Bernal, Ralph (DNB00)

BERNAL, RALPH (d. 1864), politician and art collector, was sprung from a race of Jewish descent and Spanish origin. He was entered at Christ's College, Cambridge, where he took his degrees of B.A. and M.A. in 1806 and 1809 respectively. In 1810 he was called to the bar as a member of Lincoln's Inn, but he inherited a large property in the West Indies, and preferred a parliamentary to a legal life. For thirty-four years (1818-62) he had a seat in the House of Commons, and during that period spent 66,000l. in election contests. He represented the city of Lincoln from 1818 to 1820, and Rochester from 1820 to 1841. In the latter year he contested the constituency of Weymouth, and was seated on petition. After representing that borough from 1841 to 1847 he returned to Rochester, and continued to sit for it until he retired from political life in 1862. Throughout his parliamentary career he was prominent in the ranks of the whigs, and from about 1830 to 1860 he acted as chairman of committees. His speech in the house (19 May 1826) on the slave-trade, on appeal for delay on behalf of the West Indian interest, was printed as a pamphlet. Several of his contributions appeared in the Annuals and Keepsakes of the day, and his inaugural address, as president of the British Archæological Society in 1863, on some antiquities in Rochester and on the Medway, is in the ninth volume of its 'Journal,' pp. 201-1 4. But it was as an art collector in glass, plate, china, and miniatures, that he was best known. On his death an attempt was made to secure his collections for the nation, but it failed, and they were sold in 1866. Two catalogues of his works of art, with a few introductory lines by J. R. Planché, in eulogy of Bernal's taste and knowledge, were issued. There were in all 4,294 lots, and the sale realised nearly 71,000l. Bernal died at Eaton Square on 26 Aug. 1864. He was twice married and had issue by each wife. His first wife, Anne Elizabeth, only daughter of Richard Samuel White, of New Ormond Street, London, whom he married on 10 April 1806, died at Bryanston Square, London, on 10 July 1823, from her clothes catching fire when she was weak through a confinement. His second wife was a daughter of Dr. Henry White, R.N., the surgeon of Chatham dockyard.

[Bagenal's Life of R. Bernal Osborne; Gent. Mag. 1823, pt. ii. 92. 1854. pt. ii. 628; Return of Members of Parliament; Picciotto's Anglo-Jewish History, 157-8; Sir Henry Cole's Biography, 1885, i. 289-90.]

W. P. C.