Frederick Ponsonby, 3rd Earl of Bessborough

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The Earl of Bessborough
Frederick Ponsonby, 3rd Earl of Bessborough after Sir Joshua Reynolds.jpg
Lord Bessborough by Samuel William Reynolds.
Spouse(s) Lady Henrietta Frances Spencer
Father William Ponsonby, 2nd Earl of Bessborough
Mother Lady Caroline Cavendish
Born (1758-01-24)24 January 1758
Died 3 February 1844(1844-02-03) (aged 86)

Frederick Ponsonby, 3rd Earl of Bessborough MA DCL (24 January 1758 – 3 February 1844) was a British peer.


Ponsonby was the eldest son of William Ponsonby, 2nd Earl of Bessborough, and Lady Caroline Cavendish, daughter of William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire. He succeeded to his father's titles in 1793. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, and obtained the degrees of Master of Arts and Doctor of Civil Law.

He sat in the House of Commons as member for Knaresborough from 1780 until his succession to the peerage and was a Lord of the Admiralty in 1782–83


On 27 November 1780, he had married Lady Henrietta Spencer, second daughter of John Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer. The marriage was notoriously unhappy and Bessborough began divorce proceedings in 1790 but under intense pressure from his relatives dropped them. They had four children:

Lady Bessborough died in 1821 of a chill caught while traveling abroad. Her husband outlived her by more than 20 years, dying at Canford House, Dorset in 1844.


Bessborough usually made a favourable first impression: quiet, but with "the most mild and amiable manner". On the other hand he was a notoriously bad husband, alternating between neglecting Henrietta and insulting her in public. While there were faults on both sides- she was addicted to gambling and had numerous affairs- society in general judged him to be the greater offender.


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Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Lord George Cavendish
Hon. Robert Walsingham
Member of Parliament for Knaresborough
1780 – 1793
With: Hon. Robert Walsingham
James Hare
Succeeded by
James Hare
Lord John Townshend
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by
William Ponsonby
Earl of Bessborough
Succeeded by
John Ponsonby