Sixteen years after the fall of Derby’s first ministry in December 1852, a liberal government took office, and at its head stood William Gladstone. But these sixteen years were marked by upheavals in the politics of the country, as well as in Gladstone’s own career. Politics in these years were in something like a state of flux: it is difficult to label the various parties convincingly. Perhaps the most united group was the rump of the Conservative Party, formed from those supporters of Peel who had rejected his anti-Corn Law proposals, led by Lord Derby and, following his retirement, Disraeli, but even that showed signs of fragmentation. The ‘Peelites’, those who had stayed loyal to Sir Robert Peel, declined into one of the many disparate groups that eventually formed the Liberal Party. That party also comprised right-wing moderate Whigs and more left-wing radical elements, and, of course, the unclassifiable Palmerston. Bringing them together and keeping them together was far from easy.