Archdale, Sir Edward Mervyn (1853–1943), landowner and politician, was born 26 January 1853 at Rossfad, near Ballinamallard, Co. Fermanagh, eldest among six sons and two daughters of Nicholas Montgomery Archdale (1820–77), sometime agent of the Archdale estate, high sheriff of Co. Fermanagh, and DL for Co. Longford, and his wife Adelaide Mary, fourth daughter of the Rev. John Grey Porter (1789–1873) of Belle Isle, Co. Fermanagh. Edward was educated at Knight's Naval School, Portsmouth, and entered the navy in 1866, serving at the China station in Juno, at the Mediterranean station in Invincible and Helicon, in the Sultan under the command of the then duke of Edinburgh, and in the Dwarf at the Cape and west coast of Africa. He retired as naval lieutenant on his marriage (1880) and returned to Co. Fermanagh, where he farmed at Riversdale (to which he succeeded on the death of his uncle, William Archdale), along with his other large holding at Rossahilly, and was appointed high sheriff of Co. Fermanagh in 1884.
First elected as unionist MP for the constituency of Fermanagh North in the general election of 1 November 1898, when he narrowly defeated Dr Edward Charles Thompson (qv), he was unopposed in the general election of October 1900 but resigned his seat in early 1903, claiming that he had neither the time nor the money to attend properly to his parliamentary duties. On 3 March 1905 he was elected chairman of the standing committee of the newly established Ulster Unionist Council and became unionist MP for Fermanagh North yet again when he was unopposed at a by-election on 27 October 1916, retaining the seat in the general election of December 1918 when he narrowly defeated the Sinn Féin candidate, Kevin Roantree O'Shiel (qv); he decided not to contest the seat in the general election of November 1922. He had already been elected on the first count to the eight-seat constituency of Fermanagh and Tyrone in the first Northern Ireland general election (24 May 1921), and became NI minister of agriculture and commerce. On 30 March 1922 in London he was a signatory to the second Craig–Collins pact to resolve civil conflict in the North. In 1925 the Ministry of Commerce was constituted as a separate department, but he remained agriculture minister and was reelected on the first count to the constituency of Fermanagh and Tyrone in the NI general election of 3 April 1925. Following the abolition of proportional representation for NI parliamentary elections, he was returned unopposed for the new constituency of Enniskillen in the general elections of 22 May 1929 and 30 November 1933. He retired as minister of agriculture in 1933 but remained an MP till 1938. At various times he was lord lieutenant of Fermanagh, a JP, a member of Fermanagh county council, and council vice-chairman, as well as a district councillor, and for almost twenty years served as a member of the Enniskillen board of guardians.
Once described by premier James Craig (qv) as ‘Ulster's grand old man’, his political seniority was not only reflected by his appointment as minister of agriculture and commerce in 1921–5 but by the fact that he was one of only three NI cabinet members, along with Craig and the education minister, Lord Londonderry (qv), who signed the second Craig–Collins pact. He was regarded as a successful minister of agriculture whose department improved standards in the quality and marketing of its products and developed research and training in agricultural sciences and farming techniques. He was especially proud of the eggs marketing act (1924), claiming that it broke new ground in the UK by ensuring that only fresh, clean, and graded eggs would be offered for sale on the British market. However, his occasionally sectarian comments caused much offence, not least his statement (31 March 1925) that there were only four catholics out of 109 employees at the Ministry of Agriculture, and that three of the four had been turned over to him under the government of Ireland act of 1920.
His principal residence was at Riversdale. He enjoyed many civil distinctions, not least as an Orangeman, serving as imperial grand master (1926–37), as grand master of the order in Ireland (1924–40), and for some time as county grand master of Fermanagh. He was made a privy councillor of Ireland (7 March 1921) and of Northern Ireland (12 December 1922). In 1926 he was awarded the honorary degree of LLD by QUB, and was created a baronet in 1928. He was also vice-president of the Fermanagh Protestant Orphan Society and president of Enniskillen Golf Club. He served as honorary secretary of Fermanagh Farming Society and chairman of the Ballinamallard Agricultural and Dairy Society, and was a member of the Fermanagh county committee of agriculture, the agricultural committee of the RDS, and the Agricultural Wages Board in Ireland. E. M. Archdale died at home 2 November 1943.
He married (10 June 1880) Alicia, youngest daughter of Quintin Fleming Bland of Chapelville, Liverpool; they had one daughter and five sons. His heir, Vice-adm. Nicholas Edward Archdale (1881–1955), succeeded to the baronetcy.