Queen's Co.


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

Background Information

Number of registered freeholders:

2,285 in 1829; 1,184 in 1830

Number of voters:

5,374 in 1820


 Sir Charles Henry Coote, bt.2418
 Edward Dunne1692
27 Aug. 1821SIR CHARLES HENRY COOTE, bt. vice Wellesley Pole, called to the Upper House 
24 June 1826SIR HENRY PARNELL, bt. 
10 Aug. 1830SIR HENRY PARNELL, bt. 
16 Apr. 1831PARNELL re-elected after appointment to office 
10 May 1831SIR HENRY PARNELL, bt.393
 Thomas Brown Kelly90

Main Article

Queen’s (later Laoighis) produced mainly wheat and barley. There were several market towns, including the disfranchised boroughs of Ballinakill and Maryborough, the venue for county elections, the post towns of Abbeyleix, Mountrath, Rathdowney and Stradbally, whose combined mills were capable of producing 12,000 barrels of flour a year, and the parliamentary borough of Portarlington, which lay partly in King’s County to the north.1 The representation had long been dominated by the cabinet minister William Wellesley Pole, elder brother of the duke of Wellington, who had sat since 1801 on the Ballyfin interest which he had inherited in 1781, and Sir Henry Parnell of Rathleague, a staunch Whig and advocate of Catholic claims, who had sat on the ‘popular interest’ since 1802. The influence of the Coote family, headed by the 2nd Baron Castle Coote, a ministerialist Member, 1801-2, had been largely dormant, but at the 1818 general election Castle Coote had backed the candidacy of his wealthy cousin Sir Charles Henry Coote, who had inherited the Mountrath estates of the 1st Baron Castle Coote, which had been entrusted to government during his minority. Coote, who had recently purchased Ballyfin from Wellesley Pole, stood in alliance with General Edward Dunne of Brittas, but the sitting Members united against them and topped the poll.2

At the 1820 general election Wellesley Pole and Parnell offered again, the latter stressing his part in the passage of the recent Irish Election Act and support for tax reductions. It was anticipated that Coote, who was in Italy, would decline, but on 4 Mar. his brother Richard declared on his behalf, citing his independence from party. At the nomination Wellesley Pole, to whom Lord Stanhope had written to express his ‘regret’ at another contest, criticized the Cootes for disturbing the county a second time, observing that no freeholder had called on them ‘to turn either of us out’, and denying allegations that he and Parnell were ‘conspirators against the independence of the county’. By contrast, he asserted, Coote was supported only by ‘his own family’ and ‘a long purse’. Dunne, the Cootes’ second candidate, was proposed by Sir Josiah William Hort*. A seven-day contest ensued, during which Wellesley Pole and Parnell led throughout and 5,374 electors voted. By the fifth day Coote and Dunne had ‘no chance’ as ‘almost all the county’ had been polled, but they did not withdraw. It was later remarked that ‘had the old election law been in existence, the determination of Coote’s friends to poll to the last man would have been productive of fifteen or twenty days’ polling’. Wellesley Pole, who secured the ‘added strength’ of Lord de Vere and Richard Warburton of Garryhinch, both of whom had hitherto voted ‘singly for Parnell’, topped the poll, but at the declaration admitted that it had been a ‘difficult struggle’. The committee for Coote, who remained abroad, denounced the ‘jarring catalogue of absentee noblemen’ who had ‘so unconstitutionally’ combined against them, while Hort, alluding to Parnell’s popularity with the Catholic priests, praised Coote and Dunne’s supporters for not ‘degrading the place of worship of any sect, for making it a rostrum for the diffusion of electioneering politics’.3

In January 1821 a county meeting to draw up a loyal address to the king was convened by Thomas Crosby, a governor, and a petition for inquiry into the Irish distillery laws was started.4 Both Members supported Catholic relief. In August 1821 Wellesley Pole, who had told Lord Liverpool, the premier, that he wanted a peerage as he had ‘already sustained two very severe, expensive and vexatious contests’ and saw ‘no prospect of ever being returned for the Queen’s County without being put to similar inconvenience’, was elevated to a United Kingdom peerage as Baron Maryborough.5 Coote came forward for the vacancy and was returned unopposed.6 He gave general support to ministers and joined Parnell in voting for Catholic claims, for which petitions reached the Commons, 19 Apr. 1825, 4 May 1826, and the Lords, 9 May 1825, 20 Apr. 1826.7 Petitions were presented to the Commons for an additional duty on butter imports, 7 June 1822, and repeal of the Butter Act, 3 June 1824.8 One for reform of Irish tithes reached the Commons, 10 Feb. 1823.9 The death of Castle Coote that year created a vacancy in the colonelcy of the militia, which Goulburn, the Irish secretary, was disposed to give to Coote as the ‘largest proprietor’. Maryborough, however, urged his brother Lord Wellesley, the viceroy, to appoint his former supporter Cosby, a ‘most intimate and particular friend’ and ‘by far the fittest man’, rather than allow the militia to be ‘conferred on my most bitter enemy who caused me two contested elections’. ‘There is something mean and base in Cootes’ pressing against Cosby in the manner he has’, Maryborough informed Wellesley, 27 Aug., adding, ‘if the sneaking little baronet gets it’, there would be ‘an end of all my influence in Ireland’. A lengthy wrangle followed, during which Wellesley threatened to resign rather than ‘resist his favourite brother’s earnest entreaty’. Coote, for whom Wellesley unsuccessfully tried to obtain an Irish peerage in order to ease the way for Cosby, was eventually appointed in November 1824.10

At the 1826 general election Parnell and Coote offered again as ‘friends of civil and religious freedom’ and were returned unopposed.11 They continued to support Catholic relief, for which petitions reached the Commons, 8 Dec. 1826, 16 Feb., 6 Mar. 1827, 21 Feb., 18 Mar. 1828, and the Lords, 9, 16 Mar. 1827, 27 Mar. 1828. A hostile petition from Ballinakill was presented to the Commons, 6 May 1828.12 One against alteration of the corn laws reached the Lords, 27 Feb. 1827.13 A petition for repeal of the Test Acts was presented to the Commons, 27 Mar. 1828, and the Lords the following day.14 One for repeal of the Irish Subletting Act reached the Lords, 28 Mar., and the Commons, 31 Mar. 1828.15 On 7 Oct. 1828 a county meeting for Catholic claims was held at Maryborough under the direction of Robert Cassidy of Jamestown and John Dunne of Ballinakill, at which resolutions were passed for the formation of a Liberal Club. Following a communication from the influential Catholic bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, Dr. James Doyle, who believed that ‘the projected club would not be advisable’ as ‘it might create distrust and fear’, its launch was postponed until early the following year.16 On 11 Jan. 1829 a Catholic meeting was held at Heath Chapel under the chairmanship of Joseph and Michael Dunne to pay tribute to Daniel O’Connell* and draw up an address in support of the recalled viceroy Lord Anglesey, of which he received a copy the following month.17 County meetings in support of the Wellington ministry’s concession of Catholic emancipation, for which both Members voted, were held at Upperwood on 18 Jan., at Mountrath on 28 Jan., chaired by Cassidy and Thomas Wyse*, and at Heath on 15 Feb. Favourable petitions reached the Commons, 11, 17 Feb., 11, 13 Mar., and the Lords, 17 Feb., 13, 20 Mar. A hostile one was presented to the Commons, 11 Mar., and the Lords, 23 Mar.18 By the accompanying alteration of the franchise the registered electorate of 1829 was almost halved from 2,285 to 1,184, of whom 229 qualified at the new minimum freehold of £10, 199 at £20 and 756 at £50.19 Petitions for repeal of the Irish Vestry and Subletting Acts were presented to the Lords, 17 Feb., and the Commons, 11 Mar. 1829, 4 May 1830.20 In November 1829 there were reports of widespread disturbances in the county.21 Pleas for military assistance the following January, however, were dismissed by Peel, the home secretary, who complained to Gregory, the Irish under-secretary:

I am quite sick of communications from Irish gentlemen ... To hear Mr. Cosby’s account of the Queen’s County, to hear that the gentry and farmers are quaking before a set of miscreants whose whole number (if the truth were known) does not probably exceed 50 ... is most distressing. These fears make the danger.22

The following month Cassidy urged Wyse to attend the forthcoming assizes, as ‘it would look well to have a Popish grand juror in the Queen’s County’. On 7 May a county meeting, to which Wyse had been invited by the sheriff Thomas Brown Kelly of Kellyville, was held against tax and stamp duty increases and the introduction of an Irish poor law.23 A petition against tax increases reached the Lords, 4 June 1830.24

Shortly before the 1830 dissolution Cassidy informed Wyse of ‘a very prevalent rumour’ that Coote had secured the dormant earldom of Mountrath, adding that he had not ‘canvassed any freeholder’ and ‘it would only require a popular candidate with the moderate Protestants, some Orangemen and many Papists’ to turn him out and that Wyse was ‘likely to be supported by the most numerous class of freeholders’.25 At the general election Parnell offered again, citing his part in ‘carrying a number of measures of the greatest importance to Ireland’. Coote did not receive a peerage and stood his ground. Placards announcing that an ‘independent’ candidate would start on popular principles appeared. Kelly was rumoured and, following a meeting of his supporters at the Liberal Club, a partial canvass was ‘undertaken in his favour’, which showed ‘a full expectation of his return’. Kelly, however, declined on account of the ‘alarming state’ of his wife’s health, whereupon Cassidy, John and Michael Dunne and three others wrote to Wyse to ‘request that you will offer yourself’, explaining that the ‘true state of the registry of the county has not yet been ascertained’, but ‘is supposed to amount to 700, of which we are certain 100 plumpers will join us’. In the event Wyse opted for Tipperary, and no other candidate came forward. Shortly before the nomination the Liberals, who believed they had gained ‘something by a show of determination’, successfully called on the candidates to forgo the ‘useless pageantry of chairing’ and donate the money usually ‘squandered’ to the infirmary. Parnell, who believed that ‘the measures taken to promote a contest’ had improved the ‘solidarity’ of his support, and Coote were returned unopposed.26 On 9 Sept. 1830 Cassidy told Wyse that the Irish elections had caused Coote ‘great despondency’ and that the result of a future contest, of which he had ‘no doubt’ next time, ‘must now depend on other matters than my Lordship’s freeholders’.27

On 6 Dec. 1830 a county meeting was held at Stradbally for repeal of the Union, for which a petition reached the Commons, 2 Mar. 1831.28 Petitions for the abolition of slavery were presented to the Commons, 7 Dec. 1830, 29 Mar. 1831, and the Lords, 18, 20 Apr. 1831.29 One against the grant to the Kildare Place Society reached the Lords, 21 Dec. 1830, and the Commons, 4 Feb. 1831.30 That month Kelly convened a county meeting at Maryborough in support of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, at which Patrick Lalor of Tenakill launched a campaign of resistance to Irish tithes.31 When Parnell sought re-election on his appointment as war secretary in April, he encountered ‘paltry and ignorant quibbling against him’ on account of his opposition to repeal of the Union. Turning to O’Connell for assistance, 1 Apr., he explained:

The first reply I received to my applications for support contains the following passage: ‘Nothing short of my firm conviction that the measure for altering the constitution now proposed by the administration tends, among other evils, to the separation of Ireland from England, and to the destruction of the Church of Ireland, could induce me to withhold from you a support which has been so many years at your service’. This comes from a person who is the most competent of any I know to start a non-reforming candidate against me so that, if the friends of reform fall out with me on account of any other question, I may cease to represent the Queen’s County.

O’Connell immediately declared in his favour, saying that it was his ‘most anxious wish’ that Parnell should be elected ‘without expense’, and he was returned unopposed.32 Parnell, of course, supported the reform bill, which Coote initially opposed, only to declare subsequently, in reply to one of his constituents, that he only objected to ‘some of the details’ and ‘should have voted’ for it.33 At the 1831 general election Parnell stood as a ‘thorough-going’ reformer. Cassidy was rumoured, but at a meeting of the Liberal Club to select a suitable candidate, 2 May, he declined in favour of Kelly who came forward ‘to give you an opportunity’ of returning two Members ‘decidedly devoted’ to the ‘glorious and necessary’ bill. Coote ignored calls for him to resign and pronounced himself a reformer, but the Liberals declared that as ‘a repentant sinner, he may be entitled hereafter, but not now, to absolution for his sins’, and urged the voters to support Kelly, ‘a straightforward, unsophisticated, and liberal young man’, whose ‘success on canvass’ was ‘beyond precedent’. A three-day contest ensued, during which Coote, having ‘at the eleventh hour given his adhesion to the bill, the whole bill and nothing but the bill’, secured the interest of Lord Lansdowne, on which Kelly, who remained at the bottom of the poll throughout, had ‘confidently relied’. Hort also supported Coote, the duke of Leinster explaining to Lord Cloncurry that he was ‘an intimate friend and old acquaintance’ and ‘although they differ in politics, I should be sorry to see that carried too far’. On 13 May Kelly resigned, contrasting the ‘inefficient’ registration of his supporters with the ‘complete order’ exhibited by the ‘Tory candidate’ Coote, whom he accused of a widespread ‘touching of the itching palm’. Shortly after the return Coote was reported to be ‘endeavouring to wriggle himself out of his positive pledges’ by the Dublin Evening Post, which predicted that nothing would prevent Kelly’s triumph at the next election, as the ‘Tories have put out all their strength’ and ‘can get no stronger’.34

In the House, however, Coote joined Parnell in supporting the reintroduced reform bill, for which he spoke at a county meeting condemning the opposition of the Lords at the end of the year.35 A petition for repeal of the Union was presented to the Lords, 24 June.36 One against the grant to the Kildare Place Society reached the Commons, 12 Aug. 1831.37 Petitions for the abolition of Irish tithes, to which Lalor co-ordinated widespread resistance, were presented to the Commons, 16 Feb., 13 Mar., and the Lords, 20, 28 Feb. 1832.38 Reports of evictions and disturbances were attributed by Cloncurry to the ‘unforgiving persecution of the landlords whose tenants voted at the last election in opposition to orders’, 26 Apr.39 A petition from the newly appointed lord lieutenant, Viscount de Vesci, for inquiry into the ‘perilous state’ of the county and ‘suppression of the relentless system of murder, intimidation and outrage’ was presented to the Commons, 23 May, but produced no action. A similar one reached the Lords, 6 June 1832.40 At the summer assizes the magistrates reported to the viceroy ‘improved’ conditions and a ‘decrease of active disturbance and personal outrage’. That autumn the pro-repeal Liberal Club, chaired by Lalor, launched a voter registration campaign.41

By the Irish Reform Act 66 leaseholders (53 registered at £10, eight at £20 and five at £50) and 34 rent-chargers (17 at £20 and 17 at £50) were added to the freeholders, who had increased in number to 1,371 (910 registered at £10, 162 at £20 and 299 at £50), giving a reformed constituency of 1,471.42 At the 1832 general election Parnell, who had been dismissed from office for his refusal to support ministers over the Russian-Dutch loan, retired. Coote stood as a Conservative against the Repealers Lalor and Peter Geale of Ashfield and the Liberal Edward Dunne, and finished second behind Lalor after a violent contest in which 1,380 polled.43 Coote topped the poll in 1835, when two Conservatives defeated Lalor and Cassidy, and in 1837, when his son was also an unsuccessful Conservative candidate, and sat until 1847 and again, 1852-9.

Author: Philip Salmon


  • 1. S. Lewis, Top. Dict. of Ireland (1837), ii. 473-6.
  • 2. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 679-81; A. de Vlieger, Hist. Coote Family, 95-96.
  • 3. The Times, 2 Mar., 3 Apr.; Dublin Evening Post, 9, 11, 25, 28, 30 Mar., 1, 4, 6 Apr.; Cent. Kent. Stud. Stanhope mss U1590 C199/2, Stanhope to Wellesley Pole, 10 Mar. 1820; PP (1829), xxii. 20; NLI, Grattan mss 27805.
  • 4. Dublin Evening Post, 30 Jan. 1821.
  • 5. Add. 38285, f. 168.
  • 6. Stanhope mss C199/2, Stanhope to Coote, 9 Aug.; Dublin Evening Post, 1, 4 Sept. 1821.
  • 7. CJ, lxxx. 319; lxxxi. 321; LJ, lvii. 769; lviii. 219.
  • 8. CJ, lxxvii. 324; lxxix. 452.
  • 9. Ibid. lxxviii. 9.
  • 10. Add. 37300, f. 252; 37416, f. 171; 40329, f. 117; 40330, f. 3.
  • 11. Dublin Evening Post, 6, 8, 17, 20, 27, 29 June 1826.
  • 12. CJ, lxxxii. 108, 182, 286; lxxxiii. 90, 181, 319; LJ, lix. 150, 167; lx. 143.
  • 13. LJ, lix. 110-1.
  • 14. CJ, lxxxiii. 205; LJ, lx. 146.
  • 15. LJ, lx. 147; CJ, lxxxiii. 217.
  • 16. Dublin Evening Post, 21 Oct. 1828; E. O’Leary, Hist. Queen’s Co. (1914), ii. 645; W.F. Fitzpatrick, Doyle Corresp. ii. 91-92.
  • 17. Dublin Evening Post, 13, 29 Jan. 1829; PRO NI, Anglesey mss D619/33A/59.
  • 18. Dublin Evening Post, 3, 10, 21, 24 Feb. 1829; CJ, lxxxiv. 22, 42, 124, 132; LJ, lxi. 49, 192, 239, 249.
  • 19. PP (1830), xxix. 474.
  • 20. LJ, lxi. 49, 50; CJ, lxxxiv. 124; lxxxv. 366.
  • 21. The Times, 17 Nov. 1829.
  • 22. Add. 40334, f. 313.
  • 23. NLI, Wyse mss 15024 (1), Cassidy to Wyse, 23 Feb., Kelly to same, 30 Apr. 1830; O’Leary, ii. 652.
  • 24. LJ, lxii. 603.
  • 25. Wyse mss 15024 (1), Cassidy to Wyse, 8 July 1830.
  • 26. Dublin Evening Post, 27, 29 July, 14 Aug.; Wyse mss 15024 (6), Cassidy and six others to Wyse, n.d.; 15024 (4), Cassidy to same, 12 Aug. 1830.
  • 27. Wyse mss 15024 (7).
  • 28. O’Leary, ii. 653; CJ, lxxxvi. 333.
  • 29. CJ, lxxxvi. 155, 456; LJ, lxiii. 446, 484.
  • 30. LJ, lxiii. 186; CJ, lxxxvi. 212.
  • 31. O’Leary, ii. 654.
  • 32. Dublin Evening Post, 9, 19 Apr. 1831; O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1794.
  • 33. Dublin Evening Post, 5 May 1831.
  • 34. Ibid. 5, 10, 12, 17 May 1831; Add. 51568, Leinster to Cloncurry, 11 May 1831.
  • 35. Leinster Express, 10 Dec. 1831.
  • 36. LJ, lxiii. 748.
  • 37. CJ, lxxxvi. 748.
  • 38. Ibid. lxxxvii. 114, 184; LJ, lxiv. 62, 73.
  • 39. Derby mss 920 Der (14) 125/3, Cloncurry to Smith Stanley.
  • 40. CJ, lxxxvii. 335; LJ, lxiv. 280.
  • 41. O’Leary, ii. 682-4.
  • 42. Ibid. ii. 684; PP (1833), xxvii. 305.
  • 43. O’Leary, ii. 685-6; Dod’s Parl. Companion (1833), 147; PP (1833), xxvii. 305.