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Sir William Henry Gregory PC (Ire) (12 July 1817 – 6 March 1892) was an Anglo-Irish writer and politician.

The only child of Robert Gregory and Elizabeth O'Hara Gregory, he was born at the Castle, in Dublin's Phoenix Park. From 1830 to 1835 he attended Harrow, where he was an award-winning student. He subsequently entered Christ Church, Oxford in 1836 but left three years later without receiving a qualification.

Gregory was elected to the British House of Commons in an 1842 by-election as a Conservative member for Dublin. Among his close associates were Sir Robert Peel, Lord Lincoln, and Lord George Bentinck. After Gregory failed to retain his seat in the 1847 general election, he took up residence at the family estate at Coole Park in County Galway. He was appointed High Sheriff of County Galway in 1849.[1]

Gregory traveled to Egypt in 1855 and wrote a two-volume work on his travels, Egypt in 1855 and 1856, and Tunis in 1857 and 1858, published privately in London in 1859. In the 1857 he was returned to parliament for the County Galway on a liberal-conservative platform. In 1859 he travelled through North America, befriending several southern Congressmen, including James Murray Mason of Virginia and William Porcher Miles of South Carolina.

Throughout the American Civil War Gregory was an avid supporter of the Confederacy. He also argued that Britain should pursue strong anti-Turkish policy and supported the cession of the Ionian Islands and Crete to Greece. In domestic affairs Gregory was active in defending the Roman Catholic clergy in Ireland and working for land reform. His interest in the arts led to a long association with the British Museum.

On 10 July 1871 he was made a member of the Privy Council of Ireland and in the following year Gregory was appointed Governor of Ceylon. He hosted the Prince of Wales in 1875, at which time he was presented with the Order of St. Michael and St. George. Gregory retired from office in 1877 and returned to England via Australia. He did not return to political office after 1877 and spent most of the following years travelling. From October 1881 to April 1882, he toured Egypt and reported on the revolution there. Gregory returned to Ceylon in 1884 and 1885.

Gregory was addicted to horse racing, which led to financial difficulties throughout his life. He remained fond of classical languages and literature and always took an interest in artistic affairs.

Gregory married twice. On 11 January 1872 he married Elizabeth Temple Bowdoin, (d. 28 June 1873) widow of James Temple Bowdoin and daughter of Sir William Clay. On 4 March 1880 Gregory married Isabelle Augusta Gregory. Their son, William Robert Gregory, was born on 20 May 1881.

Gregory died on 6 March 1892 of respiratory failure in London. His autobiography was edited and published by Lady Gregory in 1894.


  1. ^ Walford, Edward (1919). The County Families of the United Kingdom. London: Robert Spottiswoode, Ballantyne & Co. Ltd.  


  • Brian Jenkins, Sir William Gregory of Coole. Gerald's Cross, 1986
  • Lady Gregory, 70 Years 1852-1922. Gerard's Cross, 1973.
  • Dictionary of National Biography, pp. 355-57.

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Beattie West
Edward Grogan
Member of Parliament for Dublin City
1842 – 1847
With: Edward Grogan
Succeeded by
John Reynolds
Edward Grogan
Preceded by
Thomas Arthur Bellew
Thomas Burke
Member of Parliament for County Galway
1857 – 1872
With: Thomas Burke 1857–1865
Lord Dunkellin 1865–1867
Viscount Burke 1867–1871
Mitchell Henry 1871–1872
Succeeded by
John Philip Nolan
Mitchell Henry
Government offices
Preceded by
Henry Turner Irving, acting
Governor of Ceylon
1872 – 1877
Succeeded by
James Robert Longdon


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