George canning

Who was George Canning? (1973)

Until Liz Truss, George Canning was the shortest-serving prime minister. He needn’t be forgotten by pub quizzers, general knowledge collectors and historians alike. In 1973, Richard Luckett reviewed a major biography of Canning’s life for The Spectator. Every schoolboy knows about the duel with Castlereagh; students of that neglected subject, abusive language, remember Brougham’s description of his behaviour over the Catholic question (‘the most incredible specimen of monstrous truckling for the purpose of obtaining office which the whole history of political tergiversation could furnish’); historians recall his reputation as an orator, his part in the decision to bombard Copenhagen, his divisive effect on Tory ministries, his forceful conduct of foreign policy