Posts Tagged ‘John Ponsonby 4th Earl of Bessborough’

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

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.

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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.

John William Ponsonby 4th Earl of Bessborough
531 August 1781 – 16 May 1847


John William Ponsonby

John Ponsonby 4th Earl of Bessborough was the eldest son of Frederick Ponsonby, 3rd Earl of Bessborough, and Lady Henrietta Frances, daughter of John Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer. Sir Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby and William Ponsonby, 1st Baron de Mauley, were his younger brothers, while Lady Caroline Lamb was his younger sister. Ponsonby’s mother was Lord Granville’s lover prior to his marriage to Lady Harriet Cavendish, the Countess of Bessborough’s niece. Lord Granville fathered two illegitimate children through her: Harriette Stewart and George Stewart. Lord Bessborough was educated at Harrow and Christ Church, Oxford.

He was First Commissioner of Woods and Forests under Lord Grey (1831–1834) and served under Lord Melbourne in that office (1835-1841), briefly as Home Secretary (1834), and as Lord Privy Seal (1835–1839). Later, he served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland under Lord John Russell from 1846 until his death on 16 May 1847. He was made a Privy Counsellor in 1831 and in 1834, ten years before he succeeded his father, he was created Baron Duncannon, of Bessborough in the County of Kilkenny. He was Lord Lieutenant of Kilkenny from November 1838 until his death.

His political career was hampered by a noted stammer, which made him a very reluctant public speaker: as Lord Duncannon he was unkindly nicknamed “Dumbcannon”. In private on the other hand he was a valued colleague, due largely to his ability to keep his head in a crisis. He was one of the so-called Committee of Four who drafted the Reform Act 1832.

John Ponsonby married Lady Maria Fane, daughter of John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland, and Sarah Anne Child, on 16 November 1805 at Berkeley Square, London. They had eight sons and three daughters. The youngest daughter, Emily Charlotte Mary, remained unmarried but she wrote a number of novels which were published without attribution. The Countess of Bessborough died in March 1834, aged 46. Lord Bessborough survived her by thirteen years and died in May 1847, aged 65. He was succeeded in the earldom by his eldest son, John, and subsequently by his younger sons Frederick and Walter. Bessborough Gardens in London is named after Lord Bessborough.

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