FORBES, George John, Visct. Forbes (1785-1836), of Kilren, co. Louth.

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



1806 - 1832
2 Apr. 1833 - 14 Nov. 1836

Family and Education

b. 3 May 1785, at Montpelier, 1st s. of George Forbes, 6th Earl of Granard [I], by Selina Frances, da. of John Rawdon, 1st Earl of Moira [I]. m. 4 Oct. 1832, Frances Mary, da. and h. of William Territt, of Chilton, Suff., judge of Admiralty in Bermuda, 2s.

Offices Held

Lt. 108 Ft. 1794; capt. 74 Ft. 1795, half-pay 1804, brevet maj. 1805; capt. 8 garrison batt. 1809, lt.-col. half-pay 1812; a.d.c. to the Regent Feb. 1811-25; capt. de Meuron’s regt. 1814, brevet col. 1815, maj.-gen. 1825.

Custos rot. co. Longford 1813; ld. lt. 1831-d.

Trustee, linen board [I] 1818; comptroller of household to ld. lt. [I] 1828.

Sec. to order of St. Patrick 1828-d.

Capt. commdt. Longford inf. 1803; col. co. Longford militia 1824-d.


Viscount Forbes, commissioned in his father’s regiment at the age of nine, was the nephew of the Prince of Wales’s friend Lord Moira, who drew father and son into the circle of Carlton House Whigs. On coming of age he was returned unopposed for county Longford on the family interest, with the active support of Lord Grenville’s government, which had made his father a British peer and an Irish privy councillor and placeholder that year. Francis Horner, reporting on 26 Dec. 1806 that he had met Forbes ‘frequently’ in the House, added ‘I like his sedateness, gentleness and sense’.1

Forbes remained in opposition on the dismissal of his friends and voted for Brand’s motion against their successors, 9 Apr. 1807. The Castle could find no candidate to challenge him at the ensuing election. He voted against the address, 26 June, and for Whitbread’s ‘state of the nation’ motion, 6 July 1807, but was subsequently a lax attender until 1809, when he appeared in at least one minority list for Folkestone’s motion against abuses 17 Apr.,2 and certainly in the minorities critical of Castlereagh’s supposed corruption on 25 Apr. and 11 May. On 23 Feb. and 30 Mar. 1810 he voted with opposition on the Scheldt inquiry, and on 5 and 6 Apr. voted and spoke against government on the question of Burdett’s committal, his only known speech.3 He voted for parliamentary reform, 21 May 1810, and for Catholic relief, 1 June, and sided with opposition on the Regency, 1, 21 Jan. 1811. On 19 Dec. 1811, with his father, he attended the dinner given to the Friends of Religious Liberty by the Irish Catholics and on 4 Feb. 1812 paired in favour of Morpeth’s critical motion on Ireland.

Appointed a.d.c. to the Regent in 1811, Forbes felt obliged to offer his resignation to Col. McMahon, 17 Mar. 1812, as his ‘political opinions’ did not ‘in the least accord with those of the ministers’. McMahon and Moira decided to hold this back, lest it should ‘seem to exhibit abandonment of our dear unhappy Prince’, and persuaded Forbes to retract it, regarding his post as a purely military one. He agreed on condition ‘that I shall be considered as perfectly free on every occasion which will come before the House of Commons’. He proceeded to exhibit his freedom, voting for Catholic claims, 24 Apr. 1812, against the sinecure tellerships of the Exchequer, 7 May, and for Stuart Wortley’s motion for a stronger administration, 21 May. When there was no change, Forbes was furious. Creevey wrote, 1 June:

he has received such usage from his master, either on his uncle’s account or his own voting in Parliament, that he won’t go near him, and ... he came to dine yesterday with the yellow lining and the Prince’s buttons taken away from his coat. He said never again would he carry about him so degrading a badge of servitude to such a master.4

Apart from voting in the majority for Catholic relief, 2 Mar. 1813, Forbes seems to have absented himself from the first session of the Parliament of 1812, and while Peel regarded him as ‘decidedly in opposition’ (5 June 1813), the viceroy, an old friend of his father, was less sure. He noted that the father was ‘by no means so violent as he was’ and that Forbes was prepared to become custos rotulorum in succession to his father to do away with the effect of the latter’s threat of resignation on Sir Thomas Newcomen’s appointment as co-governor: ‘I really should not be surprised if he came over to us. He avoided attending Parliament latterly though much pressed so to do.’5 So it proved: Forbes, whose father made overtures to the viceroy for a sinecure on 25 June 1814, with assurances of support except on the Catholic question, never again voted with opposition, though he continued to vote for Catholic relief, 30 May 1815, 9 May 1817, and on 3 May 1819 (when his vote was disallowed).6 What clinched matters was his father’s appointment in 1815 as clerk of the hanaper, the Irish sinecure he had requested, worth £1,800 a year. By January 1816 Forbes was receiving a circular to attend and in January 1817 the chief secretary regarded it as a reciprocal duty on account of his father’s sinecure and his own place and was prepared to get Castlereagh to summons Forbes.7 He was certainly listed a government supporter in 1818 and gave his vote to government on the critical divisions of 15 Apr. 1818 and 18 May 1819. He died v.p. 13/14 Nov. 1836.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. Horner mss 3, f. 128.
  • 2. He is not in the Speaker’s list of the minority, PRO 30/9/34.
  • 3. Geo. III Corresp. v. 4126.
  • 4. Geo. IV Letters, i. 30, 35, 39, 47, 48.
  • 5. Add. 40186, ff. 99, 106, 152; 40188, f. 264; 40283, f. 129.
  • 6. Parl. Deb. xl. 79.
  • 7. Add. 40252, f. 192; 40292, f. 107.