Monsell, William (DNB01)

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MONSELL, WILLIAM, Baron Emly (1812–1894), politician, born on 21 Sept. 1812, was the only son of William Monsell (d. 1822) of Tervoe, co. Limerick, who married in 1810 Olivia, second daughter of Sir John Allen Johnson Walsh of Ballykilcavan, Queen's county. He was educated at Winchester College from 1826 to 1830, and among his schoolfellows were Roundell Palmer (afterwards Earl of Selborne) and W. G. Ward (Selbourne, Memorials, ii. ii. 411). On 10 March 1831 he matriculated from Oriel College, Oxford, but left the university without taking a degree.

At the general election in August 1847 Monsell was returned to parliament for the county of Limerick, and represented it, as a moderate liberal, without a break until 1874. He joined the Roman catholic church in 1850, and throughout his parliamentary career spoke as the leading representative of its hierarchy. As a resident and conciliatory landlord he was popular with his tenantry, and in the House of Commons he promoted the cause of agricultural reform. His prominence in parliament is shown by his selection to propose the re-election of Speaker Denison (Hansard, February 1866, pp. 4-7; Denison, Diary, pp. 184-5).

Monsell filled many offices. He was clerk of the ordnance from 1852 until the office was abolished in February 1857, and from that date to September 1857 he was president of the board of health. On 13 Aug. 1855 he was created a privy councillor. For a few months (March to July 1866) he was vice-president of the board of trade, and from 1866 to 1868 he acted as paymaster-general. He served as under-secretary for the colonies from February 1868 to the close of 1870, and as postmaster-general from January 1871 to November 1873. On 12 Jan. 1874 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Emly. His name is identified with the abortive scheme for the 'establishment of an Irish national university upon a federal basis,' which Gladstone brought forward in 1873. The pamphlets published by Gladstone in 1874-5 against Vaticanism met with his disapproval (Purcell, A. P. de Lisle, ii. 54-65).

With the rise of the land league Monsell lost his popularity. He opposed the movement for home rule, and he was accordingly removed from the chairmanship of the board of poor-law guardians. He had been high sheriff of Limerick in 1835, and he was made lord-lieutenant of the county in 1871. He was also vice-chancellor of the royal university of Ireland.

Lord Emly died at Tervoe on 20 April 1894, and was buried in the family vault at Kilkeedy. He married, on 11 Aug. 1836, Anna Maria Charlotte Wyndham Quin, only daughter of the second earl of Dunraven. She died at St. Leonard's, Sussex, on 7 Jan. 1855 without leaving issue. In 1857 he married Bertha, youngest daughter of the Comte de Montigny. She died on 4 Nov. 1890, leaving one son, who succeeded to the peerage, and one daughter.

Monsell contributed to the 'Home and Foreign Review.' He was an intimate friend of Cardinal Newman (Purcell, Manning, ii. 312-20), was closely associated with Montalembert and his party, and was 'an enthusiastic advocate of liberal Catholicism and political reform.' He published in 1860 'A Lecture on the Roman question.'

[Burke's Peerage; Men of the Time, 13th edit.; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Baines's Forty Years at the Post Office, i. 218; Gent. Mag. 1855, i. 329; Times, 21 April 1894, p. 7; Ann. Reg. 1894. p. 159; Tablet, 28 April 1894, pp. 661-2; Ward's W. G. Ward and the Catholic Revival, pp. 143-4, 185-6, 205, 224-8, 243, 268-70; Ward's W. G. Ward and the Oxford Movement, p. 5.]

W. P. C.