Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850)

Born at Bury in Lancashire, the son of a successful mill owner, Peel became an MP in 1809 and served as chief secretary in Ireland from 1812 to 1818. Home secretary from 1822 to 1830, he established the Metropolitan Police in 1829. Often called the founder of the modern Conservative party, Peel was the first to realise that middle-class voters wanted a stable economy rather than radical change. As prime-minister (1841-6) he proved much more liberal than many of his opponents (cf John Major). Anticipating famine in Ireland he bought cheap corn (1845) but his repeal of the Corn Laws led to the fall of his government and the break up of his party. He died in London following a riding accident.