As prime minister, Edward Heath presided over some of the most turbulent years in Britain’s post war history. His time in Downing Street - from 1970 to 1974 - was marked by widespread industrial unrest with power blackouts and much of the country reduced to a three-day working week
For his supporters, his crowning achievement was to negotiate Britain’s entry into the Common Market as the EU was then known - a decision that continues to divide Conservatives 40 years on.
His time in office ended ignominiously after he lost a snap general election which he had called to try to bolster his authority in the face of a second coal miners’ strike.
He never forgave Margaret Thatcher for ousting him as Tory leader, for years nursing a grudge which became known as the “incredible sulk”.
A lifelong bachelor, he was famously reticent about his private life focusing his energies away from politics on his twin passions of sailing and classical music.
He had a reputation of being cold and indifferent towards women. One biographer concluded he may have been a latent or repressed homosexual while another thought he was “pretty well sexless” having failed to find any evidence of any intimate relationships with either men or women.
In 2007 Brian Coleman, a senior Tory on the London Assembly, caused a stir when he claimed it was common knowledge in Conservative circles that Sir Edward had been warned by police in the 1950s over his “cottaging activities”.
However no corroborating evidence was produced to support the allegation which was disputed by others in the party.
Sir Edward, who was created a knight of the Garter in 1992, finally stood down as an MP in 2001 after 51 years in Parliament. He died in July 2005, aged 89.