In the end, an iceberg lettuce won. A popular video livestream launched by The Daily Star on Oct. 14 of who would outlast each other, a wilting vegetable, or Prime Minister Liz Truss, had gripped the nation and underscored the chaos at the heart of Britain’s government.
Truss announced her resignation Thursday after just 44 days in office. She was the third Prime Minister this year and quickly lost favor with fellow Conservatives and the wider public following a disastrous “mini budget” on Sept. 23 that spooked markets, sent borrowing rates up, and tanked the British pound. She fired her finance minister Kwasi Kwarteng and replaced him with Jeremy Hunt in the wake of the fallout, but it was not enough to ensure her political survival.
Truss will remain in office until a new Conservative Party leader is chosen via a leadership contest, which is expected to conclude on Oct. 28.
Nevertheless, Truss’s brief stint has earned her an unfortunate place in history as Britain’s shortest-serving Prime Minister. The last record-holder, George Canning, who held office almost 200 years ago, saw his time in office cut short when he died of poor health—reports say tuberculosis or pneumonia.
While Truss is, by a long stretch, the shortest-serving leader, here are the five former prime ministers who sit behind her—all of whom served a century or more ago.
George Canning: 119 days
Before Truss, George Canning held the title of shortest-serving Prime Minister. Canning was a member of the Tory party who started his political career as Foreign Secretary under the Duke of Portland but resigned after dueling with the war minister at the time. It is said that Canning’s last words were “Spain and Portugal.” Canning replaced Lord Liverpool as Prime Minister in April 1827, which turned out to be the year of his death. By August, after just five months as leader, Canning died suddenly due to bad health—most reports say tuberculosis but the U.K. government website lists pneumonia as the cause. Canning’s legacy is lacking because it is said that he didn’t serve for long enough to fully own the role.
Viscount Goderich: 144 days
Frederick Robinson, Viscount Goderich was a Tory politician who was appointed Prime Minister in August 1827 following Canning’s death to lead a coalition of Tories and Whigs. He was replaced in January 1828. Before serving as Prime Minister, Goderich aligned himself with Canning and served as his Colonial Secretary and leader in the Lords. Notably, the former leader never faced a session in Parliament and was unfavored by King George VI, who made him arrange his own replacement.
Bonar Law: 209 days
Bonar Law was the Canadian-born son of a Scottish clergyman who was elected as a Member of Parliament in Glasgow. Law lost his seat in 1906 but returned as leader of the Conservative Party in 1911, which was not in power at the time. He worked with the Liberal Party-led government during World War I, and was appointed Prime Minister in 1922. He lasted 209 days before resigning due to ill health and dying of cancer six months later.
William Cavendish: 225 days
William Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire was an aristocrat who became a Member of Parliament for Derbyshire in 1741 under the now-defunct Whig Party. Devonshire became a Lord in 1751 and claimed his Duke title after the death of his father in 1755. Following Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle, as Prime Minister in November 1756, Devonshire was asked to form an administration with William Pitt the Elder. Many considered his role to be temporary and he only served 225 days before he was replaced in 1757.
William Petty: 226 days
William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne was an Irish politician who went on to become Member of Parliament for Wycombe in 1760 with the Whig Party. He was elevated to the House of Lords in 1761, and became the First Lord at the Board of Trade in 1763, but resigned after four months. He aligned himself with William Pitt the Elder, working closely on British relations with the American colonies. In 1766, he also acted as one of Pitt’s Secretaries of State. In 1782, Shelburne took over as Prime Minister for 266 days, or eight months, only three of which Parliament was actually in session for.
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