Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.
Frederick Ponsonby 3rd Earl of Bessborough
24 January 1758 – 3 February 1844
Frederick Ponsonby 3rd Earl of Bessborough was the eldest son of Viscount Duncannon (who succeeded as The 2nd Earl of Bessborough in July 1758) and Lady Caroline Cavendish, daughter of The 3rd Duke of Devonshire. He succeeded to his father’s titles in 1793. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, and obtained the degrees of Master of Arts and Doctor of Civil Law.
He sat in the House of Commons as member for Knaresborough from 1780 until his succession to the peerage and was a Lord of the Admiralty in 1782–83
Bessborough usually made a favourable first impression: quiet, but with “the most mild and amiable manner”. On the other hand, he was a notoriously bad husband, alternating between neglecting Henrietta and insulting her in public. While there were faults on both sides- she was addicted to gambling and had numerous affairs- society in general judged him to be the greater offender.
On 27 November 1780, he had married Lady Henrietta Spencer, second daughter of John Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer. The marriage was notoriously unhappy and Bessborough began divorce proceedings in 1790 but under intense pressure from his relatives dropped them. They had four children:
- John Ponsonby, 4th Earl of Bessborough(1781–1847).
- Major General Sir Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby (1783–1837).
- Lady Caroline Lamb(1785–1828). Her husband was the 2nd Viscount Melbourne, the Prime Minister, however, she was never the Viscountess Melbourne because she died before he succeeded to the peerage; hence, she is known to history as Lady Caroline Lamb.
- William Francis Spencer, 1st Baron de Mauley (1787–1855).
Lady Bessborough died in 1821 of a chill caught while travelling abroad. Her husband outlived her by more than 20 years, dying at Canford House, Dorset in 1844.