Canning, Hubert George de Burgh (1832–1916), 2nd marquess of Clanricarde , landowner and miser, was born on 30 November 1832, the younger son of Harriet, daughter of George Canning the prime minister, and presumably of her husband, Ulick John de Burgh, 1st marquess of Clanricarde. He was, however, widely believed, on the Clanricarde estates in Co. Galway, to have been an illegitimate son of his mother's Italian music teacher (Nicholls). After an education at Harrow he entered the diplomatic service (1852), becoming attaché at Turin and retiring as second secretary there in 1862. In July 1862, in compliance with the will of his maternal uncle Earl Canning (viceroy of India), of which he was a beneficiary, he assumed the surname Canning, suffixing it to de Burgh. After the death (16 August 1867) of his elder brother, Ulick Canning de Burgh, Lord Dunkellin, he succeeded him as liberal MP for Co. Galway (under the name Viscount Burke); he resigned, however (1871), in opposition to Gladstone's Irish Land Act.
On 10 April 1874 Canning succeeded the 1st marquess, thus acquiring six noble titles – he was the 15th earl as well as the 2nd marquess – and becoming owner of Portumna castle and some 57,000 acres stretching westwards almost to Galway town. He resided in London, in a luxurious suite at the Albany, off Piccadilly, hoarded art treasures (without, however, much aesthetic regard for them) and never visited his estates in Ireland, which fell into neglect. On 29 June 1882 his land agent for many years, John Henry Blake (aged 70), was murdered. In August 1886, amid great publicity and at enormous expense to the authorities, some tenants on his estate at Woodford were evicted for non-payment of rent. Three months later it became the first large estate to be subjected to the agitation for rent reduction led by the Irish MPs John Dillon (qv) and William O'Brien (qv), known as the Plan of Campaign; four hundred tenants marched ostentatiously into Portumna and told Clanricarde's agent, Francis Joyce, that they would pay their rents only on condition of a 40 per cent reduction and reinstatement of the evictees (18 November). Flatly refusing to compromise, or to be influenced by successive chief secretaries Sir Michael Hicks Beach (qv) and Arthur James Balfour (qv), the marquess continued to evict defaulters. He is believed to have said: ‘my tenants need not think they will intimidate me by murdering my agent or bailiffs’, and certainly he was to the popular mind ‘the classic instance of the hard-hearted absentee Irish landlord’ (MacDonagh). He refused to sell to his tenants under Wyndham's Land Act of 1903, which provided for voluntary sale on terms favourable to both owners and tenants. It was in opposition to Birrell's Irish Evicted Tenants Bill of 1907 (intended to benefit former tenants on Clanricarde's estate) that he made his only speech in the house of lords (6 August). The marquess's refusal to sell was a major reason that another land act was passed in 1909 to enable the congested districts board to acquire lands by compulsion. When it attempted to acquire Clanricarde's estate (1913), he resisted in the courts, going as far as the house of lords, which sent the case back to the Irish land court, where the board finally was successful (July 1915), to Clanricarde's considerable financial loss.
A miser and recluse, who dressed shabbily, was shunned by other noblemen, and eventually had to leave the Albany owing to a dispute with his landlords over rent, the 2nd marquess of Clanricarde died, unmarried, on 13 April 1916 at his rooms at 13 Hanover Square, London. All his titles lapsed except his Irish earldom, which passed to a cousin, the 6th marquess of Sligo.