Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, masterminded the campaigns, alliances, treaties and pageantries which brought the British Empire to its zenith in terms of power and prestige. Prime Minister for all but four years between 1885 and 1902, it was he who, from his Jacobean palace at Hatfield, co-ordinated the subtly interlocking policies over five continents and a quarter of the globe.
A profoundly unconventional aristocrat, Lord Salisbury was witty, ironic and intellectually brilliant, but there was also a ruthless, acerbic and depressive side to his nature. In the course of a turbulent fifty-year career he won over opponents such as Disraeli and Queen Victoria, destroyed others such as Lord Randolph Churchill and Paul Kruger, brought Joseph Chamberlain and King Edward VII to heel, wrecked Gladstone's hopes for Irish Home Rule, offered secret deals to Charles Stewart Parnell and Tsar Nicholas II, saw off Otto von Bismarck and saw through Kaiser Wilhelm II.
In this comprehensive new biography, written with complete access to Salisbury's papers at Hatfield House, Andrew Roberts explores every aspect of Lord Salisbury's phenomenal statesmanship, but also his eccentric family, his journalism, his distinctive philosophy of Toryism, his passion for scientific experiments and above all, his extraordinary, complex, but ultimately hugely attractive character.