HOWARD, Ralph (?1802-1873), of Bushy Park, co. Wicklow

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



22 July 1829 - 1847
27 Apr. 1848 - 1852

Family and Education

b. ?1802, 1st s. of Hon. Hugh Howard, MP [I], and Catherine, da. of Rev. Robert Bligh, dean of Elphin. educ. Eton 1817; Brasenose, Oxf. 18 Dec. 1819, aged 17. m. July 1837, Charlotte Anne, da. and h. of Daniel Craufurd of Kilbirnie, Ayr, wid. of Sir James John Fraser, 3rd bt., of Ledeclune, Inverness, s.p. cr. bt. 26 July 1838; suc. fa. 1840. d. 15 Aug. 1873.

Offices Held

Col. co. Wicklow militia 1834-71.


Howard’s father, Member for his family’s borough of St. Johnstown, county Donegal, in the Irish Parliament, 1790-1800, was the fourth son of Ralph Howard, 1st Viscount Wicklow, Member for county Wicklow, 1761-76. A supporter of the Union, he was given an Irish commissionership of stamps worth £500 a year in 1796 and made postmaster-general in 1800.1 At the 1826 general election Howard proposed his brother-in-law Granville Leveson Proby* for county Wicklow, where he had sat since 1816 on the combined interest of Lords Carysfort and Fitzwilliam.2 Three years later Proby, an indifferent parliamentarian, made way for Howard with the approval of Fitzwilliam’s son Lord Milton*, who had ‘no objection whatever’ and was ‘perfectly willing to make a declaration in his favour’. He was returned unopposed.3 He voted for the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and divided with the revived Whig opposition to the Wellington ministry against the Bathurst and Dundas pensions, 26 Mar., and for abolition of the Irish viceroyalty, 11 May, and a reduction of the grant to South American missions, 7 June 1830.

At the 1830 general election Howard offered again, promising to support ministers only ‘when their measures entitled them’, and was returned unopposed.4 The ministry listed him among the ‘bad doubtfuls’, though this was later queried, and he voted against them in the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He divided for repeal of the Irish Subletting Act, 11 Nov. 1830. On 16 Jan. 1831 Robert Chaloner*, Fitzwilliam’s Wicklow agent, informed Milton that he had received a ‘petition got up by Howard’ against repeal of the Union, which ‘was very short and tolerably mild’, and which he would ‘endeavour to get well signed’.5 On 24 Mar. Howard endorsed a similar one from the governors of county Wicklow against repeal and argued for reintroduction of the Act to suppress seditious meetings, observing that even in countries admired for their ‘liberal institutions’, popular meetings could not ‘be held without the permission of the local authorities’. He presented petitions for the abolition of slavery, 13 Apr. He voted for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he offered as a reformer with the support of Fitzwilliam. It was reported that his cousin, the Tory 4th earl of Wicklow, attempted to turn him out, but he was returned unopposed.6

On 31 July 1831 he joined Brooks’s, sponsored by Lords Charlemont and Gosford. He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, against adjournment, 12 July, and gave steady support to its details, though he was in the minorities against the disfranchisement of Downton, 21 July, and for giving two Members to Stoke-on-Trent, 4 Aug. He divided with ministers on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. He voted for the reform bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He may have been the ‘young Howard’ who, according to Denis Le Marchant†, on ‘merely making an observation in no loud tone to a friend as he entered the House was so generally and distinctly heard as to be loudly called to order’ during Lord John Russell’s speech introducing the revised reform bill, 13 Dec.7 He divided for its second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, and again steadily supported its details, though he voted for an amendment to enfranchise all persons rated to the poor at £10, 3 Feb. 1832. He divided for the third reading, 22 Mar., and the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May. He voted with government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July, relations with Portugal, 9 Feb., and the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr. On 16 Apr. he criticized Smith Stanley, the Irish secretary, for suggesting that the oath taken by Catholic Members barred them from participating in debates on questions concerning the Protestant church, adding that there was a ‘great distinction to be ... between maintaining the established church, with all proportionate and decent state, and keeping up the preposterous splendour which some of its dignitaries now affect’. He voted for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and was in the minority for a tax on Irish absentee landlords to provide permanent provision for the poor, 19 June 1832.

At the 1832 general election Howard stood for county Wicklow as a Liberal and topped the poll. He was given a baronetcy by the second Melbourne ministry and sat until 1847, when he unsuccessfully contested Evesham. He came in again for county Wicklow at a by-election the following year and retired in 1852. He died in August 1873.8

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Philip Salmon


  • 1. Hist. Irish Parl. iv. 444.
  • 2. Dublin Evening Post, 22 June 1826.
  • 3. Fitzwilliam mss, Milton to Proby, 5 Apr.; Dublin Evening Post, 21, 25 July 1829.
  • 4. Dublin Evening Post, 12 Aug. 1830.
  • 5. Fitzwilliam mss.
  • 6. Hants RO, Carnarvon mss 75M91/L3, H. Howard to Lady Porchester, 12 May 1831.
  • 7. NLS mss 24762, f. 49.
  • 8. The Times, 16 Aug. 1873.