COLE, Sir Galbraith Lowry (1772-1842), of Marlbank, co. Fermanagh

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



27 June 1803 - 31 Aug. 1822

Family and Education

b. 1 May 1772, 2nd s. of William Willoughby, 1st earl of Enniskillen [I] (d. 1803), and Anne, da. of Galbraith Lowry (later Lowry Corry), MP [I], of Ahenis, co. Tyrone; bro. of Hon. Arthur Henry Cole* and John Willoughby Cole, Visct. Cole†. educ. R. sch. Armagh; Portarlington; Stuttgart Univ. 1790. m. 15 June 1815, Lady Frances Harris, da. of James Harris†, 1st earl of Malmesbury, 3s. 4da. suc. fa. to Marlbank 1803; KB 1 Feb. 1813; GCB 2 Jan. 1815. d. 5 Oct. 1842.1

Offices Held

MP [I] 1797-1800.

Cornet 12 Drag. 1787; lt. 5 Drag. 1791; capt. 70 Ft. 1792; maj. 102 Ft. 1793; lt.-col. Ward’s Ft. 1794, Villettes’s Ft. 1799, half-pay 1802; col. army 1801; capt. and lt.-col. 3 Ft. Gds. 1803; lt.-col. 27 Ft. 1804; brig.-gen. 1806; maj.-gen. 1808; col. 103 Ft. 1812; lt.-gen. 1813; col. 70 Ft. 1814, 34 Ft. 1816, 27 Ft. 1826-d.; gen. 1830.

Gov. Gravesend and Tilbury 1818-d., Mauritius 1822-8, Cape of Good Hope 1828-33.


Cole, a professional soldier, had sat for the family borough of Enniskillen in the Irish Parliament until the Union and had assumed his elder brother the 2nd earl of Enniskillen’s county seat in 1803, being a (largely absentee) ministerialist and anti-Catholic Member.2 When he was fêted on his return to Fermanagh from his distinguished war service in 1814 he told his sister Lady Grantham:

My reception ... was certainly flattering but sadly annoying! I am convinced nature never intended me for a public character and the more I see of a quiet life the more I am desirous of settling down, or rather of having the means of doing so. My own little place [Marlbank] is tempting and I dream of nothing but improvements. I will not answer how soon I may be guilty of retiring to it, if I can make my arrangements with [Lord] Enniskillen respecting it. A home after all, as you say, embellishes everything.

But retirement was to elude Cole, who had a wife and family to support after 1815, for almost 20 years. At the time of his in the end unopposed return on his brother’s interest at the general election of 1820, he was still seeking a suitably remunerative place and was said to have declined a peerage because he was too poor to support the dignity. The death of his influential father-in-law late that year did not seem to enhance his prospects.3

Nor did his action of 26 Jan. 1821 when, as one of the ‘most remarkable’ of the ‘deserters’ from the Liverpool ministry, he voted in condemnation of the omission of Queen Caroline’s name from the liturgy.4 He was reckoned to have done so ‘merely because’ his brother had ‘disapproved’ of the bill of pains and penalties in the Lords, but the Whig Thomas Creevey* reported:

It has given me great pleasure to see Sir Lowry Cole’s name stand next to mine in the list of the division. To someone who talked to him while we were dividing, he said he never had but one opinion as to the impropriety of striking the queen’s name out of the liturgy, and he was glad the time was come when he could express his opinion by his vote.

He did not vote in the division on the opposition censure motion, 6 Feb., and it was believed that his temporary defection cost him the vacant governorship of Sheerness, which was given instead to Lord Combermere.5 Cole voted against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, and the Catholic peers bill, 30 Apr. 1822. He spoke against attempts to reduce the army estimates, 11, 30 Apr., and divided with government against parliamentary reform, 9 May, and retrenchment, 27 June 1821.6 He defended the Irish chancellor over the appointment of magistrates, 7 Feb., and supported the grant for the commander-in-chief’s office, 15 Mar. 1822. His only other known votes that session were against more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 21 Feb., and abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar.7

At the end of August 1822 Cole accepted, from ‘a sense of duty towards my children’, the governorship of Mauritius, even though he had refused foreign postings in the past. His resignation was announced that autumn and he sailed out with his family early in 1823.8 He had been led to believe that it would be possible to save half his annual salary of £10,000 which, together with his private income, would enable him to provide for his children after his death. In the event, retrenchment reduced his salary to £9,000. In 1828 he transferred to the Cape, accepting a loss of £2,000 a year for the sake of a healthier climate.9 By 1831 he was anxious to retire and the following year, being ‘heartily tired of a situation in which I feel I can do little good’, asked for a successor to be appointed. In September 1832 he wrote to his brother:

I am tired of being a governor and shall be too happy to descend to the humbler walks of life ... I cannot but feel that the [Grey ministry’s] reform bill is a very ticklish experiment ... God grant it may all end well! ... When we meet ... you will find me grown old in every way.10

He left the Cape in 1833, having performed his duties creditably, both there and in Mauritius. On his return to Britain, Cole, who was described in 1831 as ‘candid, open, warm-hearted and a little passionate’, settled at Highfield Park, Hampshire. He died, ‘after an illness of about an hour’, in October 1842, and was buried in the family vault at Enniskillen, where a 100-foot column was erected in his memory. His eldest son Colonel Arthur Lowry Cole (1817-85) commanded the 17th Foot during the Crimean War.11

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: David R. Fisher / Stephen Farrell


See Mems. of Sir Lowry Cole ed. M.L. Cole and S. Gwynn (1934) and K.S. Hunt, Sir Lowry Cole (1974).

  • 1. Not 4 Oct. (The Times, 6, 7 Oct. 1842).
  • 2. Hist. Irish Parl. iii. 451-2; HP Commons, 1790-1820, iii. 482-3; Black Bk. (1823), 147.
  • 3. Cole Mems. 109, 198-200, 202; Hants RO, Malmesbury mss 9M73/G2459, Malmesbury to FitzHarris, 9 Feb.; Dublin Evening Post, 12 Feb., 9 Apr. 1820.
  • 4. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 27 Jan., Long to same, 27 Jan. 1821.
  • 5. Add. 43212, f. 180; Creevey Pprs. ii. 9, 12.
  • 6. The Times, 12 Apr. 1821.
  • 7. Ibid. 8 Feb., 16 Mar. 1822.
  • 8. Ibid. 13 Sept.; London Gazette, 31 Aug. 1822; Hunt, 14; Cole Mems. 202-3.
  • 9. Hunt, 14, 88-89.
  • 10. Add. 40878, ff. 327, 331, 396; Cole Mems. 246, 249-50.
  • 11. Hunt, 15, 174; Gent. Mag. (1842), ii. 544; DNB; Oxford DNB.