5th Earl Spencer (1857-1910)
Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland (1867-74, 1882-85)
Born 1835 Died 1910
John Poyntz Spencer was the son of the 4th Earl and his first wife, a daughter of William Stephen Poyntz, of Cowdray Park, Sussex. Born on the 27th of October 1835, and educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, he was a member of parliament for a few months before he succeeded to the earldom in December 1857.
His long career as a Liberal politician dates from his acceptance of the office of Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland under Gladstone in 1868, a post which he retained until 1874. When the Liberals returned to power in 1880 he was appointed Lord President of the Council, but in 1882 be entered upon a second term of office as Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. The three years during which Earl Spencer now filled this position was a period of exceptional disorder in Ireland, marked by a long series of outrages and conspiracies associated with the 'Invincibles', but the courage and firmness which he then displayed won the admiration of all, and made his adoption of the policy of Home Rule in 1885 an event of considerable interest.
In the short Liberal administration of 1886 he was Lord-President of the Council, and from 1892 to 1895 he was a very capable First Lord of the Admiralty; it is on record that Gladstone, on retiring in 1904, would have recommended the Queen, if she had consulted him, to summon Lord Spencer to the premiership. From 1902 to 1905 he was the Liberal leader in the House of Lords, and early in 1905, when a change of government was seen to be probable, it was thought in some quarters that he would be the most suitable Liberal prime minister. But his health broke, down just at this time, and he took no further part in political life, although he survived until the 13th of August 1910, when he died at Althorp.
For forty-five-years the earl was a Knight of the Garter; he was Lord-Lieutenant of Northamptonshire for upwards of thirty years, and he had a reputation as a keen and daring rider to hounds. The fine library, collected at Althorp by the 2nd earl, was sold by him for £250,000 to Mrs Rylands, the widow of a Manchester merchant, and was by her presented to the city of Manchester.
Earl Spencer had no children, and his successor was his half-brother, Charles Robert Spencer (b. 1857), who became the 6th earl. As the Hon. Charles R. Spencer he was one of the parliamentary representatives for Northamptonshire from 1880 to 1895 and again from 1900 to 1905, and was vice-chamberlain of the royal household from 1892 to 1895. In 1905 he was appointed lord chamberlain, and in the same year he was raised to the peerage as Viscount Althorp.
Being the entry for SPENCER, JOHN POYNTZ SPENCER, 5th EARL in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.