139 Facts About Disraeli


Disraeli played a central role in the creation of the modern Conservative Party, defining its policies and its broad outreach.

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Disraeli is remembered for his influential voice in world affairs, his political battles with the Liberal Party leader William Ewart Gladstone, and his one-nation conservatism or "Tory democracy".

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Disraeli made the Conservatives the party most identified with the British Empire, and military action to expand it, both of which were popular among British voters.

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Disraeli is the only British prime minister to have been of Jewish origin.

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Disraeli was a novelist, publishing works of fiction even as prime minister.

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Disraeli was born in Bloomsbury, then a part of Middlesex.

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Disraeli's father left Judaism after a dispute at his synagogue; Benjamin became an Anglican at the age of 12.

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Disraeli clashed with Peel in the House of Commons, becoming a major figure in the party.

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When Lord Derby, the party leader, thrice formed governments in the 1850s and 1860s, Disraeli served as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons.

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Disraeli returned to the Opposition, before leading the party to winning a majority in the 1874 general election.

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Disraeli maintained a close friendship with Queen Victoria, who in 1876 elevated him to the peerage as Earl of Beaconsfield.

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Disraeli arranged for the British to purchase a major interest in the Suez Canal Company in Egypt.

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Disraeli angered British farmers by refusing to reinstitute the Corn Laws in response to poor harvests and cheap imported grain.

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Disraeli wrote novels throughout his career, beginning in 1826, and published his last completed novel, Endymion, shortly before he died at the age of 76.

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Disraeli was born on 21 December 1804 at 6 King's Road, Bedford Row, Bloomsbury, London, the second child and eldest son of Isaac D'Israeli, a literary critic and historian, and Maria, nee Basevi.

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Disraeli was close to his sister, and on affectionate but more distant terms with his surviving brothers.

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Disraeli's father, the elder Benjamin, was a prominent and devout member; it was probably from respect for him that Isaac did not leave when he fell out with the synagogue authorities in 1813.

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Disraeli began there in the autumn term of 1817; he later recalled his education:.

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In November 1821, shortly before his seventeenth birthday, Disraeli was articled as a clerk to a firm of solicitors—Swain, Stevens, Maples, Pearse and Hunt—in the City of London.

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Disraeli enrolled as a student at Lincoln's Inn and joined the chambers of his uncle, Nathaniel Basevy, and then those of Benjamin Austen, who persuaded Isaac that Disraeli would never make a barrister and should be allowed to pursue a literary career.

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Disraeli had made a tentative start: in May 1824 he submitted a manuscript to his father's friend, the publisher John Murray, but withdrew it before Murray could decide whether to publish it.

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Disraeli became involved with the financier JD Powles, who was prominent among those encouraging the mining boom.

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Disraeli impressed Murray with his energy and commitment to the project, but he failed in his key task of persuading the eminent writer John Gibson Lockhart to edit the paper.

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Disraeli turned to writing, motivated partly by his desperate need for money, and partly by a wish for revenge on Murray and others by whom he felt slighted.

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Furthermore, Murray and Lockhart, men of great influence in literary circles, believed that Disraeli had caricatured them and abused their confidence—an accusation denied by the author but repeated by many of his biographers.

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In later editions Disraeli made many changes, softening his satire, but the damage to his reputation proved long-lasting.

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Disraeli had already turned his attention to politics in 1832, during the great crisis over the Reform Bill.

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Disraeli contributed to an anti-Whig pamphlet edited by John Wilson Croker and published by Murray entitled England and France: or a cure for Ministerial Gallomania.

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Disraeli was having an affair with Lyndhurst, and began another with Disraeli.

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In 1835 Disraeli stood for the last time as a Radical, unsuccessfully contesting High Wycombe .

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The Irish MP Daniel O'Connell, misled by inaccurate press reports, thought Disraeli had slandered him while electioneering at Taunton; he launched an outspoken attack, referring to Disraeli as:.

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Disraeli possesses all the necessary requisites of perfidy, selfishness, depravity, want of principle, etc.

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Disraeli was highly gratified by the dispute, which propelled him to general public notice for the first time.

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Disraeli did not defeat the incumbent Whig member, Henry Labouchere, but the Taunton constituency was regarded as unwinnable by the Tories.

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Disraeli kept Labouchere's majority down to 170, a good showing that put him in line for a winnable seat in the near future.

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Disraeli's targets included the Whigs, collectively and individually, Irish nationalists, and political corruption.

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Disraeli was elected to the exclusively Tory Carlton Club in 1836, and was taken up by the party's leading hostess, Lady Londonderry.

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Disraeli had broken off the relationship in late 1836, distraught that she had taken yet another lover.

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Disraeli made his maiden speech in Parliament on 7 December 1837.

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Disraeli followed O'Connell, whom he sharply criticised for the latter's "long, rambling, jumbling, speech".

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Disraeli was a loyal supporter of the party leader Sir Robert Peel and his policies, with the exception of a personal sympathy for the Chartist movement that most Tories did not share.

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In 1839 Disraeli married Mary Anne Lewis, the widow of Wyndham Lewis.

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Disraeli's motives were generally assumed to be mercenary, but the couple came to cherish one another, remaining close until she died more than three decades later.

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Many years in his parliamentary career Disraeli hoped to forge a paternalistic Tory-Radical alliance, but he was unsuccessful.

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When Disraeli attempted to secure a Tory-Radical cabinet in 1852, Bright refused.

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Disraeli gradually became a sharp critic of Peel's government, often deliberately taking positions contrary to those of his nominal chief.

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Disraeli laid into the Whigs as freebooters, swindlers and conmen but Peel's own Free Trade policies were directly in the firing line.

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Disraeli had declined, though pledged support to the Country Gentlemen's Interes, as Bentink had offered to lead if he had Disraeli's support.

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Disraeli stated, in a letter to Sir William Miles of 11 June 1860, that he wished to help "because, from my earliest years, my sympathies had been with the landed interest of England".

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Disraeli, who had attended the Protectionists dinner at the Merchant Taylors Hall, joined Bentinck in speaking and voting for the bill, although his own speech was a standard one of toleration.

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The negotiations were complicated by Bentinck's sudden death on 21 September 1848, but Disraeli obtained a loan of £25,000 from Bentinck's brothers Lord Henry Bentinck and Lord Titchfield.

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Disraeli resigned, and the Queen sent for Stanley, who felt that a minority government could do little and would not last long, so Russell remained in office.

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Disraeli regretted this, hoping for an opportunity, however brief, to show himself capable in office.

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Disraeli wrote regular reports on proceedings in the Commons to Victoria, who described them as "very curious" and "much in the style of his books".

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Disraeli delivered the budget on 3 December 1852, and prepared to wind up the debate for the government on 16 December—it was customary for the Chancellor to have the last word.

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Disraeli was replaced by the Peelite Earl of Aberdeen, with Gladstone as his Chancellor.

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Disraeli would spend three-quarters of his 44-year parliamentary career in Opposition.

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In June 1853 Disraeli was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Oxford.

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Disraeli had been recommended for it by Lord Derby, the university's Chancellor.

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The Aberdeen government chose to make this a motion of confidence; Disraeli led the Opposition to defeat the government, 305 to 148.

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Disraeli was early to call for peace, but had little influence on events.

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Disraeli was defeated by 19 votes on the second reading, with many Liberals crossing the aisle against him.

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Disraeli was once more leader of the House of Commons and returned to the Exchequer.

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Disraeli had supported efforts to allow Jews to sit in Parliament—the oaths required of new members could be made in good faith only by a Christian.

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Disraeli had a bill passed through the Commons allowing each house of Parliament to determine what oaths its members should take.

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Disraeli resigned, and the Queen reluctantly sent for Palmerston again.

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Disraeli led a toothless Opposition in the Commons—seeing no way of unseating Palmerston, Derby had privately agreed not to seek the government's defeat.

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Disraeli kept himself informed on foreign affairs, and on what was going on in cabinet, thanks to a source within it.

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In 1862, Disraeli met Prussian Count Otto von Bismarck for the first time and said of him, "be careful about that man, he means what he says".

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Disraeli had little help from Derby, who was ill, but he united the party enough on a no-confidence vote to limit the government to a majority of 18—Tory defections and absentees kept Palmerston in office.

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Disraeli gained wide acclaim and became a hero to his party for the "marvellous parliamentary skill" with which he secured the passage of Reform in the Commons.

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Disraeli has achieved what no other man in the country could have done.

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Disraeli was reluctant to resign, reasoning that he was only 68, much younger than either Palmerston or Russell at the end of their premierships.

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Disraeli went to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, where the Queen asked him to form a government.

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Disraeli made only two major changes in the cabinet: he replaced Lord Chelmsford as Lord Chancellor with Lord Cairns, and brought in George Ward Hunt as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

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Disraeli was unwilling to wait, and Cairns, in his view, was a far stronger minister.

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Disraeli sent the successful expedition against Tewodros II of Ethiopia under Sir Robert Napier.

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Public support for Disraeli was shown by cheering at a thanksgiving service in 1872 on the recovery of the Prince of Wales from illness, while Gladstone was met with silence.

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Disraeli had supported the efforts of party manager John Eldon Gorst to put the administration of the Conservative Party on a modern basis.

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On Gorst's advice, Disraeli gave a speech to a mass meeting in Manchester that year.

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At his first departure from 10 Downing Street in 1868, Disraeli had had Victoria create Mary Anne Viscountess of Beaconsfield in her own right in lieu of a peerage for himself.

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Disraeli wanted the power a majority would bring, and felt he could gain it later by leaving the Liberals in office now.

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Disraeli devoted much of his campaign to decrying the Liberal programme of the past five years.

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Disraeli did so again in 1874, when he fell ill at Balmoral, but he was reluctant to leave the Commons for a house in which he had no experience.

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Five days before the end of the 1876 session of Parliament, on 11 August, Disraeli was seen to linger and look around the chamber before departing the Commons.

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Disraeli's government introduced a new Factory Act meant to protect workers, the Conspiracy, and Protection of Property Act 1875, which allowed peaceful picketing, and the Employers and Workmen Act to enable workers to sue employers in the civil courts if they broke legal contracts.

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Disraeli did not agree, and while he did not seek to reverse the order, his actions often frustrated its intent.

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For example, Disraeli made political appointments to positions previously given to career civil servants.

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Disraeli gave positions to hard-up Conservative leaders, even—to Gladstone's outrage—creating one office at £2,000 per year.

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Nevertheless, Disraeli made fewer peers than had Gladstone—the Liberal leader had arranged for the bestowal of 37 peerages during his just over five years in office.

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Disraeli favoured Low church clergymen in promotion, disliking other movements in Anglicanism for political reasons.

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Disraeli disliked Wilberforce and instead appointed John Jackson, the Bishop of Lincoln.

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Disraeli always considered foreign affairs to be the most critical and most interesting part of statesmanship.

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Disraeli, recognising the British interest in the canal, sent the Liberal MP Nathan Rothschild to Paris to enquire about buying de Lesseps's shares.

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Disraeli told Matthew Arnold, "Everybody likes flattery; and, when you come to royalty, you should lay it on with a trowel".

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Disraeli was irked when Tsar Alexander II held a higher rank than her as an emperor, and was appalled that her daughter, the Prussian Crown Princess, would outrank her when her husband came to the throne.

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Disraeli saw an imperial title as proclaiming Britain's increased stature in the world.

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The Queen prevailed upon Disraeli to introduce a Royal Titles Bill, and told of her intent to open Parliament in person, which during this time she did only when she wanted something from legislators.

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Disraeli was cautious in response, as careful soundings of MPs brought a negative reaction, and he declined to place such a proposal in the Queen's Speech.

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Disraeli neglected to notify either the Prince of Wales or the Opposition, and was met by irritation from the prince and a full-scale attack from the Liberals.

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Gladstone immediately stated that he was not one of them, and the Queen gave Disraeli leave to quote her saying she had never approached a Prime Minister with such a proposal.

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Disraeli called them "coffee-house babble" and dismissed allegations of torture by the Ottomans since "Oriental people usually terminate their connections with culprits in a more expeditious fashion".

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Disraeli spoke only once there in the 1877 session on the Eastern Question, stating on 20 February that there was a need for stability in the Balkans, and that forcing Turkey into territorial concessions would do nothing to secure it.

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The fall of Plevna was a major story for weeks in the newspapers, and Disraeli's warnings that Russia was a threat to British interests in the eastern Mediterranean were deemed prophetic.

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Disraeli caused an uproar in the congress by making his opening address in English, rather than in French, hitherto accepted as the international language of diplomacy.

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Disraeli left much of the detailed work to Salisbury, concentrating his efforts on making it as difficult as possible for the broken-up big Bulgaria to reunite.

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Disraeli did not have things all his own way: he intended that Batum be demilitarised, but the Russians obtained their preferred language, and in 1886, fortified the town.

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Disraeli gained agreement that Turkey should retain enough of its European possessions to safeguard the Dardanelles.

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Disraeli wrote the next day, "the terrible disaster has shaken me to the centre".

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Disraeli reprimanded Frere, but left him in charge, attracting fire from all sides.

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Disraeli sent General Sir Garnet Wolseley as High Commissioner and Commander in Chief, and Cetewayo and the Zulus were crushed at the Battle of Ulundi on 4 July 1879.

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Disraeli declined, stating that he regarded the matter as settled.

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Disraeli took no public part in the electioneering, it being deemed improper for peers to make speeches to influence Commons elections.

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Disraeli refused to cast blame for the defeat, which he understood was likely to be final for him.

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Disraeli wrote to Lady Bradford that it was just as much work to end a government as to form one, without any of the fun.

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Disraeli carried on a correspondence with Victoria, with letters passed through intermediaries.

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The anniversary of Disraeli's death was for some years commemorated in the United Kingdom as Primrose Day.

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Queen Victoria was prostrated with grief, and considered ennobling Ralph or Coningsby as a memorial to Disraeli but decided against it on the ground that their means were too small for a peerage.

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Disraeli is buried with his wife in a vault beneath the Church of St Michael and All Angels which stands in the grounds of his home, Hughenden Manor, accessed from the churchyard.

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The Disraeli vault contains the body of Sarah Brydges Willyams, the wife of James Brydges Willyams of St Mawgan in Cornwall.

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Disraeli carried on a long correspondence with Mrs Willyams, writing frankly about political affairs.

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Disraeli's speech was widely anticipated, if only because his dislike for Disraeli was well known, and caused the Prime Minister much worry.

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In some of his early fiction Disraeli portrayed himself and what he felt to be his Byronic dual nature: the poet and the man of action.

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Disraeli often wrote about religion, for he was a strong promoter of the Church of England.

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Disraeli was troubled by the growth of elaborate rituals in the late 19th century, such as the use of incense and vestments, and heard warnings to the effect that the ritualists were going to turn control of the Church of England over to the Pope.

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Disraeli consequently was a strong supporter of the Public Worship Regulation Act 1874 which allowed the archbishops to go to court to stop the ritualists.

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Disraeli left an unfinished novel in which the priggish central character, Falconet, is unmistakably a caricature of Gladstone.

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Disraeli had, for example, stressed the need to improve the lot of the urban labourer.

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The memory of Disraeli was used by the Conservatives to appeal to the working classes, with whom he was said to have had a rapport.

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Disraeli made the Conservatives the party that most loudly supported both the Empire and military action to assert its primacy.

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Disraeli articulated an imperial role for Britain that would last into World War II and brought an intermittently self-isolated Britain into the concert of Europe.

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Disraeli fascinated and divided contemporary opinion; he was seen by many, including some members of his own party, as an adventurer and a charlatan and by others as a far-sighted and patriotic statesman.

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Disraeli liked to think of himself in terms of pure intellect, but his politics were more personal than intellectual in character.

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Disraeli had far-reaching schemes but little administrative ability, and there was some foundation for Napoleon Ill's judgement that he was 'like all literary men, from Chateaubriand to Guizot, ignorant of the world'.

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Disraeli brought politics nearer to poetry, or, at all events, to poetical prose, than any English politician since Burke.

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Disraeli, a baptised Christian of Jewish parentage, at this point was already an MP.

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Disraeli convinced himself that he derived from the Sephardi aristocracy of Iberian Jews driven from Spain at the end of the fifteenth century.

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Disraeli was thus able to square his Jewishness with his equally deep attachment to England and her history.

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Historian Michael Diamond asserts that for British music hall patrons in the 1880s and 1890s, "xenophobia and pride in empire" were reflected in the halls' most popular political heroes: all were Conservatives and Disraeli stood out above all, even decades after his death, while Gladstone was used as a villain.

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