1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ponsonby, John

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PONSONBY, JOHN (1713–1789), Irish politician, second son of Brabazon Ponsonby, 1st earl of Bessborough, was born on the 29th of March 1713. In 1739 he entered the Irish parliament and in 1744 he became first commissioner of the revenue; in 1746 he was appointed a privy councillor, and in 1756 Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. Belonging to one of the great families which at this time monopolized the government of Ireland, Ponsonby was one of the principal “undertakers,” men who controlled the whole of the king’s business in Ireland, and he retained the chief authority until the marquess Townshend became lord-lieutenant in 1767. Then followed a struggle for supremacy between the Ponsonby faction and the party dependent on Townshend, one result of this being that Ponsonby resigned the speaker ship in 1771. He died on the 12th of December 1789. His wife was Elizabeth, daughter of William Cavendish, 3rd duke of Devonshire, a connexion which was of great importance to the Ponsonbys.

Ponsonby’s third son, George Ponsonby (1755–1817), lord chancellor of Ireland, was born on the 5th of March 1755 and was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. A barrister, he became a member of the Irish parliament in 1776 and was chancellor of the Irish exchequer in 1782, afterwards taking a prominent part in the debates on the question of Roman Catholic relief, and leading the opposition to the union of the parliaments. After 1800 Ponsonby represented Wicklow. and then Tavistock in the united parliament; in 1806 he was lord chancellor of Ireland, and from 1808 to 1817 he was the official leader of the opposition in the House of Commons. He left an only daughter when he died in London on the 8th of July 1817.

George Ponsonby’s elder brother, William Brabazon Ponsonby, 1st Baron Ponsonby (1744–1806), was also a leading Whig politician, being a member of the Irish, and after 1800, of the British parliament. In 1806 shortly before his death he was created Baron Ponsonby of Imokilly. Three of his sons were men of note. The eldest was John (c. 1770–1855), who succeeded to the barony and was created a viscount in 1839; he was ambassador at Constantinople from 1832 to 1837 and at Vienna from 1846 to 1850. The second son was Major-General Sir William Ponsonby (1772–1815), who, after serving in the Peninsular War, was killed at the battle of Waterloo whilst leading a brigade of heavy cavalry. Another son was Richard Ponsonby (1772–1853), bishop of Derry. Sir William Ponsonby’s posthumous son William (1816–1861) became 3rd Baron Ponsonby on the death of his uncle John, Viscount Ponsonby; he died childless and was succeeded by his cousin William Brabazon Ponsonby (1807–1866), only son of the bishop of Derry, on whose death the barony of Ponsonby became extinct. Among other members of this family may be mentioned Major-General Sir Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby (1783–1837), son of the 3rd earl of Bessborough, a soldier who distinguished himself at the battles of Talavera, Salamanca and Vittoria, in the Peninsular War, and was wounded at Waterloo; he was governor of Malta from 1826 to 1835. His eldest son, Sir Henry Frederick Ponsonby (1825–1895), a soldier who served in the Crimea, is best remembered as private secretary to Queen Victoria from 1870 until a few months before his death.