SYMES, Michael (?1762-1809), of Ballyarthur, co. Wicklow.

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



9 June 1806 - 1806
27 Jan. 1807 - 1807

Family and Education

b. ?1762, 5th s. of Richard Symes of Ballyarthur by Eleanor, da. of Loftus Cliffe of Ross, co. Wexford. educ. Trinity, Dublin 2 Nov. 1778, aged 16. m. 18 Feb. 1801, Jemima, da. of Paul Pilcher of Rochester, Kent, 4da.

Offices Held

Cadet, E.I.Co. (Bengal) 1780, ensign 1780, lt. 1781, furlough 1786, res. 1788; lt. 76 Ft. and a.d.c. to Col. Musgrave 1788, capt. 1793, lt.-col. 1800.

Ambassador to court of Ava 1795-6, 1802-3.


In 1803 Symes was obliged to give up a promising military and diplomatic career in the East Indies for the sake of his health. Lord Wellesley recommended him to the prime minister, 5 Nov., by reference to his two important missions to Burma and a third in ‘Hindo-stan’ which he had been obliged to forego, and to his ‘integrity, knowledge and discretion’, which would afford Addington ‘the most satisfactory information on every subject connected with the political interests of the British Empire in India’.1

It was very likely at Wellesley’s instigation that Symes came in for Lord Charleville’s borough of Carlow on a vacancy in June 1806: but the seat was not available to him at the dissolution. Symes, with another Wellesleyite, Henry Montgomery, was unsuccessful in contesting St. Ives, where they were to have paid £3,500 each for their return and formed part of a squad of eight Wellesleyites in Parliament.2 To make up for this, Fremantle of the Treasury informed Sir Arthur Wellesley, 8 Nov. 1806:3 ‘With respect to Colonel Symes, I had settled with him an arrangement which seemed to meet his wishes better than a seat in Parliament, which could not be procured at the price he is enabled to offer’. Yet in January 1807 Symes came in for Heytesbury, the patron Sir William A’Court arranging to vacate in his favour. The only evidence of parliamentary activity is an intervention in defence of his political patron Lord Wellesley on the Carnatic question, 23 Mar. 1807. He lost this seat too at the dissolution and offered at Morpeth, where he soon gave up an unequal struggle.4

Although Symes was thought to have good prospects at St. Ives if ‘properly patronised and better supported’,5 he gave up the quest for a seat when he went with his regiment to Spain in 1808. After gallant conduct during the retreat to Corunna, he died on the way home, 22 Jan. 1809. According to an obituary, his

civil and military virtues and accomplishments were equally the objects of admiration. He possessed the highest capacity for science, with the most shining talents for action; and was not less endowed with the amiable qualities which embellish private life.6

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: J. W. Anderson


  • 1. DNB; Sidmouth mss.
  • 2. Add. 37415, ff. 15, 21.
  • 3. Add. 37309, f. 150.
  • 4. Carlisle mss, Lady to Ld. Morpeth [5, 7 May 1807].
  • 5. NLS mss 3795, f. 179.
  • 6. Gent. Mag. (1809), i. 185.