I N the county of Cumberland, in the ward of Allerdale-above-
Derwent, about eleven miles south of Whitehaven, are the manor and hall of PONSONBY. We find a family taking its name from that place as early as the reign of Edward I., for in the twenty-ninth year of that King, ALEXANDER DE PONZONBY, going to Rome to the Prior of Durham, had the King's protection, dated the 1st of March. Among the charters of the priory of Conishead, in Lancashire, founded in the reign of Henry IL, is one from Edward II., confirming all previous grants to the priory ; and among these is recited (with no date) a grant of the church of Ponsonby, by JOHN, son of Porrzox. If (as seems all but certain) the family who in the reign of Edward I. bore the name of Ponzonby, was the same with the family of Ponzon exist- ing some time in the interval between the reigns of Henry II. and Edward II., it would seem probable, from the Danish suffix by (corresponding to the Saxon ton, an inclosed place), that the Pox- zaxs were descendants of one of the Danish settlers, whose pre- sence in those parts is indicated in many other eases by the same suffix; and that after first giving their name to the place, they subse- quently took it again from the place. But there is another possible origin of the family. In Domesday Book, among the tenants in chief, occurs the name of WALTER, son of PO,..TZ, who holds in Berkshire the manors of Etone and Ordegeston, held respectively by Garth and Osgar allolially in the reign of Edward the Con- fessor; and it is also said in the same record that Ponz had made a donation to St.Peter of Westminster out of Etone, for the good of his soul. Is this Po:a the ancestor of the Ponsonby families, and is he the Picard founder whom the family tradition asserts to have coma over with William the Conqueror? If so, Walter, or some other son of Ponz, may have had a grant in one of the Danish districts in Cumberland, and have been called by the Danish settlers around him Ponz-son, while the name of his land was denoted by the addition of the Danish suffix by. We pass over, as resting on no authority, the family tradition that the Ponsonbys were made hereditary barbers to the King by Henry IL in 1177, and that hence came the three combs emblazoned on their coat of arms. The date assigned to this appointment seems to indicate that the story partly owed its origin to some confused idea that the connection of the Ponsonbys with Ireland began, like that of the Butlers, in the reign of the first Plantagenet. There was a family of the name of Ponsonby in Oxfordshire, one of whom, Sir Roger Ponsonby, clerk, was patron of the church of Chekenden, in that county, and in making his will, October 28, 1554, leaves legacies to his brothers, Sir William Ponsonby, Edmund Ponsonby, and John Ponsonby. This Sir Roger was seized of a moiety of the manor of Chekenden, but whether this family was connected in any way with the Ponsonbys of Camberland, or, in common with them, was derived from Ponz, or his son Walter, of Berkshire, must be left entirely to conjecture. However all this may have been, it is certain that a Ponzonby or Ponsonby (probably the father of Alexander de Ponzonby), in the early part of the fourteenth cen- tury, in the reign of Edward I., obtained by marriage with Agnes, one of the two coheiresses of Alexander HALE, one moiety of the mauor of that name lying about four miles nearer to White- haven than Ponsonby. The Ponsonbys eventually (after the reign of Richard II.) became possessed of the remainder of the manor, and it became their chief seat for many generations, and is still in the possession of decendanta in the female line, who bear the name of Ponsonby.* The first of the family at Hale entered in the Heralds' Visitation is John Ponsonby, of Haugh Heale (Hale), whose son, Simon Ponsonby, was the father of Henry Ponsonby, who lived at the end of the sixteenth century, and had two sons, John and Henry. John was twice married, and by his first wife had a son, John, who inherited the family property at Hale. After the death of this first wife, John Ponsonby the elder raised a regi-
* We have to express our obligations to an interesting communication from a gallant member of the (Irish) Bmionby family, which supplies several incidents which are wanting in the common accounts of the family.
ment of horse for the service of the Parliament, and with his brother Henry joined the army collecting under Oliver Crom- well in 1619, for the reconquest of Ireland from the Catholic Confederates, at Bristol and Milford Haven, whence they embarked for Dublin. There is a story that on one of his Royalist friends taunting John Ponsonby with the discrepancy between his actions and his motto, "Pro Rege, Lege, Grege," "For King, Law, and People," he replied, "You interpret wrongly ; the translation is, For King read People.'" "This anecdote," says our correspondent, "has also been related, probably with equal truth, of Lord Brougham," who took the same motto. Of the two brother adventurers, Henry Ponsonby had ultimately confiscated lands (Stackstown) assigned him in the county of Kerry, which were confirmed to him by the Acts of Settlement of 1666, and he was the ancestor of the Ponsonbys of Crotto, in that county. John, the elder brother, is the ancestor of the family which now holds the three peerages of Bessborough, Ponsonby, and De Manley. He marched with Cromwell on his memorable campaign, and was present at the storm of Drogheda, and most of the succeeding victories, which ended (after Cromwell's. return to England), under Ireton and his successors, in the entire. subjugation of Ireland. Colonel Ponsonby was knighted, and on. the termination of the contest was one of the Commissioners appointed to take the depositions of the Protestants concerning the murders committed by the Catholics during the Rebellion, and received with the other officers and soldiers of Cromwell a share of the confiscated lands. Our correspondent tells a curious tale respecting Colonel Ponsonby's allotment. "The Butlers, driven. from the country, were now supposed to be utterly fallen, and their possessions shared in the fate of the rest. A fine property that belonged to them in the rich and fertile district near the city of Kilkenny was apportioned to Colonel John Ponsonby, while, junior officers received less excellent grants. Among these was. Lieutenant-Colonel Axtell, who thus became the proprietor of the. ruined castle and uncultivated lands of the expelled Irish family of the Daltons, Kildalton, situated in the beautiful but wild valley of the Suir, consisting of mountain wastes and bogs,. so that Axtell was loud in his complaints of his allotment, Ponsonby offered to exchange with him, and Axtell gladly accepted the offer. For more than a year he revelled in his ac- quisition, but when peace was restored and the Butlers returned,, they ejected without pity all those they found on their property,. and Axtell was heard of no more." Colonel Daniel Axtell was appointed Governor of Kilkenny and the adjoining district„. which (if there is any truth in the preceding story) may partly account for his desire to exchange his allotment for one close to that city. However, poor Axtell had more dangerous enemies to. fear than the Butlers, and more at stake than mere property. He. was called to account at the Restoration for being present and acting as an officer at the King's trial, and was executed at Tyburn, after a very spirited and able defence of himself, on the 19th of October, 1660, when of course his Irish property would go to the Crown, who probably granted it back to the Butlers- " Meanwhile, the farseeing Ponsonby had settled himself down to- improve Kildalton, which place, in honour of his second wife,. Elizabeth, daughter of Lord Folliot, he called Bessies-borough, or BESSBOROUGH," so at least says our Ponsonby correspondent. Sir John Ponsonby was Sheriff of the counties of Wicklow and. Kildare in 1654, and of Wicklow alone in 1655. On the Restora- tion (more fortunate than poor Axtell, who, besides his presence at. the King's trial, had made many enemies in Ireland by his Pro- testant activity) Ponsonby was, on the 19th of March, 1664. appointed a Commissioner for executing the King's Declaration of the preceding November for the settlement of Ireland; represented. the county of Kilkenny in the first Irish Parliament, called on the 9th of May, 1661; and on the 19th of July, 1662, by the name of Sir John Ponsonby, of Kildalton, in the county of Tipperary, Knight, with his brother, Henry Ponsonby, had a pardon granted by the King for all treasons, rebellions, levying& of war, &c., committed before and until December 29th, 1660.. He had two. grants of lands under the Acts of Settlement, and on the 15th of July, 1679,,an abatement was made of the quit-rents imposed on his estate by the said Acts, "and by acquiring many debentures, and making other purchases, he left," says Lodge, "a considerable estate." He died in the year 1678, in the sixtieth year of his age. By his second wife he had two sons, Sir Henry Ponsonby and William Ponsonby. There is some confusion and obscurity about the succession of the estate. Lodge says, "Sir Henry Ponsonby, Knight, the elder son, had his. estate of 1,5001. a year sequestered (as his mother had her jointure), and was attainted as an absentee. In October, 1674, he married
Dorothy, daughter of Captain Shaw, of Drogheda, but dying with- out issue in the reign of King William, the estate devolved on his brother, William Ponionby, of Bessborough, Esq., who had his estate of 1,5001. a year sequestered, and was then living in the county of Wicklow." On the other hand, our Ponsonby cor- respondent says, "His eldest son, Sir Henry, being attainted as an absentee, he was succeeded in his estates by his second son; William, who retained in his character some of the stern Puritanical feelings of his father, and was a fit leader of the few military Cromwellian farmers by whom he was surrounded. For by far the greater number of the soldier settlers had dis- appeared after a few years, and many of the Irish had re- turned to their former districts, regarding with natural dislike the occupiers of what they considered their own. In the southern counties the number of Roman Catholics far exceeded the Protestants, who, threatened by a common danger, united themselves into companies ; and of such companies as thus arose in Kilkenny and Waterford William Ponsonby became Colonel." Then came the Revolution in England, the temporizing of Tyrconnell In Ireland, and then his declaration for James II:starthe arrival of the latter in Ireland. William Ponsonby meanwhile, having assembled his companies, marched at the head of his regiment to Londonderry, and was welcomed in the city, which a few days afterwards was summoned in the name of James. At a meeting, however, of the chief officers of the garrison, held on the 10th of April, a resolution to hold out to the last was signed by them all, including Colonel Ponsonby ; and when the Governor was negotiating to surrender the place, Ponsonby and othcis manned the walls and defences, such as they were, with ticeirioldiers, and repelled those who came expecting the surrender. The siege of Derry is a fact of our national history, and needs no recapitulation here ; but the services rendered by William Ponsonby during its continuance were, when he was subse- quently ennobled, embodied in the patent of peerage. He served as member for the county of Kilkenny during the reign of Queen Anne, and in September, 1715, was called to the Privy Council. By Privy Seal dated July 28, and by patent of Sep- tember 11, 1721, he was created Baron of Bessborough, in the county of Kilkenny ; and by Privy Seal of December 30, 1721, and by patent of February 28, 1722, he was advanced to the dignity of Viscount Duncannon. He died November 17, 1724, having had by his wife, Mary, sister of Brabazon Moore, of Ardee, county Louth, three sons and six daughters. Brabazon, the eldest son, entered the army, and was an officer in the 27th Inniskillings, and "being of noble stature and comely appear- ance," he was appointed captain of the grenadiers of the same corps. "He did not inherit the sober character of his ancestors, but was gay and lively, and plunged deeply into the pleasures of the age ; so that in course of time he found himself in pecuniary difficulties, from which he attempted to extricate himself by marry- ing a rich widow, then living in Dublin, Mrs. Colville, grand- daughter of Archbishop Margetson. The lady, however, refusing to listen to his importunities, he resolved on a plan for making her his wife. She was awakened one morning by a band playing epithalamic airs outside her lodgings (the custom being to serenade newly married couples), and flying to the window, opened it, and beheld a great crowd cheering ; at the same moment the next window was thrown open, and Captain Brabazon Ponsonby ap- peared in a night-dress, smiling, and thanking the people for their congratulations. He had hired the neighbouring apartment and the band, and by this ruse proclaimed that he was married to Mrs. Colville. In vain she denied the assertion ; public opinion, rest- ing on such convincing proofs, was too strong for her, and she finally gave way, and bestowed her hand and fortune on the gal- lant officer," who left the army. In 1704 he was returned to Parliament for the county of Kildare, and in 1713 and 1715 for the borough of Newton. In 1713 he was Sheriff of the county of Kilkenny (of which city he was Governor), and in the ensuing year Sheriff of the county of Kildare. On - October 4, 1722, he was joined with his son john in the office of Searcher_ of the Ports of Waterford, Passage, and New, Ross. After succeeding as second Viscount Dancannon, he was in May, 1726, sworn of the Privy Council in Ireland ; on the 20th of April, 1739,-appointed a Commissioner of the Revenues ; and by Privy Seal of August 31, and patent of October 6, of the same year, created Earl of Bessborough. Ten years later, June 12, 1749, he was created a peer of Great Britain as Baron Ponsonby of Sysonby, in the county of Leicester. In the March following he was constituted Marshal of the Admiralty in Ireland ; in April, 1754, one of the Lords Justices; and in 1755, Vice-Admiral of the province of Munster. He died on the 4th of July, 1758, of a surfeit of
fruit. He had by his first wife (after whose death he mar- ried a second rich widow) two sons, who lived to maturity —William, who succeeded him, and John. His next brother, Henry Ponsonby, of Ashgrove, in the county of Kilkenny, was also an officer in the army, and a member of Parliament. In 1735 he was Colonel of the 37th Regiment, and in 1712 was appointed Brigadier-General, commanding the expedition sent into Flanders in aid of the Queen of Hungary. He was a Major-General at Dettingen, and at Fontenoy comManded a division, but was killed in that battle, May 11, 1745. His des- cendants are the present Ponsonby-Barkers, of Kilcooly. "One of .his grandchildren, Sarah Ponsonby, formed a romantic attach- ment with Lady Eleanor Butler, and flying from 'their parents' houses, they established themselves at Llangollen; where they lived in nominal retirement, but in reality in the midst of society." The Right Hon. John Ponsonby, second son of Brabazon, first Earl of Bessborough, distinguished himself in political life, was Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, and six times one of the Lords Justices. Hardy, in his life of Lord Charlemont, thus speaks of Mr. Ponsonby on the occasion of his resignation of the Speaker- ship in 1771 :—" That gentleman, allied to the principal Whig families in both: kingdoms, possessed not only great influence from such connections and his high station, but from his personal disposition, which was truly amiable. His manners were exactly such as a Parliamentary leader should have. .Open, affable, and familiar, he had peculiar dignity of person, at once imposing and engaging. The Commons had, by a Majority of twenty-seven, humbly thanked His Majesty for continuing Lord Townshend in the Government. Mr. Ponsouby said, in his letter to the House of Commons, that he would not be the instrument of carrying such an address, and resigned the chair. The Duke of Leinster and Lord Charlemont had in vain endeavoured to dissuade him from this resignation. The night before it took place his Lord- ship, who was particularly urged to the interview by the Duke, eat up with Mr. Ponsonby till a very late hour, and urged every reason which his mind could suggest for continuing as he was." At this period the Ponsonby family commanded no less than four- teen votes in the Irish House of Commons. Mr. Ponsonby married a daughter of William, Duke of Devonshire, and died in December, 1789, leaving a large family. His eldest son, William, also took a leading part in the Irish House of Commons, and was one of the deputation appointed to wait on the Prince Regent with the Regency Bill passed by that body, —a mission put an end to by the recovery of the King. For the part be took in this affair Mr. William Ponsonby was at once dismissed from his office of Postmaster-General. Edmund Burke, in a letter to Lord Charle- mont in April, 1789, thus refers to him on this occasion :—" Pon- sonby, then, is, it seems, the protomartyr. I never saw him until the time of your embassy, but I am not mistaken in the opin- ion I formed of him on our first conversation, as a manly, decided character, with a right conformation of mind, and a clear and vigor- ous understanding." He represented the county of Kilkenny in the first Parliament after the Union, and on March 13,1806, was created a peer of Great Britain as Baron Ponsonby of Imokilly. He died November 6th of the same year, and was succeeded as second Baron Ponsonby by his eldest son, John, who became eminent as a diplomatist, being ambassador at Constantinople from 1832 to 1837, and at Vienna from 1846 to 1851. However, from his despatches and his management during the crisis of the Hungarian insurrection, we are not disposed to form a high opinion of his abilities or penetration. On the 12th of April, 1839, the Whig Ministry created him Viscount Ponsonby, but this dignity became extinct on his death on the 21st of February, 1855, while the Barony of Ponsonby devolved on his nephew, William, third Baron, eldest son of General Sir William Ponsouby, second son of the first Lord Ponsonby. Sir William was a cavalry officer, and commanded the 5th Dragoon Guards in the Peninsular War, where he distinguished himself particularly at Talavera, Barrosa, Vittoria, and Toulouse. In 1815 he was appointed to the command of the Union Brigade, whose steady bearing on the 17th of June prevented the advance of the French cavalry. On the following day was fought the battle of Waterloo. "While the household cavalry charged Sir William rode to the brow of the hill, watching for the decisive moment. When it arrived, he desired Captain (now Sir de Lacy) Evans, his aide-de-camp, to signal to the brigade to advance by raising his hat. With a cheer they dashed forward, the horsemen of England, Ireland, and Scotland, led by Sir William Ponsouby. Their advance was at first irre- sistible, but they became divided, and were then charged by Polish lancers. Sir William's horse got into a deep place, from which he was unable to extricate himself, and the Poles, taking advan-
tage of his situation, bore down on him and killed him." His son, William, the third Lord Ponsonby, died without issue, October 2, 1861, and was succeeded by his cousin, William Brabazon, fourth and present Baron Ponsonby, son of Dr. Richard Ponsonby, Bishop of Derry, third son of the first Lord Ponsonby.
The Right Hon. George Ponsonby, younger brother of the first Lord Ponsonby, of Imokilly, was also one of the leaders of the Irish House of Commons, and as such warmly opposed the Union. He had been dismissed from office on the occasion of the Regency Address, after a fruitless attempt on the part of Lord Buckinghain to gain him over. After the Union he became famous as one of the leaders of the Whig Opposition in the Imperial Parliament. On the 25th of March, 1806 (when the Whigs came into power) he was made Lord Chancellor of Ireland, but resigned on their fall in 1807, and resumed his Parliamentary opposition as M.P. for Tavistock, and died in 1817.
We must now return to the main or Bessborough stem of the family. William, second Earl of Bessborough (elder brother of the Speaker Ponsonby), had been in 1739 appointed Secretary to the Duke of Devonshire, then Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and sworn of the Privy Council in 1741. He represented the county of Kilkenny in the Irish House of Commons, and was chosen for Derby in the British House of Commons in 1742 and 1747. In 1754 he was returned for Saltaah to the same body, and sat for it till November, 1756, when he became a Lord of the Treasury. He was soon afterwards elected for Harwich, and continued to represent it till his father's death raised him to the peerage. On June 24, 1746, he became a Lord of the Admiralty, and in November, 1756, again a Lord of the Treasury. Resigning this office, he was on June 2, 1759, appointed Joint Postmaster- General, and continued as such till November, 1762, when he re- signed. He resumed the office in July, 1765, and again resigned in the following year. He was Vice-Admiral of the province of Munster. He married a daughter of the Duke of Devonshire, and died on March 11, 1795, being succeeded as third Earl of Bessborough by his only surviving son, Frederick, who in 1783 had been a Lord of the Admiralty during the Fox-North Coali- tion Ministry, resigning in the following year. He sat for Knaresborough till he succeeded to the peerage. He died in February, 1844, and was succeeded by his eldest son, John William, fourth Earl of Bessborough, who had been called to the Upper House in 1834 as Baron Duncannon of Bessborough, and as Earl of Bessborough was for a short time Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland after the return of the Whigs to power in 1846. He died May 16, 1847, and was succeeded as fifth and present Earl of Bessborough by his son, John George Brabazon, who was Master of the Buckhounds in the Palmerston Ministry. Major-General Sir Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby, next brother to the fourth Earl, was also an officer of great ability in the Peninsular campaign, distinguishing himself especially at the battle of Talavera by an extraordinary charge with the 23rd Light D ragoons, by which the attack of the French on the left flank of the British entirely failed, though the regiment itself was des- troyed. He also did good service at Barrosa, in the action of the 10th of April, 1812, at Salamanca, whe,ie his sword was broken close to the hilt, and his horse wounded in several places, and at Vittoria and Toulouse. He was throughout espe- cially noted for his great care for the security and comfort of his men. At Waterloo he was left senseless on the field, and on recovering himself and looking up was again desperately wounded by a French lancer. In this condition he was threatened and robbed by a tirailleur, and revived by a draught of brandy and other assistance from a French officer. "By and bye," to use his own words, "another tiraillenr came up, a fine young man, full of ardour. He knelt down and fired over me, loading and firing many times, and conversing with me very gaily all the while. At last he ran off, saying, " Vous serez bien aise d'apprendre que noes allo»s noes retirer. Bon jour, mon ami !" Plunderers again molested him, but at last, through an English soldier, who stood over him till assistance came, he was removed from his miserable position, encumbered as he had been for a long time by a dead body lying across him. He had received seven wounds, and was saved by excessive bleeding. He survived this event till 1837. His eldest son, Colonel Henry Ponsonby, was Equerry to the Prince Consort, served in the Crimea, and was private secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland.
William, the remaining brother of the fourth Earl of Bess- borough, married Lady Barbara Ashley-Cooper, daughter of the fifth Earl of Shaftesbury, and through her mother coheiress of the ancient barony of Manley ; and on the 8th of July, 1838, he was created Baron De Manley. He died in May, 1855, and was sue-
ceeded as second and present Lord De Manley by his son, Charles Frederick Ashley-Cooper-Ponsonby.
The career of the Ponsonbys, both on the field and in the senate, has been a peculiarly brilliant one, awl no family has engraved the names of special members more indelibly on the national mind.