KENNEDY, Archibald, Lord Kennedy (1794-1832).

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



1830 - 13 Dec. 1830

Family and Education

b. 4 June 1794, 1st s. of Archibald, 12th earl of Cassillis [S] (d. 1846), and Margaret, da. and h. of John Erskine of Dun, Forfar. educ. St. Andrews Univ. 1809-11. m. 1 May 1814, Eleanor, da. and h. of Alexander Allardyce† of Dunnottar, Kincardine, 9s. 3da. styled earl of Cassillis 10 Sept. 1831-d. d.v.p. 12 Aug. 1832.

Offices Held


David Kennedy, 1st earl of Cassillis (so created in 1509), was killed at Flodden in 1513. On the death without issue of the 8th earl in 1759 the peerage was disputed between William Douglas, earl of Ruglen, and Sir Thomas Kennedy of Culzean, whose claim was recognized by the Lords in 1762. He, who made Culzean Castle, spectacularly situated on the Ayrshire coast, the family’s principal residence, died in 1775 and was succeeded by his brother David Kennedy, Member for the county, 1768-74, and a representative peer, 1776-90. He was responsible for the rebuilding and extension of Culzean by Robert Adam, and acted with the opposition to Pitt. On his death in 1792 he was succeeded by his cousin Archibald Kennedy, a retired naval officer, whose two wives, both American heiresses, had brought him considerable property in New York, much of which he lost in the War of Independence. He died in 1794 and was succeeded by his eldest son and namesake, born in 1770, who raised and commanded the West Lowland Fencibles, supported Pitt and was elected a representative peer in 1796.1 He broke with Pitt in 1803, when he joined Brooks’s, and subsequently attached himself to Lord Grenville. He coveted an English peerage and a green ribbon, both of which he reckoned had been promised him by Pitt before their rupture. Grenville, as premier, obliged him with the barony of Ailsa in November 1806, but refused to entertain his bid for a vacant green ribbon less than a fortnight later.2 Cassillis, who claimed to have declined the offer of a ribbon from the Portland ministry, urged his pretensions on the prince of Wales on another vacancy in 1810, but he was passed over. On the death of Lord Eglinton in December 1819, when he assured Grenville that he would ‘support in future (generally speaking) ministers’, he applied for the vacant green ribbon, but was again ignored. He was also annoyed, for all his professions of indifference, not to be offered the lord lieutenancy of Ayrshire. He considered the transfer of Lord Glasgow from Renfrewshire to be a ‘flagrant’ act of ‘Scotch jobbing’, motivated by the fears of ‘the Scotch ministry’ that ‘such an appointment to me would throw the county into my hands altogether’ at the next general election.3 He overcame initial doubts to support the bill of pains and penalties in November 1820. The following summer he received a green ribbon as one of the extra knights of the Thistle created to mark the coronation of George IV, who conferred the honour on him without reference to Lord Liverpool.4

In December 1811 Cassillis had sought Grenville’s advice on ‘how to dispose of my son Lord Kennedy when he should ... leave St. Andrews’:

Kennedy is one of the best scholars of his day in this country ... He has read a great deal upon most subjects and understands both modern and ancient history in an uncommon degree ... Even now ... he studies of his own accord seven hours every day ... I think preparatory to sending him to one of the English universities it would be advisable to put him for two years under the direction of some very eminent man (clergyman) in England, who would carry him on with attention and assiduity ... Kennedy is extremely ambitious to become a man of some character in Parliament. I mean to get him into the ... Commons as soon as the forms will permit and when there, if he follows his father’s advice, he will look up for your guidance and direction ... I will not spare ... any expense which can contribute to turn him into the world a good and able man, and I really think he has all the seeds in him. Money is no object.5

Nothing much came of these plans and in 1814 Kennedy, still a minor, married a 17-year-old Mearns heiress, who was worth £30,000 in Bank stock and about £4,000 a year in landed property. Difficulties arose over the terms of the marriage settlement, which briefly became the subject of litigation.6 In August 1817 the Edinburgh artist and antiquary Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe wrote:

Lord Kennedy called upon me today full of the same blushes and bashfulness he exhibited while a boy, which don’t become the papa of two lusty children. What a pity it was that he did not first marry Alma Mater [Oxford], and then go abroad, in place of espousing Miss Allardyce and growing mouldy at Dunottar! However, neither his awkwardness, nor that of a country tailor, can spoil the look of blood and a very pleasing manner.7

Scholarship evidently forgotten, Kennedy made a reputation as an accomplished sportsman and first-rate shot. (A ‘strange report’ of his ‘having shot at a boy in a tree and killed him’ in 1822 turned out to be ‘entire fiction’.) He also became an inveterate gambler, and ran through much of his own and his wife’s fortunes.8

In 1824 Kennedy’s sister Alicia married Jonathan Peel*, brother of the home secretary Robert, who had just become Cassillis’s London neighbour in Whitehall (formerly Privy) Gardens. Cassillis was already on cordial personal terms with Peel, and on the collapse of the Liverpool ministry in April 1827 he pledged him his political adherence, reserving only his right to continue his support for Catholic relief. Cassillis was also friendly with the duke of Clarence (later William IV); and in July 1827 his second son John Kennedy, who had taken the additional name of Erskine on inheriting his mother’s Forfarshire property, married Lady Augusta FitzClarence, one of the duke’s illegitimate daughters with Mrs. Jordan. On Peel’s return to office under the duke of Wellington in January 1828 Cassillis applied to him for the great seal of Scotland, in return for which he would ‘endeavour to bring one, or both of my sons into Parliament at the first opening’, in order to ‘strengthen permanently both of our families’. He thought he might secure the election of Kennedy (still, in his view, ‘a most excellent scholar’) for Middlesex, on the strength of his stake in the county at St. Margaret’s, near Twickenham. At all events, he would use the emoluments of the seal to ‘purchase two seats, if I could find them on any reasonable terms’, and open the Ayrshire seat, which was ‘really going abegging’ for ‘any government man’, but for which Kennedy was of course ineligible as the son of a Scottish peer. Though nettled by Peel’s refusal to press his claims and unwilling to second the address as requested, he promised to support the ministry on account of his personal attachment to Peel, and went on to back Catholic emancipation in 1829.9

At the general election of 1830 Kennedy, nursing broken ribs, offered for the open and venal borough of Evesham, having been introduced there by Benjamin Rotch, a barrister and friend of the family, who had himself declined an invitation to stand. Responding to concerns about his inexperience, he admitted that he was ‘as yet untried’ but promised that he would ‘not disgrace’ and would pursue a line of ‘real independence’. After a controversial three-day poll he was returned in second place.10 On 9 Nov. 1830 he gave notice that after Christmas he would move for leave to introduce a bill to permit Scottish peers to sit in the Commons. He presented petitions for the abolition of slavery from two Baptist congregations of Evesham, 15 Nov. He had been listed by ministers among their ‘friends’, but he was absent from the decisive division on the civil list later that day. He was granted a month’s leave on account of family illness, 18 Nov. On 13 Dec. 1830 he was unseated on petition for bribery. Although the Evesham election was declared void, the order for a new writ was superseded pending parliamentary consideration of the borough’s electoral corruption, and no new writ was issued before the dissolution in April 1831. Kennedy was again nominated for Evesham at that general election, but he remained in Scotland throughout and was reported to have ‘withdrawn himself and declined the representation’. Even so, he finished a creditable third, only 21 votes behind the reform candidate.11

Kennedy died v.p., aged 38, in August 1832. His widow, having borne him 12 children in 18 years, followed him to the grave three months later. In 1846 his eldest son Archibald Kennedy (1816-70), a soldier, succeeded to the peerage of his father, who had been promoted to the marquessate of Ailsa in the 1831 coronation honours and had given proxy votes for the reform bills.12

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: David R. Fisher / Philip Salmon


  • 1. S. Scott, Culzean, 3-10, 15, 20.
  • 2. Prince of Wales Corresp. v. 2266; vi. 2302; Add. 58983, ff. 64, 66, 67, 71.
  • 3. Prince of Wales Corresp. vii. 2794, 2815; Add. 58983, ff. 129, 133, 134, 136.
  • 4. Add. 38288, ff. 60, 61; Hobhouse Diary, 69.
  • 5. Add. 58933, f. 102.
  • 6. Ann. Reg. (1818), Chron. pp. 293-4; The Times, 17 July 1818.
  • 7. CP, i. 67-68.
  • 8. Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, i. 342; Stirling, Coke of Norf. (1912), 393-4; CP, i. 68.
  • 9. Add. 40355, f. 313; 40369, f. 158; 40393, f. 138; 40394, ff. 156, 189; 40395, ff. 64, 66, 107, 141.
  • 10. G. May, Hist. Evesham (1845), 297-300; Worcester Herald, 17 July, 7 Aug. 1830.
  • 11. Worcester Herald, 7 May 1831.
  • 12. Gent. Mag. (1831), i. 382; Von Neumann Diary, i. 244.