Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman, GCB PC (7 September 1836 – 22 April 1908) was a British Liberal Party statesman, Liberal Member of Parliament for Stirling Burghs for almost 40 years, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1905 to 1908.

Campbell Bannerman was a cousin of homeopath George Wyld, and through his uncle Henry Bannerman, who was married to Mary Wyld, he inherited the estate of Hunton Court in Kent on condition that he adopt the surname Bannerman.

Through the intermarriage of his family with the Wyld’s, Campbell Bannerman was also connected to William Ewert Gladstone.

Campbell Bannerman was a patient of Swedish masseur Allan Broman. He served under Queen Victoria, and Edward VII, and he was a colleague of Herbert Henry Asquith, Joseph Chamberlain, William Ewert Gladstone, John Henry Kennaway 3rd Baronet, Henry Charles Keith Petty Fitzmaurice 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, James Ramsay MacDonald, Edward Stanhope, among others.

Henry Campbell Bannerman was born at Kelvinside House in Glasgow, Scotland as Henry Campbell, the second son and youngest of the six children born to Sir James Campbell of Stracathro 1790 – 1876 and his wife Janet Bannerman (d. 1873).

Sir James Campbell had started work at a young age in the clothing trade in Glasgow, before going into partnership with his brother in 1817 to found J.& W. Campbell & Co., a warehousing, general wholesale and retail drapery business.

Sir James was elected as a member of Glasgow Town Council in 1831 and stood as a Conservative candidate for Glasgow constituency in the 1837 and 1841 general elections, before serving as Lord Provost of Glasgow from 1840 to 1843.

Henry’s older brother, James Alexander Campbell, was the Conservative Member of Parliament for Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities from 1880 to 1906. In 1871 Henry Campbell became Henry Campbell Bannerman, the addition of the surname Bannerman being a requirement of the will of his uncle, Henry Bannerman, from whom he inherited the estate of Hunton Court in Kent.

Campbell-Bannerman was educated at the High School of Glasgow (1845–1847), the University of Glasgow (1851), and Trinity College, Cambridge (1854–1858), where he achieved a Third-Class Degree in Classical Tripos.

After graduating, he joined the family firm of J & W  Campbell & Co., based in Glasgow’s Ingram Street. Campbell was made a partner in the firm in 1860. Following his marriage that year to Sarah Charlotte Bruce, Henry and his new bride set up residence at 6 Claremont Gardens in the Park district in the West End of Glasgow. The couple had no children.

Campbell Bannerman spoke French, German and Italian, and every summer he and his wife spent a couple of months in Europe, usually in France and at the spa town of Marienbad in Bohemia.In April 1868, at the age of thirty one, Campbell Bannerman stood as a Liberal candidate in a by-election for the Stirling Burghs constituency, narrowly losing to fellow Liberal John Ramsay. However, at the general election in November of that year, Campbell Bannerman defeated John Ramsay and was elected to the House of Commons as Liberal Member of Parliament for Stirling Burghs — a constituency he was to represent for almost forty years.

Campbell Bannerman was appointed as Financial Secretary to the War Office in William Ewert Gladstone‘s first government in November 1871, serving in this position until 1874, and held it again from 1880 to 1882 in William Ewert Gladstone‘s second government. After serving as Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty between 1882 and 1884, Campbell Bannerman entered William Ewert Gladstone‘s cabinet as Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1884.

In William Ewert Gladstone‘s third (1886) and fourth (1892–1894) governments and Archibald Philip Primrose 5th Earl Roseberry‘s Government (1894–1895) he served as Secretary of State for War, where he persuaded the Prince George Duke of Cambridge, Queen Victoria‘s cousin, to resign as Commander in Chief. This earned Campbell Bannerman a knighthood.

In 1898 Campbell Bannerman succeeded William Vernon Harcourt as leader of the Liberals in the House of Commons. The Boer War (1899–1902) split the Liberal party into Imperialist and Pro-Boer camps and Campbell Bannerman had a difficult time in holding together the strongly divided party, which was defeated in the “khaki election” of 1900.

However the Liberal Party was able to unite in its opposition to the Education Act 1902 and the Brussels Sugar Convention of 1902, in which Britain and nine other nations attempted to stabilise world sugar prices by setting up a commission to investigate export bounties and decide on penalties. The Conservative government had threatened countervailing duties and subsidies of West Indian sugar producers as a negotiating tool. The Convention would phase out export bounties and Britain would forbid the importation of subsidised sugar.

In a speech to the Cobden Club on 28 November 1902 Campbell Bannerman denounced the Convention as threatening the sovereignty of Britain:

It means that we abandon our fiscal independence, together with our free-trade ways; that we subside into the tenth part of a Vehmgericht which is to direct us what sugar is to be countervailed, at what rate per cent. we are to countervail it, how much is to be put on for the bounty, and how much for the tariff being in excess of the convention tariff; and this being the established order of things, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer in his robes obeys the orders that he receives from this foreign convention, in which the Britisher is only one out of ten, and the House of Commons humbly submits to the whole transaction. (“Shame.”) Sir, of all the insane schemes ever offered to a free country as a boon this is surely the maddest.

However it was Joseph Chamberlain,’s proposals for Tariff Reform (protectionism) in May 1903 which provided the Liberals with a great cause on which to campaign. Joseph Chamberlain,’s proposals dominated politics through the rest of 1903 up until the general election of 1906.

Campbell Bannerman, like other Liberals, held an unshakable belief in free trade. He proclaimed:

“…to dispute Free Trade, after fifty years’ experience of it, is like disputing the law of gravitation”.

On another occasion he explained the Liberals’ support for free trade:

We are satisfied that it is right because it gives the freest play to individual energy and initiative and character and the largest liberty both to producer and consumer. … trade is injured when it is not allowed to follow its natural course, and when it is either hampered or diverted by artificial obstacles. …

We believe in free trade because we believe in the capacity of our countrymen. That at least is why I oppose protection root and branch, veiled and unveiled, one-sided or reciprocal. I oppose it in any form. Besides we have experience of fifty years, during which our prosperity has become the envy of the world.

In 1903 the Liberal Party’s chief whip negotiated a pact with James Ramsay MacDonald, of the Labour Representation Committee to withdraw Liberal candidates in order to help LRC candidates in certain seats.

Campbell Bannerman got on well with Labour leaders and he said in 1903:

“We are keenly in sympathy with the representatives of Labour. We have too few of them in the House of Commons”.

However he was not a socialist. One biographer has written:

“He was deeply and genuinely concerned about the plight of the poor and so had readily adopted the rhetoric of progressivism, but he was not a progressive”.

The Liberals returned to power in December 1905 when Arthur Balfour resigned as Prime Minister, leaving Campbell Bannerman to form a minority government. Campbell Bannerman immediately dissolved Parliament and called a general election. In his first speech as premier on 21 December 1905, Campbell Bannerman launched the Liberal election campaign, focusing on the traditional Liberal platform of “peace, retrenchment and reform”:

Expenditure calls for taxes, and taxes are the plaything of the tariff reformer. Militarism, extravagance, protection are weeds which grow in the same field, and if you want to clear the field for honest cultivation you must root them all out.

For my own part, I do not believe that we should have been confronted by the spectre of protection if it had not been for the South African war. …

Depend upon it that in fighting for our open ports and for the cheap food and material upon which the welfare of the people and the prosperity of our commerce depend we are fighting against those powers, privileges, injustices, and monopolies which are unalterably opposed to the triumph of democratic principles.

The Liberals swept to power in a landslide victory. Campbell Bannerman’s premiership saw the Entente with Russia in 1907, brought about principally by the Foreign Secretary, Edward Grey.

In that same year, Campbell Bannerman achieved the honour of becoming the Father of the House, the only serving British Prime Minister to do so to date. Nevertheless his health soon took a turn for the worse, and he resigned as Prime Minister on 3 April 1908, to be succeeded by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Herbert Henry Asquith.

Campbell-Bannerman remained in residence at 10 Downing Street in the immediate aftermath of his resignation, and became the only (former) Prime Minister to die there, on 22 April 1908.

His last words were “This is not the end of me”.

Campbell Bannerman was buried in the churchyard of Meigle Parish Church, Perthshire, near Belmont Castle, his home since 1887. A relatively modest stone plaque set in the exterior wall of the church serves as a memorial.