Queen’s County (now Co. Laois)

QUEEN’S COUNTY – 90%, [40,000] [?] c. 1,500–1,600 [c. 6,000 (1815)]







Earl of Drogheda

12 burgesses, 2 resident



Sir John Parnell (1 seat)

Mayor, 2 bailiffs, 12 burgesses

Dean Coote (1 seat)

and c. 350 freemen



Lord Carlow

13 burgesses and 50 freemen

(Earl of Portarlington)

(12 in 1815, 15 in 1831)

Queen’s County - Constituency

Queen’s County, ‘part of the ancient Leix country, was formed into a County in the reign of Queen Mary I from whom it derives its name’. John Weaver (2194) sat in the Restoration Parliament of Charles II, and the Weavers, father and son, were fairly prominent during the reigns of William III and Anne. John Weaver (2195) sat in the parliament of George I, but by that time he would have been over 60 years of age and nothing is known of the family after 1727. The Weavers leased Ballymaddock estate from the Cosbys, who represented the county with them from 1703 to 1727.

The death of George I brought a general election in 1727. Ephraim Dawson persuaded Dudley Alexander Sydney Cosby to stand once again with him for Queen’s County, but Cosby was prevailed upon by Richard Warburton, Robert Pigott (1682) and others to join Warburton. After three days of polling, Dawson and Cosby were returned. The election cost Cosby £430, whereas it would probably have cost him no more than £100 if he had stuck with Dawson as no-one would have opposed them.

After Cosby’s death in 1729 his son Pole saw Warburton’s wider scheme. Realising that Cosby was in poor health – he had suffered increasingly from gout since 1711 – and was not long for this world, Warburton had engineered the break with Dawson so that Dawson would be opposed to the Cosby interest ever after, giving Warburton the opportunity to take the county seat when Cosby died. This Warburton duly did.

In 1785 the county was reported to have ‘been much harrassed by election contests but is managed by Sir J. Parnell. Lord Carlow [John Dawson, 1st Earl of Portarlington 1785] (0589). Lord Mountrath (Coote), Dean Coote, General Walsh (2165), Sir J. Parnell, Mr Grattan (0895) and Mr Warburton have the chief interests.’

In 1790 Queen’s County was described as:

of late, from the attention paid to its improvement by some of the principal proprietors of the soil, rapidly increased in population, manufactures and industry. Connected with these, almost as necessary consequences, are an independent spirit and a discriminating choice in the Freeholders who are not led or driven, like beasts of burden, by their masters, to support an election of whose propriety they must not judge, but selecting those men whom they deem worthy of their confidence, they exercise the privilege of Freemen unawed and uncontrolled. To deception, indeed, they are liable as well as others and they have, perhaps, more than once been deceived in the opinion they entertained of the merits of their representatives but the event only showed their readiness to assert their rights and their resolution not to be the dupes of prejudice or party.

Sir John Parnell, Baronet, one of the present Members for this County, has undoubtedly great merit with it, from his judicious and unremitted exertions to encourage and promote its agriculture and manufactures and his high station of Chancellor of the Exchequer enables him to serve it with much effect. Be his political sins what they may, which we wish not to exaggerate nor even call to remembrance, the rational attachment of the Freeholders to his interest will, we apprehend, ensure his success at the next election against any competitor. Mr Warburton, the other representative of the County, is a gentleman of great private worth and deservedly esteemed but he was not chosen by the electors from their regard to extensive property, or the conspicuous display of splendid, oratorical talents. Integrity and unsullied honour were his recommendations and he has in general discharged his delegated trust with spirit and independence, such as his constituents have reason to approve and ought by the suffrages to remunerate.

The most distinguished MP for the county was Sir John Parnell, who sat from 1783 until his death in London in 1801. Queen’s County had three parliamentary boroughs: Ballynakill, Maryborough and Portarlington. Ballynakill and Maryborough were disfranchised at the Union, but Portarlington retained one seat.

Queen's County - Boroughs