Howard, Frederick (1748–1825), 5th earl of Carlisle and lord lieutenant of Ireland, was born 28 May 1748, the youngest, but only surviving, son of Henry Howard, 4th earl of Carlisle, and his second wife, Isabella, daughter of Baron Byron of Rochdale. Educated at Eton and King's College, Cambridge, he succeeded his father as 5th earl of Carlisle on 4 September 1758. Embarking on the grand tour of Europe, he was created a knight of the Thistle in 1767, and only took his seat in the house of lords in 1770. A notorious gambler and man-about-town, he amused himself by writing poetry before turning to politics. Appointed one of the commissioners to treat with the American colonies in 1778, he was challenged to a duel by Lafayette, but declined without dishonour. Returning to England in 1779, he became president of the Board of Trade.
On 29 November 1780 he was appointed lord lieutenant of Ireland, and was sworn in 23 December, with William Eden (qv) accompanying him as chief secretary. Eden had been a fellow commissioner on the mission to the colonies and had become a close friend and adviser; Carlisle refused even to consider going to Ireland unless Eden accompanied him. His mission was to preserve the status quo in Ireland, and he prided himself on the broad base of support for his administration, unlike that of his predecessor, Lord Buckinghamshire (qv). His work was made easier when John Fitzgibbon (qv) was persuaded to support the administration after having been carefully cultivated by Eden. Believing that the best way to popularity in Ireland was to have a colourful court, Carlisle made sure he had a large entourage in Dublin, winning the soubriquet ‘Lord Red-heels’ (Duncan, 105). His stiff and reserved manner often proved a liability, though Eden's charm sometimes compensated. Carlisle managed to strengthen the Castle interest in the house of commons which enabled the administration to see off opposition attempts to advance motions in support of legislative independence and to animate such issues as a trade dispute with Portugal (1781). He removed Henry Flood (qv) from his government office in November after giving repeated warnings about following the Castle line. However, in one notable misjudgment, he dismissed as unimportant the Dungannon Volunteer convention (February 1782), which called for legislative independence. He soon came to realise his mistake, and in an attempt to outflank Flood he urged the British government to repeal the declaratory act before it was too late.
In the spring of 1782 he gave cautious support for the catholic relief bill introduced by Luke Gardiner (qv), and decided to support a bill by Barry Yelverton (qv), confirming English statutes regarding land title and trade, to mollify landed opinion fearful of the implications of legislative independence. The collapse of Lord North's ministry, and his replacement as lord lieutenant of the East Riding, however, led him to tender his resignation, although the decision had been taken to recall him in any case. Fitzgibbon proposed a vote of thanks to Carlisle, which was passed in the house of commons.
Returning to England, he was briefly lord steward of the household in Shelbourne's administration but resigned over the peace with France and America. Lord privy seal in the Fox–North coalition in 1783, he acted in opposition from then on, until the French revolution saw him join the Portland whigs in support of William Pitt's government. On the outbreak of the 1798 rebellion he warned that Ireland was ‘a ship on fire’ (Auckland corr., iv, 52), and supported the act of union in parliament.
Carlisle was a poet and playwright of modest ability in his spare time, although his work was favourably reviewed by Samuel Johnson. The critique of his first cousin once removed (and ward after 1798), Lord Byron, however, was more hostile: ‘so dull in youth, so drivelling in his age/His scenes, alone, had damn'd our sinking stage’ (G.E.C., Peerage). He died 4 September 1825 at Castle Howard, where he was buried.
He married 22 (March 1770) Margaret Caroline, youngest daughter of Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st marquess of Stafford, and his wife, Louisa (née Egerton). They had four sons and three daughters; he was succeeded by his eldest son, George Howard, as 6th earl of Carlisle.