Benjamin Disraeli

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Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)
This towering figure of British statesmanship began his political career as a member of parliament, having already established a reputation as a novelist. Of Jewish origin, his father had him baptized at 13, though he apparently never forgot his roots and displayed pride in his ethnic origins. In 1868, he became Prime Minister but resigned a short time later. He ascended to the premiership a second time in 1874. Known for a close relationship with Queen Victoria, he was instrumental in acquiring for her the title of Empress of India. His skills as a diplomat were legendary and he is credited with averting war with Russia over Constantinople at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. The Prussian empire-builder Bismarck was quoted as remarking, "The old Jew, that is a man," in admiration of his British contemporary.