Beresford, George Thomas (1781–1839), politician and soldier, was born 12 February 1781, third son of George de la Poer Beresford (1734/5–1800), 2nd earl of Tyrone (1763–89) and 1st marquess of Waterford (cr. 1789), MP for Co. Waterford (1757–60) and for Coleraine (1761–3), and governor of Co. Waterford (1766–1800), and his wife Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of George Henry Monck of Charleville, Co. Cork. Educated at Eton (1791–3), he became a cornet in the 13th Dragoons in 1794 and captain in the 88th Foot (Connaught Rangers) in July 1796, serving in the East Indies till early 1799. He was promoted major of the 6th Dragoon Guards (1800), lieutenant-colonel of Dillon's regiment (1803), and major-general (1814). As soon as he came of age, he was elected MP for Co. Londonderry (1802–12); he subsequently sat for Coleraine (1812–14) and Co. Waterford (1814–26). As a member of the Beresford interest headed by his elder brother Henry de la Poer Beresford (23 May 1772–16 July 1826), 3rd earl of Tyrone (1789–1800), 2nd marquess of Waterford, MP for Co. Londonderry (1790–1800), and governor of Co. Waterford (1801–26), George generally supported the government. He rarely spoke in parliament, but consistently voted against catholic emancipation. He was appointed privy councillor in 1812, comptroller of the royal household (1812–30), governor of Co. Waterford (1826–39) and colonel of the county militia (1826–39).
In August 1825 a group of Co. Waterford catholics and liberals, led by Thomas Wyse (qv), set up an election committee to challenge the Beresfords in the forthcoming general election. Although there were forty-one catholic voters for every protestant in Waterford, the constituency had returned a Beresford for the past seventy years, and had been uncontested since 1806. This challenge to a bulwark of protestant ascendancy provided one of the most closely watched contests of the entire election. The committee chose as their candidate a local pro-emancipation landlord, Henry Villiers Stuart (qv), and spent over £10,000 in canvassing the county's freeholders to support him. Despite his opposition to emancipation, Beresford was a reasonably popular figure in the county: he was an amiable man who possessed no great talent or zeal for politics and only reluctantly engaged in the cut and thrust of a contested election. His election agents played into the hands of the Catholic Association by issuing two addresses which denounced ‘the demagogues of the Association; vilified the priests; [and] spurned the people as superstitious slaves’ (Wyse, 271). Effectively organised by Wyse in a peaceful and ordered campaign, large numbers of catholic freeholders openly defied their landlords and cast their votes for Stuart and the sitting pro-catholic whig, Richard Power, MP for Co. Waterford (1814–30). As the tide turned against Beresford, Daniel O'Connell (qv) went to Waterford to act as Stuart's counsel. Excitement mounted and the cry throughout the county was ‘High for Stuart. Down with Lord George. Down with the protestants’ (Reynolds, 96). Beresford withdrew from the contest after four days, and on 1 July 1826 Stuart and Power were elected by margins of more than 800 votes. Beresford later complained bitterly of clerical intimidation of voters. His resounding defeat at Waterford gave a great boost to the campaign for emancipation, inspired similar shows of defiance elsewhere, and heralded the decline of Beresford power in Ireland.
In 1827 he was awarded the Grand Cross of Hanover, and promoted lieutenant-general (1830). After tensions had died down and the Beresfords had voted for catholic emancipation, he was returned unopposed as MP for Co. Waterford (1830–31). He died in Armagh 26 October 1839 at the home of his brother, John George Beresford (qv), archbishop of Armagh, and was buried in the family cemetery at Clonegan, Co. Waterford. He married (22 November 1808) Harriet Schutz of Suffolk; they had three daughters.