BERNARD, Thomas (?1769-1834), of Castle Bernard, King's Co.

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



1802 - 1832

Family and Education

b. ?1769, o.s. of Thomas Bernard of Castle Bernard by 1st w. Mary, da. of Jonathan Willington of Castle Willington, King’s Co. m. (1) 10 Sept. 1800, Hon. Elizabeth Prittie (d. 20 Apr. 1802), da. of Henry, 1st Baron Dunally [I], s.p.; (2) 29 July 1814, Catherine Henrietta, da. of Francis Hely Hutchinson, MP [I], 4s. 2da. suc. fa. 1815.

Offices Held

Sheriff, King’s Co. 1798-9, gov. 1828.

Capt. commdt. Mountain Rangers 1800; col. King’s Co. militia 1823.


Bernard, the son of a country gentleman of large fortune, was returned for King’s County with the support of his brother-in-law Lord Charleville and of Lord Rosse. Government reported him as having voted with them against an inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s debts, 4 Mar. 1803. This was his usual line, though he at first made no mark in Parliament, apart from obliging his constituents by calling for investigation of the Irish canal tolls, 22 July 1803, 10 July 1804, 22 May 1805. He voted against the Catholic claims, 14 May, and with the majority for criminal prosecution of Melville, 12 June 1805, whereupon Pitt’s ministry became ‘doubtful’ of him. He had just applied to become a trustee of the linen board and been put off.1 On 30 Apr. 1806 he voted in the minority against the Grenville ministry’s repeal of the Additional Force Act, for the sake of consistency, he claimed, and not of opposition. Subsequently, ‘certainly through the influence of Sir Lawrence Parsons’, he divided with the ministry on the limitation of military service.2 The ministry noted afterwards that Bernard ‘generally’ acted with Parsons, that his property was not large and that he wanted something compatible with a seat in Parliament.3 On 16 June 1806 he called for the regulation of Irish paper currency, to prevent frauds.

Bernard voted with the Portland ministry against Brand’s motion, 9 Apr. 1807, and assured them that he was their supporter, obtaining their blessing in return for his re-election.4 On 7 Aug. 1807 he was in the minority on the Irish arms bill. In the summer of 1808 he was reported as having paired with Parnell, and his support, like that of his colleague Lloyd and of Sir Thomas Fetherston was supposed to depend on government’s assisting Lord Rosse’s pretensions to the next representative peerage, though Bernard liked to claim that he was ‘independent and unconnected’.5 On 25 Apr. 1809 Bernard was in the minority critical of Castlereagh’s alleged corruption and on 15 and 24 May was a leading critic of the Irish distillery regulation bill, threatening to bring in a proposal of his own, 2 June. Government had to summon him from Ireland to support them on the Scheldt inquiry, 30 Mar. 1810.6 He went on to vote against sinecure reform, 17 May, against parliamentary reform, 21 May, and Catholic relief, 1 June 1810, speaking at some length against it. The Whigs listed him ‘government’ but government complained of his absence during the Regency debates.7 On 13 Apr. 1810, 11 June 1811 and again on 23 June 1812 he was in the minority favouring Irish tithe reform, but further voted against Catholic relief, 1 June 1811, and on 23 Apr. 1812 opposed concessions to the Catholics without adequate securities. He had been in the government minority on McMahon’s sinecure appointment, 24 Feb. 1812.

In December 1812 the viceroy complained of Bernard’s ‘faint support’ and by April 1813 he was reported as having espoused Canning’s politics.8 The chief secretary wrote, 10 May, that Bernard was ‘an enemy when Mr Canning’s politics differ from those of the government’, but thought he was no loss. Lady Charleville assured the viceroy that Bernard’s desertion was due to his own grievances, principally a disappointment in a patronage request, which Bernard had exaggerated. The viceroy’s comment was ‘if disappointment in small instances can alter his political principles I don’t think we ought ever to have expected much steadiness’.9 He voted for the Catholic bill, 13 and 24 May 1813. Subsequently he drifted back to general support of ministers, appearing in some government divisions in 1815 and 1816, though he continued to vote for Catholic relief (21 May 1816, 9 May 1817, 3 May 1819) and he remained dissatisfied in matters of patronage.10 In April 1817 he applied for government support at the next election and in June the chief secretary described him as a friend, while on the eve of the election of 1818 he maintained that Bernard had been ‘acting with the government for some time past’.11 He voted with ministers against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May 1819. He died 18 May 1834, aged ‘about 65’.12

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. Add. 35787, f. 64.
  • 2. Rosse mss E/33, 21-23; NLS mss 12910, p. 184, Elliot to Newport, 11 June 1806.
  • 3. Spencer mss, Irish list, May 1806.
  • 4. Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 19; Wellington mss, Wellesley to Bernard, 11 May 1807.
  • 5. Wellington mss, Wellesley to Rosse, 29 Mar. 1808; Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 473, 477; Add. 40244, f. 170.
  • 6. NLI, Richmond mss 73/1715.
  • 7. Ibid. 64/703, 725.
  • 8. Add. 40185, f. 101; 40282, f. 35.
  • 9. Add. 40185, f. 238; 40282, ff. 34, 151; Richmond mss 74/1777.
  • 10. Add. 40295, f. 182.
  • 11. Add. 40204, f. 85; 40293, f. 135; 40295, f. 134.
  • 12. Gent. Mag. (1834), ii. 436.