OGILVY, Hon. William (1793-1871), of Airlie Castle, Forfar

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



28 Mar. 1831 - 1831

Family and Education

bap. 19 Sep. 1793,1 5th but 3rd surv. s. of Walter Ogilvy of Clova (d. 1819) and Jean, da. of John Ogilvy, MD, of Balfour and Murkle; bro. of Hon. Donald Ogilvy*. unm. d. 10 Apr. 1871.

Offices Held

Ensign 52 Ft. 1811, lt. 1812; capt. Cape regt. 1815, half-pay 1817-26.


The youngest son of the self-styled 5th earl of Airlie, Ogilvy joined the navy as his father intended, but ‘an aversion to this profession caused him to give it up’ to pursue a military career, like his brothers David, John (d. 1809) and Donald.2 He fought with distinction in the major battles in the Peninsula (for which he received a medal with seven clasps) and at Waterloo, where his regiment suffered heavy casualties. After being promoted to the rank of captain he took half-pay. In 1826, when the reversal by Act of Parliament of attainders imposed in 1715 on the Jacobite 3rd earl of Airlie, and in 1745 on Lord Ogilvy, confirmed his brother David, of Cortachy Castle, as 4th earl of Airlie, Ogilvy retired from the army and resided at his family’s subsidiary seat, Airlie Castle.3 Although no public speaker, he assisted his brothers politically in Forfarshire, where Airlie became lord lieutenant in 1828, and contested the venal Perth district of burghs on their interest in January 1831, after Donald’s petition against his defeat there in 1830 had resulted in the election being voided.4 His address declared:

I have, for some considerable time, been fully satisfied of the necessity of parliamentary reform and a reform in the borough system; and in reference to these measures, I am fully prepared to go as far as will satisfy the reasonable expectations of the country. I am also fully satisfied of the imperious necessity for economy and retrenchment in every department of state, and of as extensive a reduction in taxes as is consistent with the welfare of the country.

This guaranteed him the support of Forfar, the returning burgh, where the new provost William Smith was a committed reformer, and he also, albeit by dubious means, secured the Cupar vote.5 His opponent, the Grey ministry’s lord advocate Francis Jeffrey, could depend on Perth, St. Andrews and Dundee, which had recently appealed to the Lords against its disfranchisement by the court of session. Jeffrey’s return, 13 Jan. 1831, was doubtful from the outset.6 Ogilvy’s petition against admitting the Dundee vote was delayed in transit by a blizzard, but Jeffrey’s supporters failed to secure its rejection because it arrived after the session had commenced, 10 Feb.7 He wrote optimistically to Airlie on the 18th from his London house at 31 Bury Street, St. James’s:

I have only yet twice taken my seat under the gallery, but am going down as soon as I can finish this. I do not think the ministers are at all in an enviable position, they seem absolutely afraid to allow a division of the House to take place on any question. I was there last night when Lord Chandos’s proposal to disfranchise Evesham [came on] and they agreed to his motion notwithstanding that they said it interfered with their own plan of reform.8

The rejection on 3 Mar. of Ogilvy’s plea to the Lords requesting to be admitted as a respondent in legal proceedings involving the corporation of Dundee had no direct bearing on the outcome of his petition to the Commons, where a committee belatedly appointed on the 22nd (after Jeffrey had brought in the Scottish reform bill and voted for the English measure), ruled in his favour and amended the return, 28 Mar.9 John Macpherson Grant, son of the former Sutherland Member, observed that Ogilvy ‘seemed highly pleased with his success, temporary as it most probably is, for I presume he will not be returned again for the Forfar Burghs’.10 He divided for Gascoyne’s amendment, which wrecked the English reform bill, 19 Apr. 1831, and stood down at the ensuing dissolution.11

Although mocked in the Liberal press throughout for his ‘poor speech delivery’ and as an unworthy opponent of Jeffrey, Ogilvy was unstinting in his efforts on behalf of his brothers in Forfarshire. His right to be enrolled as a freeholder when Donald was returned for Forfarshire in October 1831 was the only claim of its kind undisputed.12 He never married and died suddenly and apparently intestate in April 1871 at Loyal, the Perthshire mansion near Alyth he had built 20 years previously. He was recalled as a lifelong Conservative who had quietly assisted his brothers at elections and political meetings in Forfarshire and Perthshire.13

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. IGI (Forfar).
  • 2. Ann. Reg. (1871), Chron. p. 148.
  • 3. NAS GD16/34/375; Perthshire Courier, 22 June 1826; Bonnie House of Airlie ed. K. Thomasson, 27; LJ, lviii. 382.
  • 4. Perthshire Courier, 22, 29 July, 26 Aug.; Stirling Advertiser, 13 Aug. 1830.
  • 5. Fife Herald, 21 Oct., 11 Nov.; Dundee Perth and Cupar Advertiser, 18, 25 Nov., 23, 30 Dec.; Stair mss (History of Parliament Aspinall transcripts), J.A. Murray to Sir J. Dalrymple, 22 Dec. 1830.
  • 6. Perthshire Courier, 30 Dec. 1830, 13, 20 Jan. 1831; The Times, 15, 16 Dec. 1830, 13 Jan., 1 Feb., 28 Mar. 1831.
  • 7. St. Deiniol’s Lib. Glynne-Gladstone mss 197, T. to J. Gladstone, 11 Feb. 1831.
  • 8. NAS GD16/34/387/8/3.
  • 9. LJ, lxiii. 282, 301; Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser, 24, 31 Mar.; The Times, 28, 29 Mar. 1831.
  • 10. Macpherson Grant mss 361.
  • 11. Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser, 5 May 1831.
  • 12. NAS GD224/525/18/2; 580/3/1/19; Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser, 6, 13 Oct. 1831.
  • 13. Perthshire Courier, 18 Apr. 1871.