chapter  22
Pages 1

A dissolution was the personal act of a monarch and it was considered dishonourable for a Prime Minister to seek a dissolution unless there was a real prospect that he would increase his Commons majority at the consequent election. Victoria’s immediate predecessor, William IV, became the last monarch to dismiss a ministry in 1834, though he shortly afterwards accepted that his preferred Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, could not maintain the confidence of the House and recalled Lord Melbourne. 1841 marked another watershed, when Melbourne insisted on a dissolution after his government lost a no confidence motion. He did so despite the urging of Prince Albert, who had married Victoria the previous year and who now informed him that such an action was constitutionally improper. Lord Brougham, a former Lord Chancellor, indeed declared a dissolution for the purpose of ascertaining national opinion through a general election to be ‘wholly unworthy of notice’ and ‘perverting to the mere purposes of party the exercise of by far the most eminent of the Royal Prerogatives’.2 Previously, a Prime Minister in such a position had resigned, allowing the monarch to choose an alternative Prime Minister without an election. There is evidence that Victoria felt personally humiliated when the election result left her with no realistic alternative to Peel.