ONSLOW, Edward (1758-1829).

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



28 Nov. 1780 - May 1781

Family and Education

b. 9 Apr. 1758, 2nd s. of George Onslow of Imber Court and bro. of Thomas Onslow.  educ. Westminster 1766; Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1774; M. Temple 1768.  m. 7 Mar. 1783, Marie Rosalie, da. of Chevalier Jean de Bordeille, seigneur de Couzances, 4s. 1da.

Offices Held


Onslow’s father had intended him to stand for Arundel at the general election of 1780, but having heard from John Robinson in July that his son’s election ‘would not do without money’,1 seems to have made no further attempt to have Edward returned at the general election. He was returned by his mother’s cousin, the Duke of Newcastle, at a by-election for Aldborough.

According to James Stephen, the friend of Wilberforce, Edward Onslow ‘was a man generally esteemed and regarded, both in public and private life; the more so because his manners and conduct formed a contrast with those of his father and elder brother, who were deservedly disliked and despised’.2 He vacated his seat as the result of an incident at the Royal Academy exhibition in May 1781.3 The matter was brought before a magistrate, and Onslow was accused of homosexual behaviour. Public opinion at first disbelieved the charge. George Selwyn wrote to Lord Carlisle, 4 May 1781:

The story which you will see the papers full of concerning Lord Onslow’s second son is an abominable one, very disagreeable to the family. All the part of the world in which I live seem to acquit absolutely the young man, and the circumstances make the story highly improbable, but how it will end the Lord knows.

The day after the incident Onslow was received with sympathy in the House of Commons, and it seemed that the affair would blow over. But Anthony Storer wrote to Carlisle, 7 May 1781:

As for poor Onslow, it is all over with him, and he had better be dead. He has made his confession to his father, and is gone off. He acknowledged that the passion he felt was beyond all control, and considering the place, the person, and all the circumstances it must have been no less than frenzy by which he was actuated, otherwise it would have been impossible to have believed either the charge or his confession. Many other stories have been told since this last, all tending to corroborate the probability of the attack, but his confession and his departure have sealed his doom.4

Onslow settled at Clermond Ferrand, became a French citizen, married, and founded a family. He remained on good terms with his father, who frequently visited him.

He died 18 Oct. 1829.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Mary M. Drummond


  • 1. John Robinson to Ld. North, 14 Aug. 1780, Abergavenny mss.
  • 2. Mems. ed. Bevington, 343.
  • 3. Morning Herald, 3, 4 May 1781.
  • 4. HMC Carlisle, 478, 480.