AGAR, Henry Welbore, 2nd Visct. Clifden [I] (1761-1836).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



28 May 1793 - 2 Feb. 1802

Family and Education

b. 22 Jan. 1761, 1st s. of James, 1st Visct. Clifden [I], by Lucia, da. of Col. John Martin of Dublin, wid. of Hon. Henry Boyle Walsingham. educ. Westminster 1770-8; Christ Church, Oxf. 1778. m. 10 Mar. 1792, Lady Caroline Spencer, da. of George, 4th Duke of Marlborough, 1s. 1da. suc. fa. as 2nd Visct. Clifden [I] 1 Jan. 1789; gt.-uncle Welbore Ellis* as 2nd Baron Mendip [GB] 2 Feb. 1802 and took surname Ellis instead of Agar 4 Feb. 1804.

Offices Held

MP [I] 1783-9; clerk of PC [I] 1785-1817.

Commdt. Gloucester horse (co. Kilkenny) 1797.


On 13 Feb. 1789 Clifden took his father’s seat in the Irish House of Lords, after six years as Member for county Kilkenny, where the family estates lay. He had ‘no interest’ in England and owed his seat at Westminster to his marriage to the Duke of Marlborough’s daughter, coming in on the duke’s interest a year after it. In Dublin he had acted with the Whig opposition; at Westminster he supported Pitt’s administration. In his only known speech, he moved the address, in favour of the prosecution of war with France, 21 Jan. 1794. On 24 Nov. 1795 he was a government teller. On 18 Feb. 1797 he wrote to Pitt announcing his departure for Ireland, where he felt he could be of more service ‘in support of the government and in defence of the country’. He added, ‘I am sorry to leave the House of Commons at such a time, but I hope and believe the want of a single vote will not be felt’. On 23 May he wrote to Charles Abbot from Dublin that he was proceeding with his cavalry corps to pacify county Kilkenny; if the French invaded, he would vacate his seat at Westminster, which might then be Abbot’s.1 He was in England to vote for Pitt’s assessed taxes, 4 Jan. 1798.

That year, so Clifden later assured Pitt, he risked his life and spent his money to suppress the Irish rebellion. His reward was to be the perpetualization of the Irish sinecure he held during pleasure; (it was commuted into £200 p.a. and abolished in his lifetime). He further claimed that ‘no man in England’ supported the Union ‘more earnestly’: in token of which he turned out three hostile Members sitting for his two Irish boroughs.2 Henceforward his days in the Commons were numbered, as he was heir to his octogenarian great-uncle Lord Mendip. On 20 May 1801 he reminded the Irish government of his wish for a sinecure for his brother Charles, an application he renewed to Pitt in 1804. On 9 Dec. 1801 he was appointed to the committee on the East India judicature. In February 1802 he succeeded to the English peerage and was disappointed of his hope of securing the Heytesbury seat for his brother.3 Later that year he visited France. In 1806, before Pitt had been a month in the grave, he decided that he had been an overrated statesman and reverted to the Whigs.4 He became a prominent advocate of Irish Catholic relief. He died 13 July 1836, ‘perhaps, the only person who had sat consecutively in four different Houses of Parliament—the two houses in Ireland and the two in England’.5

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. PRO 30/8/123, f. 153; Colchester, i. 106.
  • 2. PRO 30/8/123, f. 155.
  • 3. PRO 30/9/1, pt. 2/2, Abbot’s memo, 18 Feb. 1802; 9/9, pt. 1/4.
  • 4. Hants RO, Normanton mss, Clifden to Normanton, 19 Feb. 1806.
  • 5. Gent. Mag. (1836), ii. 321.