George Ponsonby
George Ponsonby.
Lord Chancellor of Ireland
In office
MonarchGeorge III
Prime MinisterThe Lord Grenville
Preceded byThe Lord Redesdale
Succeeded byThe Lord Manners
Personal details
Born5 March 1755 (1755-03-05)
Died8 July 1817 (1817-07-09) (aged 62)
Political partyWhig
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge

George Ponsonby (5 March 1755 – 8 July 1817), was a British lawyer and Whig politician. He served as Lord Chancellor of Ireland from 1806 to 1807 in the Ministry of All the Talents.

Background and education

Ponsonby was the second surviving son of the Honourable John Ponsonby, speaker of the Irish House of Commons (1756–71), and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Cavendish (1723–1796), daughter of William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire. He was educated at Kilkenny College and at Trinity College, Cambridge.[1]

Legal and political career

A barrister, Ponsonby became a member of the Irish House of Commons in 1776. He sat for Wicklow between 1778 and 1783 and subsequently for Inistioge between 1783 and 1797. From 1798 until the Act of Union in 1801, he represented Galway Borough.[citation needed] Ponsonby 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.[2]

After 1801 Ponsonby represented County Wicklow and then Tavistock in the Parliament of the United Kingdom; in 1806 to 1807 he was Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and from 1808 to 1817 he was the recognised leader of the opposition in the British House of Commons.[2]

Ponsonby had been selected as the first recognised leader of the opposition, rather than leader of an opposition, when the two leading Whig peers Lord Grenville and Earl Grey, proposed him to Whig MPs. Ponsonby was described by Foorde as "a little-known mediocrity who was related to Lady Grey". He proved to be a weak leader, but was unwilling to resign and so retained the leadership of the party in the House of Commons until his death. He was succeeded as party leader by George Tierney.

Personal life

In Dublin, he was a member of Daly's Club.[3]

He married Lady Mary Butler, the daughter of Brinsley Butler, 2nd Earl of Lanesborough and his wife Lady Jane Rochfort. He left an only daughter, Elizabeth, when he died in London on 8 July 1817, who went on to marry Francis Aldborough Prittie, MP, by whom she had six children.


  1. ^ "Ponsonby, George (PNSY773G)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ponsonby, John s.v. George Ponsonby". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 22 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 62.
  3. ^ T. H. S. Escott, Club Makers and Club Members (1913), pp. 329–333
Parliament of Ireland Preceded byHon. Robert Ward Sir William Fownes, Bt Member of Parliament for Wicklow 1778–1783 With: Hon. Robert Ward Succeeded byJohn Lloyd Edward Tighe Preceded byJohn Flood Sir John Parnell, Bt Member of Parliament for Inistioge 1783–1797 With: John Ussher 1783–1790 John Lloyd 1790–1797 Succeeded byHenry Tighe John Lloyd Preceded byPeter Daly Sir Skeffington Smyth, Bt Member of Parliament for Galway 1798–1801 With: St George Daly Succeeded byParliament of the United Kingdom Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byWilliam Hoare Hume Vacant Member of Parliament for County Wicklow 18011806 With: William Hoare Hume Succeeded byWilliam Hoare Hume William Tighe Preceded byLord William Russell Viscount Howick Member of Parliament for Tavistock 1808–1812 With: Lord William Russell Succeeded byLord William Russell Hon. Richard FitzPatrick Preceded byWilliam ElliotMarquess of Tavistock Member of Parliament for Peterborough 1812–1816 With: William Elliot Succeeded byWilliam Elliot)Hon. William Lamb Preceded byWilliam Tighe Hon. Granville Proby Member of Parliament for Wicklow 1816–1817 With: Hon. Granville Proby Succeeded byHon. Granville Proby William Hayes Parnell Political offices Preceded byThe Lord Redesdale Lord Chancellor of Ireland 1806–1807 Succeeded byThe Lord Manners New office Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons 1808–1817 Succeeded byGeorge Tierney Party political offices New office Leader of the Whig Party in the House of Commons 1808–1817 Succeeded byGeorge Tierney