PROBY, John Joshua, 1st Earl of Carysfort [I] (1751-1828), of Elton Hall, Hunts. and Glenart, co. Wicklow.

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



4 Feb. 1790 - 1790
1790 - 21 Jan. 1801

Family and Education

b. 12 Aug. 1751, o.s. of John Proby, 1st Baron Carysfort [I], by Hon. Elizabeth Allen, da. of Joshua, 2nd Visct. Allen [I]. educ. Westminster c.1764-7; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1767. m. (1) 19 Mar. 1774, Elizabeth (d. Nov. 1783), da. of Sir William Osborne, 8th Bt., MP [I] of Newtown, co. Tipperary, 3s. 2da.; (2) 12 Apr. 1787, Elizabeth, da. of George Grenville of Wootton, Bucks., 1s. d.v.p. 3da. suc. fa. as 2nd Baron Carysfort [I] 18 Oct. 1772; KP 5 Feb. 1784; cr. Earl of Carysfort [I] 20 Aug. 1789; Baron Carysfort [UK] 21 Jan. 1801.

Offices Held

PC [I] 26 Sept. 1789; jt. master of rolls [I] Aug. 1789-1801; envoy to Berlin May 1800-Oct. 1802; PC [GB] 12 Feb. 1806; jt. postmaster-gen. Feb. 1806-Mar. 1807; member of Board of Trade June 1806; commr. Board of Control July 1806-Mar. 1807.

Member, board of agriculture 1793; capt. Northants. yeoman cav. 1794, maj. 1802; capt. Hunts. vol. inf. 1803.


Carysfort had aspired since 1774 to represent Huntingdonshire in Parliament, which his father had done. He was in his youth a supporter of parliamentary and economical reform. In 1783 he was an opponent of the coalition government in London, but leader in the Lords for Lord Northington’s administration in Dublin. The Whigs could not win him with the bait of a peerage and Pitt’s first viceroy, the Duke of Rutland, promised him one for his support. His second marriage made him decidedly friendly to Pitt’s administration. He was now brother-in-law of the viceroy Lord Buckingham, who valued his assistance in the Irish parliament. He was prepared to forego the earldom offered him in 1789, but his wife insisted on it; he also received a sinecure. Satisfied that it was ‘impossible’ for him ‘to pursue any political line in Ireland with effect’ and that his lot was now ‘irrevocably cast’ in England, he looked to a seat at Westminster. A canvass of Huntingdonshire showed him that he could not shake the alliance between Lord Sandwich and the Duke of Manchester and he was prepared to purchase a borough seat instead. He sat on the government interest for East Looe in the last session of the Parliament of 1784. In 1790, as compensation for not disturbing the peace of Huntingdonshire, Lord Exeter returned him for Stamford, an option open to him on the first vacancy since 1788. This arrangement was continued for the same reason in the next Parliament, Carysfort contenting himself with what he termed ‘the most passive imaginable’ opposition to the alliance that excluded him from the county seat.1

Carysfort spoke on the ministerial side in debate, 13 Dec. 1790, in defence of the convention with Spain. He reported the findings of the Pontefract and Dumfries election committees, 9 Mar., 1 Apr., and spoke in favour of the corn protection bill, 4 Apr. 1791. He was an advocate of abolition of the slave trade, 19 Apr., and remained so, as he indicated on 6 Apr. 1797 when he called for total rather than gradual abolition. He was counted hostile to the repeal of the Test Act for Scotland in April 1791, and had something to say on the Quebec bill, 12 May. On 3 May 1792 he spoke on the Westminster police bill. Opposing the amendment to the address, 14 Dec. 1792, he explained that he was not averse to reform, but would have no truck with French revolutionary frenzy, which must be resisted. He thought that Catholic relief was a fair exchange for Irish loyalty in this crisis. Writing to Lord Grenville from his country seat four days before he had found no cause for alarm about disloyalty and hoped that Parliament would not exaggerate measures to counter it. On 6 Mar. 1793 he was a defaulter, but on 28 May named to the committee to consider the state of Warren Hastings’s impeachment. In January 1794, unable to attend, he informed Thomas Grenville that he did not think that government should be inflexible about negotiating with the French regime.2 On 14 Mar. 1794 he admitted the irregularity of the landing of Hessian troops in England, but saw no good reason for an act of indemnity to cover it.

On 10 Nov. 1797 Carysfort surfaced in debate to welcome the address: he approved the peace negotiations and was satisified that their failure revealed France’s ‘monstrous ambition and exorbitant pretensions’. He was confident that Ireland would repel any French invasion. He attended Pitt’s muster of his supporters to launch the assessed taxes, 17 Dec. 1797, and although he objected to the agricultural horse tax being doubled, 28 Dec., voted for them, 4 Jan. 1798. He was in Ireland in that year of rebellion and assured Lord Grenville, 15 Aug., that the time for Anglo-Irish union was ripe. In exchange for his active support of this measure in Dublin, he looked to Grenville’s obtaining him a British peerage from Pitt: Lord Cornwallis had already promised him a representative peerage. In January 1799, when Grenville found Pitt unwilling to commit himself, Carysfort resigned himself to claiming Cornwallis’s promise. He sent Grenville reports of the failure of the Union proposals in the Irish parliament that month. The following year he was an adviser on the proposals for dealing with Irish controverted elections under the Union. On 21 Apr. 1800 he was a ‘useful’ spokesman for the Union at Westminster.3

By June 1800 Lord Grenville was informing Pitt that Carysfort would waive his claims to a British peerage in favour of only one or two Irish peers; if any others were so honoured, he would insist on his. He duly obtained it. Since March 1800 he had been envoy designate to Berlin: Grenville had previously toyed with the idea of a diplomatic post for him. He left England in the summer of 1800. His duties took him to St. Petersburg in 1801. Grenville, who had encouraged him to retain his post on Pitt’s fall from power, moved into opposition to Addington and Carysfort shared his views. He accordingly declined a like post at St. Petersburg in 1802 and returned home, taking his seat in the Lords, 27 Nov. 1802. His conduct had forfeited ministerial support for his heir in the county Wicklow election.4

Carysfort continued his attachment to Lord Grenville in the Lords. He disliked the coalition with Fox and in August 1806 was prepared to act as intermediary between Grenville and the Pittites in a bid for reconciliation. He held office under Grenville only. All three of his sons sat at Westminster, on the Grenville interest or on his own interest (effective intermittently) for Huntingdonshire and county Wicklow. He gave up active politics in 1819 and died 7 Apr. 1828.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. HMC Fortescue, i. 225, 227, 461, 479, 482, 499, 503; Fortescue mss, Carysfort to Grenville, Fri. night [1790]; Hunts. RO, Sandwich mss G11, Exeter to Sandwich, 1 Sept. 1788, 28 May 1794, Carysfort to Sandwich, 23 May 1796.
  • 2. HMC Fortescue, ii. 354; Add. 41855, f. 49.
  • 3. Colchester, i. 123; HMC Fortescue, iii. 280, 436, 449; Fortescue mss, Carysfort to Grenville, 13 Jan. 1799; Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, iii. 21, 25, 29.
  • 4. PRO, Dacres Adams mss 3/36; HMC Fortescue, v. 89; vi. 175; Add. 35713, f. 85.