Thomas, 1st Earl of Coningsby (c.1656- 1729), the eldest son of Humphrey Coningsby and his wife, Letice, daughter of Arthur Loftus, of Rathfarnham, was a member of parliament and a prominent figure at court in the reigns of King William III and King George I.
The Coningsbys were an old Herefordshire family and Thomas Coningsby's parliamentary career began when he was elected to represent Leominister, in Herefordshire, in 1679, which he thereafter represented consistently until 1710, and from 1715 until his elevation to a peerage in 1716. An ardent supporter of the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688, he opposed the Jacobite faction throughout his career and was favoured at Court. He went with King William III to Ireland where he distinguished himself at the Battle of the Boyne, and was with the King when the latter was wounded. He was later appointed Joint-Receiver and Paymaster General of the army in Ireland, Commissioner of Appeals in the Excise, and one of the three Lords Justices of Ireland (1690-2). While his political opponents accused him of using his position for his own financial benefit he remained in the King's favour and was created Baron Coningsby of Clanbrassil, in the Irish Peerage, in 1692. The following year he was sworn in as a Privy Councillor and he was vice-Treasurer from 1692-3 until 1710, and Chief Steward of the City of Hereford from 1695 until his death. He met with less favour in the reign of Queen Anne, but with the accession of King George I he again resumed a central role in public life. Among other appointments he was one of the members of the committee appointed to inquire into the Treaty of Utrecht and was made Lord Lieutenant of both Herefordshire and Radnorshire in 1714. In 1716 he was created a Baron in the English peerage, and he was elevated to the higher dignity of Earl of Coningsby in 1719. The latter years of his life were, however, marred by legal disputes connected with his purchase of the manors of Leominister and Marden.
Alongside his political career, Coningsby also took a deep interest in the family seat, Hampton Court, in Herefordshire, which had been purchased by his ancestor, Sir Humphrey Coningsby, in circa 1510 . In the last decade of the 17th Century and first decade of the 18th Century, he transformed both the house and garden, consulting among others the architect William Talman (for a full account of the house see J. Cornforth, Hampton Court, Herefordshire, Country Life, CLIII, 1973, pp. 750; 518-21 and 582-5). These changes are recorded in a number of views which he commissioned of the house, among which are the two celebrated views by Leonard Knyff of 1699, which are perhaps the artist's finest prospects and which are among the most successful parkscape paintings of their time, now in the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven (see J. Harris, The Artist and the Country House , London, 1979, pp. 118-9, nos 115 (a) and (b), both illustrated).
Coningsby married twice; first, Barbara, daughter of his guardian Ferdinando Gorges, in 1674, and second, in 1698, Lady Frances Jones (1662-1714), daughter of Richard Earl of Ranelagh. By his first wife he had three sons and four daughters, and Thomas, his grandson from this marriage, succeeded him in the Irish Barony of Coningsby on his death. From his second marriage he had one son, Richard, who died in 1708, and two daughters, Margaret and Frances. Margaret, who married Sir Michael Newton, K.B., was created Baroness and Viscountess Coningsby, of Hampton Court, with remainder to her male heirs, in her father's lifetime and succeeded to her father's titles in England on the latter's death becoming Countess of Coningsby. On her death in 1761 the title became extinct but the Coningsby estates were inherited by her great-nephew George, 5th Earl of Essex, who consequently assumed the name Coningsby. Her sister Frances married Sir Charles Hanbury Williams in 1732. A full-length portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller, dated 1722, shows the Earl of Coningsby with his daughters Margaret and Frances, both dressed in riding habits (see J. Stewart, Sir Godfrey Kneller , Oxford, 1989, p.99, no. 174). An earlier portrait of the Earl by the Irish artist Thomas Bate, of 1692, showing him in Roman Dress with Hampton Court beyond, is in the Ulster Museum (see A. Crookshank and The Knight of Glin, The Painters of Ireland, c.1660-1920, London, 1978, p.27, illustrated).