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The Ultra-Tories were a right-wing Anglican section of the British Tory Party that broke away from the party in 1829 after the passing of Catholic Emancipation, in the United Kingdom.

Though never formally organised as a separate party, the Ultra-Tories were united in their antipathy towards the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel for what they saw as a betrayal of Tory political and religious principle on the issue of Catholic Emancipation. They took their opposition to Peel to the extent of running a candidate against Peel when he had to resign his Oxford University seat when taking up political office (a requirement for all M.P.s when taking a ministerial office then). Though Peel was able to get back to Parliament via another parliamentary seat , this battle between Tory factions further embittered internal relations in the party.

The Ultra-Tory faction was informally led in the House of Commons by Member of Parliament Edward Knatchbull and Sir Richard Vyvyan. In the House of Lords they enjoyed the support of many ex-cabinet ministers and leading peers like the Duke of Cumberland, the Earl of Winchilsea and the Duke of Newcastle. Their general viewpoint could be described as extreme on the matter of defending the established Anglican ascendancy and barring Catholics from political office or influence. However on the issue of electoral reform they were split with a large group coming around to see that it could strengthen the appeal of ultra Protestantism.

The inability of the Tories to reunite led to losses in the 1830 General election following the death of King George IV. Combined also with the news of the July Revolution in France and a series of bad harvests in England which saw a great increase in political agitation, some Ultras returned back to the party. However there were sufficient Ultra-Tories left who were able to combine with the Whigs and the Canningite grouping (who had previously split from the main Tory party back in 1827-1828 over the issue of Catholic Emancipation which they had supported) to defeat Wellington who finally resigned in November 1830.

This led to the creation of a government with the Earl Grey as Prime Minister and the leading Canningites like the Viscount Palmerston and the Viscount Melbourne. One leading Ultra-Tory, the Duke of Richmond, joined the Grey Cabinet and a few others appointed in more junior ministerial positions . However the scope of the subsequent reforms proved too much for many of the pro-government Ultras who then moved back into opposition. Eventually also Richmond left the Whig led coalition and returned to the Tory party (or the Conservative Party as it was generally now known ) after 1834.

Except for a few irreconcilables, the vast bulk of the Ultra-Tories would eventually move over to the Conservatives with some, like Knatchbull, enjoying political office in the in Peel's first government in 1834. However when the party split again in 1846 over the issue of abolishing the Corn Laws - the remaining Ultra-Tories quickly rallied to the 'Protectionist' banner and helped to vote Peel out from office once again - this time for good.[1]


  1. ^ Pearce and Stern, Government and Reform: Britain 1815-1918 (Second Edition), page 35. Hodder Murray, 2000


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