Past Prime Ministers

Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston

Whig and Liberal 1855 to 1858, 1859 to 1865

“The function of government is to calm, rather than to excite agitation.”

Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston


20 October 1784, Westminster, London


18 October 1865, Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire

Dates in office

1855 to 1858, 1859 to 1865

Political party

Whig and Liberal

Major acts

Government of India Bill 1858: transferring control of the East India Company to the Crown.

Interesting facts

Florence Nightingale said of Palmerston after his death; “Though he made a joke when asked to do the right thing he always did it. He was so much more in earnest than he appeared, he did not do himself justice.”


Lord Palmerston became enormously popular thanks to his assertive and ‘manly’ foreign policy which proclaimed Britain’s values as a model for the world to follow. He served in government for 46 years.

Although he generally avoided controversial domestic reforms, Palmerston was instrumental in getting Parliament to approve the creation of the Divorce Court in 1857. Before this, people wanting a divorce had had to get a private act of Parliament passed.

Read more about Lord Palmerston on the History of government blog.