William Pitt the Younger, Saviour of Europe

Historically the Regency has been described for political historians as “the Age of Reform” dominated by the campaign to overhaul the English Parliament, and to abolish black slavery. Though protesting people could not demand reform in Parliament because for the most part, they were not represented. William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806), was in private a lonely, isolated figure, but also the most prominent British politician of his day, dominating Parliament for twenty years. He sought to reduce the national debt, reformed the government of Canada and reorganized the East India Company. He was only 24 when he became Prime Minister an office he was to hold until 1801 when he resigned in protest after George III blocked his Bill for Catholic emancipation. He was persuaded to return in 1804 and he died in 1806 aged only 46. His main preoccupation during that time was the long war with France. Britain feared invasion and he organized the coalition with Russia, Austria and Sweden and greatly strengthened the British Navy. With the victory of Trafalgar he was hailed as ‘the Saviour of Europe’ to which he famously replied; “Europe is not to be saved by any single man; England has saved herself by her exertions and, will, I trust, save Europe by her example’. Although his portrait from the studio of John Hoppner completed a year before his death was though a good likeness, it was declared ‘too late to give an adequate representation of him’.

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