Chapter 13: The Final Chapter, 1880-1

Primrose portrait

Item 158
Primrose portrait
Portrait of Disraeli for the Primrose League, n.d.
Janitor's List 771

Launched on 17 November 1883 the Primrose League was formed as a grassroots auxiliary of the Conservative Party to reconnect its central administration with the rank and file of the Party membership. The League was the brainchild of Lord Randolph Churchill (1849-95) and other members of the radical Conservative faction - the Fourth Party (1880-85), frustrated by the Tories continued identification with the landed interest and inability to adapt to the age of mass politics (see Item 146). Disraeli's legacy was hailed as the inspiration behind this broader approach - evoking a spirit of 'Tory Democracy' intermingled with the Victorian sense of medieval romanticism. The late leader however would never have endorsed the dilution of his Party's 'landed greatness' - which he knew and loved (Paul Smith, Disraeli: A Brief Life (New York, 1996; Cambridge, 1999), p. 208). This painting commissioned by the League provides an interesting example of how the Disraelian tradition has been redrawn by subsequent generations. Depicted alongside a vase of his favourite primroses, Lord Beaconsfield strikes a contemplative pose. His Semitic features have been rounded, glossing over his ethical lineage in favour of Anglo-Saxon reserve.

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