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Sir Robert Henry King, 4th Earl of Kingston (1796 – 1867) of Mitchelstown Castle, Co. Cork, styled The Honourable Robert King until 1837 and Viscount Kingsborough between 1837 and 1839, was an Irish peer, soldier and Whig politician.

Military Career

Educated at Exeter College, Oxford, Kingston served in the British army in occupied France after the fall of the Emperor Napoleon in 1816. He was remembered as ‘good natured and popular in the service’. In 1825 he was granted leave of absence from his regiment pending a ‘promotion to a company’, which never occurred.

Political Career

Kingston was returned to Parliament for County Cork in 1826 (succeeding his elder brother Lord Kingsborough), a seat he held until 1832. He pledged support for Catholic emancipation and reform of the ‘mischievous’ tithe system.

His votes in this Parliament were subject to confusion with those of his Tory cousin Robert King, Member for county Roscommon.  He was probably the ‘Sir Robert King’ who unsuccessfully attempted to present a petition defending the legitimacy of Daniel O’Connell’s return for county Clare, and he voted for allowing him to take his seat unhindered, 18 May 1829.

He voted for the Wellington ministry’s concession of Catholic emancipation, insisting that it was supported by the ‘great majority’ of his Protestant constituents, when he dismissed a hostile county Cork petition brought up by Moore, Member for Dublin, as ‘the machinations of a junto in the city of Cork, styled Brunswickers’ who ‘utter language ... almost treasonable’.

He advocated the introduction of a ‘modified system of poor laws’, which would ‘compel absentee proprietors, drawing large revenues ... to contribute ... to the relief and support of their suffering countrymen’. Speaking in similar terms, he called for a ‘heavy tax upon the property of those who absent themselves’, in 1830.

He presented and endorsed a constituency petition against abuses in the Irish church by ‘corrupt and profligate ministers’ and brought up a petition for abolition of Irish tithes, 2 July 1830.

At the 1830 general election he was again returned unopposed.  At the ensuing general election he offered as a ‘determined supporter’ of reform and the abolition of slavery, and was again returned unopposed.

At the 1832 general election, he came bottom of the poll.  In 1836 he was High Sheriff of County Cork. In the 1837 general election he offered again for county Cork as a Liberal and was defeated.

 

Family "Inheritance"

In 1837, he succeeded his elder brother as Viscount Kingsborough.

He succeeded in the earldom upon the death of his spendthift father (who had started to go insane in 1830) as 4th earl of Kingston in 1839, by when the family estates were so indebted that creditors had begun to take action.

In 1844 his Irish estates were seized by the encumbered estates court in Dublin, and by 1856 nearly 71,000 acres and ‘a large quantity of silver and plate’ had been sold.

Know Thy Landlord...

In the mid 19th century the county Limerick estate of the the Earl of Kingston was in the barony of Coshlea, mainly in the parishes of Ballylanders (thirteen townlands) and Kilbeheny (21 townlands) but he also held land in the parishes of Ballingarry and Effin.

Almost 21,000 acres in the parishes of Ballylanders and Kilbeheny, county Limerick, 18,180 acres in county Tipperary and 3,951 acres of the Araglin estate in county Cork, belonging to Lord Kingston, were advertised for sale in June and July 1851. The Freeman's Journal gives details of the purchasers in both 1851 and 1852.

Griffith's Valuation records the Earl of Kingston holding land in various parishes in the baronies of Fermoy and Condons and Clangibbon, county Cork. The vast bulk of his estate around Mitchelstown was in the parishes of Brigown, Kildorrery, Kilgullane, Marshalstown, Macroney and Templemolaga, barony of Condons and Clangibbon.

The county Tipperary estate was comprised of the parish of Templetenny, barony of Iffa and Offa West. It was advertised for sale in July 1851 and mainly purchased by the Irish Land Company and Edward Sandiford Power.

Part of the settled estates of Lord Kingston, over 26,000 acres in county Cork and 250 acres in county Limerick were advertised for sale in February 1855. The settled estates were advertised in 3 divisions, the first was comprised of lots north west of Mitchestown, the second division was located south east of Mitchelstown and the third was a tract of 9,000 acres of land in the barony of Duhallow on which Lord Lismore paid the head rent. Over 7,000 acres of the settled estates in the baronies of Condons and Clangibbon and Fermoy were to be auctioned on 5 June 1855. In the 1870s the Kingston estates in counties Limerick and Tipperary were only 250 and 211 acres while the county Cork estate amounted to 24,421 acres.

Debt & Scandal

In 1848 King came before the Marylebone magistrates charged with ‘indecent assault’ on a tradesman named Cull in ‘a gateway at the back of Marylebone station’. A trial was set in the criminal courts, at which he failed to appear, forfeiting bail of £10,000. (It later emerged that his alleged victim was a ‘man of infamous character’, who was subsequently transported.)

During the 1850s he appeared in the metropolitan police courts for drunkenness, assaulting the police, and refusing to pay cabmen, who complained of waiting for hours ‘in expectation of their fare’ outside the House of Lords, where his ‘credit was so low ... that the contractor for the refreshment ... refused to bring up a dinner until paid in advance’.

Following an incident at Chester in 1860, in which he attempted to walk through a railway tunnel, was ejected from the cathedral for refusing to remove his hat, and went ‘out in the streets naked’, he was committed to the local asylum. He was pronounced insane by a commission of lunacy next year, witnesses describing how ‘his conversation repeatedly turned on unnatural crimes’, with which he ‘charged various distinguished persons’, including ‘a story of meeting a life guardsman in a urinal at St. James’s, who made improper overtures to him’.

 

Death

Lord Kingston died in confinement in January 1867, aged 70. He was unmarried and was succeeded in the earldom by his younger brother, James, a barrister (on whose death two years later the United Kingdom barony became extinct).

 

Additional Information
Date of Birth 4th Oct 1796  
Date of Death 21st Jan 1867  
Associated Building (s) King House BOYLE, Mitchelstown Castle, Co. Cork  
Father (First Name/s and Surname) George King, 3rd Earl of Kingston  
Mother (First Name/s and Maiden) Lady Helena, daughter of Stephen Moore, 1st Earl of Mount Cashell.  

References

The History of Parliament: the House of Commons UK VIEW SOURCE
Mitchelstown Castle Ireland VIEW SOURCE

Buildings Associated with this Ancestor