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The Right Honourable
Major-Gen. Sir Henry Ponsonby
The Privy Purse
Ponsonby as caricatured by Théobald Chartran in Vanity Fair, March 1883
Private Secretary to the Sovereign

In office
Monarch Queen Victoria
Preceded by Gen. The Hon. Sir Charles Grey
Succeeded by Lt. Col. The Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur Bigge
Personal details
Nationality British

Sir Henry Frederick Ponsonby GCB (10 December 1825 – 21 November 1895) was a British soldier and royal court official who served as Queen Victoria's Private Secretary.

Biography[edit | edit source]

He was the son of the British Army general, Sir Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby.

Ponsonby rose to the rank of Colonel in the Grenadier Guards and fought in the Crimean War. On 30 April 1861, he married Hon. Mary Elizabeth Bulteel, a daughter of John Crocker Bulteel MP and they had five children:

Ponsonby embellished letters to his children at Eton with a series of illustrations in which he concealed the school's address. It was a family quirk continued by his son, Arthur Ponsonby, and recently revived by descendant Harriet Russell. His letters bore addresses appearing as doodled signposts in snowstorms or as huge envelopes shouldered by tiny people.[1]

He served as Keeper of the Privy Purse and Private Secretary to Queen Victoria. His appointment occurred 8 April 1870, after the death of prior Private Secretary General Charles Grey, who was "a son of Earl Grey, the Prime Minister" at the time and who was wife Mary Ponsonby's "Uncle Charles."[2] Both Arthur and Mary Ponsonby contributed pseudonymously to magazines and newspapers of the day.[3]

His son Arthur wrote a biography of him which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1942: Henry Ponsonby, Queen Victoria's Private Secretary: His Life from His Letters.

In Mrs. Brown, he was portrayed by Geoffrey Palmer whose close friend and frequent co-star, Dame Judi Dench played Queen Victoria.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The Independent
  2. Arthur Ponsonby. Henry Ponsonby, Queen Victoria's Private Secretary: His Life from His Letters (London: Macmillan, 1943), pp. 35-36.
  3. Ponsonby, p. 37.
Court offices
Preceded by
Sir Thomas Myddelton Biddulph
Keeper of the Privy Purse
Succeeded by
Sir Fleetwood Edwards
Preceded by
Sir Charles Grey
Private Secretary to the Sovereign
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur Bigge

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