Ponsonby, William Brabazon (DNB00)

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PONSONBY, WILLIAM BRABAZON, first Baron Ponsonby (1744–1806), born on 15 Sept. 1744, was the eldest son of the Right Hon. John Ponsonby [q. v.], speaker of the Irish House of Commons, by his wife, Lady Elizabeth Cavendish, second daughter of William, third duke of Devonshire. George Ponsonby [q. v.], lord chancellor of Ireland, was his brother. He was returned in 1764 to the Irish House of Commons for Cork city, which he continued to represent until the dissolution in 1776. He represented Bandon Bridge from 1776 to 1783. At the general election in 1783 he was returned both for Newtown and Kilkenny county, but elected to sit for Kilkenny, and continued to represent that county until his elevation to the peerage. He voted against Flood's Parliamentary Reform Bill on 20 Nov. 1783 (Life and Times of Henry Grattan iii. 150-4 n.), and in July 1784 was appointed joint postmaster-general of Ireland and sworn a member of the Irish privy council. Having declared his opinion that the house ought 'to invest the Prince of Wales as regent with all the authority of the crown fully and unlimitedly' (Parl. Register, or History of the Proceedings and Debates in the House of Commons of Ireland, ix. 22), he was selected as one of the bearers of the address to the prince, which the lord lieutenant refused to transmit. He joined those who opposed the Marquis of Buckingham's policy in signing the round-robin agreement of 27 Feb. 1789 (Barrington, Historic Memoirs of Ireland, 1833, vol. ii. opp. p. 377), and was shortly afterwards removed from the office of postmaster-general. He was elected an original member of the whig club founded in Dublin on 26 June 1789. On 4 March 1794 he brought forward a parliamentary reform bill, which was substantially the same as the bill which he had introduced in the previous year, its principal features being the extension of the right of voting in the boroughs, and the addition of a third member to each of the counties and to the cities of Dublin and Cork (Parl. Reg. &c., xiv. 62 8). It was warmly supported by Grattan, but was rejected by the house by a majority of ninety-eight votes, Ponsonby appears to have been recommended by Fitzwilliam for the post of principal secretary of state in 1795 (Lecky, History of England, vii. 57). In May 1797 he brought forward a series of resolutions in favour of reform, but was defeated by 117 votes to 30 (ib, vii. 324-8). He voted against the union in 1799 and in 1800 (Barrington, Historic Memoirs of Ireland, ii. 374). On 16 March 1801 he took part in the debate on the Irish Martial Law Bill, and warned the house that 'it would be the wisest policy to treat the people of Ireland like the people of England' (Parl. Hist. xxxv. 1037-8). He was created Baron Ponsonby of Imokilly in the county of York on 13 March 1806. He took his seat in the House of Lords on 25 April (Journals of the House of Lords, xlv. 574), but never took any part in the debates. He died in Seymour Street, Hyde Park, London, on 5 Nov. 1806.

Ponsonby was a staunch whig and a steady adherent of Charles James Fox. He is said to have kept 'the best hunting establishment in Ireland,' at Bishop's Court, co. Kildare, where he lived 'in the most hospitable and princely style' (Gent, Mag, 1806, pt. ii. p. 1084). He married, in December 1709, Louisa, fourth daughter of Richard, third viscount Molesworth, by whom he had five sons—viz.: (1) John Ponsonby, viscount Ponsonby [q. v.]; (2) Sir William Ponsonby [q. v.]; (3) Richard Ponsonby [see under Ponsonby, John, Viscount Ponsonby]; (4) George Ponsonby of Woolbeding, near Midhurst, Sussex, sometime a lord of the treasury, who died on 5 June 1863; and (5) Frederick, who died unmarried in 1849 — and one daughter, Mary Elizabeth, who married, on 17 Nov. 1794, Charles Grey (afterwards second Earl Grey), and died on 26 Nov. 1861, aged 86. Lady Ponsonby married, secondly, on 21 July 1823, William, fourth earl Fitzwilliam, and dies on 1 Sept. 1824.

[Authorities cited in text; Hardy's Memoirs of the Earl of Charlemont, 1812, ii. 186, 214–15; Lodge's Irish Peerage, 1789, ii. 279; Collins's Peerage, 1812, ix. 343–4; Foster's Peerage, 1883, pp. 77–8; Burke's Extinct Peerage, 1883, p. 617; Gent. Mag. 1794 pt. ii. p. 1054, 1806 pt. ii. pp. 1248–9, 1823 pt. ii. p. 368, 1853 pt. ii. pp. 630–1, 1862 pt. i. p. 105; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, pt. ii.; Haydn's Book of Dignities, 1890, p. 564.]

G. F. R. B.