Past Prime Ministers

Lord John Russell, 1st Earl Russell

Whig 1846 to 1852, 1865 to 1866

“I have made mistakes, but in all I did my object was the public good.”

Lord John Russell, 1st Earl Russell


18 August 1792, Mayfair, London


28 May 1878, Richmond Park, London

Dates in office

1846 to 1852, 1865 to 1866

Political party


Major acts

Factory Act 1847: limitations on factory working hours. Public Health Act 1848: improving the sanitary conditions of towns and populous places.

Interesting facts

He was the last Whig Prime Minister. Charles Dickens dedicated the novel, A Tale of Two Cities, to him, “In remembrance of many public services and private kindnesses.”


Lord John Russell, later Earl Russell, was the principal architect of the Great Reform Act in 1832, and was one of the main promoters of parliamentary reform in the nineteenth century. As Home Secretary, he reduced the number of criminal offences punishable by death, so that only murder and high treason could be punished by execution.

Russell was shy, vain and uninterested in cultivating the rapidly expanding media. This made his governments easy targets for radical critics who condemned his 1846 to 1852 ministry as aristocratic and out of touch.

Read more about Lord John Russell on the History of government blog.