COOPER, Edward Joshua (1798-1863), of Markree Castle, co. Sligo and Boden Park, co. Westmeath.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1830 - 1841
1857 - 1859

Family and Education

b. May 1798, 1st s. of Edward Synge Cooper* of Markree Castle and Anne, da. of Harry Verelst of Aston Hall, Yorks., gov. Bengal. educ. Armagh; Eton 1814; Christ Church, Oxf. 1816. m. (1) Sophia, da. of Col. Henry Peisley L’Estrange of Moystown, King’s Co., s.p.; (2) Sarah Frances, da. of Owen Wynne*, 5da. suc. fa. 1830; uncle Joshua Edward Cooper to family estates 1837. d. 23 Apr. 1863.

Offices Held


Cooper’s father had succeeded his deranged elder brother as Tory Member for county Sligo and manager of the family interest in 1806. Cooper, who had developed an early interest in astronomy, spent most of the 1820s in foreign travel, investigating the longitude and latitude of the places he visited and their conditions for astronomical observation. At Naples in the summer of 1820, he was ‘induced to turn’ his ‘attention towards Egypt’ by Sir William Drummond, who ‘complained of a want of accuracy in all the copies’ of the hieroglyphic zodiacs of Dendera and Esneh and ‘prevailed upon me to pass a few months in collecting some more correct data’. Cooper’s Views in Egypt, a series of drawings executed under his ‘personal inspection and direction’ by ‘an artist of Rome’ in the winter of 1820-1, was published privately in 1824.1

At the 1830 general election he offered for county Sligo in place of his ailing father, promising to lay aside the ‘habits of retirement’ in which he had ‘too much indulged’ and to follow his father’s political conduct. After a three-day contest, during which his father died and he assumed management of the family interest, he was returned in first place.2 He was listed by the Wellington ministry as one of their ‘friends’, but was absent from the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He voted against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., but presented a favourable petition from Sligo borough, 28 Mar. 1831. He brought up petitions for repeal of the restrictions on the circulation of small notes, 28 Mar., and for relief from distress, 13 Apr. That day he presented and endorsed a petition against reform from his own constituents, explaining that they were favourable to a ‘moderate and wholesome measure’ effected ‘slowly and gradually’, but opposed to ‘any rash and violent measure’, and adding that he was ‘quite sure that once the inhabitants of the north of Ireland’ had recovered from the ‘temporary delusion’ into which the bill had thrown them, they would ‘turn against’ it. Bringing up another in similar terms, 18 Apr., he observed that the Protestants of Ireland hope ‘you will stay your hands and search your hearts, before you pass this reform bill, which threatens ... the total annihilation of Protestantism, by the increased influence in elections which it gives to the Catholics’. ‘Cooper, not contenting himself with his somewhat apocryphal voucher for the sentiments of his own county, undertakes to answer for the opinions of the Protestants of Ulster, as being unfavourable to reform’, protested The Times a few days later.3 He divided for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831.

At the ensuing general election he offered again, denouncing the ministry for dissolving Parliament because the Commons had ‘refused to diminish the number of representatives for England and Wales’. At the nomination he contended that the bill had been ‘hurried forward without due consideration’ and condemned its ‘popular’ principle, use of the 1821 census, division of counties and low voting qualifications. After a two-day contest he was returned at the head of the poll.4 He voted against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and the inclusion of Chippenham in schedule B, 27 July, and paired against the inclusion of Dorchester, 28 July 1831 (although The Times credited him with a pair in the majority).5 He divided against the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept. He voted to terminate the Maynooth grant, 26 Sept. He was granted a month’s leave on account of family illness, 6 Oct., and was absent from the division on the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831. That year he purchased an object-glass for an observatory at Markree, which at 25 feet focal length was the largest then in existence.6 On 24 Jan. 1832 he joined his colleague in objecting to the fees charged to Irish magistrates on the renewal of their commissions, ‘especially as such is not the practice in England’. He divided against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb. He presented and endorsed several petitions against the new plan of Irish education signed ‘not only by Protestants, but also by Catholics’, 7 Mar. He was a founder member of the Carlton Club that month. He voted against the third reading of the reform bill, 22 Mar. Next day he presented and endorsed an individual’s petition against the ‘great injury’ done to newsagents by newspapers being sent through the penny post. He divided against the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May. Next month he joined the Conservative Society of Dublin.7 He was granted three weeks’ leave on account of family illness, 7 July 1832.

At the 1832 general election Cooper stood again for county Sligo as a Conservative and was returned unopposed.8 He sat unchallenged until 1837, when he survived a contest, stood down in 1841 and sat again, 1857-59, when he finally retired. In 1842 he advised Peel, the premier, about fraud in the Irish revenue department.9 He formally inherited the family estates on the death of his uncle in 1837. A noted meteorologist, astronomer and comet seeker, his large open-air observatory at Markree was considered one of the best equipped of its kind. Between 1851-6 he published a Catalogue of Stars near the Ecliptic detailing some 60,000 stars, of which only 9,000 were previously known, and in 1852 Cometic Orbits, charting some 200 comets, including Halley’s, which he had observed in 1835. In 1858 he was awarded the Cunningham gold medal of the Royal Irish Academy. Cooper, who was praised for the manner in which he had ‘discharged all the duties’ of a large landed proprietor, died in April 1863. The family estates passed to his nephew Edward Henry Cooper (1827-1902), Conservative Member for county Sligo, 1865-8, under whom the observatory fell into decline, before being restored under a new director in 1874.10

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Philip Salmon


  • 1. Oxford DNB.
  • 2. Sligo Jnl. 23 July, 20 Aug. 1830.
  • 3. The Times, 23 Apr. 1831.
  • 4. Sligo Jnl. 29 Apr., 20 May 1831.
  • 5. The Times, 29 July 1831.
  • 6. Oxford DNB.
  • 7. NLI, Farnham mss 18611 (3).
  • 8. The Times, 25 Dec. 1832.
  • 9. Add. 40506, f. 212.
  • 10. Oxford DNB; Gent. Mag. (1863), i. 805; The Times, 27 Apr. 1863.