Lonsdale, Earls Of
LONSDALE, EARLS OF. This English earldom is held by the ancient family of Lowther, which traces its descent to Sir Hugh Lowiher, who flourished in the reign of Edward I. Sir Hugh's descendant Sir Richard Lowther (1529-1607) received Mary queen of Scots on her flight into England in 1568, and in the two following years was concerned with his brother Gerard in attempts to release her from captivity. He was sheriff of Cumberland and lord warden of the west marches. A house built by Gerard Lowther at Penrith is now the " Two Lions Inn." Sir Richard's eldest son, Sir Christopher Lowther (d. 1617), was the ancestor of the later Lowthers, and another son, Sir Gerard Lowther (d. 1624), was judge of the common pleas in Ireland.
One of Sir Christopher's descendants was Sir John Lowther, Bart. (d. 1706), the founder of the trade of Whitehaven, and another was John Lowther (1655-1 700) , who was created Viscount Lonsdale in 1696. Before this creation John had succeeded his grandfather, another Sir John Lowther (d. 1675), as a baronet, and had been member of parliament for Westmorland from 1675 to 1696. In 1688 he was serviceable in securing Cumberland and Westmorland for William of Orange; in 1690 he was first lord of the treasury, and he was lord privy seal from March 1699 until his death in July 1700. Lonsdale wrote Memoirs of the Reign of James II., which were printed in 1808 and again in 1857. His family became extinct when his son Henry, the 3rd viscount (1694-1751), died unmarried in March James Lowther, ist earl of Lonsdale (1736-1802), was a son of Robert Lowther (d. 1745) of Maulds Meaburn, Westmorland, who was for some time governor of Barbados, and was descended from Sir Christopher Lowther; through his mother Catherine Pennington, James was a great-grandson of the 1st viscount Lonsdale. He inherited one of the family baronetcies in 1751, and from three sources he obtained immense wealth, being the heir of the 3rd viscount Lonsdale, of Sir James Lowther, Bart. (d. 1755) of Whitehaven, and of Sir William Lowther, Bart. (d. 1756). From 1757 to 1784 he was a member of parliament, exercising enormous influence on elections in the north of England and usually controlling nine seats in the House of Commons, where his nominees were known as " Sir James's ninepins." He secured the election of William Pitt as member for his borough of Appleby in 1781, and his dispute with the 3rd duke of Portland over the possession of the socage manor of Carlisle and the forest of Inglewood gave rise to lengthy proceedings, both in parliament and in the law courts. In 1784 Lowther was created earl of Lonsdale and in 1797 Viscount Lowther with an extended remainder. The earl's enormous wealth enabled him to gratify his political ambitions. Sir N. W.' Wraxall (Historical and Posthumous Memoirs, ed. H.B. Wheatley, 1884), who gives interesting glimpses of his life, speaks of his " prodigious property " and quotes Junius, who called him " the little contemptible tyrant of the north." He was known as the " bad earl," and Horace Walpole and others speak slightingly of him; he was, however, a benefactor to Whitehaven, where he boasted he owned the " land, fire and water."
He married Mary (1768-1824) daughter of George III.'s favourite, John Stuart, 3rd earl of Bute, but died childless on the 24th of May 1802, when the earldom became extinct; but a kinsman, Sir William Lowther, Bart. (1757-1844), of Swillington, became 2nd viscount Lowther. This viscount, who was created earl of Lonsdale in 1807, is chiefly famous as the friend of Wordsworth and the builder of Lowther Castle, Penrith. His son, William Lowther, 3rd earl of Lonsdale (1787-1872), held several subordinate positions in various Tory ministries, and was lord president. of the council in 1852. He died unmarried, and was succeeded by his nephew Henry (1818-1876), whose son Hugh Cecil (b. 1857) succeeded his brother as 6th earl of Lonsdale in 1882.
Other prominent members of the Lowther family are the Right Hon. James William Lowther (b. 1855), who became speaker of the House of Commons in 1905; Sir Gerard Augustus Lowther (b. 1858), who became British ambassador at Constantinople in 1908; and the Right Hon. James Lowther (1840-1904), who was a well-known Conservative member of parliament from 1865 onwards, and chief secretary for Ireland from 1878 to 1880.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)