CORNWALLIS, Hon. Edward (1713-76), of Essington, Herts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



9 Dec. 1743 - Apr. 1749
16 Jan. 1753 - 18 Mar. 1762

Family and Education

b. 22 Feb. 1713, 6th s. of Charles, 4th Baron Cornwallis by Lady Charlotte Butler, da. and h. of Richard, 1st Earl of Arran [I]. educ. Eton 1725-8. m. 17 Mar. 1753, Hon. Mary Townshend, da. of Charles, 2nd Visct. Townshend, s.p.

Offices Held

Ensign 1730, lt. 1731; capt. 8 Ft. 1734; maj. 20 Ft. 1742; lt.-col. 1745; col. 1749; col. 40 Ft. 1749-52; col. 24 Ft. 1752- d.; maj.-gen. 1757; lt.-gen. 1760.

Groom of the bedchamber 1747-63; gov. Nova Scotia 1749-52, Gibraltar 1762- d.


Returned unopposed for Westminster in 1753, Cornwallis had to face a contest at the general election of 1754 and claimed that Government should pay his expenses. ‘His reasons’, wrote John Roberts to Newcastle, 18 July 1754,1 ‘seem indeed well-founded, as Mr. Hardinge is elected at Eye in his room by Lord Cornwallis.’ They were met from secret service money.2

Cornwallis was with Byng’s fleet in the expedition against Minorca, May 1756, and with Hawke and Mordaunt on the expedition against Rochfort, 1757, and came in for a good deal of criticism on that occasion. When in 1761 Sir George Vandeput, who had contested Westminster in 1749, once more threatened an opposition, Cornwallis wrote to Newcastle, 7 Mar.:3

Indeed, my Lord, if some care is not taken of Westminster there will be trouble. I before told your Grace of what Sir George Vandeput said ... I hear today a Mr. Scot, a brewer in Westminster, intends to declare himself a candidate. I can only say I am ready to support or willingly decline. It is the Government’s interest to support this election and they only can do it.

According to Lord Fitzmaurice, Cornwallis was ‘supposed to be disliked at Westminster’.4 But in the end he and Lord Pulteney were returned unopposed. Cornwallis vacated his seat on being appointed governor of Gibraltar.

Only one speech by him in Parliament is recorded: on 29 Jan. 1762, in a confused debate on a technical point about the papers concerning the German musters. ‘Generals Cornwallis and Griffin both spoke ... twenty others spoke ... Each had his own scheme, which came to nothing by the immediate proposal of a fresh one.’5

Cornwallis apparently was no favourite with George III. When in November 1762 Sir Richard Lyttelton’s place was wanted, the King, while protesting that his removal ‘would be cruel and unjust’, added: ‘if some great government were to be vacant he might indeed step into that: Cornwallis may be removed, but I believe Mr. Fox will cry out for he has always been his friend.’6 Cornwallis was not removed from his post at Gibraltar, but on 9 Sept. 1764 Horace Walpole reported to Lord Hertford: ‘Mrs. Cornwallis has found that her husband has been dismissed from the bedchamber this twelve-month with no notice; his appointments were even paid; but on this discovery they were stopped.’ This is confirmed by a letter from George Grenville to Lord Townshend, a nephew of Mrs. Cornwallis, 4 July 1764: on inquiring he found that upon some arrangement made before he became first lord of the Treasury, Cornwallis was removed—‘I own I do not perfectly understand upon what foundation’.7

Cornwallis died 14 Jan. 1776.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Add. 32736, ff. 53-54.
  • 2. Namier, Structure, 200, 202; Add. 33055, f. 152.
  • 3. Add. 32919, f. 513.
  • 4. Fitzmaurice to Bute, 15 Feb. 1761, Bute mss.
  • 5. Harris’s ‘Debates’.
  • 6. Sedgwick, Letters Geo. III to Bute, 166.
  • 7. Grenville letter bk.