John Ponsonby, 4th Earl of Bessborough
|The Right Honourable
The Earl of Bessborough
19 July 1834 – 15 November 1834
|Prime Minister||The Viscount Melbourne|
|Preceded by||The Viscount Melbourne|
|Succeeded by||The Duke of Wellington|
|Lord Lieutenant of Ireland|
8 July 1846 – 22 May 1847
|Prime Minister||Lord John Russell|
|Preceded by||The Lord Heytesbury|
|Succeeded by||The Earl of Clarendon|
|Born||31 August 1781|
|Died||16 May 1847 (aged 65)
|Spouse(s)||Lady Maria Fane
|Alma mater||Christ Church, Oxford|
John William Ponsonby, 4th Earl of Bessborough PC (31 August 1781 – 16 May 1847), known as Viscount Duncannon from 1793 to 1844, was a British Whig politician. He was notably Home Secretary in 1834 and served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland between 1846 and 1847, the first years of the Great Famine
Background and education
A member of the prominent Ponsonby family of Cumberland, he was the eldest son of Frederick Ponsonby, 3rd Earl of Bessborough, and Lady Henrietta Frances, daughter of John Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer. Sir Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby and William Ponsonby, 1st Baron de Mauley, were his younger brothers, while Lady Caroline Lamb was his younger sister. Ponsonby's mother was Lord Granville's lover prior to his marriage to Lady Harriet Cavendish, the Countess of Bessborough's niece. Lord Granville fathered two illegitimate children through her: Harriette Stewart and George Stewart. Lord Bessborough was educated at Harrow and Christ Church, Oxford.
He was First Commissioner of Woods and Forests under Lord Grey (1831–1834) and served under Lord Melbourne in that office (1835-1841), briefly as Home Secretary (1834), and as Lord Privy Seal (1835–1839). Later, he served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland under Lord John Russell from 1846 until his death on 16 May 1847. He was made a Privy Counsellor in 1831 and in 1834, ten years before he succeeded his father, he was created Baron Duncannon, of Bessborough in the County of Kilkenny. He was Lord Lieutenant of Kilkenny from November 1838 until his death.
His political career was hampered by a noted stammer, which made him a very reluctant public speaker: as Lord Duncannon he was unkindly nicknamed "Dumbcannon". In private on the other hand he was a valued colleague, due largely to his ability to keep his head in a crisis. He was one of the so-called Committee of Four who drafted the Reform Act 1832.
John Ponsonby married Lady Maria Fane, daughter of John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland, and Sarah Anne Child, on 16 November 1805 at Berkeley Square, London. They had eight sons and three daughters. The youngest daughter, Emily Charlotte Mary, remained unmarried but she wrote a number of novels which were published without attribution. The Countess of Bessborough died in March 1834, aged 46. Lord Bessborough survived her by thirteen years and died in May 1847, aged 65. He was succeeded in the earldom by his eldest son, John, and subsequently by his younger sons Frederick and Walter. Bessborough Gardens in London is named after Lord Bessborough.
- Leigh Rayment's Peerage Pages [self-published source][better source needed]
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs [self-published source][better source needed]
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by the Earl of Bessborough