KER, David Guardi (?1778-1844), of Portavo and Montalto, co. Down

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



2 June 1820 - 1826
1835 - 1841

Family and Education

b. ?1778, 1st s. of David Ker of Portavo and w. Maddalena Guardi of Venice. educ. Eton 1788-95; Christ Church, Oxf. 19 Apr. 1796, aged 17; I. Temple 1804. m. 22 Feb. 1814, Lady Selina Sarah Stewart, da. of Robert Stewart, 1st mq. of Londonderry [I], 2s. 2da. suc. fa. 1811. d. 30 Dec. 1844.

Offices Held


Ker’s Scottish ancestors had originally settled in county Antrim before moving to Tottenham, Middlesex, from where his uncle Richard Gervas Ker, Member for Newport, Isle of Wight, 1802-6, and his father had returned to Ireland in the 1780s. The former went to Antrim and the latter to county Down, where he purchased lands at Clough and Magheraknock in 1785 and the Monalto estates of the earl of Moira in 1800. Ker, who promoted his uncle’s abortive attempt to offer on the ‘independent interest’ for Antrim at the 1820 general election, was keen to ‘get into Parliament’, but owing to his connection with the Stewarts (he was the foreign secretary Lord Castlereagh’s* brother-in-law), complained that he had ‘been so much put down in jury lists, etc., etc., since I married into the family, that I feel it, and will endeavour to resist it whenever and where ever I can’.1 He looked to his uncle ‘to shove me into the House’, writing to him, 4 Apr. 1820

about a seat in Parliament for me, which I should be most anxious to obtain without delay and through you if possible, without interference with Castlereagh. There are many reasons why I should wish to avoid that interference, but nevertheless if you have no other avenue, and he can return me forthwith, I throw myself into his hands. I think in the main we agree in public politics and in county politics. I do not anticipate any disagreement, though I have determined views on that subject and am performing this act partly in reference to them.2

He was rumoured as a candidate for Downpatrick, where his family had considerable interest, but instead endorsed the return of his brother-in-law John Waring Maxwell, afterwards commenting that ‘they are angry with me here for not getting the election in my own favour’, but ‘I should never have forgiven myself if I had, as I think it is the only thing for him’.3 Three months later he came in unopposed on a vacancy for Athlone on the controlling interest of Lord Castlemaine.

Ker, a very poor attender who cast no recorded votes on the Catholic question and is not known to have spoken in debate in this period, voted in defence of the Liverpool ministry’s conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb., and for their supplies, 6 Mar. 1821.4 He was considered by Castlereagh for the vacancy in county Down which would be created on his succession to the Irish peerage as Lord Londonderry, but it was decided that although ‘to pass by Ker might wound him, to put him forward would certainly offend the county’.5 He voted against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. 1821, more extensive tax reductions, 13 Mar., inquiry into the conduct of the lord advocate towards the Scottish press, 25 June, and repeal of the salt duties, 28 June 1822. No further votes have been found, though according to a commentary of 1825 he ‘attended frequently and voted with ministers’.6 His brother-in-law Charles, 3rd marquess of Londonderry, reviewing the prospects of forming ‘a third party’ at the end of 1822, considered Ker ‘a very uncertain character’, who ‘I am afraid I have no hold over’.7 He was granted a month’s leave on account of ill health, 15 Apr. 1825.

At the 1826 general election Ker made way for Castlemaine’s nephew. It had long been determined that he could ‘never look to a seat’ from Londonderry, who for county Down brought forward his son Lord Castlereagh, to whom Ker wrote offering ‘my presence or my votes ... in aid of yourself or your friends’.8 The following year Ker ‘kept himself quite neutral’ in the controversy provoked by an anti-Catholic petition from Bangor, county Down, which ‘all his tenants signed’.9 At the 1830 general election he wrote from France to again place his ‘interest in Down’ at Castlereagh’s disposal.10 He was returned unopposed for Downpatrick in 1835, where he sat as a Conservative until his retirement in 1841. In 1844 he purchased the Downpatrick estates of the late Lord de Clifford. Ker died in December that year and was succeeded by his elder son David Stewart Ker (1816-78), Conservative Member for Downpatrick, 1841-47, 1859-67, and county Down, 1852-7.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Philip Salmon


  • 1. PRO NI, Ker mss D2651/3/28, 34.
  • 2. Ibid. 3/35.
  • 3. Ibid. 3/38.
  • 4. Black Bk. (1823), 167.
  • 5. PRO NI, Castlereagh mss D3030/Q2/2/256.
  • 6. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 471.
  • 7. Norf. RO, Blickling Hall mss, Londonderry to Emily, Lady Londonderry, 14, 29 Dec. 1822.
  • 8. Castlereagh mss N/148, Turnley to Londonderry, 28 Oct. 1824; N/185, Ker to Castlereagh, 28 June 1826.
  • 9. PRO NI, Perceval Maxwell mss, Cleland to Maxwell, 28 Feb. 1827.
  • 10. Castlereagh mss N/275, Ker to Castlereagh, 15 July 1830.