COLE, John Willoughby, Visct. Cole (1768-1840).

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



1801 - 22 May 1803

Family and Education

b. 23 Mar. 1768, 1st s. of William Willoughby Cole, 1st Earl of Enniskillen [I], and bro. of Galbraith Lowry Cole*. educ. R. sch. Armagh; Trinity, Dublin 1785; Grand Tour. m. 15 Oct. 1805, Lady Charlotte Paget, da. of Henry, 1st Earl of Uxbridge, 4s. 1da. suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Enniskillen [I] 22 May 1803; KP 27 Apr. 1810; cr. Baron Grinstead [UK] 11 Aug. 1815.

Offices Held

MP [I] 1790-1800; rep. peer [I] 1804-d.

Gov. and custos rot., co. Fermanagh 1803, ld. lt. 1831-d.

Capt. Glenawley inf., Ballyduff inf. 1798; col. Fermanagh militia 1803; capt. commdt. Enniskillen and Lurgandaragh inf. 1813.

Trustee, linen board [I] 1806.


Viscount Cole was described by Canning in 1794 as ‘a very good sort of young man—but very Irish’ and by Judge Day as ‘the Prince of Orange of county Fermanagh’.1 He sat on his father’s interest for the county for ten years before the Union, which he joined the Speaker’s squad in opposing, after hitherto supporting government.2 At Westminster he was reckoned a supporter of administration and in the summer of 1801 applied for an office for his uncle Arthur Cole Hamilton* of equivalent value to the one from which he had been dismissed in 1799 for his opposition to the Union.3 He appears to have first spoken on 29 Mar. 1801, to rebut Whitbread’s allegations about the severity of a court martial over which Cole had presided during the rebellion. On 2 Apr. he was made one of the Irish secret committee and on 15 Apr. denied that it was a partisan body: he disavowed party sympathies. On 8 May he was one of the former anti-Unionist Members who went away in sympathy with the ex-Irish speaker’s critique of the Union, and on 10 June he criticized and was a teller against the Irish controverted elections bill.4

Cole was short of funds and willing to sell the family borough of Enniskillen to government in 1802, when his return for the county was unopposed, of which his brother remarked, ‘His affairs required it much’. Government were prepared to do something for him and find a deanery for his brother William, but on 18 Dec. 1802 the Irish secretary admonished him ‘that he must not ask favours and vote against us on Irish questions at the same time, of the propriety of which observation he is now fully sensible’.5 On 1 Mar. 1803 he informed the under-secretary, Marsden, that he began to think the Union ‘a good thing after all’, which earned him a condescending clap on the shoulder and commendation as ‘an honest fellow’.6 He was, as colonel of militia, confident that the Irish militia could rebuff the French, so he said in debate, 16 Mar. 1803. On 22 Apr., as a member of the Ilchester election committee, he denounced the naval contractor Davison as ‘a contractor for boroughs’. On 22 May 1803 he succeeded to his father’s title and became soon afterwards a representative peer, giving a general support to successive governments. Described by Ewan Law* as ‘a very cheerful lively man’ and by his brother-in-law as ‘the best of fellows’, he earned even higher praise from Charles Philip Yorke*: ‘he is the flower of Irish nobility, of good English and Protestant blood.’7 He died 31 Mar. 1840.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: Arthur Aspinall


  • 1. Harewood mss, Canning jnl. 6 June 1794; E. B. Day, Mr Justice Day of Kerry, 263.
  • 2. HMC Fortescue, iv. 473; Cornwallis Corresp. iii. 50, 162.
  • 3. Add. 35781, f. 27; PRO 30/9/1, pt. 2/2, Cole to Abbot, 2 Sept. 1801.
  • 4. Colchester, i. 263; Add. 35713, f. 92.
  • 5. M. L. Cole and S. Gwynn, Mems. of Sir Lowry Cole, 27; Add. 35714, f. 199; Wickham mss 1/46/25, 31.
  • 6. Wickham mss 5/31, Marsden to Wickham, 1 Mar. 1803.
  • 7. PRO 30/13/17/2/31; Paget Brothers, 42; Pole Carew mss CC/L/38, Yorke to Pole Carew, 27 June 1805.