“Consultations Invited"

November 26, 1904

Bernard Partridge

“Consultations Invited"

Great Britain; Symbols, Punch; Women, Symbolic;

Rosebery, Lord (Archibald Philip Primrose);

No 'Places' indexed for this cartoon.

Mr. Punch: "Won't you step in here? There's an old lady who's very anxious to tell your fortune."

Lord R-s-b-ry: "Yes, I know. But--er--I never show my hand!"

Archibald Philip Primrose, the 5th earl of Rosebery, served briefly as prime minister of Great Britain (1894-1895) and leader of the Liberal Party until October 1896.  His support for the British Empire and the Boer War (1899-1902) led to tensions with others in his party.  However, in late 1903, newspapers in Britain and the United States, including Harper’s Weekly, began to report that Rosebery and Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the new Liberal leader and former opponent of the Boer War were “becoming allies once more.” 

When this cartoon was published in the fall of 1904, speculation was swirling about the political future of Lord Rosebery.  With the Liberals expected to win the next election, would he be offered a cabinet post, and would he accept it?  A British journalist commented in Harper’s Weekly:  “There is not a man in England who can answer these questions … I am not sure that Lord Rosebery himself could answer them.” 

The featured cartoon reflects that uncertainty.  Punch, a symbol of Great Britain, asks Rosebery to step inside the home of Mrs. Liberal Party, who is eager to read his political fortune.  Rosebery declines the invitation, refusing to address the matter.  In fact, the touted reunion between Rosebery and Campbell-Bannerman did not take place, despite efforts by supporters of both men.  In late 1905, Rosebery’s declared opposition to home rule for Ireland resulted in the final breach with the Liberals, who won a landslide election the next year under the new prime minister, Campbell-Bannerman.

Lord Rosebery was born on May 7, 1847 in London, and attended Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, although not taking a degree at the latter.  His father had died when he was four, but he did not assume the earldom and control of the family’s extensive estates in Scotland until his 21st birthday in 1868.  He took a keen interest in Liberal politics, but exclusion from the House of Commons, as a hereditary peer, initially hindered his political career 

In 1879-1880, Rosebery worked for the reelection of William Gladstone, the former prime minister (1868-1874). He served in Gladstone’s second administration (1880-1885) as an undersecretary of state in the Home Office (August 1881-June 1883) in charge of Scottish affairs, and as lord privy seal (March-June 1885), a cabinet level position carrying no specific responsibilities.  In Gladstone’s third (February-July 1886) and fourth (1892-1894) ministries, Rosebery served as secretary of state for foreign affairs, although his avid imperialist views increasingly clashed with the prime minister’s policies.  In 1894, for example, Gladstone wanted Britain to withdraw from Uganda, but Rosebery declared a British protectorate there. 

In early March 1894, Gladstone’s opposition to increased naval appropriations caused his government to fall, and Rosebery, who had backed the measure, was asked to form a ministry.  Adamant resistance to Liberal legislation in the House of Lords resulted in the defeat of Rosebery’s political agenda, except for passage of the government’s annual budget.  The new prime minister was also troubled by dissension within his own party, even within the cabinet.  When the Liberals lost control of the House of Commons in late June 1895, Rosebery resigned as prime minister, relieved to be rid of the difficult situation.  On October 8, 1896, he resigned as head of the Liberal Party.

In retirement, Rosebery wrote popular biographies of Napoleon, Lord Randolph Churchill (a Conservative member of parliament and father of Prime Minister Winston Churchill), Sir William Pitt (a former prime minister), and others.  Rosebery also kept a stable of champion racehorses.  He died on May 21, 1929.

Robert C. Kennedy

“Consultations Invited"
December 6, 2023

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