William Gladstone

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William Ewart Gladstone (29 December 180919 May 1898) was a British Liberal Party statesman and Prime Minister (18681874, 18801885, 1886 and 18921894). He was a notable political reformer, known for his populist speeches, and was for many years the main political rival of Benjamin Disraeli.

Gladstone was famously at odds with Queen Victoria for much of his career. She once complained, "He always addresses me as if I were a public meeting." Gladstone was known affectionately by his supporters as the "Grand Old Man" (Disraeli is said to have remarked that GOM should have stood for God's Only Mistake) or "The People's William." He is still regarded as one of the greatest British prime ministers, with Winston Churchill and others citing Gladstone as their inspiration.

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Early life

Born in Liverpool at 62 Rodney Street in 1809, William Ewart Gladstone was the fourth son of the merchant Sir John Gladstones and his second wife, Anne MacKenzie Robertson. The final "s" was later dropped from the family surname. Although Gladstone was born and brought up in Liverpool, and always retained a slight Lancashire accent, he was of Scottish descent on both his mother's and his father's side of the family. Gladstone was educated at Eton College, and in 1828 matriculated at Christ Church College, Oxford where he took Classics and Mathematics, in which he had no great interest, in order to obtain a double first class degree. In December 1831 he sat his final examinations and learnt on the same day that he had indeed achieved his desired double first. Gladstone was a President of the Oxford Union debating society where he developed a reputation as a fine orator, a reputation that followed him into the House of Commons. At university Gladstone was a Tory and denounced Whig proposals for parliamentary reform.

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