In this fifth installment of the Palliser series, Plantagenet Palliser becomes Prime Minister in a fragile coalition government. Lady Glencora attempts to aid the success of her husband's tenure by hosting lavish events. Meanwhile a significant sub-plot concerns Ferninand Lopez, a city adventurer of undisclosed parentage who wins the favour of Emily Wharton. Emily marries Mr Lopez despite her father's objections and rapidly regrets her mistake. Lopez's high-risk gambles lead to financial ruin and, after failing to persuade Lizzie Eustace to go with him to Guatemala, takes his own life.