Thomas Coningsby, 1st Earl Coningsby

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When George I acceded to the throne, Coningsby resumed his old position in public life, and enjoyed court favour. He was included in the select committee of twenty-one appointed to inquire into the negotiations for the treaty of Utrecht, and, according to Prior, was one of the three most inquisitive members of that body.

As a result of their investigations, the impeachment of Bolingbroke was moved by Robert Walpole and that of Harley by Coningsby – a family feud had long existed between the two Herefordshire families of Harley and Coningsby – and Ormonde's by Stanhope. Coningsby was a staunch advocate of prosecuting Harley for High Treason, and carried news of the Commons' resolution to the House of Lords where he forcefully laid out the charges against Harley. [4]

Two years later Harley was unanimously discharged, but this concord of opinion was only obtained by Coningsby and some others withdrawing from the proceedings. He was well rewarded for his zeal on behalf of the Hanoverian succession. He became Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire in November 1714, and Lord Lieutenant of Radnorshire in the following month. [1]

Coningsby was granted a barony in the English peerage on 18 June 1716, and he was raised to a higher rank as Earl Coningsby on 30 April 1719.

In the later years of his life, Coningsby suffered many difficulties. He was a widower, without any male heir, and subject to innumerable lawsuits. For some severe reflections on Lord Harcourt, the Lord Chancellor, in connection with these legal worries, he was, as Swift notes in his diary, committed to the Tower of London on 27 February 1720. [1] Coningsby's troubles in law arose from his purchase of the manors of Leominster and Marden. After elaborate investigations, he convinced himself that the lord's rights had in many instances been trespassed upon by the copyhold tenants. He caused ejectments to be brought against many persons for being in possession of estates as freehold which he claimed to be copyhold, and as these claims were resisted by the persons in possession, his last days were embittered by constant strife. His collections concerning Marden were printed in 1722–1727 in a bulky tome, without any title page, and with pagination of great irregularity, but were never published. When his right to the Marden property was disputed, all the copies of this work but a few were destroyed. Through his sharpness of temper, he was exposed to the caustic sallies of Atterbury in the House of Lords, and to the satires of Swift and Pope in their writings. [1]

After having been in ill health for some time, Coningsby died at Hampton on 1 May 1729. and was buried at Hope-under-Dinmore church in 1729, under a marble monument, on which the child's death is depicted in striking realism. [1]

Family

Coningsby's second wife, Lady Frances Jones, and her twin sister Lady Catherine Jones by Willem Wissing, 1687 Lady Frances Lady Coningsby and Lady Catherine Jones.jpg
Coningsby's second wife, Lady Frances Jones, and her twin sister Lady Catherine Jones by Willem Wissing, 1687

Coningsby married Barbara Gorges, daughter of Ferdinando Gorges, of Eye Manor in Herefordshire, who had been a merchant in Barbados, and his wife Meliora Hilliard. The marriage licence was applied for to the vicar-general of the Archbishop of Canterbury on 18 February 1674/5, when Coningsby was described as aged about nineteen, and Barbara Gorges was stated to be about eighteen years old. Gorges, though he claimed to have made a fortune in Barbados, was generally considered to be a financial schemer who contrived to marry his eldest daughter to Coningsby to secure for himself some of the Coningsby estates. Gorges' financial scheming caused ruinous loss to his son-in-law, from which he never recovered and he eventually divorced Barbara Gorges by whom he had four daughters and three sons. His grandson by this marriage succeeded to the Irish barony, but died without issue on 18 December 1729.

His second wife, whom he married in April 1698, was Lady Frances Jones, daughter of Richard Jones, 1st Earl of Ranelagh, by whom he had one son, Richard, who died at Hampton on 2 April 1708 when two years old, choked by a cherrystone; and two daughters, Margaret and Frances. The second countess was buried at Hope-under-Dinmore on 23 February 1715, aged 42. [1]

The grant of his earldom contained a remainder for the eldest daughter of his second marriage. [5] Her issue male, John, the only child of this daughter, Margaret Newton, 2nd Countess Coningsby, by her husband Sir Michael Newton, died an infant, the victim of an accidental fall, said to have been caused through the fright of its nurse at seeing an ape, and on the mother's death in 1761 the title became extinct. Frances, the younger daughter of Lord Coningsby married Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, a well-known satirical poet, and was buried in the chapel of St. Erasmus, Westminster Abbey, in December 1781. [1]

Hampton Court Castle passed via the younger daughter Frances to his great-grandson George Capell-Coningsby, 5th Earl of Essex. [6]

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Courtney, W. P. (1887). "Coningsby, Thomas, Earl (1656?–1729)". Dictionary of National Biography Vol. XII. Smith, Elder & Co. Retrieved 23 October 2007.The first edition of this text is available at Wikisource:  "Coningsby, Thomas (1656?–1729)"  . Dictionary of National Biography . London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  2. Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "L" (part 2)
  3. The History of Parliament, http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1690-1715/member/coningsby-thomas-1657-1729
  4. Rogers p.99-100
  5. George Edward Cokayne, ed. Vicary Gibbs and H. Arthur Doubleday, The Complete Peerage , volume III (London, 1913) pages 396–397
  6. Historic England. "Hampton Court (1403731)". National Heritage List for England . Retrieved 13 October 2018.

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References

Thomas Coningsby, 1st Earl Coningsby
PC
Member of the English Parliament
for Leominster
In office
1679–1707
Servingwith
Parliament of England
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Leominster
1679–1707
With: John Dutton Colt 1679–1685, 1689–1698, 1701
Robert Cornewall 1685–1689
Edward Harley 1698–1701, 1701–1707
Succeeded by
Parliament of Great Britain
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Parliament of England
Member of Parliament for Leominster
1707–1710
With: Edward Harley
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Leominster
1715–1717
With: Edward Harley
Succeeded by
Honorary titles
Preceded by Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire
1714–1721
Succeeded by
Preceded by Custos Rotulorum of Radnorshire
1714–1721
Preceded by Lord Lieutenant of Radnorshire
1715–1721
Peerage of Great Britain
New creation Earl Coningsby
1719–1729
Succeeded by
Baron Coningsby
1716–1729
Peerage of Ireland
New creation Baron Coningsby
1692–1729
Richard Coningsby