Appleby’s reputation for producing high-flying MPs
RORY Stewart MP is the latest representative of the Appleby constituency (now known as Penrith and the Border) to have achieved extraordinary distinction in high political office with his elevation to cabinet rank and the Privy Council.
He follows Henry Ireton (1611-1651), MP for Appleby from 1645 to 1651, a lawyer, puritan and highly capable military leader who became the second most powerful man in Britain and Lord Deputy to Oliver Cromwell (his father-in-law) during the Civil War.
He died in office of the plague at the age of only 40 but was rewarded for his untiring efforts in government by an elaborate state funeral and a tomb in Westminster Abbey.
On the restoration of Charles II in 1660, his remains were disinterred and his nine-year old corpse was ceremonially dragged to Tyburn where it was hanged and beheaded. The head was spiked along with that of Cromwell and other regicides and displayed on the roof of Westminster Hall for the next 30 years.
Next came William Pitt (“The Younger”) (1759-1808), MP for Appleby in 1781 aged 22, Chancellor of the Exchequer at 23 and Prime Minister at 24 (1783-1804 and 1804-1808), who died aged 47 in office. A charismatic politician, he was perhaps the greatest British wartime Prime Minister before Churchill.
Charles Grey (1764-1845) was briefly MP for Appleby (as Viscount Howick) in 1807 before his elevation as 2nd Earl to his father’s peerage later in 1807. He served as First Lord of the Admiralty, Foreign Secretary and from 1830-1834 as a reforming Prime Minister (now known as 2nd Earl Grey) introducing anti-slavery legislation as well as the Great Reform Bll in 1832 (which also abolished pocket boroughs such as Appleby). He was also known for his fine tea.
The fourth distinguished MP was William Whitelaw (1918-1999), MP for Penrith and the Border (as the Appleby constituency was renamed) from 1955 to 1983. He was Home Secretary and Secretary for Northern Ireland and although he failed to win the premiership for himself, he became a devotedly loyal deputy to Margaret Thatcher.
Rory Stewart, the latest high-flying Cumbrian MP, is a trained diplomat, successful author, adventurer and capable minister.
Will he turn out to be a charismatic leader (like Pitt), a notable reformer (like Grey), a loyal supporter (like Whitelaw) or perhaps end like Ireton, with his head on a spike?
Appleby MPs have been an extremely interesting lot. Two Prime Ministers, two deputies and a possible future Prime Minister. Not bad for a small remote border town.
TIMOTHY C. HARVEY