Melbourne was a British statesman who was twice prime minister in the 1830s.
William Lamb was born on 15 March 1779 in London, into an aristocratic Whig family. He was educated at Eton and Cambridge University and in 1805 became Lord Melbourne. He entered parliament in 1806 as the Whig member of parliament for Leominster. Although a Whig, Melbourne was made secretary for Ireland from 1827-1828 in a Tory government, but was then home secretary in a Whig administration from 1830-1834. In 1829, his father's death meant he inherited his title and moved to the House of Lords. As home secretary he cracked down on rural and urban trade union movements, most notably with the suppression of the Tolpuddle Martyrs in 1834. He was a firm believer in aristocratic government and had little interest in reforms to help the middle or working class.
Melbourne became prime minister in 1834 and again in 1835 - 1839 and 1839 - 1841. Without any strong political convictions, he held together a difficult and divided cabinet, and sustained support in the House of Commons through an alliance of Whigs, Radicals and Irish MPs.
When the young Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837, she and Melbourne developed a close relationship, with the prime minister tutoring the new queen in government and politics. In return, the queen chose to ignore his past indiscretions and the scandal of his failed first marriage - his wife Lady Caroline Lamb had an infamous affair with Lord Byron. The queen's reliance on Melbourne resulted in a political crisis in 1839, when Melbourne resigned after a defeat in parliament. The queen invited the Conservative leader Sir Robert Peel to form a government, but he insisted that the queen's Whig ladies of the bedchamber be replaced with Tory ones, which was the usual practice. The queen refused, so Peel declined to form a government and Melbourne returned to office.
Melbourne resigned in August 1841 after a series of parliamentary defeats. His role as confidante and adviser to the queen was taken by her new husband, Albert, who also steered Victoria towards reconciliation with Peel, the new prime minister. Melbourne went into a decline and died from the effects of a stroke on 24 November 1848.
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