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‘I agree with Lord David [Cecil] that Melbourne as a friend or relative must have been one of the most delightful, wise and entertaining of men, but in public life I believe him also to have been ambitious, cynical and almost wholly without political principle. He was, in short, much less of a carefree amateur, much more of a politician.’ Philip Ziegler, from his Preface
First published in 1976, Philip Ziegler’s Melbourne drew on hitherto unused material and made an unprecedently searching assessment of the eminent Whig statesman of the 1830s/40s. It is extraordinary enough that Queen Victoria’s first Prime Minister should have been dragged through the courts by an aggrieved husband not once but twice. Yet Melbourne’s ‘problematic’ personal life is only one reason why Ziegler, even-handed and scrupulous, was compelled to test the validity of Victoria’s famous final judgement that Melbourne was ‘not a good or firm minister’.
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