KING, Hon. Henry (1776-1839).

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



4 Dec. 1822 - 1831

Family and Education

b. 4 July 1776, 4th s. of Robert King, MP [I], 2nd earl of Kingston [I] (d. 1799), and Caroline, da. and h. of Richard Fitzgerald, MP [I], of Mount Ophaly, co. Kildare. educ. Eton 1785-9; Harrow 1789-93; Exeter, Oxf. 1794. m. (1) 9 Jan. 1802, Mary (d. 26 May 1821), da. of Hon. and Very Rev. John Hewitt, dean of Cloyne, 3s. 4da.; (2) 28 Feb. 1832, Catherine, da. of Rev. Edward Philipps, wid. of J. Richardson, s.p. KCB 28 Mar. 1835. d. 25 Nov. 1839.

Offices Held

Ensign 47 Ft. 1794, lt. 1795; capt. 56 Ft. 1796; capt. 1 Life Gds. 1799; capt. 43 Ft. 1802; maj. 5 Ft. 1804, lt.-col. 1809, col. 1814; maj.-gen. 1825; col. 1 W.I. Regt. 1834; lt.-gen. 1838.

Groom of bedchamber Jan. 1817-Feb. 1830.


King’s father sat in the Irish Parliament for Boyle, 1776-83, and county Cork, 1783-90, 1791-97, before succeeding as 2nd earl of Kingston in 1797.1 King was educated in England and entered the army on 7 Feb. 1794. After matriculating at Oxford that November he served ‘with credit’ in the Bahamas and at St. Domingo, where he obtained his captaincy. On the Helder expedition of September 1799 he was ‘severely wounded’ by musket balls in both legs, and although he managed to return to active service and ‘remained a man of soldier-like gait and commanding presence’, his injuries plagued him for life and were declared ‘fully equal to the loss of a limb’ by an army medical board, 21 May 1816. Ship-wrecked and taken prisoner by the Dutch on his way to Hanover in December 1805, he was subsequently exchanged, and in July 1807 commanded a wing in the attack on Buenos Aires, in which he was wounded in the left arm. He served with distinction in the Peninsula at Busaco and Salamanca, but by 1812 his legs had ‘assumed so angry an appearance, that his medical attendants, apprehensive of a necessity for amputation, insisted on his quitting’. He resumed command of the 2nd battalion of the 5th Foot on its return to England in 1813 and, following the disbandment of his battalion in 1816, was appointed groom of the bedchamber to the prince regent the following year.2

In 1822 King started for a vacancy in county Sligo at the prompting of his elder brothers George, who had succeeded as 3rd earl of Kingston in 1799 and owned property there, and Robert, 1st Viscount Lorton. The local opposition complained that as Kingston’s ‘protegé brother’ he would ‘vote on political questions by the dictation of his lordship’, and warned against electing a non-resident at the behest of ‘two lordly brothers’ and the ‘aggrandizement of a proud family, whose head is without principle’.3 Attempts by Charles King O’Hara, son of the late Member and an ‘old friend’ of Lorton, to avert a contest came to nothing.4 At the nomination King dismissed the charges of non-residence by explaining that ‘from a boy’ it had been his profession to ‘fight your enemies in distant lands’ and ‘bleed in the service of my country’, which had prevented him from ‘having a home’. After a seven-day contest he was returned amid complaints of intimidation and interference by Kingston, who allegedly ‘induced’ the Catholic priests to support him. (He ‘let himself be put in by a junto of Popish priests’, a Conservative publication later recalled.) Petitions against his return came to nothing.5

A regular but mostly silent attender, King gave steady support to the Liverpool ministry.6 He voted against inquiry into the parliamentary franchise, 20 Feb., and reform of the Scottish representation, 2 June 1823, and of the representation of Edinburgh, 26 Feb. 1824, 13 Apr. 1826. He was in the majority for the grant for Irish churches and glebe houses, 11 Apr. 1823. He divided against repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. Commenting on ‘why he, a mere tyro in the House’, had risen to second Fowell Buxton’s motion for inquiry into the capture in 1814 of the ship Requin by one Ogilvie, an army commissary, he explained that he had known the individual concerned for over 25 years and had ‘served with him in the Peninsula’, 2 July 1823. He presented a petition against the Irish tithes bill, 15 Apr. 1824.7 He voted against condemnation of the trial in Demerara of the Methodist missionary John Smith, 11 June, and for the Irish insurrection bill, 14 June 1824. He voted for suppression of the Catholic Association, 15, 25 Feb. 1825. He was one of the Members who, having ‘attended last session’, ministers ‘thought it impossible to omit’ from the select committee on the state of Ireland, 17 Feb.8 He divided against repeal of the usury laws that day. He voted against Catholic claims, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May. He was listed as having divided for the duke of Cumberland’s annuity bill, 2, 10 June, but against it, 6 June 1825. He voted against Denman’s motion condemning the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar. 1826.

At the 1826 general election King, having ‘amply proved himself’ to his former opponents, was returned unopposed.9 He presented a petition against Catholic claims, 5 Mar. 1827, and voted thus next day.10 He and his colleague Cooper introduced a bill to relieve persons from unlawful distresses for rent in Ireland, 8 Mar., which received royal assent, 2 July (7 & 8 Geo. IV. c. 69). He divided for the duke of Clarence’s annuity, 17 Mar. He voted against the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May 1827. Affirming his ‘firm and conscientious attachment to the principles of the constitution in church and state’, on 28 Jan. 1828 he wrote to congratulate Peel, the home secretary, on the formation of the Wellington ministry, which he hoped would ‘fully guarantee the blessings of civil and religious liberty in the true acceptance of the terms’:

I am no bigot, nor can I assume to arrogate to myself the appellation of ‘Saint’, though I believe I have already been canonized by the Association, at least that assembly seem inclined to confer on me the distinctive consequences of sanctity, ‘proscription and persecution’. I trust ... government will shield me, and others similarly circumstanced, from eventual martyrdom. I wish all ... cared as little for the malevolence of Papist agitators as myself, as I shall never shrink from giving my humble support in or out of Parliament to the principles I profess, under any circumstances of personal hazard or threatened hostility ... Although I have long suffered from severe and repeated attacks of illness, I shall be in my place in the House.11

Admitting that he was ‘no practised debator’, 6 Feb., he complained that he had been ‘denounced by an illegal Association’ as an ‘enemy of my country’, but said he would ‘never be intimidated by any menace from any body ... to give my vote contrary to my conscience’. He brought up constituency petitions with which he ‘totally differed’ in support of Catholic relief that day, and 12, 14 Feb. He voted against repeal of the Test Acts, 28 Feb. Next month Lorton sought to dispel rumours ‘industriously spreading’ in Sligo of King’s ‘intention to retire in consequence of an intended appointment for him on a foreign station’. ‘There is no foundation whatever for such a report, nor any probability of his going abroad’, he informed O’Hara, 25 Mar.12 King presented petitions against Catholic relief, 25, 28 Apr., and voted thus, 12 May 1828. Later that month he told O’Hara of his ‘regret’ at the Commons majority for the relief bill, which ‘the peers’ would ‘remedy’.13 In February 1829 he was listed by Planta, the patronage secretary, as ‘opposed’ to Catholic emancipation but likely to support securities when the principle was carried. On 11 Feb. he welcomed the bill to dissolve the Association and ‘strangle a monster’, but declared that ‘after a residence of between three and four months in Ireland’ he was ‘more determined than ever’ to oppose ‘any concession’. He was a regular presenter of hostile petitions, voted steadily against emancipation, 6, 18, 23, 27, 30 Mar., and was in the minority of 16 to raise the new minimum Irish county freehold qualification from £10 to £20, 27 Mar. (The ‘Hon. King’ listed in the minority for Daniel O’Connell to be allowed to take his seat unhindered, 18 May, was surely either Robert Edward or Robert Henry King.) In October 1829 the Ultra Commons leader Sir Richard Vyvyan numbered him among the ‘Tories strongly opposed to the present government’. He was in the minority for Knatchbull’s amendment to the address, 4 Feb., following which Wellington informed George IV that he was ‘concerned’ that a member of the household had ‘voted against the address’, 7 Feb. 1830.14 Next day Lord Ellenborough recorded that he had been ‘turned out by the king himself; the duke having only mentioned the fact’, but confirmation of his dismissal from Sir Frederick Watson, master of the household, did not reach Lord Winchester, groom of the stole, until 11 Feb.15 That day King was in the majority against the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham. Next day Peel complained to Wellington that King had not been ‘informed of his dismissal’ but had ‘read about it in the newspapers’, and regretted his removal as ‘he supported the government on the previous night and would do so again’. Orders to confirm his dismissal went out that day, when he voted with opposition to condemn the filling of the vacant navy treasurership.16 ‘He became a sacrifice to political expediency and a sense of duty superior to personal interests, being dismissed from his place ... for his conscientious votes’, it was later remarked.17 On 19 Apr. King, ‘having reason to think that an opposition is in contemplation in consequence of my firm and devoted attachment to the constitution as it was’, applied to O’Hara for support in the event of a dissolution, but was told that his ‘non-residing alone’ would preclude it.18 He was granted leave from the Rye election committee on account of ill health, 6 May, and again, 10 May, when he was excused further attendance after his physician testified that he was ‘now so ill as to be unable to attend for three of four days’. He may have been the King listed in the minority for repeal of the Irish coal duties, 13 May 1830.

At the 1830 general election King offered again, claiming to be ‘divested of all party bias’. Pressed at the nomination about his beliefs, he explained that he had opposed emancipation ‘on principle alone’ but now ‘bowed to that alteration’, and promised to oppose ‘oppressive legislation’ and ‘uphold the liberty of the press’, even though he had ‘been taunted as the old general and the lame old pensioner’ by the Sligo Observer. ‘Although I am no professed orator’, he added, ‘I have made some speeches’. After a three-day contest he was returned in second place.19 He was listed by the Wellington ministry as one of the 25 ‘violent Ultras’ and he voted against them in the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented petitions for the abolition of slavery, 18 Nov. 1830, 28 Feb. 1831. He challenged a petition from county Roscommon for repeal of the Union and argued that the Protestants of Ireland were ‘almost universally in favour of a continuance of the connection’, 14 Feb. 1831. He brought up a petition from Sligo borough for parliamentary reform, 28 Feb., and voted for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar. ‘King, who is not bound up with the rotten-borough system, has given his cordial adhesion to the reform bill, and thus neutralizes ... his colleague’, observed The Times.20 He paired against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he stood as a reformer, ‘devoted’ to the ‘preservation of our established institutions’. (Pressed on the hustings, however, he admitted that he ‘considered the qualification for voters too low’.) ‘Refused assistance’ by his brother Lorton, the local independents rallied to his support, but owing to ‘the opening of an old wound’ he was unable to attend and was proposed in absentia. After a two-day contest he was defeated by two anti-reformers, to the consternation of the Dublin Evening Post.21 He did not stand again.

King was appointed colonel of the 1st West India Regiment in 1834, awarded the KCB the following year and promoted to lieutenant-general at the coronation brevet of 1838. He died at Grove Lodge, near Windsor, in November 1839, ‘shattered by wounds that for 40 years preyed on his health without impairing his spirit’, and attended by the same physician who had seen him ‘struck to the earth on the sand-hills of Holland, crippled to all appearance for life, with grievous wounds, of which he bore the deeply entrenched scars to his grave’.22 By his will, dated 29 Nov. 1838 and proved under £12,000, his first wife’s ‘fortune’ of 3,000 Irish pounds and the £5,000 annuity ‘charged upon the family estates’ which had been left to him by his father was divided among the seven children of his first marriage. His second wife received an annuity of £500. The residue passed to his eldest son Henry Robert (1804-42).23

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Philip Salmon


  • 1. Hist. Irish Parl. v. 31-32.
  • 2. R.D. King-Harman, The Kings, Earls of Kingston, 116-21; United Service Jnl. (1840), ii. 519-29.
  • 3. NLI, O’Hara mss 20331 (2), Lorton to O’Hara, 20 Sept.; 20316, Irwin to O’Hara, 30 Sept., Gethin to same, 1 Nov. 1822.
  • 4. Ibid. 20331 (2), King to O’Hara, 13, 14 Nov. 1822.
  • 5. Roscommon and Leitrim Gazette, 30 Nov. 1822; The Times, 12 Feb. 1823; PRO NI, Rossmore mss T2929/3/1, Westenra to Rossmore, 12 June 1824; Portraits of Eminent Conservatives ed. H. Ryall (ser. 2), 2.
  • 6. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 471.
  • 7. The Times, 16 Apr. 1824.
  • 8. Add. 40373, f. 187.
  • 9. Roscommon and Leitrim Gazette, 17, 24 June 1826.
  • 10. The Times, 6 Mar. 1827.
  • 11. Add. 40395, f. 152.
  • 12. O’Hara mss 20331(2).
  • 13. Ibid. King to O’Hara, 26 May 1828.
  • 14. Wellington mss WP1/1098/12.
  • 15. Ellenborough Diary ii. 188; Wellington mss WP1/1094/31.
  • 16. Wellington mss WP1/1094/15; 1098/33.
  • 17. United Service Jnl. (1840), ii. 528.
  • 18. O’Hara mss 20308 (7), King to O’Hara with reply, 19 Apr. 1830.
  • 19. Sligo Jnl. 29 July, 20 Aug. 1830.
  • 20. The Times, 23 Apr. 1831.
  • 21. Sligo Jnl. 6, 20 May; Dublin Evening Post, 21 May 1831.
  • 22. Gent. Mag. (1840), i. 89-90; United Service Jnl. (1840), ii. 529.
  • 23. PROB 11/1923/107; IR26/1553/35.