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Prime ministers

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gerontius grumpus
34824.  Sat Nov 26, 2005 9:28 am Reply with quote

There was a question on QI a few weeks ago in which it was said that the title "Prime Minister" was not used for its present meaning until the early 20th century. I thought that was quite interesting.

Since then, I have watched a program about the Zulu wars in which contemporary quotations mentioned the Prime Minister several times.

It would be interesting to find out if they were misquotes or if misheard the answer in QI.

Can anyone help?

34827.  Sat Nov 26, 2005 9:40 am Reply with quote

Prime Minister, as a title, was originally used as an insult towards Sir Robert Walpole, generally quoted as the first PM. It was not a term used officially in Britain until the precedence table of 1905, and was not mentioned in statute until 1917 (the Chequers act, I seem to remember, but I could be wrong). It was in widespread use (not as an insult) before both these dates, hence Zulu war era references.

Incidentally, my Guinness book of records (1993, from whence most of the above) also says that the title was "given legal warrant in the instrument of the Congress of Berlin in 1878". Anybody have a clue what this means?


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