Ponsonby, William (1704-1793) (DNB00)
PONSONBY, WILLIAM, second Earl of Bessborough (1704–1793), born in 1704, was eldest son of Brabazon, first earl of Bessborough, by his first wife, Sarah, widow of Hugh Colville of Newtown, co. Down, and daughter of Major John Margetson (son and heir of James Margetson [q. v.], archbishop of Armagh). John Ponsonby [q. v.], speaker of the Irish House of Commons, was his youngest brother. William was elected to the Irish House of Commons in 1725 for the borough of Newtown. At the general election in 1727 he was returned for the county of Kilkenny, which he continued to represent until his father's death in July 1758. In 1739 he was appointed secretary to his fatherin-law, William, third duke of Devonshire, then lord lieutenant of Ireland, and in 1741 was sworn a member of the Irish privy council. In March 1742 he was elected to the British House of Commons for Derby, and continued to represent that town until the dissolution in April 1754. He was appointed a lord of the admiralty on 24 June 1746, and at the general election in April 1754 was elected for Saltash, but vacated his seat for that borough in November 1756 on his promotion from the admiralty to the treasury board. He was returned to the House of Commons for Harwich at a by-election in December 1756, and succeeded to the peerage on the death of his father on 4 July 1758. Bessborough took his seat in the English House of Lords as second Baron Ponsonby of Sysonby in the county of Leicester on 23 Nov. 1758 (Journals of the House of Lords, xxix. 391). He was appointed joint postmaster-general on 2 June 1759, being succeeded at the treasury by Lord North (Chatham Correspondence, 1838-40, i. 409). On the dismissal of his brother-in-law, the Duke of Devonshire, from the post of lord chamberlain, in October 1762, Bessborough resigned office.
He attended the meeting of whig leaders held at the Duke of Newcastle's on 30 June 1765 (Lord Albemarle, Memoirs of the
Marquis of Rockingham, 1852, i. 218-20), and on 12 July following kissed hands on his reappointment as joint postmaster-general (Grenville Papers, 1852-3, iii. 217), being at the same time sworn a member of the privy council. On 26 Nov. 1766 Bessborough offered to resign the post office in favour of Lord Edgcumbe, who had been dismissed from the treasurership of the household, and to accept a place in the bedchamber instead. His offer, however, was refused, and Bessborough thereupon resigned (Chatham Correspondence, iii. 130). In company with the Duke of Devonshire, and Lords Rockingliam, Fitzwilliam, and Fitzpatrick, he protested strongly against the proposed Irish absentee tax in 1773 (Froude, English in Ireland, 1872-4, ii. 160, 162). He died on 11 March 1793, and was buried on the 22nd of the same month in the family vault of the Dukes of Devonshire in All Saints' Church, Derby, where there are monumental busts of him and his wife by Nollekens and Kysbrach respectively.
He married, on 6 July 1739, Lady Caroline Cavendish, eldest daughter of William, third duke of Devonshire, by whom he had five sons—all of whom died young with the exception of Frederic, viscount Duncannon (born 24 Jan. 1768), who succeeded as third Earl of Bessborough, and died on 3 Feb. 1844, and whose son, John William, fourth earl, is separately noticed—and six daughters, all of whom died young with the exception of Catherine, who married, on 4 May 1763, the Hon. Aubrey Beauclerk (afterwards fifth Duke of St. Albans), and died on 4 Sept. 1789, aged 46: and Charlotte, who married on 11 July 1770 William, fourth earl Fitzwilliam, and died on 13 May 1822, aged 74. Lady Bessborough died on 20 Jan. 1760, aged 40, and was buried in All Saints', Derby.
There is no record of any speech delivered by Bessborough in either the Irish or British parliaments, though he signed a number of protests in the British House of Lords (see Rogers, Complete Collection of the Protests of the Lords, 1875, vol. ii.) He was appointed a trustee of the British Museum in 1770. The pictures at his house in Pall Mall, and the antiques at Bessborough House, Roehampton, which Bessborough and his father had collected, were sold at Christie's in 1801. A catalogue (in French) of his gems was published by Laurent Natter in 1761 (London, 4to). A portrait of Bessborough was painted by George Knapton for the Dilettanti Society, and there is a mezzotint engraving by R. Dunkarton after J. S. Copley.
[Walpole's Memoirs of the Reign of George III, 1845, i. 200–1, ii. 22, 194, 381–2, 395; Walpole's Letters, 1857–9 passim; Glover's Hist. of Derbyshire, 1833, vol. ii. pt. i. p. 491; Cox and Hope's Chronicles of All Saints', Derby, 1881, pp. 129, 132, 133; Nichols's Leicestershire, 1795–1815, vol. ii. pt. i. p. 283; Brayley and Britton's Surrey, 1850, iii. 483; Lysons's Environs of London, 1792, i. 433–4, Supplement, 1811, p. 64; G. E. C.'s Complete Peerage, i. 351–2; Edmondson's Baronagium Genealog. v. 448; Foster's Peerage, 1883, p. 78; Lodge's Peerage of Ireland, 1789, ii. 281–2; Collins's Peerage, 1812, vii. 265–7; Gent. Mag. 1760 p. 46, 1763 p. 257, 1770 p. 344, 1789 pt. ii. p. 866, 1793 pt. i. p. 285, 1801 pt. i. pp. 323–4, pt. ii. p. 783, 1822 pt. i. p. 472, 1844 pt. ii. p. 87; Official Return of Members of Parliament, pt. ii.; Haydn's Book of Dignities, 1890.]