William Henry Gregory
Sir William Henry Gregory PC (Ire) (12 July 1817 – 6 March 1892) was an Anglo-Irish writer and politician, who is now less remembered than his wife Augusta, Lady Gregory, the literary hostess and folklorist.
The only child of Robert Gregory and Elizabeth O'Hara Gregory, William Gregory was born at the Castle, in Dublin. From 1830 to 1835 he attended Harrow, where he was an award-winning student. He entered Christ Church, Oxford in 1836, but left three years later without receiving a degree.
In 1842 Gregory was elected to the British House of Commons in a by-election as a Conservative member for Dublin. Among his close associates were Sir Robert Peel, Lord Lincoln and Lord George Bentinck, but he was also friendly with Daniel O'Connell and sympathetic to Catholic interests. He was responsible for the "Gregory Clause" of the relief laws passed in response to the Irish potato famine.
After Gregory failed to retain his seat in the general election of 1847 he took up residence on the family estate at Coole Park in County Galway. He was appointed High Sheriff of County Galway in 1849. He had inherited a large fortune, mainly derived from the earnings of his grandfather in the East India Company, but he lost a large part of it at the racetrack.
Gregory travelled to Egypt in 1855 and wrote a two-volume work on his travels, Egypt in 1855 and 1856, and Tunis in 1857 and 1858, published privately in London in 1859.
In 1859 he travelled through North America, befriending several southern Congressmen, including James Murray Mason of Virginia and William Porcher Miles of South Carolina. Throughout the American Civil War Gregory was an avid supporter of the Confederacy. He also argued that Britain should pursue a strong anti-Turkish policy, and supported the cession of the Ionian Islands and Crete to Greece. In domestic affairs Gregory was active in defending the Roman Catholic clergy in Ireland and working for land reform. His interest in the arts led to a long association with the British Museum.
On 10 July 1871 Gregory was made a member of the Privy Council of Ireland and in the following year he was appointed Governor of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). In 1875 he played host to the Prince of Wales and was presented with the Order of St. Michael and St. George.
Gregory retired from office in 1877 and returned to England via Australia. He spent most of the following years travelling. From October 1881 to April 1882 he toured Egypt and reported on the revolution there.He also visited Ceylon in 1884 and 1885.
Gregory was addicted to horse racing, which led to financial difficulties throughout his life. He remained fond of classical languages and literature, and always took an interest in artistic affairs.
Gregory married twice. On 11 January 1872 he married Elizabeth Temple Bowdoin, widow of James Temple Bowdoin and daughter of Sir William Clay. She died on 28 June 1873. On 4 March 1880 Gregory married Augusta Persse, later to become famous as Lady Gregory. Their only child, William Robert Gregory, was born on 20 May 1881.
Gregory died of respiratory failure in London on 6 March 1892. His autobiography was edited and published by Lady Gregory in 1894. He bequeathed the important painting Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Diego Velázquez, along with three other works including a Jan Steen, to the National Gallery, London of which he had been a Trustee from 1867 onwards.
- Walford, Edward (1919). The County Families of the United Kingdom. London: Robert Spottiswoode, Ballantyne & Co. Ltd.
- Sir William Gregory, Joseph M. Hone, Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 44, No. 175 (Autumn, 1955), pp. 337–341, Irish Province of the Society of Jesus, JSTOR
- Cooke, Colman M. (1979/1980), "Lady Gregory's Journals, Volume One, Books One to Twenty Nine, 10 October 1916–24 February 1925 by Daniel J. Murphy (book review)", Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society 37: 97–101
- Thomas Hay Sweet Escott, Club Makers and Club Members (1913), pp. 329–333
- National Gallery
- Brian Jenkins, Sir William Gregory of Coole. Gerald's Cross, 1986
- Lady Gregory, 70 Years 1852–1922. Gerard's Cross, 1973.
- Dictionary of National Biography, pp. 355–57.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by William Henry Gregory
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
John Beattie West
|Member of Parliament for Dublin City
1842 – 1847
With: Edward Grogan
Thomas Arthur Bellew
|Member of Parliament for County Galway
With: Thomas Burke 1857–1865
Lord Dunkellin 1865–1867
Viscount Burke 1867–1871
Mitchell Henry 1871–1872
John Philip Nolan
Henry Turner Irving, acting
|Governor of Ceylon
James Robert Longdon