Annesley, Hugh (1831–1908), 5th earl of Annesley , horticulturist, and politician, was born 26 January 1831 in Dublin, second son of William Richard Annesley (1772–1838), 3rd earl and MP for Downpatrick (1815–20), and his second wife, Priscilla Cecilia (d. 1891), daughter of Hugh Moore of Eglantine, Co. Down. He was educated at Eton and TCD, where he graduated BA in 1851. That year he entered the army and served in the 43rd Light Infantry during the Kaffir war (1851–3), where he was wounded. Changing to the Scots Fusilier Guards, he took part in the Crimean campaign of 1854 and received a bullet through his jaw in the battle of Alma. This curtailed his military career and he retired from the army in 1860, having attained the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
In 1857 he was elected conservative MP for Cavan and held the seat for seventeen years (1857–74). It was a family seat: the Annesleys then owned 24,000 acres (9,700 ha) in Co. Cavan (and a further 24,000 acres in Co. Down) and the county's parliamentary seats were controlled by them and the other two Cavan landowning families, the Farnhams and Saundersons. Five of the eight county representatives between 1832 and 1868 came from these three families. Annesley was an indifferent, reluctant politician; in the commons he spoke infrequently, tersely, and almost solely on army matters. His only voiced Irish concerns were over law and order; in an uncharacteristically lengthy intervention on 29 March 1873 he called the Irish jury system scandalous and unsatisfactory. When Cavan became radicalised by the home rule movement prior to the February 1874 election he simply retired from politics. Six months later he became the 5th earl on the death of his unmarried elder brother, the 4th earl, William Richard Annesley (1830–74).
His main interest was horticulture and at his estate at Castlewellan, Co. Down, he developed a notable garden with the assistance of his head gardener, Thomas Ryan. His daughter, Mabel, who described him as reserved and gloomy, wrote: ‘My father toiled from dawn to dusk . . . he worked in the manner of a giant landscape gardener . . . opening vistas to mountain and seas, and digging out marshy swamps to make glistening pools of water’ (Annesley, Mabel, 12–13). His Times obituary commended him on having one of the largest collections of exotic trees and shrubs in the UK. He was also responsible for the formation of the Donard nursery company at Newcastle, Co. Down. A keen amateur photographer, he published, at the behest of the Royal Agricultural Society, a botanical book illustrated by his own photographs of his garden, Beautiful and rare trees and shrubs (1903). He died at Castlewellan on 15 December 1908.
He married first (4 July 1877) Mabel Wilhelmina Frances (d. 1891), daughter of Col. William Thomas Markham of Cufforth Hall, Yorkshire; they had two children, one of whom was the illustrator and wood-engraver Lady Mabel Annesley (qv). He married secondly (2 July 1892) Priscilla Cecilia (d. 1941), daughter of William Armitage Moore of Arnmore, Co. Cavan; they had two daughters, the younger being Lady Constance Malleson (qv) (‘Colette O'Niel’), the actress and writer.