Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1806 died William Pitt the Younger.

Pitt is famous for being the youngest ever Prime Minister. He took office at the age of 24; having previously refused the job aged 23. Even when Pitt left office at the age of 42, he was then younger than any other British Prime Minister in history.

Pitt had an advantage for a political career. His father, William Pitt the elder was a former Prime Minister and politics was the family business. Pitt started his training early. He went up to Cambridge aged 14, some say accompanied by his nanny. He was called to the bar aged 21 and entered Parliament a year later having secured the patronage of the owner of the pocket borough of Appleby.

Pitt’s early parliamentary career was notable for his vigorous speeches, which gained him the support of prominent members and led to his early appointment as Prime Minister.

His ministries became noted for pragmatic patriotism rather than predetermined principals, a policy, which was to become the characteristic of the Tory Party.  Pitt was celebrated for his economic policy. He set up a sinking fund to defray the National Debt but had to abandon this when the French declared war. Pitt abolished a host of petty taxes but was obliged to introduce Income Tax when Napoleon threatened to invade Britain.

Pitt forced through the Act of Union with Ireland, organised Canada as colonies of the Crown, coordinated an administrative system to govern India and organised Australia as a colony, although only as a residence for convicts.

When Pitt died, his famous last words are said to be “My Country, My Country. How shall I leave my Country?” In fact, these were not Pitt’s last words. He ruined the effect by speaking another sentence before he died “How I could eat one of Bellamy’s veal pies.” This was a classic case of patriotism being overcome by pastry.

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