COLE, William Willoughby, Visct. Cole (1807-1886).

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



1831 - 31 Mar. 1840

Family and Education

b. 25 Jan. 1807, 1st s. of John Willoughby Cole†, 2nd earl of Enniskillen [I] and 1st Bar. Grinstead [UK], and Lady Charlotte Paget, da. of Henry, 1st mq. of Anglesey; bro. of Hon. Henry Arthur Cole† and John Lowry Cole†. educ. Harrow 1819; Christ Church, Oxf. 1826; continental tour 1828. m. (1) 16 Jan. 1844, Jane (d. 13 May 1855), da. of James Archibald Casamajor of E.I. Co. (Madras), 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 4da.; (2) 5 Sept. 1865, Hon. Mary Emma Brodrick, da. and coh. of Charles, 6th Visct. Midleton [I], s.p. suc. fa. as 3rd earl of Enniskillen [I] and 2nd Bar. Grinstead [UK] 31 Mar. 1840. d. 12 Nov. 1886.

Offices Held

Col.-commdt. co. Fermanagh militia.


Cole, the eldest son of the former Fermanagh Member and by now leading Irish Orangeman Lord Enniskillen, was still a minor in early 1823, when his uncle Sir Lowry Cole was appointed to a colonial office and vacated the seat for their native county which the family had filled for the preceding 40 years.1 His coming of age in January 1828 was celebrated by a party at the family home of Florence Court and an illumination in neighbouring Enniskillen, of which his father was the electoral patron. The vacancy created at this time in the borough, of which he was a burgess, was filled by his uncle Arthur Cole and he was not immediately brought into Parliament. Instead he intended to travel in Europe for two or three years, and he was presumably still abroad during the autumn, when Enniskillen played a conspicuous part in the Brunswick anti-Catholic agitation.2 He was back in Fermanagh by 1830 to propose Lord Belmore’s son Lord Corry, who had sat with Enniskillen’s blessing since 1823, at the county election.3 Although previously uninterested in a parliamentary career, Cole was said by his father to be ‘bent upon it’ early in the new year and he duly came forward at the dissolution in April 1831. Appealing to an apparent pact whereby he had promised to support Corry until the seat was again required for his own family, Enniskillen pressured him to withdraw and informed his irate father that his non-residence and pro-Catholic views made his candidacy in such a Protestant county unacceptable.4 Declaring that his motto would be, ‘the constitution, the whole constitution and nothing but the constitution’, Cole was returned unopposed as an anti-reformer.5 His uncle Sir Lowry wrote to Enniskillen from the Cape, where he was governor, that

I cannot say how it gratifies me to hear so good an account of Cole. The manner [in which] he has been returned for the county must be very flattering to you. I was glad to hear he likes home - Ireland never wanted resident proprietors more than she appears to do at present.6

Belmore continued to resent Cole’s success, but nothing came of Corry’s contemplated future opposition to him.7

Cole voted against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, at least five times to adjourn proceedings on it, 12 July, for using the 1831 census to determine the disfranchisement schedules, 19 July, and to postpone consideration of the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July 1831. He denied Daniel O’Connell’s allegation of impropriety in the conduct of yeomanry officers and magistrates at a recent Orange march in Enniskillen, 18 July. Later that year he presented the borough with portraits of William and Mary, and gave his interest in the Dublin by-election to the anti-reformers Frederick Shaw* and Lord Ingestre*.8 He divided against issuing a new writ for Liverpool, 5 Sept. 1831, and for the disfranchisement bill, 23 May 1832. He was in the minority for an inquiry into how far the Sugar Refinery Act could be renewed with safety to the West India interest, 12 Sept., and divided against the Maynooth grant, 26 Sept. 1831. He voted against the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept. He divided against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He moved a resolution condemning the proposed disbandment of the Irish yeomanry at the Fermanagh Protestant meeting, 25 Jan., and presented numerous petitions against the ministerial plan for national education in Ireland that session.9 He voted for Waldo Sibthorp’s amendment to the reform bill relating to Lincoln freeholders, 23 Mar., and against Crampton’s amendment to the Irish arrears of tithes bill, 9 Apr. He divided against the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and for preserving the voting rights of Irish freemen, 2 July. He voted against the Irish party processions bill, 25 June, and defended the right of the Orange Lodge to meet in Fermanagh, 9 July. His only other known vote that session was with opposition against the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July. An active Orangeman, he was again elected for Fermanagh as a Conservative at the general election of 1832.10 A collector of fossil fish, he continued to represent his native county until he inherited his father’s titles and estates in March 1840.11 The imperial grand master of the Orange Order, he died at Florence Court in November 1886.12 He was succeeded as 4th earl of Enniskillen by his second son Lowry Egerton (1845-1924), an army officer, who was Conservative Member for Enniskillen, 1880-5.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell


  • 1. Hist. Irish Parl. iii. 451-4, 457-8.
  • 2. Impartial Reporter, 17, 24, 31 Jan.; Enniskillen Chron. 7 Feb. 1828; H. Senior, Orangeism in Ireland and Britain, 225, 236-7.
  • 3. Enniskillen Chron. 19 Aug. 1830.
  • 4. PRO NI, Belmore mss D3007/H/7/19; 14/4, 6, 21, 23, 26.
  • 5. Enniskillen Chron. 12, 19 May 1831.
  • 6. Mems. of Sir Lowry Cole ed. M.L. Cole and S. Gwynn, 249-50.
  • 7. Belmore mss D3007/H/7/20-22.
  • 8. Enniskillen Chron. 8, 22 Sept. 1831.
  • 9. Ibid. 26 Jan., 2 Feb. 1832.
  • 10. Ibid. 20 Dec. 1832; R.B. O’Brien, Thomas Drummond, 155.
  • 11. Systematic and Stratigraphical Cat. of Fossil Fish in Cabinets of Lord Cole and Sir P.G. Egerton (1837).
  • 12. The Times, 13 Nov.; Belfast News Letter, 13 Nov. 1886; Ann. Reg. (1886), Chron. p. 167.