1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bessborough, Earls of

BESSBOROUGH, EARLS OF. The Ponsonby family, who have contributed many conspicuous men to Irish and English public life, trace their descent to Sir John Ponsonby (d. 1678), of Cumberland, a Commonwealth soldier who obtained land grants in Ireland. His son William (1657–1724) was created Baron Bessborough (1721) and Viscount Duncannon (1723), and the latter’s son Brabazon was raised to the earldom of Bessborough in 1739. He was the father not only of the 2nd earl (1704–1793), but of John Ponsonby (q.v.), speaker of the Irish House of Commons. The 2nd earl was a well-known Whig politician, who held various offices of state; and his son the 3rd earl (1758–1844) was father of the 4th earl (1781–1847), first commissioner of works in 1831–1834, lord privy seal from 1835 to 1839 and lord-lieutenant of Ireland in 1846. He was succeeded by his three sons, the 5th earl (d. 1880), 6th earl (1815–1895), a famous cricketer and chairman of the Bessborough commission (1881) to inquire into the Irish land system, and 7th earl (d. 1906), and the last named by his son the 8th earl.