Known as a dandy, a novelist, a brilliant debator and
England's first and only Jewish prime minister, Disraeli (Earl of
Beaconsfield) is best remembered for bringing India and the
Suez Canal under control of the crown. A Conservative, he was elected to Parliament in 1837 after failing to win election in four earlier elections. After Robert Peel formed a government in 1841, Disraeli was on the outs until 1846. He wrote a trilogy "Coningsby", "Sybil" and "Tancred" expounding his ideas and formed the Young England group as watchdogs over Peel's brand of conservatism. When Peel's
government fell, Disraeli gradually became known as the leader of the Conservatives in the Commons.
Disraeli served as chancellor of the Exchequer under Lord Derby as prime minister in Conservative governments of 1852, 1858-59 and 1866-68. The 1858-59 Parliament made the admission of Jews to Parliament legal, clearing the way for a Disraeli's prime ministership following Lord Derby's retirement in 1868. Defeated in a general election by William Gladstone that same year, Disraeli faced another six years of opposition which produced another novel entitled "Lothair" in 1870. He also established the Conservative Central Office, considered by some as the forerunner of modern party organization.
Disraeli became prime minister for the second time in 1874 at the age of 70. Acting on his own, he purchased a controlling interest in the Suez Canal conferring the title of Empress of India upon the Queen and in so doing earning himself the title of Earl of Beaconfield in 1876. During the next two years, Disraeli and liberal Leader William Gladstone, clashed over issues surrounding the Bulgarian revolt and the Russo-Turkish War (1877-78). Disraeli represented British interests in the Congress of Berlin, 1878, which brought peace as well as Cyprus under British flag. His government was defeated in 1880. Disraeli died the following year.