confidant for several years, and many of the higher posts in Victoria's household were held by the wives and female relatives of Whigs; there was some feeling that Victoria had allowed herself to be too closely associated with the Whig party. Peel therefore asked that some of this coterie be dismissed and replaced with their Conservative counterparts, provoking the so-called Bedchamber Crisis. Victoria refused to change her household, and despite pleadings from the Duke of Wellington, relied on assurances of support from Whig leaders. Peel refused to form a government, and the Whigs returned to power.

econd term as Prime Minister (1841-1846)

Economic and Financial Reforms

Peel came to office during an economic recession which had seen a slump in world trade and a budget deficit run up by the whigs in an attempt to solve it. Confidence in Banks and Businesses was low and a trade deficit existed.

To raise revenue Peel's 1841 budget saw the re-introduction of Income Tax, removed previously at the end of the Napoleonic War. The money raised was more than expected and allowed for the removal and reduction of over 1,200 tariffs including the controversial sugar duties. It was also in the 1842 budget that the repeal of the corn laws was first proposed. It was defeated 4:1.

Factory Act

Peel finally had a chance to head a majority government following the election of July 1841. His promise of modest reform was held to, and the second most famous bill of this ministry, while "reforming" in 21st century eyes, was in fact aimed at the reformers themselves, with their constituency among the new industrial rich. The Factory Act 1844 acted more against these industrialists than it did against the traditional stronghold of the Conservatives, the landed gentry, by restricting the number of hours that children and women could work in a factory, and setting rudimentary safety standards for machinery. Interestingly, this was a continuation of his own father's work as an MP, as the elder Robert Peel was most noted for reform of working conditions during the first part of the 19th century.

In 1843 Peel was the target of a failed assassination attempt; a criminally-insane Scottish woodsman named Daniel M'Naghten stalked him for several days before accidentally killing Peel's personal secretary Edward Drummond instead.

Corn Laws and after

The most notable act of Peel's second ministry, however, was the one that would bring it down. This time Peel moved against the landholders by repealing the Corn Laws, which supported agricultural revenues by restricting grain imports. This radical break with Conservative protectionism was triggered by the Great Irish Famine (1845-1849). At first sceptical of the extent of the problem, Peel reacted slowly to the famine. As realisation dawned, however, he hoped that ending the Corn Laws would free up more food for the Irish. Though he knew repealing the laws would mean the end of his ministry, Peel decided to do so. Yet many historiansWeasel-inline believe that Peel merely used the Irish Famine as an excuse to repeal the Corn Laws and because he had been an intellectual convert to free trade since the 1820s. Blake points out that if Peel were convinced that total repeal was necessary to stave off the famine, he would have enacted a bill that brought about immediate temporary repeal, not permanent repeal over a three-year period of gradual tapering-off of duties. His own party failed to support the bill, but it passed with Whig and Radical support on 29 June 1846. A following bill was defeated as a direct consequence, however, and Peel resigned.

As an aside in reference to the Repeal of the Corn Laws, Peel did make some moves to subsidise the purchase of food for the Irish, but this attempt was small and had little tangible effect. In the age of laissez-faire, government taxes were small, and subsidies or direct economic interference were almost non-existent. That subsidies were actually given was very much out of character for the political times; Peel's successor, Lord John Russell, received more criticism than Peel on Irish policy. The repeal of the Corn Laws was more political than humanitarian. Peel's support for free trade could already be seen in his 1842 and 1845 budgets; in late 1842 Graham wrote to Peel that "the next change in the Corn Laws must be to an open trade" while arguing that the government should not tackle the issue. [Quoted in Gash, "Sir Robert Peel", 362.] Speaking to the cabinet in 1844, Peel argued that the choice was maintenance of the 1842 Corn Law or total repeal. [Gash, "Sir Robert Peel", 429.] Whatever the intentions, in the end the repeal of the Corn Laws had little effect on the situation in Ireland.

The historian Boyd Hilton argues that Peel knew from 1844 that he was going to be deposed as Conservative leader--many of his MPs had taken to voting against him and the rupture within the party between liberals and paternalists which had been so damaging in the 1820s, but masked by the issue of reform in the 1830s was brought to the surface over the Corn Laws. Hilton's hypothesis is that Peel wished to actually be deposed on a liberal issue so that he might later lead a Peelite/Whig/Liberal alliance.

Later career and death

He did retain a hard core of supporters however, known as Peelites, and at one point in 1849 was actively courted by the Whig/Radical coalition. He continued to stand on his conservative principles, however, and refused. Nevertheless, he was influential on several important issues, including the furtherance of British free trade with the repeal of the Navigation Acts. Peel was a member of the committee which controlled the House of Commons Library, and on 16 April 1850 was responsible for passing the motion that controlled its scope and collection policy for the rest of the century.

Peel was thrown from his horse while riding up Constitution Hill in London on 29 June 1850, the horse stumbled on top of him and he died three days later on 2 July at the age of 62. His Peelite followers, led by Lord Aberdeen and William Gladstone, went on to fuse with the Whigs as the Liberal Party.


Peel married Julia, youngest daughter of General Sir John Floyd, 1st Baronet, in 1820. They had five sons and two daughters. Four of his sons gained distinction in their own right. His eldest son Sir Robert Peel, 3rd Baronet, served as Chief Secretary for Ireland from 1861 to 1865. His second son Sir Frederick Peel was a politician and railway commissioner. His third son Sir William Peel was a naval commander and recipient of the Victoria Cross. His fifth son Arthur Wellesley Peel was Speaker of the House of Commons and created Viscount Peel in 1895. His daughter Julia married the 6th Earl of Jersey. Julia, Lady Peel, died in 1859.


Statues of Sir Robert Peel are found in the following UK locations.

*Parliament Square, London
*Outside the Robert Peel public house in Bury town centre, his birthplace. [ Sir Robert Peel Statue Bury] ]
*Winckley Square in Preston city centre.
*Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester.
*Montrose town centre.
*Woodhouse Moor, Leeds.
*Tamworth town centre.
*George Square, Glasgow.

Public Houses / Hotels

The following Public Houses, bars or hotels are named after Peel.The UK-based Peel Hotels group are named after their founders Robert and Charles Peel, not Sir Robert Peel]


*Robert Peel public house [] in Bury town centre, his birthplace
*Sir Robert Peel public house Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire
*Sir Robert Peel public house [] , Leicester
*Sir Robert Peel public house, Malden Road, London NW5
*Sir Robert Peel public house, Peel Precinct, Kilburn, London NW6
*Sir Robert Peel public house, London SE17
*Sir Robert Peel Hotel, Preston
*Sir Robert Peel public house Rowley Regis
*Sir Robert Peel public house, Southsea
*Sir Robert Peel public house [] , Stoke-on-Trent
*Sir Robert Peel public house Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
*Peel Hotel [] , Tamworth
*Sir Robert Peel public house [] , Bloxwich, Walsall


*Sir Robert Peel Hotel ("The Peel" [] ) on Peel Street in Collingwood, Victoria Melbourne Australia
*Sir Robert Peel Motor Lodge Hotel, Alexandria Bay, New York

Other Memorials

*Peel Tower Monument, this tower was built on top of Holcombe Hill in Ramsbottom, Bury.
*The Sir Robert Peel Hospital in Tamworth.
*A small monument in the center of the town of Dronfield Derbyshire. Nearby is the Peel Centre, a community centre in a former Methodist church. [ The Peel Centre] with image of the monument]
*The Regional Municipality of Peel (originally Peel County) in Ontario, Canada.
*Peel Street in Collingwood, Victoria Melbourne Australia.
*Peel Street (rue Peel in French), is a street in Montreal, and from that comes the name of nearby Metro station. It also has a high-rise residential building called Sir Robert Peel.
*The Peel River in Tamworth, New South Wales, Australia.
*Peel High School in Tamworth, New South Wales, Australia.
*A British steamer named "SS Sir Robert Peel", based in Canada, was burned by American forces on 29 May 1838, at the height of American-Canadian tensions over the Caroline Affair.
*Tamworth-raised musician Julian Cope sings "the king and queen have offered me the estate of Robert Peel" on the song 'O King of Chaos', from his 1984 LP "Fried".

ir Robert Peel's governments

*First Peel Ministry (1834–1835)
*Second Peel Ministry (1841–1846)

ee also

* M'Naghten's Case
* List of Acts of Parliament during the First Peel Ministry
* List of Acts of Parliament during the Second Peel Ministry



*cite book | last=Cooke Taylor | first=William | authorlink=William Cooke Taylor | title=Life and times of Sir Robert Peel | publisher=Peter Jackson | location=London | year=1851
*cite book | last=Gash | first=Norman | authorlink=Norman Gash | title=Mr. Secretary Peel: The Life of Sir Robert Peel to 1830 | publisher=Longmans | location=New York | year=1961
*cite book | last=Gash | first=Norman | authorlink=Norman Gash | title=Sir Robert Peel: The Life of Sir Robert Peel after 1830 | publisher=Rowman and Littlefield | location=Totowa, New Jersey | year=1972 | isbn=0874711320
* [ Leigh Rayment's Peerage Page]
*Stephen, Sir Leslie and Sir Sidney Lee (editors). "The Dictionary of National Biography: From the Earliest Times to 1900. Volume XV Owens-Pockrich". Oxford University Press.

External links

* [ Works by & about Robert Peel 1788-1850] at Internet Archive (scanned books original editions color illustrated)
* [,,25336-2648901,00.html "Peel the empiricist"] : a review by Ferdinand Mount of Douglas Hurd's Peel biography in the [ TLS] , 22/08/07
* [ More about Sir Robert Peel] on the Downing Street website.
* [ Biography of Sir Robert Peel] at
* [ Biography of Sir Robert Peel] at
* [ An overview of the career of Sir Robert Peel] at
* [ The Peel Family] Sir Robert Peel and his descendents
* [ The Peel Web] For A-level History students

Offices held

NAME = Peel, Robert
SHORT DESCRIPTION = Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
DATE OF BIRTH = 5 February 1788
PLACE OF BIRTH = Bury, Lancashire, England
DATE OF DEATH = 2 July 1850
PLACE OF DEATH = Westminster, London, England

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