George Capel-Coningsby, 5th Earl of Essex

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Earl of Essex
George Capel Conningsby, Fifth Earl of essex.jpg
Portrait from the studio of Sir Thomas Lawrence of George Capel-Conningsby, Fifth Earl of Essex
Earl of Essex
In office
MonarchGeorge IV; William IV
Member of Parliament
for Westminster 1779–80
Member of Parliament
for Lostwithiel 1781–84
Member of Parliament
for Okehampton 1785–90
Member of Parliament
for Radnor 1794–99
Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire 1802–17
Recorder and High Steward of Leominster 1802
Personal details
Born(1757-11-13)13 November 1757
Watford, Hertfordshire
Died(1839-04-23)23 April 1839
Watford, Hertfordshire
Known forCommissioned the redesign of Cassiobury House

George Capel-Coningsby, 5th Earl of Essex FSA (13 November 1757 – 23 April 1839) was an English aristocrat and politician, and styled Viscount Malden until 1799. His surname was Capell until 1781.


1768 portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds of George Capel, aged 10, with his sister, Elizabeth Capel

George Capell was the son and heir of William Anne Capell, 4th Earl of Essex (1732–1799), from his first marriage to Frances Williams. He was also the elder half-brother of Thomas Bladen Capel, Captain (later Admiral) in the Royal Navy and one of Horatio Nelson's Band of Brothers.


Hampton Court, Herefordshire
1818 illustration of Cassiobury House after Coningsby's rebuilding

George Capell was educated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, receiving his MA in 1777. In 1781 he took the additional name of Coningsby on succeeding to the Hampton Court, Herefordshire estate of his grandmother, Lady Francis Hanbury-Williams, née Coningsby.[1] He later (1810) sold the estate to John Arkwright, the grandson of the inventor and industrialist Richard Arkwright.[2]

He was one of the two members of parliament for Westminster from 1779 to 1780, a member for Lostwithiel from 1781 to 1784, for Okehampton from 1785 to 1790, and for Radnor from 1794 to 1799.[1]

On 4 March 1799 Capel-Coningsby succeeded his father as 5th Earl of Essex. He served as Recorder and High Steward of Leominster in 1802, and as Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire from 1802 to 1817. He became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1801, and received an honorary D.C.L. from Oxford University in 1810.[1]

Upon his succession to the title of Earl of Essex, he set about a major reconstruction of the family seat, Cassiobury House in Watford, Hertfordshire, engaging the services of the architect James Wyatt and landscape designer Humphrey Repton to develop the house and grounds.[3]

Essex was noted as a major patron of the arts and was responsible for building up a large fine art collection at Cassiobury.[4] An obituary of Essex in 1839 records that "his Lordship has richly embellished his house at Cassiobury, as well as his town mansion in Belgrave Square, with numerous choice works of our native painters", and that he had entertained a number of noted British artists of the day at Cassiobury and commissioned works from them, including J. M. W. Turner, Augustus Pugin, John Callcott Horsley, David Wilkie and Edwin Henry Landseer.[5]


Mural monument to Harriet (Mrs Ford) (1808-1837), illegitimate daughter of George Capel-Coningsby, 5th Earl of Essex, in the Essex Chapel, St Mary's Church, Watford

George Capel-Coningsby married twice:[6]

  • Firstly on 6 June 1786, as her 2nd husband, to Sarah Bazett (d.16 Jan 1838), daughter of Henry William Bazett of Saint Helena by his marriage to Clarissa Penelope Pritchard. Sarah was a talented and prolific artist, known as "Sarah, Viscountess Malden", and from 1799 as "Sarah, Countess of Essex",[7] who specialised in making watercolour copies of old portraits and other paintings, and her surviving copies in many instances are the only evidence of the now lost originals. George outlived Sarah, who died in 1838.
  • After Sarah's death, on 14 April 1838 Essex married secondly the opera singer Kitty Stephens, a daughter of Edward Stephens.

Illegitimate daughter[edit]

He had an illegitimate daughter, Harriet (Mrs Ford) (1808-1837), who married Richard Ford (d.1858) of Heavitree, Devon.[8] The Earl erected a mural monument to Harriet in the Essex Chapel of St Mary's Church, Watford.

Death and burial[edit]

George Capel-Coningsby died on 23 April 1839 at Cassiobury, aged 81, and was buried at Watford,[1] leaving behind his operatic widow, Kitty Stephens, who was now the Countess Dowager.[9] Because he had no son of his own, his Earldom and estates passed to a nephew, Arthur Algernon Capell, the eldest son of his half-brother John Thomas Capell.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d "Capell [Capel-Coningsby], George, Viscount Malden (CPL775G)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. ^ Historic England. "Hampton Court (1403731)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  3. ^ Robinson, John (2014). Felling the ancient oaks : how England lost its great country estates. [S.l.]: Aurum Pr Ltd. p. 55. ISBN 9781781313343.
  4. ^ "The Cassiobury Collection". Watford Museum. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  5. ^ "Obituary: The Earl of Essex". The Gentleman's Magazine. 165–166: 652. June 1839. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Bridgeman Art Library
  8. ^ Text of monument and
  9. ^ "Miscellaneous". The Spectator. 12: 387. 27 April 1839. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  10. ^ "Arthur Algernon Capell, 6th Earl of Essex". The Peerage. Retrieved 7 December 2014.

External links[edit]

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Lord Thomas Pelham-Clinton
Viscount Petersham
Member of Parliament for Westminster
With: Lord Thomas Pelham-Clinton
Succeeded by
Sir George Brydges Rodney, Bt
Charles James Fox
Preceded by
Hon. Thomas de Grey
George Johnstone
Member of Parliament for Lostwithiel
With: George Johnstone
Succeeded by
John Sinclair
John Thomas Ellis
Preceded by
John Luxmoore
Thomas Wiggens
Member of Parliament for Okehampton
With: Humphrey Minchin
Succeeded by
John Hayes St Leger
Robert Ladbroke
Preceded by
David Murray
Member of Parliament for Radnor
Succeeded by
Richard Price
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Viscount Bateman
Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire
Succeeded by
The Lord Somers
Peerage of England
Preceded by
William Capell
Earl of Essex
Succeeded by
Arthur Algernon Capell