Taylor, Thomas Edward (1811–83), politician, was born 25 March 1811 at Ardgillan Castle, Co. Dublin, the eldest son of Rev. Edward Taylor, of Ardgillan Castle, and his wife, Marianne, daughter of the Hon. Richard St Leger. He was educated at Eton and held several military commissions: a cornetcy in the 6th dragoon guards (1829), a lieutenantcy (1831), and a captaincy (1838), retiring at that rank in 1846. He was lieutenant-colonel of the Meath militia (1847–74), and in 1874 was awarded the title of honorary colonel.
While still a serving officer, in 1841 Taylor was elected MP for Co. Dublin, a seat he held until his death. He was appointed by Sir Robert Peel (qv) to the position of junior party whip, and – despite his notoriously illegible handwriting – proved so effective that he remained in this capacity for some seventeen years and was then promoted to chief whip (1860–68). During the reform debates of 1867–8, Disraeli claimed that Taylor's performance as chief whip was so influential that he was, in effect, the real author of household suffrage. Taylor served as a lord of the treasury (March 1858–June 1859) and parliamentary secretary to the treasury (July 1866–November 1868). In 1868 he became chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster and a privy councillor, whereupon he resigned as chief whip.
Taylor played a key role in conservative party politics in Ireland. As a party member he was loyal and conscientious, using his diplomatic skills to organise and ensure the smooth running of local politics. In 1857 he coordinated secret negotiations with G. H. Moore (qv) to establish an anti-whig coalition between tories and independents in some Irish constituencies. In 1859 he was active in ensuring that the tories won a majority of Irish seats. He played a crucial role in reconciling various warring conservative factions in 1865 and again in 1868. In March 1874 he was again appointed to the chancellorship of the duchy of Lancaster. Although he rarely spoke in parliament, his advice was highly valued by the conservative leadership.
On his mother's death in 1859 Taylor inherited Dowdstown House, which had been the home of his uncle (General Robert Taylor), while his brother Richard inherited Ardgillan Castle. The brothers promptly swapped their properties and Thomas became the owner of Ardgillan Castle. A major landowner, he owned almost 8,000 acres of land in Dublin and Meath. He was appointed magistrate for Co. Dublin (1848) and magistrate and deputy lieutenant of Co. Meath (1850). Actively involved in the local community of Balbriggan and Fingal, he was a founder member of the Fingal Steeple Chase Club and an original vice-patron of the Balbriggan and Skerries Young Men's Christian Association. Though for many years disinclined towards marriage, at the age of fifty-one he acceded to family pressure and married Louisa, second daughter of Hugh Francis Tollemache, rector of Harrington, on 11 November 1862. They had three sons and two daughters.
Taylor's later years were marked by ill health, and on a trip to Dublin on 3 February 1883, he died at his sister's house in Fitzwilliam Place. His papers are in the possession of the Taylour family in Co. Meath (the family changed the spelling of their name at the end of the nineteenth century). Some of his correspondence is in the British Library, London, and among the Disraeli papers in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Ardgillan Castle was bought by Dublin County Council in 1982 and is open to the public.