Biography

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William Holmes (1779 -1851)

This article was written by John Andrew Hamilton and was published in 1891.


Holmes William Holmes, Tory whip, was the son of a rich brewer in county Sligo, and of a family long settled in King's County, Ireland. He was born in Sligo, and graduated B.A. of Trinity College, Dublin, in 1795. He entered the army, served in the West Indies, and was there military secretary to Sir Thomas Hislop. He left the army in 1807, upon his marriage with Lady Stronge, widow of the Rev. Sir James Stronge, bart., and daughter of John Tew of Dublin and Margaret Muswell. He entered parliament for Grampound, Cornwall, in May 1808, and sat for that place till 1812, for Tregony, Cornwall, from 1812 to 1818, for Totnes, Devon, from 1819 to 1820, for Bishop's Castle, Shropshire, from 1820 to 1830, for Haslemere, Surrey, from 1830 to 1832, and from 1837 to 1841 for Berwick-upon-Tweed. From 1832 to 1837 he was not in parliament, though in 1835 he unsuccessfully contested Ipswich. In 1841 he stood for Stafford, but was not elected, and he then quitted parliamentary life.

For thirty years ‘Billy’ Holmes was the adroit and dexterous whip of the Tory party, and his great knowledge of the tastes, wishes, idiosyncrasies, and family connections of all the members on the Tory side of the house made him a most skilful dispenser of patronage and party manager. Though often violently attacked, his personal honour remained unquestioned in the midst of a life of intrigue, and he was not unpopular with his opponents. By special permission from the Duke of Wellington he was allowed in 1829 to give his vote against the ministerial Catholic Relief Bill. He was treasurer of the ordnance from 1820 to 1830, and was made a D.C.L. of Oxford on 5 July 1810. He died in Grafton Street, London, on 26 January 1851, leaving one son, Thomas Knox Holmes.


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