O'BRIEN, Murrough, 5th Earl of Inchiquin [I] (1726-1808), of Taplow Court, Bucks.

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



1784 - 1796
6 Nov. 1797 - 29 Dec. 1800

Family and Education

b. 1726, 1st s. of Hon. James O’Brien, 3rd s. of William, 3rd Earl of Inchiquin [I], by Mary, da. of Very Rev. William Jephson, dean of Kilmore. m. (1) 5 Mar. 1753, his cos. Lady Mary O’Brien (d. 10 May 1790), s.j. Countess of Orkney [S], da. of William O’Brien, 4th Earl of Inchiquin [I], 1da; (2) 25 July 1792, Mary, da. of John Palmer, attorney, of Great Torrington, Devon, niece and h. of Sir Joshua Reynolds, s.p. suc. fa. 1771; uncle William as 5th Earl of Inchiquin [I] 18 July 1777; KP 5 Feb. 1783; cr. Mq. of Thomond [I] 29 Dec. 1800; Baron Thomond [UK] 2 Oct. 1801.

Offices Held

Ensign, 1 Ft. Gds. 1743, capt. 1747, ret. 1756.

MP [I] 1757-68; gov. and custos rot. co. Clare 1777; PC [I] 29 Dec. 1780; trustee, linen board [I] 1784.


Inchiquin, for many years the friend and neighbour of Edmund Burke* in Buckinghamshire, had given up his initial ambition of representing that county and settled for a borough seat on the interest of Sir Thomas Dundas* to whom he acknowledged ‘very great and uncommon obligations’.1 On 26 July 1784 he joined Brooks’s Club and on 6 Mar. 1787 the Whig Club. He was an opponent of Pitt’s ministry until the outbreak of war with France, voting against him on his Russian policy, 12 Apr. 1791, 1 Mar. 1792, and being reckoned a supporter of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791. Listed a Portland Whig in December 1792, he attended Windham’s ‘third party’ meeting on 17 Feb. 1793. He then seceded from the Whig Club with Burke, 28 Feb. On 24 May, in debate, he was stung by Fox’s reference to deserters from the Whigs and reproached him for it. Again on 16 Apr. 1794 he complained of the tactics of his former friends in opposition in raising ‘cavils and quibbles’ against the war effort and stirring up ‘mischief out of doors’. These were his only known speeches after 1790.

Inchiquin’s ambitions were to ward off the effects of his own improvidence and to obtain higher rank, though he had no son. In pursuit of the first he secured in 1792 the hand of an heiress, Sir Joshua Reynold’s niece, who had ‘as many suitors as Penelope’, in a vain attempt to redeem Cliveden, which he had had to give up in 1786: a notable catch for an ‘old buck’, but he was ‘lively as a lark. No schoolboy with half such spirit ... he is reckoned a fool—a happy fool however.’ Lord Glenbervie added to this portrait:

A true Paddy of high rank, spouting hackneyed verses, talking a good deal ... adulatory to excess and mixing a sentimental sort of compliment to yourself and your friends with a sort of bluff commonplace frankness not half or quarter witty and very nearly quite vulgar. He is handsome and not agreeable.2

In 1786 he had expressed his wish for an Irish marquessate. On 15 Aug. 1793 he applied to Pitt for a British peerage, promised to his predecessor by the King’s father, claiming that he had asked Lord Grenville to apply for him beforehand and that the King had expressed his regard for him. Nothing happened and on 12 Sept. 1794 he wrote the first of a series of letters plaguing the Duke of Portland on the subject. The duke was cautious about his prospects and Inchiquin resumed hints about an Irish marquessate. In October he expressed an interest in a seat at the Admiralty board, which surprised the duke, who nevertheless offered to apply on his behalf. Inchiquin then admitted, 2 Nov. 1794, that his first object was a British peerage, but that he could do with a place of profit and that one at the Treasury or Admiralty boards would not come amiss. On 14 June 1795, distressed by the recent destruction of his house at Cliveden by fire, he reminded the duke of his wish to be included in the next batch of peers. On 2 Oct. he wrote again, claiming that he had offended his parliamentary patron Lord Dundas by refusing to attend in support of Milton’s motion in Earl Fitzwilliam’s favour; that is, by adhering to the duke’s line. The duke was his ‘first friend’ and if he were to lose his seat at the dissolution, he could not afford another, his affairs being in disarray; ergo, he must have a British peerage. The duke countered, 6 Oct., that there was little hope of this; either Inchiquin might look to an Irish marquessate or to another seat in the House of Commons, for which he volunteered to apply to Pitt on his behalf. On 18 Oct. Inchiquin forwarded Dundas’s formal notice to him to give up Richmond at the dissolution and requested an immediate application to the King, with whom Inchiquin had been out hunting and who knew ‘the steadiness and warmth of my principles to his family and government’. The duke still thought he should rely on him to find him another seat, but agreed to apply. Nothing came of it, except that on 17 May 1796 the duke assured him that he was ‘very little removed from a positive certainty’ of procuring another seat for him from Pitt, who had failed to secure him a British peerage. But despite repeated applications to Pitt, the duke had to admit, 28 Sept. 1796, that no seat was forthcoming.3

Inchiquin, claiming to have been ‘deceived and neglected’ by Portland, then applied to Pitt himself, 4 Oct. 1796, for a British peerage. He mentioned (as he had done in 1793) the promise to his late uncle and the breach of promise that had blighted his earlier army career by preventing him from obtaining a company in the Guards:

could my honour have allowed me, to have continued in the service, I should now be an old general, with a regiment which I flatter myself gives me some pretensions, to my present request, with the consideration of my family, and my rank in Ireland, where many younger peers have been promoted over me, and many lately made British peers, which honour I ask only for myself, an old man and not many years to enjoy it; I have a good fortune, with an estate in this kingdom to support it.

On 26 Feb. 1797 he renewed his request, pointing out that he had declined an invitation (inspired by Pitt, in fact) to offer himself on a vacancy at Windsor on ‘delicate and generous’ grounds, and commending Burke’s foresight about the spread of Jacobinism.4

Inchiquin was returned on a vacancy at Liskeard on Lord Eliot’s interest in November 1797, ‘at the recommendation of Mr Pitt without application or expense’, though the patron had desired remuneration. He supported Pitt’s assessed taxes, 4 Jan. 1798, but made no further contribution to debate. He was absent in May 1798 when Pitt, insulted by Tierney in the House, insisted on a duel, but wrote to congratulate him on his ‘glorious escape’.5 On 14 Jan. 1799 he reverted to Portland as the channel for his peerage request. The duke assured him of the King’s wish that he should obtain an Irish marquessate on the union of the two countries. Inchiquin eagerly supported the Union, advocating vigorous measures against ‘all the condemned Papists’. But he still preferred a British peerage. Portland warned him, 17 Sept. 1799, that he had already tried and failed, but agreed to submit his claims to the King, and in December explained to him at length why Lord Mornington’s marquessate for his services in India was not a token of Inchiquin’s being overlooked. By July 1800 Inchiquin was satisfied with the prospect of an Irish marquessate if he could be an Irish representative peer. Portland could guarantee the former but not the latter, and warned him that, failing this, he must not look to a British peerage as the King had already conceded the reversion of his Irish marquessate to his nephew. On 18 Oct. and 3 Nov. 1800 Inchiquin wrote in turn to the King and to Pitt expressing his mortification at being denied a representative peerage; to Pitt he claimed that the King agreed that he had been ‘hardly treated’. He intended to resign his seat for Liskeard before the next session, not thinking it ‘consistent, for a peer of Ireland to sit as a commoner in the united Parliament’; therefore (in both letters) he solicited a British peerage. He wrote again in the same vein to Pitt, 12 Nov. 1800. Pitt promised him the first vacancy in the representative peerage, but when it occurred in 1801, the viceroy received Portland’s conveyance of the King’s wishes too late and was pre-engaged to another peer. Addington, the then premier, suggested to the King that a British peerage would pacify him, and the King, on the understanding that it was a life peerage only, concurred: to Portland he was alleged to have said: ‘He has been ill used, but he shall not suffer by it; make out a writ for an English barony’.6

Thomond (as he now was) took his seat in the Lords, 29 Oct. 1802, but was still not satisfied. On 27 May 1803 he applied to the King to become a lord of the bedchamber and, eight days before his death, to become master of the robes. He ‘enjoyed a most enviable state of health’ until his death following a riding accident, 10 Feb. 1808.7

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: Winifred Stokes / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Burke Corresp. v. 97; vi. 417.
  • 2. Minto, ii. 6; Burke Corresp. vii. 153, 190; Jnl. of William Bagshaw Stevens, 285; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 329.
  • 3. PRO 30/8/147, f. 193; Portland mss PwF7253-9, PwV108-110.
  • 4. PRO 30/70/4/203, 205; Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1498.
  • 5. Farington, i. 219; PRO 30/8/132, f. 265; 30/70/5/369.
  • 6. Portland mss PwV111; PRO 30/70/4/217, 226; Dacres Adams mss 3/87; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 2270, 2510, 2515, 2518; cf. Farington iii. 9.
  • 7. Geo. III Corresp. iv. 2747; v. 3593; Gent. Mag. (1808), i. 179.