ANNESLEY, George Arthur, Visct. Valentia (1793-1841), of Camolin Park, nr. Gorey, co. Wexford
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Family and Educationb. 2 Oct. 1793, 1st s. of George Annesley†, 2nd earl of Mountnorris [I] (d. 1844), and Hon. Anne Courtenay, da. of William, 2nd Visct. Courtenay. educ. Harrow 1807-9; Christ Church, Oxf. 1812. m. 21 Oct. 1837, Frances Cockburn, da. of Charles James Sims of Jamaica, s.p. styled Visct. Valentia 1816-d. d.v.p. 16 Mar. 1841.
Valentia, whose bisexual and dissolute father had succeeded as 2nd earl of Mountnorris in 1816, unsuccessfully contested county Wexford in 1818, when Mountnorris blamed his defeat on lack of support from a coalition partner Lord Stopford*. At the 1820 general election he offered again, according to the Catholic press as a supporter of emancipation.1 His father pressed the Liverpool ministry to back him in preference to Stopford, explaining that the family had now ‘stood two severe contests’ at ‘very heavy expense’ and that he himself had ‘uniformly supported’ government ‘when in Parliament’ (1808-10) without being ‘able to obtain even a small place in the customs house for a poor namesake’. At the last minute Valentia withdrew, but it later emerged that had he ‘continued another day’ Stopford was ‘prepared to resign’.2 Rumours that he would again stand circulated regularly thereafter, although his uncle Lord Farnham privately informed Stopford that this was ‘most improbable’. At the 1826 general election he gave his interest to the pro-Catholic opposition.3 In 1828 Farnham wrote to the premier, the duke of Wellington, in support of Valentia’s ‘wish to be employed on a board of emigration, if one were formed’, explaining that he had ‘accompanied Colonel [James] Cockburn on his late survey of Canada’. Nothing came of this.4
At the 1830 general election Valentia offered again for county Wexford, where the sitting Members had retired, promising to oppose taxation and the monopoly of the East India Company and ‘not be an absentee’. With strong support from the Protestant clergy he was returned in second place.5 One of his defeated opponents noted that he did not have ‘the least idea of being again returned’ and did ‘not intend to try’, owing to ‘the state of his father’s health’.6 The Irish secretary, Lord Francis Leveson Gower, saw ‘no reason to suppose’ that he would not support government.7 He was duly listed by the Wellington ministry as one of their ‘friends’, but he voted against them on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented a New Ross petition for the abolition of slavery, 23 Nov. He challenged the O’Gorman Mahon to substantiate allegations that the Irish magistracy ‘acted improperly, or that improper persons are selected’, 15 Dec. He denounced the bill to prohibit the growing of tobacco in Ireland, which had ‘been principally adopted’ in county Wexford, 23 Dec. 1830, and contended that as a result of its cultivation, ‘where poverty and misery were found, a short time ago, prosperity has now grown up’, 10 Mar. 1831. He presented a petition for a day of fasting, 11 Feb. He called for a ‘modified system of poor laws’ in Ireland, 13 Apr., warning that the ‘adoption of the English system, or anything like it’ would be ‘an act of madness’, and attributed the ‘comparatively prosperous condition’ of county Wexford to the fact that ‘the great body of the landed proprietors are resident’. He voted against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831.
At the ensuing general election Valentia offered again, explaining that he had voted against the Wellington ministry ‘for not acceding to the call of the country in their demand for retrenchment’ and protesting that the ‘visionary’ reform bill would not ‘serve the country, clothe or feed the poor’ and ‘would disappoint the expectations of the people’. He promised to ‘vote for a more moderate reform’ and according to Stopford, now his ‘staunch supporter’, to support ‘any change in our representation that may intend to improve it’.8 One of the reform candidates, however, informed the Irish secretary Smith Stanley that he had ‘declared that his opposition is not so much to the bill, as to the framers of it’, and pointed out that he was ‘largely supplied by his uncle Lord Farnham and the Tory fund’, who were ‘reviving in its utmost virulence the spirit of Orange Toryism’.9 In a letter to Lord Duncannon*, 27 Apr. 1831, Daniel O’Connell* reckoned that Valentia had ‘no chance’, adding, ‘I will put a spoke in his wheel capable of retarding him even in a favourable career. I fortunately possess, by mere accident, the power of doing so’.10 Precisely what O’Connell intended is not clear, but on the third day of polling Valentia, whose ‘life was several times in the greatest peril’, withdrew, complaining of intimidation by ‘ruffian mobs of hired strangers’. ‘The county’, proclaimed the Wexford Herald, has ‘got rid of a man in whom the morgue aristocratique was combined with a feudalism in religion’.11 Petitions on his behalf against the return were not pursued. Valentia signed the petition of Irish noblemen and gentry in support of the discredited yeomanry force at Newtownbarry in August 1831. He was a rumoured candidate for a vacancy for New Ross that month as the nominee of Charles Tottenham*, who in the event opted for ‘a still more thoroughly-going Tory’, and was spoken of as a contender for the county in April 1832, when one of the sitting Members was expected to be raised to the peerage, but in the event he made no known attempt to re-enter the House.12
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Philip Salmon
- 1. Dublin Evening Post, 11, 16, 21 Mar. 1820.
- 2. Add. 38283, f. 241; TCD, Courtown mss P/33/14/35.
- 3. Courtown mss 14/11, 24, 30; Dublin Evening Post, 1 June; Wexford Evening Post, 2 June 1826.
- 4. Wellington mss WP1/938/14; 939/37.
- 5. Wexford Herald, 7, 18, 21, 25 Aug.; Dublin Evening Post, 21 Aug. 1830.
- 6. NLI, Wyse mss 15024 (7), Lambert to Wyse, 26 Aug. 1830.
- 7. Add. 40338, f. 250.
- 8. Wexford Independent, 13, 17 May; Wexford Herald, 7, 14 May; Dublin Evening Post, 3, 14 May 1831; Courtown mss 14/136.
- 9. Derby mss 920 Der (14) 125/11, Lambert to Stanley, 5, 10 May 1831.
- 10. O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1800.
- 11. Dublin Evening Post, 14, 17, 19 May; Wexford Herald, 21, 28 May; Wexford Independent, 20, 27 May 1831.
- 12. Wexford Herald, 17 Aug., Wexford Independent, 20 Aug. 1831; O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1885.
- 13. Gent. Mag. (1841), i. 446; The Times, 18 Mar. 1841.
- 14. IR26/253/124.