If the news articles about Rishi Sunak becoming the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom would only add a simple graphic, we would not need to read the entire story. At a glance, we would see which boxes are checked. Among other bits of trivia, most of the reports point out that he is the youngest person to hold this office in 200 years. At 42-years-old, Mr. Sunak is eighteen years older than William Pitt the Younger was, when he became Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1783. Like Rishi Sunak, Mr. Pitt had been Chancellor of the Exchequer prior to his rise to the Tory leadership position.
William Pitt was 21-years old in 1780, when he was elected to the House of Commons with the help of his friend Charles Manners, Duke of Rutland. The Duke had connected Mr. Pitt with a wealthy landowner, who sponsored the young man’s candidacy for a rotten borough under his control. A rotten borough was a district that should not have been entitled to any representation in Parliament, because it had become depopulated. These boroughs were often corrupt, because their MPs were usually beholden to powerful, self-interested patrons.
Just 20-years-old when he was elected to Parliament in 1774, Charles Manners was even younger than Mr. Pitt had been. Representing the constituency of Cambridge University, he was known at the time as the Marquess of Granby. He served for five years, until he became Duke of Rutland upon the death of his grandfather. Not long after becoming Duke of Rutland, Charles Manners raised the 86th Regiment of Foot for service in the American Revolutionary War. He asked his friend Anthony St. Leger to come out of his retirement from the military and lead it. Colonel St. Leger, the founder of the horse racing world’s classic St. Leger Stakes, readily agreed. He shipped out to St. Lucia with his troops, to defend an important British port against the French fleet, and returned to England in 1781, in time for the September running of the St. Leger Stakes at Doncaster. In recognition of St. Leger’s inspiring leadership in the West Indies, King George III promoted him to Major General.
In February 1783, Charles Manners became Lord Steward of the Household of King George and a member of the Privy Council. The following February, Prime Minister Pitt appointed Charles to be Lord Deputy of Ireland. Anthony St. Leger accompanied the Duke of Rutland to Dublin Castle as Major General on his staff.
Charles was a lively, popular man. Despite his marriage to Mary Isabella Somerset, who was considered to be the most elegant and beautiful woman of her time, Charles had a reputation for licentiousness. He also had a love for rich food and red wine and would often forego sleep. His fast-paced living took its toll. At the time of his tragic death from liver disease in 1787, Charles was 33-years old, nine years younger than the age of United Kingdom’s youngest prime minister in 200 years.