PONSONBY, John Brabazon (c.1770-1855), of Imokilly, co. Cork.

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



10 Mar. 1801 - 1802

Family and Education

b. c. 1770, 1st s. of William Brabazon Ponsonby*, and bro. of Frederick Ponsonby*, George Ponsonby* and William Ponsonby*. m. 13 Jan. 1803,1 Lady Elizabeth Frances Villiers, da. of George Bussy Villiers, 4th Earl of Jersey, s.p. suc. fa. as 2nd Baron Ponsonby [I] 5 Nov. 1806; GCB 3 Mar. 1834; cr. Visct. Ponsonby [I] 20 Apr. 1839.

Offices Held

MP [I] 1793-1800.

Spec. mission to Brazil 1826; envoy extraordinary to the Argentine 1826-8, to Brazil 1828-9, to Belgium 1830-1, to Sicily 1832-3; ambassador to The Porte 1832-41, to Austria 1846-50.


Ponsonby was considered one of the handsomest men of his day, and when apprehended as an aristocrate in Paris during the revolution, was released as ‘un trop joli garçon pour être pendu’. He sat in the Irish parliament for Tallagh (1793-7) and Dungarvan (1797-1800) as a member of the leading Irish opposition clan, without drawing attention to himself. He declined a seat at Westminster for Higham Ferrers on Earl Fitzwilliam’s interest in July 1798, because an opposition to reform and a support of the war were required. Although, to his father’s chagrin, he was well disposed to the Union, he was overruled by him into opposing it.2 He lost his seat on the Union ballot, but was returned for Galway soon afterwards by arrangement with the Daly family, into which his father’s sister had married.

Ponsonby joined his family in opposition to administration, voting four times against them in the critical divisions of 1801. With others of his family he remained in Ireland in the autumn, but answered the Prince of Wales’s summons in March 1802 to ‘make a push’ at Addington, and voted for the inquiry into the Prince’s duchy revenues, 31 Mar.3 He also voted in approbation of Pitt’s removal from office, 7 May. Ponsonby, who could ‘write well, but never would take the trouble to commit a speech to memory’ and took no part in debate, did not seek re-election in 1802.

Ponsonby had no taste for politics. After succeeding to his father’s peerage he acted as whipper in for the Irish Whigs at the behest of his brother-in-law Lord Howick in March 1807 and as go-between for his uncle George Ponsonby and the English Whigs, with some diffidence as to his uncle’s ability to lead them and with unfortunate results on at least one occasion (1809).4 His love of dissipation, together with an encumbered inheritance and the failure of his friends to come into office, drove him abroad and into diplomacy, a career commended for him by his sovereign as a means of keeping him at arm’s length from Lady Conyngham. Lady Jersey had turned his head and then married him to her daughter many years before for the same purpose. His affaire with Harriette Wilson was publicized by her after he had slighted her.5 He died 21 Feb. 1855.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: Arthur Aspinall


  • 1. The marriage was registered at St. Marylebone 2 Feb. 1803.
  • 2. Sir J. Ponsonby, Ponsonby Fam. 75; Chatsworth mss, Lady E. Foster jnl. 20 Jan., 1 Feb. 1799.
  • 3. Sidmouth mss, Abbot to Addington, 26 Oct. 1801; Add. 33109, f. 184.
  • 4. Grey mss, Howick to Ponsonby, 27 Mar. 1807, Grey to same, 23 Dec. 1809.
  • 5. Leveson Gower, i. 359; Jnl. of Mrs Arbuthnot, i. 410; ii. 4; Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1570.