The Chancellor of the Exchequer's robe and Downing Street furniture
Letter to Disraeli from W.E. Gladstone, 21 Jan 1853
Dep. Hughenden 129/1, fols. 18r-19r
In the early months of 1853 Disraeli and Gladstone locked horns over possession of the Chancellor's robe and furniture. Disraeli, the loser in their Budget clash and financially stretched without his £5,000 ministerial salary (his debts would shortly exceed £25,000) insisted on payment for the furniture which he'd had to buy from his predecessor (The Chancellor's official residence, now No.11, was then No.12). He had only been partly reimbursed by the Office of Works and wanted Gladstone to pay the difference of £307. Disraeli also refused to relinguish the historic robes which were traditionally passed down to each succeeding holder of the post. They were possibly first worn by William Pitt (1759-1806).
Gladstone opens this letter written in January 1853 with 'My Dear Sir', and explains the reasons for delay. Soon they were both using the third person. Ultimately Gladstone, not the Office of Works, paid for the furniture and he ordered a new set of robes which Sir William Harcourt (1827-1904) retained when he left the office in 1895.
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