Gladstone receives Queen Victoria's commission to form his third government

The commission came following the defeat of Lord Salisbury in the general election. The Queen took Salisbury’s defeat very badly and, in the words of Salisbury’s daughter, had initially refused to accept his resignation in ‘an almost incoherent outpouring of protest and dismay.’ The offer to Gladstone was further delayed while Sir Henry Ponsonby, the Queen’s Private Secretary, sounded the Liberal MP G.J. Goschen on the possibility of a Whig/Tory coalition. When the commission came it was with the requirement that Lord Rosebery was appointed Foreign Secretary. The new cabinet demonstrated the battle lines being drawn over Irish Home Rule – Rosebery, Harcourt, Morley and Chamberlain (reluctantly) all agreeing to join the government but the majority of the remaining Whigs including Hartington, Northbrook and Selborne refused to serve.