Frederick Ponsonby, 1st Baron Sysonby

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Lord Sysonby

Frederick Edward Grey Ponsonby, 1st Baron Sysonby, GCB, GCVO, PC (16 September 1867 – 20 October 1935) was a British soldier and courtier.


Known as Fritz, Ponsonby was the second son of General Sir Henry Ponsonby and his wife the Hon. Mary Elizabeth (née Bulteel). A member of a junior branch of the Ponsonby family, he was the grandson of General Sir Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby and the great-grandson of Frederick Ponsonby, 3rd Earl of Bessborough. Arthur Ponsonby, 1st Baron Ponsonby of Shulbrede, was his younger brother.

His godparents were German Emperor Frederick III and Empress Victoria.

Military career[edit]

Ponsonby was commissioned in the Grenadier Guards as a second lieutenant on 11 February 1888, and promoted to lieutenant on 2 July 1892, he was promoted to captain on 15 February 1899, and served with the 3rd Battalion of his regiment in the Second Boer War. Wounded at the end of the war, he returned to the United Kingdom in April 1902,[1] he was later promoted to Major and Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel, and served in the First World War. He wrote the standard history: The Grenadier Guards in the Great War of 1914–1918. 3 vols. Published in 1920.


He also held several court positions, notably as Equerry-in-Ordinary to Queen Victoria from 1894[2][3] to 1901, as Assistant Keeper of the Privy Purse and Assistant Private Secretary to Queen Victoria from 1897[4][5] to 1901, to King Edward VII from 1901 to 1910 and to King George V from 1910[6][7] to 1914; as Keeper of the Privy Purse from 1914[8][9] to 1935, and as Lieutenant Governor of Windsor Castle from 1928 to 1935.[10]

In 1906, Ponsonby was appointed to the Order of the Bath as a Companion (CB).[11][12] In 1910, he was promoted to be a Knight Commander (KCVO)[13] and was promoted to Knight Grand Cross (GCVO) in the 1921 New Year Honours.[14] In 1914, he was sworn of the Privy Council.[15] In the 1935 Birthday Honours, he was raised to the peerage as Baron Sysonby, of Wonersh in the County of Surrey.[16][17]


Lord Sysonby married Victoria, daughter of Colonel Edmund Hegan Kennard, on 17 May 1899, at the Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks, she later became a well-known cook book author. They had three children:

Lord Sysonby died in London in October 1935, aged 68, only four months after his elevation to the peerage, and was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium,[18] he was succeeded in the barony by his surviving son Edward. Lady Sysonby died in 1955.

His autobiography Recollections of Three Reigns, edited and published posthumously in 1951, is full, frank and entertaining. Nancy Mitford wrote to Evelyn Waugh that there was "a shriek on every page",[19][20] he also edited Letters of the Empress Frederick (1928) and published Sidelights on Queen Victoria (1930).

The Ponsonby family[edit]

The Ponsonby family has played a leading role in British life for two centuries, his father was Sir Henry Ponsonby who was Private Secretary to Queen Victoria. His grandfather, Frederick was badly wounded at the Battle of Waterloo, but survived to become a British Army general. Lady Caroline, better known to history under her married name of Lady Caroline Lamb, was the wife of the future Prime Minister Lord Melbourne and lover of the poet Lord Byron; this lady was also a key figure in a film – played by Sarah Miles – in 1972. The father of the two siblings, Frederick's great-grandfather, was the 3rd Earl of Bessborough; the man wounded at Waterloo is not to be confused with another Ponsonby depicted on film, his kinsman General Sir William Ponsonby, whose death – possibly due to not risking his best horse in battle – at the hands of a group of lancers is an incident noted in the film 'Waterloo'. Frederick's daughter, Loelia, married the 2nd Duke of Westminster.


  1. ^ "The War – Invalids and others returning home". The Times (36755). London. 30 April 1902. p. 10.
  2. ^ "No. 26522". The London Gazette. 11 June 1894. p. 3443.
  3. ^ "No. 10580". The Edinburgh Gazette. 11 June 1894. p. 693.
  4. ^ "No. 26879". The London Gazette. 30 July 1897. p. 4345.
  5. ^ "No. 10907". The Edinburgh Gazette. 30 July 1897. p. 765.
  6. ^ "No. 28383". The London Gazette. 10 June 1910. p. 4073.
  7. ^ "No. 12258". The Edinburgh Gazette. 10 June 1910. p. 621.
  8. ^ "No. 28953". The London Gazette. 27 October 1914. p. 8625.
  9. ^ "No. 12733". The Edinburgh Gazette. 27 October 1914. p. 1266.
  10. ^ "No. 33346". The London Gazette. 9 January 1928. p. 223.
  11. ^ "No. 27965". The London Gazette. 9 November 1906. p. 7551.
  12. ^ "No. 11881". The Edinburgh Gazette. 13 November 1906. p. 1153.
  13. ^ "No. 28380". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 June 1910. p. 3860.
  14. ^ "No. 32178". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 1921. p. 8.
  15. ^ "No. 28992". The London Gazette. 1 December 1914. p. 10165.
  16. ^ "No. 34166". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 June 1935. p. 3591.
  17. ^ "No. 34175". The London Gazette. 26 June 1935. p. 4160.
  18. ^ The Complete Peerage, Volume XIII – Peerage Creations 1901–1938. St Catherine's Press. 1949. p. 549.
  19. ^ William M. Kuhn, ‘Ponsonby, Frederick Edward Grey, first Baron Sysonby (1867–1935)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008, accessed 14 July 2011.
  20. ^ Charlotte Mosley (ed.), The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1996), p. 254.


Court offices
Preceded by
Sir Fleetwood Edwards
Assistant Private Secretary to the Sovereign
Succeeded by
Sir Alexander Hardinge
Preceded by
Sir William Carington
Keeper of the Privy Purse
Succeeded by
The Lord Wigram
Preceded by
The Viscount Esher
Lieutenant-Governor of Windsor Castle
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Sysonby
Succeeded by
Edward Ponsonby