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William Pitt the Elder, 1st Earl of Chatham

(b. Nov. 15, 1708, Golden Square, Westminster, London – d. May 11, 1778, Hayes, Bromley, London )

Gender: M

William Pitt (1708-1778) came from a wealthy family of politicians, and after a short military career, entered parliament as MP for the rotten borough of Old Sarum in 1735. He became one of the leaders of the faction opposed to Prime Minister Robert Walpole, and a member of the circle round Frederick, Prince of Wales. He contributed to the downfall of Walpole in 1742, but was not awarded a ministerial position in the incoming government. He was appointed Paymaster-General in 1746, and broke with tradition by making no personal gain out of the office other than his salary, which gave him a reputation for integrity. He was dismissed in 1755 and replaced by Henry Fox, Lord Holland, whose corruption was legendary. In 1757 he formed a coalition with the Duke of Newcastle in which Pitt was the senior member, and whose foreign policies were responsible for Britain’s victories and territorial gains during the Seven Years’ War. When George III came to the throne in 1761, he dismissed Pitt in favour of the Earl of Bute. Pitt was granted a pension and his wife, Lady Hester Grenville, was made Baroness Chatham, but Pitt refused to accept a title for himself. In 1766 he was appointed Prime Minister and raised to the peerage as the 1st Earl of Chatham, but suffered from bouts of both physical and mental illness (he suffered all his life from gout), and resigned two years later. He returned to the House of Lords in 1770 to oppose the war with the American colonies, and collapsed while speaking in the House on 7th April 1778; he died on 11th May. His eldest son John Pitt succeeded to the title, while his second son William Pitt was to be British Prime Minister for eighteen years.

Also known as:

  • 1st Earl of Chatham
  • William Sr Pitt

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