Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

Born in London, the eldest son of an Anglicised Jew, Disraeli made his early reputation as a novelist. Leader of the 'Young England' movement, his was a romantic conservatism similar to Pugin's. His opportunity for leadership came when the followers of Peel (including Gladstone) joined the Liberals. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer twice in minority governments before becoming leader of the Conservatives and briefly Prime-minister in 1868. During his second term as premier (1874-80) he brought the Queen out of retirement and bought the Suez Canal. At the Congress of Berlin (1878) he negotiated agreements between the powers that kept the peace in Europe until 1914. Charming and witty he was regarded by Gladstone as a shallow opportunist.