King's Co.


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

900 in 1784 rising to about 3,000 in 1815


6 Apr. 1805 PARSONS re-elected after appointment to office

Main Article

The principal landowners in this predominantly Catholic county were Lords Digby, Rosse, Charleville, Drogheda and Glandore; and among the gentry, the Dalys, Bernards, Lloyds, Malones and O’Moores of Cloghan Castle. Digby was an English absentee who extracted no political capital from his Irish property, and of the remaining landowners the leading electoral interest belonged to the earls of Rosse who, by combining their interest with many smaller landowners, returned the Members at each successive election in this period.1 Their influence, however, was not absolute. In 1802 it was a combination of their interest, then managed by Sir Lawrence Parsons, and that of Bernard and his brother-in-law, Charleville, that obliged Bowes Daly to seek a seat elsewhere.2 In 1807 the 2nd Earl sought the additional support of Drogheda to force Hon. George Ponsonby* and Col. L’Estrange to withdraw before nomination.3 On the other hand, there seems little reason to doubt Rosse’s claim, made in 1815, that his influence would prevail over all others in the event of a contest. His claim was made when the government was considering appointing Charleville custos rotulorum instead of Drogheda, on the grounds of his influence and property in the county. Rosse, not satisfied with holding a government place, objected, informing the chief secretary Peel, on 20 Mar. 1815:

if local influence and property in the King’s County are grounds for such a claim, my claim on these grounds is more than twice as great as Lord Charleville’s. As to influence, he was twice a candidate for this county and each time failed. I was four times a candidate, and I was each time elected ... He never returned either himself or anyone else ... I, from the death of my father ... returned either myself, or, since I was a peer, my brother-in-law. Mr Bernard ... never was returned by Lord Charleville ... I do not mean to say that Lord Charleville has not a considerable influence in this county, though it is very inferior to mine. As to ... property ... I can positively declare ... that my estates in this county, both in number of acres and in income ... are more than double Lord Charleville’s. I am not surprised that you should have been induced to think otherwise, because Lord Charleville is a man of much show and lives at a great expense. But that is his own affair. It is not what a man spends, but what he has, that I conceive should decide, if property is to decide.4

Although he was not appointed, Rosse’s property had largely decided county elections and continued to do so in 1818, but his brother and Bernard were then threatened with opposition by Malone of Pallas in circumstances that Rosse regarded as ill-omened for the future of the protestant interest. He recalled in 1822:

my brother was a candidate for this county. His opponent was Mr Malone whose mother was a Catholic, and though he was a Protestant and a peaceable gentleman, we were so threatened with mobs, that the freeholders began to be afraid of venturing to the election, unless they voted for Mr Malone. Mr Fitzsimmons, a Catholic, and a magistrate came to me to endeavour to prevail on my brother to decline, from the danger to the peace of the county. The commanding officer of the district received such accounts and evidence of the intention of the populace to disturb the peace, that he had his troops under orders, and had directed military patrols along the roads. The sheriff also called on him for troops to protect him on the hustings. Mr Malone, however, declined the evening but one before the election, and Mr Fitzsimmons told me that a principal inducement to him to decline was the preservation of the peace, for that the county would soon become a horrid scene of outrage if the election had proceeded. Mr Bernard the other candidate, had engaged boats to convey his freeholders by the Grand Canal under escorts, not conceiving the roads safe, or even passable for them. Yet my brother, who ... is a liberal unsuspecting man, had been all his life friendly to every concession to the Catholics. But both his parents were protestant.5

Malone in fact professed general approval of government though standing as an independent, and successfully courted government support through Desart, whose wife was his second cousin. His decision to resign was partly the result of his fear of disturbing the county, and partly due to the considerable effort Rosse put into combining other interests in favour of his son, particularly the O’Moore interest.6

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. Wakefield, Account of Ireland, i. 263.
  • 2. PRO NI, Rosse mss, Oxmantown to Sir L. Parsons, 20 Aug. 1802.
  • 3. Ibid. Rosse to Parsons, 20 Feb.; Wellington mss, same to Wellesley, 21 Apr. 1807.
  • 4. Add. 40244, f. 170.
  • 5. Glos. RO, Redesdale mss, Rosse to Redesdale, 3 May 1822.
  • 6. Add. 40216, f. 331; Rosse mss E17/3, 6, 8-11.