Benjamin Disraeli


Benjamin Disraeli

Bloomsbury, City of Westminster, Greater London, England
Death 19 Apr 1881 (aged 76)
Mayfair, City of Westminster, Greater London, England
Cenotaph Westminster, City of Westminster, Greater London, England
Memorial ID 8710 View Source
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19th Century British author and politician, best known as Prime Minister of England. Benjamin Disraeli was born into a genteel Jewish family in London on December 21, 1804. His father, Isaac D'Israeli was a well-known author of several books on literature and history. From this unlikely background, Disraeli advanced to the highest levels of British Politics and was to establish England's dominance in the world for many years. His father had Benjamin anglicize his name to Disraeli and got him baptized into the Church of England when he turned 13, in spite of his mother's objections. After a private education Disraeli was trained as a solicitor. Disraeli spent most of his late teens and twenties traveling and writing romance novels. His books always involved politics combined with high society. They included, "Coningsby," "Sybil," and "Tancred." All three received terrible reviews, but they provided enough income to support him. After several failed attempts, Disraeli finally was elected to the House of Commons as a Conservative from Maidstone in 1837. The public was shocked. No ethnic Jew had ever held national office in England before, especially one that dressed like a dandy in the high fashion of the day and wrote trashy love novels. Disraeli's maiden speech in the House of Commons was poorly received and after being shouted down by other members, he concluded: "though I sit down now, the time will come when you will hear me." In 1839 Disraeli married an extremely wealthy widow who was 12 years his senior, Mrs. Wyndham Lewis. The marriage raised eyebrows, but was a brilliant success socially and also boosted his political career. In Parliament, Disraeli became a leading spokesman of conservative interests. He opposed the repeal of the Corn Laws, which taxed British imports of grain. And in 1846, when he also became chancellor of the exchequer in Conservative governments that the Earl of Derby headed from the House of Lords, he played an important role in the passage of the Reform Bill of 1867. The Reform Bill of 1867 brought greater democracy to Britain by giving the right to vote to many city workers and small tenant farmers. This brought him great praise from the middle and lower class people, but made him many enemies among the privileged classes. In 1868, Disraeli briefly became Prime Minister, but he soon lost the position to William Gladstone, the leader of the Liberal Party due to a vote called by the queen in September of 1868. He returned as Prime Minister in 1874 and this time stayed in office until 1880. Disraeli's second government pursued a strong foreign policy. He was a "Big Englander" who advocated a colonial Empire as large as it had been in the previous century. Foreign adventures were unpopular with many due to the recent losses of large British colonies in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. In spite of the opposition, Disraeli persisted in his efforts to strengthen the British Empire. First in 1875, he purchased for Britain a large interest in the Suez Canal, which was a key link in the shipping route that connected Britain and its vast empire in India and the Far East. In August 1876 Queen Victoria granted Disraeli the title Earl of Beaconsfield. Disraeli now left the House of Commons but continued as Prime Minister from the House of Lords. At the Congress of Berlin in 1878 Disraeli gained great acclaim for his success in limiting Russia's power in the Balkans in the aftermath of the Russo-Turkish War. When such strong foreign intervention became unpopular, Disraeli quickly turned to England's domestic agenda. He began working in 1877 to improve British living conditions. He passed important measures affecting health, housing, the environment, trade unions, and working conditions. By the time he stepped out of public life forever in 1880, Disraeli had assured himself a place in history as one of England's greatest leaders. The Liberals defeated the Conservatives in the 1880 General Election and after William Gladstone became Prime Minister, Disraeli decided to retire from politics. Disraeli hoped to spend his retirement writing novels but soon after the publication of "Endymion" (1880) he became very ill. Benjamin Disraeli died on April 19, 1881 in his Mayfair, England home at the age of 77. He was given a hero's funeral, attended by the queen herself, which was unheard of for Queen Victoria.

Bio by: Edward Parsons

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 3 Mar 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 8710
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Benjamin Disraeli (21 Dec 1804–19 Apr 1881), Find a Grave Memorial ID 8710, citing Westminster Abbey, Westminster, City of Westminster, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .