Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the corporation

Number of voters:



(1821): 8,035


21 Mar. 1801 HON. FRANCIS ALDBOROUGH PRITTIE vice Prittie, become a peer of Ireland
30 July 1801 CHARLES MONTAGU ORMSBY vice Prittie, vacated his seat
9 June 1806 MICHAEL SYMES vice Ormsby, appointed to office

Main Article

Just before the Union, Lord Charleville bought control of this close corporation borough, in which he owned no other property, from William Burton*1 and returned his step-brothers, the Pritties, before offering the seat to government unconditionally in June 1801. Chief Secretary Abbot accepted the offer and nominated Ormsby to the seat. Meanwhile, Charleville applied to be an Irish representative peer and the Irish administration was so impressed with his services, including the return for Carlow, that it secured him the honour, even though it meant finding an alternative reward for a particular candidate recommended by the King.2 The arrangement was continued in 1802, and when Ormsby vacated, Symes was returned, most probably at the suggestion of Lord Wellesley.

Before the election of 1806, Chief Secretary Elliot wrote to Charleville in order to secure the return for government. Kept waiting for a reply, Elliot suspected that a negotiation which the patron had opened with Lord Hardwicke was still pending. His fears proved correct; he wrote to Lord Grenville: ‘I enclose Lord Charleville’s answer relative to Carlow. He states that he imagines the gentleman to whom he has disposed of the seat is friendly to administration, but I suspect he has sold it to Lord Hardwicke’s friend.’ This ‘friend’ proved to be the Canningite Robinson and the terms suggested by the patron were £3,000 for the duration, or £2,000 down and £500 every session exceeding three.3

In 1807 Chief Secretary Wellesley was at first unable to discover whether Hardwicke could again return Robinson under his agreement with Charleville. On 28 Apr. he asked Charles Long to induce Lord Hawkesbury to do something about the borough, and next day applied to his brother Henry for a candidate in case Carlow became available. Long informed Wellesley on 11 May that he was uncertain of the situation, but that Robinson had been returned for Ripon. Thereupon Wellesley took the initiative and on 17 May wrote to Charleville suggesting that if he had made no private arrangement, he would himself like to recommend to the seat. Charleville had meanwhile written to Long offering the seat to government at £4,500, thus underlining the fact that the agreement with Hardwicke had terminated. The arrival of this letter was delayed until the 19th, when Long wrote hastily to the Castle, hoping that the election of a nominee of Wellesley’s had not taken place and enclosing the name of Strahan as the government candidate. This letter arrived in time and Strahan was returned. As it happened, Wellesley had contemplated returning Long himself, a move the latter could not approve as it would have appeared that he had influenced Charleville not to accommodate his friend Hardwicke for his own benefit.4

When Peel discussed the Irish returns with Lord Liverpool in 1812, he mentioned that Carlow could be offered free of expense, but that Charleville wanted a British peerage. Liverpool could hold out no hope of this in advance. Despite this, Charleville offered the return to the lord lieutenant. The latter was delighted and nominated Falkiner, although he warned Charleville: ‘It may however happen that a parliamentary speaker should come in instead of Falkiner. The person [to whom] I allude cannot now become a Member.’

The temporary nature of this arrangement must have been a considerable relief to the Castle, for Falkiner’s non-attendance at Westminster became a matter for concern. The Duke of Richmond reassured Peel a year later that ‘he is bound to resign his seat after having held it a year if I require it’. Peel was gratified and urged Richmond to notify Falkiner that his claims upon Carlow were at an end, that government required the services of a speaker and a professional man and that Falkiner’s continuance in Parliament should be deemed ‘an obligation conferred upon him which may be withdrawn at any moment’.5 Government did not replace Falkiner, although there was no improvement in his parliamentary record: presumably there was no ready alternative.

Immediately before the election of 1818, a deputation of Carlow residents waited on Charleville and his burgesses to request that the due number of burgesses be elected, as under the charter of incorporation. Charleville refused, and despite the threat of further action proceeded to secure the election of another government nominee.6

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. Life of Grattan, v. 188; Report on Mun. Corp. [I], H.C. 1835, xxvii, app. pt. 1, p. 167.
  • 2. PRO 30/9/1/1/3, Marsden to Watson, 19, 27 June 1801; Add. 33114, ff. 1, 12; 35771, ff. 35, 39; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 2510, 2515.
  • 3. HMC Fortescue, viii. 399, 404; Add. 35646, f. 26.
  • 4. Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 17, 19, 27, 66; Add. 38359, f. 209; Wellington mss, Long to Wellesley, 11, 21, 24 May, Wellesley to Charleville, 17 May 1807.
  • 5. Add. 40181, f. 15; 40186, f. 190; 40280, ff. 52-54; NLI, Richmond mss 60/305 74/1776.
  • 6. Dublin Corresp. 1 July 1818.