Queen's Co.


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 6,500 in 1815; 4,037 polled in 1818


28 Dec. 1801 HON. WILLIAM WELLESLEY POLE vice Parnell, deceased 
5 Apr. 1802 HENRY BROOKE PARNELL vice Coote, become a peer of Ireland 
17 Feb. 1806 HENRY BROOKE PARNELL vice Coote, appointed to office 
18 Apr. 1806 PARNELL re-elected after appointment to office 
13 Apr. 1807 WELLESLEY POLE re-elected after appointment to office 
9 Feb. 1810 WELLESLEY POLE re-elected after appointment to office 
12 July 1811 WELLESLEY POLE re-elected after appointment to office 
12 Aug. 1814 WELLESLEY POLE re-elected after appointment to office 
 Sir Charles Henry Coote, Bt.1577
 Edward Dunne1022

Main Article

County politics were dominated by three interests: those of the kinship alliance of Lord de Vesci, Lord Portarlington and Parnell of Rathleague, estimated in 1809 to consist of a thousand freeholders; that of the Cootes, and that of William Wellesley Pole, one of the Wellesley brothers, who had in 1781 succeeded to the property and name of his cousin William Pole of Ballyfin. The rivalry of these three interests, which were evenly balanced, implicated the Castle more than usual in elections and, as the lord lieutenant reported, 2 Apr. 1802:

The direct interest of government is very inconsiderable in the Queen’s County; but the influence of any particular candidate operating upon those who may prefer to support the King’s government, cannot fail to produce an effect wherever there is a contest. This I take to be the situation of the Queen’s County.

The competition also enhanced the importance of independent voters. Wakefield described Wellesley Pole as sitting on the independent interest, while Parnell claimed, in 1816, that ‘popular’ votes secured his return—doubtless, in his case those of Catholic freeholders. Lord Drogheda, the custos, made only occasional use of his interest.1

In 1801 the sitting Members represented differing views in the county on the Union. Sir John Parnell had opposed the measure and was therefore considered an ally of Wellesley Pole and the leading representative of ‘resident property’. Charles Henry Coote, on the other hand, had obtained the reversion of a barony granted to his aged kinsman, Charles Henry, 7th Earl of Mountrath, for his support for the Union, and was regarded as being in line with the sentiment of the absentees.2 As early as 7 July 1801 Coote, whose stepmother was related to the prime minister’s brother-in-law Charles Bragge, applied for government support at the next election, but received an evasive answer.3 In September Wellesley Pole obtained from the chief secretary an agreement endorsed by Addington whereby, if Pole did not obtain a seat elsewhere beforehand, he was to be the candidate favoured by government for the Queen’s County, provided Coote did not stand, it being anticipated that Coote would make way for his son or brother. Moreover, government were to maintain a ‘strict neutrality’ between Wellesley Pole and Sir John Parnell, his former ally. As it happened, Parnell died suddenly on 5 Dec. 1801, and as Parnell’s son had no mind to contest the county with Wellesley Pole, the latter came in unopposed with the best wishes of government, to which he promised support.4 He at once quarrelled with Coote over the nomination of the next sheriff and a compromise solution had to be reached.5

In March 1802, when Coote succeeded to the barony of Castle Coote, his brother Eyre declined a contest with Sir John Parnell’s son Henry, despite the goodwill of government. Wellesley Pole could not be induced to support him, and Coote and his brother, who had not acquired Lord Mountrath’s property interest to go with his title, decided on investigation of their prospects to postpone Eyre’s candidature until the general election, whereupon Parnell was returned unopposed. Their decision placed Addington and the Castle in a predicament which may have inspired in the minister his pronounced aversion to interfering in Irish elections. The lord lieutenant’s conclusion was: ‘Mr Pole must have Mr Addington’s support on account of Lord Wellesley, and General Coote is entitled to the support of government from his brother’s support of the Union and his own military services’. Government were anxious to break the old anti-Union alliance of Pole and Parnell and they were dismayed at Pole’s refusal to join forces with Coote, who tried unsuccessfully to make them swallow the notion of his own union with Parnell as a pis aller.6 Pole further embarrassed government by asking them for the Mountrath interest, in the event of Eyre Coote’s joining any other candidate or standing separately. Addington refused to deprive Eyre Coote of his share of the Mountrath interest, which had been entrusted to government during Sir Charles Henry Coote’s minority, and the official hope was that ‘means may be found of reconciling and uniting two interests friendly to government’. Although there is no evidence of a reconciliation, Parnell, who was evidently disappointed in his hope of gaining James Bradfield, one of the trustees of the Mountrath interest, declined a contest, having a borough seat to fall back on, 13 July 1802.7

‘We are now all harmony and unanimity’, reported Pole after the election of 1802, and the transfer of Sir Eyre Coote to the government of Jamaica, enabling Parnell to resume his seat in January 1806, further stabilized the situation. The Grenville ministry had an awkward moment during the election of that year when Lord Castle Coote encouraged his eldest son Lt.-Col. Charles Henry Coote (1781-1810) to stand. They were sure of Parnell’s support and happy to give him Lord Temple’s interest in the county, but Pole had disappointed their hopes that he would adhere to them. These hopes had inspired their objection to Sir Eyre Coote’s application for a crown grant to him of lands he had purchased in September 1802 with a view to creating freeholders, on the basis that the grant would amount to electoral interference. Now they discouraged Lt.-Col. Coote’s candidature, as the premier persisted in regarding Wellesley Pole, his friend Lord Wellesley’s brother, as ‘not by any means a decided enemy’ and was sure Coote had no chance of success. The chief secretary, who had the Mountrath interest as a bargaining counter, induced Castle Coote to withdraw his son, and when that peer applied to government for another seat for him, for £3,000, Lord Grenville described the bid as ‘quite impracticable’.8

In 1807 the sitting Members were returned after Robert Moore, a brother of Lord Drogheda, had declined to stand against Parnell to counter the latter’s opposition to the new ministry. Wellesley Pole reported that he was elected ‘by the unanimous voice of the largest and most respectable meeting I ever saw assembled at Maryborough. A priest, and two papists, who were my greatest enemies at former elections supported me, and dined with me—so much for "All the Talents" and Catholic supremacy.’9 In 1812 likewise, Pole, who, as chief secretary, had meanwhile opposed Catholic claims reported ‘I don’t care one damn about [the Catholics] in Queen’s County. My interest rests upon a very different footing.’ His adherence to Lord Wellesley’s politics, however, led to his supporting Catholic relief in 1813, and Drogheda’s second son, Lord Henry Moore*, now proposed himself as candidate after requesting the Castle to permit his father to resign the governorship and custody of the county in his favour. This embarrassed the viceroy, who knew Pole would be mortified and thought that, if Moore persisted, Parnell rather than Pole would have to give up the contest. He toyed with the idea of dividing the honours in question, while his chief secretary prudently suggested waiting until Drogheda died. Moreover, when Moore applied for the shrievalty in September 1813, he warned him that Pole’s return to the fold and to office wassur le tapis and that the government were therefore not disposed to be hostile. When Pole was restored to office a year later, Peel remarked: ‘This will greatly change the politics of the Queen’s County and our relation with the rival parties’.10

Although Lord Henry Moore thereupon gave up his pretensions, a challenge to the peace of the county again arose in 1816, when Sir Charles Henry Coote, heir to the Mountrath estate, having failed to obtain an Irish peerage through Pole, declared his candidature. The chief secretary, informing Pole that Coote professed to be a friend of government, though without a pledge, assured him that he had given Coote no encouragement and urged Pole not to alienate him, as government had no objection to seeing Parnell, a foe, turned out. Pole was unable to secure Lord Castle Coote’s support through the Castle, for the simple reason that Castle Coote was one of the prime instigators of his kinsman’s candidature, and was confident that this junction of the family interest would prove successful. Pole was reduced to begging government either to dissuade Coote, with the promise of a peerage, from putting him to the trouble and expense of a contest, or to frighten him off with threats of discontinuing such posts in the Coote family as the colonelcy of the county militia. Pole’s sudden appearance at the county assizes in the autumn of 1816 provoked the rumour, among those who did not know his ‘anxious’ temperament, of a general dissolution.11 Parnell was not so easily frightened: he was confident that ‘the popular interest’ would return him.12 In April 1817 Pole asked government for a British peerage for himself, to avoid the contest, but the moment was inopportune. To make matters worse, Pole found that Castle Coote was the only obstacle to a settlement of the contest by scrutiny of canvass returns rather than by polling. Although a poll took place and the Coote interest was sufficiently confident to put up a second string candidate in Gen. Dunne, they declined on 6 July, after Pole and Parnell had united against them and put them at the bottom of the poll.13 The renewal of the challenge in 1820, though unsuccessful, led Pole to insist on a peerage by way of escape.14

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. Wakefield, Account of Ireland, i. 272; ii. 307-8; Add. 35771, f. 225; 40292, f. 46.
  • 2. PRO 30/8/196, f. 15; Castlereagh Corresp. ii. 127, 354.
  • 3. PRO 30/9/1, pt. 1/4.
  • 4. Sidmouth mss, Abbot to Addington, 19 Sept., Wellesley Pole to same, 27 Oct.; PRO 30/9/1, pt. 2/1, Addington to Abbot, 16 Oct., 5 Dec., reply 8 Dec. 1801; The Times, 4 Jan. 1802.
  • 5. PRO 30/9/1, pt. 1/3, Abbot to C. H. Coote, 6, 11 Jan., Coote to Abbot, 8, 12 Jan. 1802.
  • 6. Wickham mss 1/46/5, Wickham to Addington, 7 Mar.; 5/9, E. Coote to Wickham 18, 20 Mar. 1802; Add. 35713, ff. 19, 46, 48, 49; 35733, f. 321; 35771, f. 225.
  • 7. Wickham mss, 5/4, Wickham to Wellesley Pole, 9 Apr.; 5/10, Lindsay to Wickham, 14 June and enc.; Add. 35735, ff. 60, 177; 37308, f. 341; The Times, 22 July 1802.
  • 8. Add. 35735, f. 177; 35745, f. 5; Spencer mss, Elliot to Spencer, 25 May 1806; HMC Fortescue, viii. 409, 415, 422, 429, 433.
  • 9. Wellington mss, Wellesley to Carr, 19 May, to Moore, 25 May; Add. 37309, f. 173; Dublin Evening Post, 30 Apr., 7 May, 11 June 1807.
  • 10. NLI, Richmond mss 60/280, 67/1048; Add. 40282, f. 151; 40285, f. 42; 40287, f. 101.
  • 11. Add. 38573, f. 104; 40257, f. 316; 40258, f. 100; 40291, f. 150; Fitzwilliam mss, box 85, Elliot to Fitzwilliam, 10 Aug. 1816.
  • 12. Add. 40292, f. 46.
  • 13. Add. 38265, f. 404; 38266, f. 25; 40278, f. 278; 40279, f. 53; Congleton mss, Castle Coote to Evans, 30 June 1818; The Late Elections (1818), 488.
  • 14. Add. 38285, f. 168.