KING, Edward, Visct. Kingsborough (1795-1837).

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



1818 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 10 Nov. 1795,1 1st s. of George, 3rd earl of Kingston [I] (d. 1839), and Lady Helena Moore, da. of Stephen, 1st Earl Mountcashell [I]; bro. of Hon. Robert Henry King*. educ. Eton;2 Exeter, Oxf. 1814. unm. styled Visct. Kingsborough 1799-d. d.v.p. 27 Feb. 1837.

Offices Held


Kingsborough, a man ‘of a retiring and studious disposition’, had been returned unopposed for county Cork in 1818 on the combined interest of the 3rd Earl of Shannon, a recent convert to the Whigs, and his father ‘Big George’, 3rd Earl of Kingston, who subsequently rallied to the Liverpool ministry.3 At the 1820 general election their electoral pact held firm and he was again returned unopposed.4 A mostly silent Member, who was increasingly absorbed in the study of Mexican antiquities, when present he offered general support to government, by whom his father was listed as having obtained an inspectorate of fisheries and requested a revenue surveyorship.5 He voted in defence of minister’s conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. He divided for Catholic claims, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He voted against revenue cuts, 6 Mar., repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., reductions to the duke of Clarence’s grant, 18 June, an opposition call for economy and retrenchment, 27 June 1821, and more extensive tax reductions, 21 Feb. 1822. He was in the majority against providing information on the plot to murder the Irish viceroy Lord Wellesley, 24 Mar., but in the minorities for Newport’s amendment to the Irish tithes bill, 19 June, and to limit the duration of the Irish insurrection bill, 8 July 1822. In his only known spoken intervention, he presented and endorsed a petition from Cove for repeal of the window tax, 1 May 1822.6 He voted against repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr. 1823. He divided for the usury laws repeal bill, 27 Feb. 1824. He voted for the Irish insurrection bill, 14 June 1824, but against suppression of the Catholic Association, 15, 21, 25 Feb. 1825; Peel, the home secretary, remarked that Kingston, ‘having written letters to me some time back accusing the government for not preventing the collection of rent and other evils of the Association, actually compelled his son ... to vote against the bill’.7 Kingsborough was given a vote of thanks at an aggregate meeting of county Cork Catholics that June.8 He voted for the duke of Cumberland’s annuity bill, 6 June 1825. He declined to attend the Association dinner for the ‘friends of civil and religious liberty’, 2 Feb. 1826.9 He divided against the emergency admission of foreign corn, 11 May 1826.

At the 1826 dissolution Kingsborough retired in favour of his younger brother Robert, citing ‘ill health’; the local press surmised that he ‘prefers the calm pursuits of literature to the troublesome career of a legislator’.10 Thereafter he set about completing his Antiquities of Mexico (1831), for which he had been employing a Spanish artist to copy manuscripts, including those he had first seen in the Bodleian while up at Oxford, since 1824.11 He signed a memorial to Wellesley for a new road between Cork and Limerick in 1827, and a county Cork Protestant declaration in support of Catholic emancipation in 1828.12 By 1830 he was a recluse, ‘too busy’, as he informed his fellow bibliophile Sir Thomas Phillips, ‘to make any engagements’.13 Following his father’s mental breakdown that year he assumed responsibility for the running of the family estates, which were so encumbered that they were placed in chancery. His allowance from the Irish lord chancellor was reputedly £6,000 a year, which he unsuccessfully tried to increase, and in February 1837 he went to debtors’ gaol, apparently ‘in the hope that this extremity would induce the chancellor to relax the purse strings’. It has been said that he was ‘imprisoned for a debt of his father, for which he had become security’ and ‘not from his own extravagance’; but the expenses of his book, which was published privately at an estimated total cost of £30,000, and his valuable collection of manuscripts, some of which he donated to the British Museum and Trinity College, Dublin, ‘far exceeded his own resources’. A few days after being imprisoned he developed typhus fever and was released.14 He died shortly thereafter. His vast library, comprising ancient manuscripts from all over the world, was sold at auction by an order of chancery in 1842.15

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Philip Salmon


  • 1. IGI (Ireland); R.D. King-Harman, The Kings, Earls of Kingston, 84. Oxford DNB gives 16 Nov.
  • 2. King-Harman, 84.
  • 3. Ibid; Add. 38287, f. 287.
  • 4. Dublin Evening Post, 9, 11, 16 Mar. 1820.
  • 5. Black Bk. (1823), 168; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 471.
  • 6. The Times, 2 May 1822.
  • 7. Add. 37303, f. 196.
  • 8. Dublin Evening Post, 18 June 1826.
  • 9. O’Connell Corresp. iii. 1278.
  • 10. Southern Reporter, 8, 17 June; Cork Constitution, 8 June 1826.
  • 11. Add. 34569, ff. 61, 194, 210.
  • 12. Add. 38103, f. 128; Southern Reporter, 13 Nov. 1828.
  • 13. Bodl. mss Phillips Robinson b. 124, f. 245.
  • 14. Ibid. b. 126, f. 152; King-Harman, 84-86; Gent. Mag. (1837), i. 537-8.
  • 15. Bibliotheca ... Edvardi vicecomitis de Kingsborough; mss Phillips Robinson c. 478, f. 235; d. 143, ff. 1-8.