John Ponsonby, 1st Viscount Ponsonby

John Ponsonby, 1st Viscount Ponsonby, GCB (c. 1770 – 22 February 1855) was a longtime British diplomat and politician. John Ponsonby was considered an exceptionally handsome man – reportedly he was almost lynched as an aristocrat in a Paris street by a revolutionary mob in the 1790s but saved by the intervention of a mob of women who saved him because he was so pretty.[1]

Lord Ponsonby in a painting by John Frederick Lewis, 1841.

Political careerEdit

Ponsonby, born about 1770, was eldest son of William Ponsonby, 1st Baron Ponsonby, and Louisa Molesworth, and brother of Major-General Sir William Ponsonby. He served as a Member of Parliament (MP) in the Irish House of Commons for Tallow between 1793 and 1797. Elected in 1798 for both Banagher and Dungarvan, he chose to sit for the latter from 1798 to the Act of Union in 1800/01. He then represented Galway Borough in the United Kingdom House of Commons until 1802.

Diplomatic careerEdit

On the death of his father on 5 November 1806, Ponsonby succeeded him as Baron Ponsonby, and for some time held an appointment in the Ionian Islands. On 28 February 1826, he went to Buenos Aires as envoy-extraordinary and minister-plenipotentiary until 1828, and moved then to Rio de Janeiro in the same capacity. An exceptionally handsome man, he was sent, it was reported,[by whom?] to South America by George Canning to please King George IV, who was envious of the attention paid him by Lady Conyngham. Once there he greatly fostered the independence of Uruguay as a buffer state between Argentina and Brazil, to the benefit of British commerce and overall peace. In December 1830 he was entrusted with a special mission to Belgium,[2] in connection with the candidature of Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg to the Belgian throne, and remained in Brussels until Leopold was elected king on 4 June 1831. His dealings in this matter were adversely criticised in The Guet-à-Pens Diplomacy, or Lord Ponsonby at Brussels, … London, 1831,[3] but the Prime Minister, Lord Grey, eulogised him in the House of Lords on 25 June 1831. Thus, as a diplomat, he was sent twice by the British Empire to promote the instauration of buffer states to protect its interests, Uruguay and Belgium, both of which survive to this very day, still deeply similar to their bigger neighbours. In addition to this, Ponsonby served as envoy to Naples from 8 June to 9 November 1832, as ambassador at Constantinople from 27 November 1832 to 1841, and as ambassador at Vienna from 10 August 1846 to 31 May 1850.

Later lifeEdit

Through Lord Grey, who had married his sister Mary Elizabeth, he had great influence, but his conduct as an ambassador sometimes caused official embarrassment, notably when he accompanied the emperor to Innsbruck in 1848.[4] He was a keen diplomat of the "old school", a shrewd observer, and a man of large views and strong will.[5] He was gazetted G.C.B. on 3 March 1834, and created Viscount Ponsonby, of Imokilly in the County of Cork, on 20 April 1839. He had previously married, on 13 January 1803, Lady Frances Villiers, seventh daughter of George Villiers, 4th Earl of Jersey. She died at 62 Chester Square, London, on 14 April 1866, having had no issue. Ponsonby published "Private Letters on the Eastern Question, written at the date thereon," Brighton, 1854, and died at Brighton on 21 February 1855. The viscountcy thereupon became extinct, but the barony devolved on his nephew William, son of Sir William Ponsonby.


  1. ^ "PONSONBY, John Brabazon (c.1770-1855), of Imokilly, co. Cork". The History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 17 December 2021.
  2. ^ Howard Rosario Marraro (1951). Diplomatic Relations Between the United States and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies: Instructions and Despatches, 1816-1861. S.F. Vanni. p. 368.
  3. ^ The Guet-à Pens Diplomacy; Or Lord Ponsonby at Brussels. From the French of the Abbe van Geel. Pierre Corneille Van Geel. London: Rooke and Vorty. 1831. pp. 3–4. Retrieved 15 June 2019. [...] I have deemed it necessary to publish the base intrigues which have been practised in Belgium, by bthe emissary, and at the same time brother-in-law, of Lord Grey; intrigues, by the aid of which, they have succeeded in causing Prince Leopold of Saxe Coburg to be elected as King of Belgium, although it is perfectly true to state, that no one in Belgium wished for him.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  4. ^ Markus Mosslang; Torsten Riotte; Hagen Schulze (9 November 2006). British Envoys to Germany 1816-1866: Volume 3: 1848-1850. Cambridge University Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-521-87252-2.
  5. ^ LOFTUS, Diplomatic Reminiscences, 1892, i. 129–30.
  • Mosley, Charles (editor). (1999). Burke's Peerage & Baronetage, 106th edition.


Parliament of Ireland
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Tallow
With: John Egan
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Banagher
With: John Metge 1797–1798
Arthur Dawson 1798
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Dungarvan
With: Marcus Beresford 1798
Edward Lee 1798–1801
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Galway Borough
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by British Minister at Buenos Aires
Succeeded byas Chargé d'Affaires
Preceded by British Minister to Brazil
Succeeded by
Preceded by British Minister at Naples
Succeeded by
No diplomatic relations
Title last held by
Stratford Canning
British Ambassador to the Sublime Porte
Succeeded by
Preceded by British Ambassador to Austria
Succeeded by
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Ponsonby
Preceded by Baron Ponsonby
Succeeded by

External linksEdit