An ‘Arch-Mediocrity who presided rather than ruled’ over a ‘Cabinet of Mediocrities’ – Benjamin Disraeli’s sneering dismissal of Lord Liverpool, prime minister during the turbulent years from 1812 to 1827, was scathing. Historical judgement, however, has moved on markedly since Disraeli’s flippant, self-serving denigration. Certainly, the self-effacing Liverpool was reticent in manner and sensitive to slights. Diffidence cloaked his determination. He lacked charisma or the natural authority of a forceful personality. Yet his integrity, unquestioned patriotism, oratorical skill, command of detail, administrative efficiency and pursuit of conciliation enabled him to play a leading role in late-Georgian high politics.
Born in 1770, Robert Jenkinson was Lord Hawkesbury from 1796 until he succeeded as second Earl of Liverpool in 1808. The eldest son of George III’s political fixer, the first Earl of Liverpool, he endured a motherless youth that left him the central object of his father’s ambition,