Conyngham, Henry (DNB00)

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CONYNGHAM, HENRY, first Marquis Conyngham (1766–1832), the elder twin son of Francis Pierrepoint Burton [Conyngham], second baron Conyngham, by Elizabeth, sister of the first earl of Leitrim, was born on 26 Dec. 1766. He succeeded his father as third lord Conyngham in 1787, and on 6 Dec. 1789 was created Viscount Conyngham of Mountcharles in the peerage of Ireland. On 5 July 1794 he married Elizabeth, daughter of Joseph Denison of Denbies, Surrey, a lady who had much influence on his future career, and a month later he was gazetted lieutenant-colonel of the Londonderry regiment, raised by himself; it was disbanded in 1803. For this service, and his active influence as a magistrate in troubled times, he was created Viscount Mountcharles and Earl Conyngham in the peerage of Ireland on 5 Nov. 1797. He was a vigorous supporter of the union in the Irish House of Lords (Cornwallis Despatches, iii. 140), and when that act was passed he was elected one of the first Irish representative peers, was made a knight of St. Patrick, and received 15,000l. in cash for his close borough of Killybegs in the Irish House of Commons. After the passing of the union, Conyngham generally voted for the tory and ministerial party, but did not do much in politics, though from his wife's personal friendship with the prince regent he was created Viscount Slane, Earl of Mountcharles, and Marquis Conyngham on 22 Jan. 1816. When that prince succeeded to the throne as George IV, Conyngham's importance greatly increased; he was created Lord Minster of Minster Abbey, Kent, on 17 July 1821, in the peerage of the United Kingdom, and was in the December of the same year sworn of the privy council and made lord steward of the household, and captain, constable, and lieutenant of Windsor Castle. The Conyngham influence now became supreme at court. It showed itself as early as May 1821, when Lady Conyngham secured for Mr. Sumner (afterwards bishop of Winchester) a canonry of Windsor, because he had been her eldest son's tutor, in spite of the opposition of the prime minister, Lord Liverpool, an appointment which nearly caused a ministerial crisis (Greville Memoirs, 1st ser. i. 45). The Conynghams always lived with the king, whether at Windsor or Brighton, and Mr. Greville reports a speech of the king's to Lady Conyngham, after she had ordered the Pavilion to be lighted up, which shows how great was the power she exercised over him: ‘Thank you, thank you, my dear, you always do what is right; you cannot please me so much as by doing everything you please, everything to show you are mistress here.’ The king heaped presents upon her, and she even wore the crown sapphires which Cardinal York had given to the king. Her influence remained unbounded to the very last; she used the king's horses and carriages, and even the dinners she gave at her town house were cooked at St. James's Palace. With the death of George IV. the power of the Conynghams disappeared. Conyngham was made general in the army in 1830. He broke his staff of lord steward at the funeral of his friend, and was not reappointed. He died at his house in Hamilton Place, Piccadilly, London, on 28 Dec. 1832, and was buried at Patricksbourne church, Kent. He left two sons and two daughters: the second Marquis Conyngham and Lord Albert Conyngham, who succeeded to the Denison property and was created Lord Londesborough in 1849; Elizabeth, Marchioness of Huntley, and Harriet, Lady Athlumney. His widow long survived him, and did not die until 10 Oct. 1861.

[Gent. Mag. January 1833; Greville Memoirs, 1st ser. i. 46, 48, 207, iii. 88, 113.]

H. M. S.