'Bear' Ellice

Edward Ellice
Painting by Sir Charles William Ross
Secretary at War
In office
Preceded bySir John Hobhouse
Succeeded byJohn Charles Herries
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
In office
Preceded byOffice created
Succeeded byCharles Wood
Personal details
Born(1783-09-27)27 September 1783
London, England
Died17 September 1863(1863-09-17) (aged 79)
Glengarry, Scotland
Spouse(s)Lady Hannah Bettesworth (née Lady Hannah Grey)
Anne Coke, Dowager Countess of Leicester (née Lady Anne Keppel)
ChildrenEdward Ellice, Jr.
Alma materMarischal College, University of Aberdeen
University of St Andrews

Edward Ellice the Elder (27 September 1783 – 17 September 1863), known in his time as the "Bear", was a British merchant and politician. He was a Director of the Hudson's Bay Company and a prime mover behind the Reform Bill of 1832.


Ellice was born on 27 September 1783 in London, the son of Alexander Ellice and Ann Russell. In 1795, his father purchased the Seigneury of Villechauve from Michel Chartier de Lotbinière, Marquis de Lotbinière. His younger brother was General Robert Ellice.

He was educated at Winchester School and at Marischal College, Aberdeen. He became a partner in the firm of Phyn, Ellices and Inglis, which had become interested in the XY Company in Canada. He was sent to Canada in 1803, and in 1804 became a party to the union of the XY and North West Companies. He became a partner in the North West Company, and during the struggle with Lord Selkirk he played an important part.

He engaged in the Canada fur trade from 1803, and as a result was nicknamed "the Bear". On 30 October 1809 he married Hannah Althea Bettesworth, née Grey, daughter of Charles Grey, 1st Earl Grey, and the widow of Captain George Edmund Byron Bettesworth. He had one son by her, Edward.

In 1820, he was, with the brothers William and Simon McGillivray, active in bringing about the union of the North West and the Hudson's Bay Companies; and it was actually with him and the McGillivrays that the union was negotiated. He amalgamated the North West, XY, and Hudson's Bay companies in 1821.

In 1825 Ellice was a director of the New Zealand Company, a venture chaired by his brother-in-law, the wealthy John George Lambton, Whig MP (and later 1st Earl of Durham), that made the first attempt to colonise New Zealand. His brother Russell Ellice was also a director.[1][2][3]

He was Member of Parliament for Coventry from 1818 to 1826, and again from 1830 to 1863.[4] He served as a Secretary to the Treasury, and a whip in Lord Grey's government, 1830–1832. He was Secretary at War from 1832 to 1834, during which time he proposed that appointments in the army should be made directly from his office. He founded the Reform Club in 1836 and supported Palmerston as premier. He was appointed a Privy Counsellor in 1833.

He was awarded a DCL by St Andrews University. He privately urged French government to send troops into Spain in 1836. He was deputy-governor of the Hudson's Bay Company.

Ellice was a co-owner of eight sugar estates in Grenada, British Guiana, Tobago and Antigua. In the 1830s, the British government emancipated the slaves, and Ellice received compensation to the tune of about £35,000 for the liberation of over 300 slaves.[5]

In 1843, he married, secondly, Anne Amelia Leicester, née Keppel, daughter of William Keppel, 4th Earl of Albemarle and widow of Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester. She died in the following year. His only son was Edward Ellice Jr., who also sat in Parliament.

Ellice was a serial host for notable visitors to Scotland including Sir Edwin Landseer, William Gladstone and Sir Henry Holland. In 1859 his son's wife, Katherine Ellice served as host when the artist Richard Doyle visited and she was given an illustrated diary of a journey to the islands of Rona and Skye. Katherine was an amateur artist and diarist.[6]

His brother General Robert Ellice married Eliza Courtney; one of their grandsons became his son's heir in 1880.


The Ellice Islands, formerly part of the colony of Gilbert and Ellice Islands and now the independent nation of Tuvalu, were named after him. The Rural Municipality of Ellice in Manitoba, Fort Ellice, and Ellice Avenue in Winnipeg[7] are named after him.

See also[]


  1. ^ Adams, Peter (2013). Fatal Necessity: British Intervention in New Zealand, 1830–1847. BWB e-Book. Bridget Williams Books. p. 197. ISBN 978-1-927277-19-5. Retrieved 9 December 2020. ...first published in 1977.
  2. ^ McDonnell, Hilda (2002). "Chapter 3: The New Zealand Company of 1825". The Rosanna Settlers: with Captain Herd on the coast of New Zealand 1826-7. Wellington City Libraries. Retrieved 9 December 2020. including Thomas Shepherd's Journal and his coastal views, The NZ Company of 1825.
  3. ^ Wakefield, Edward Jerningham (1845). Adventure in New Zealand, from 1839 to 1844: With Some Account of the Beginning of the British Colonization of the Islands. Adventure in New Zealand. John Murray. p. 4. Retrieved 9 December 2020. Digitised 22 July 2009
  4. ^ Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs
  5. ^ "Summary of Individual | Legacies of British Slavery".
  6. ^ The Log of the Ladye, Scan.org, retrieved 20 June 2017
  7. ^ History in Winnipeg Street Names at the Manitoba Historical Society


Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Coventry
With: Peter Moore
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Coventry
With: Thomas Bilcliffe Fyler 1830–1831
Henry Lytton Earle Bulwer 1831–1835
William Williams 1835–1847
George James Turner 1847–1851
Charles Geach 1851–1854
Sir Joseph Paxton 1854–1863
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded byas Secretary to the Treasury Financial Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Preceded by Secretary at War
Succeeded by