BOYLE, Roger, 1st Baron of Broghill [I] (1621-79), of Ballymallow House, co. Cork and Marston Bigot, Som.
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Family and Education
b. 25 Apr. 1621, 5th but 2nd surv. s. of Richard, 1st Earl of Cork [I], by 2nd w. Catherine, da. of Sir Geoffrey Fenton of Dublin, sec. of state [I] 1581-1608. educ. Trinity Coll. Dublin 1630; G. Inn 1636; travelled abroad (France, Switzerland, Italy) 1636-9. m. 27 Jan. 1641 (with £5,000), Lady Margaret Howard (bur. 24 Aug. 1689), da. of Theophilus Howard†, 2nd Earl of Suffolk, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 5da. cr. Baron of Broghill 28 Feb. 1628; kntd. 1 Apr. 1628; cr. Earl of Orrery [I] 5 Sept. 1660.
Tper. 1639; capt. of horse (royalist) [I] 1641-3, colt. (parliamentary) [I] 1644-7; gov. Youghal 1644-7; gen. of horse, Munster 1645-7; col. of horse [I] 1649-d.; maj.-gen. [I] 1662-d.
Master of ordnance [I] 1648, lt. 1651-2; pres. Council of State [S] 1655-6; commr. for security [S] 1656, govt. [I] Mar.-May 1660; PC [I] Oct. 1660-d.; one of the lds. justices [I] Dec. 1660-2; PC 26 May 1665-21 Apr. 1679.
Commr. for assessment, Som. 1657; j.p. Som., Mdx. and Westminster 1657-Mar. 1660; pres. of Munster Mar. 1660-72; gov. co. Clare 1661-72; constable, Limerick Castle 1661-d.
Lord Broghill’s father, who came from a cadet branch of a Herefordshire family, migrated to Ireland in 1588 and built up a vast estate, sufficient to endow peerages for Broghill and three of his brothers. The whole family took an active part in resistance to the Irish rebellion; but Broghill alone was prepared to serve Parliament, and later the Commonwealth, in defence of the Protestant interest. Highly successful in the field, he thenceforth saw himself as first and foremost a soldier. Under the Protector he became the first of the family to sit at Westminster, and served briefly as a popular governor of Scotland. But Ireland always took first place in his concerns. As one of Cromwell’s ‘kitchen cabinet’ he was chiefly responsible for offering him the crown in 1657. But however he might dissemble he remained a Royalist and an Anglican at heart, and together with Sir Charles Coote played the principal part in persuading the Irish army to accept the Restoration.
Broghill was of course unable to leave Ireland during the general election of 1660. But his wife’s brother-in-law, the Earl of Northumberland, nominated him for Cockermouth, where he was defeated, and presumably for Arundel. He was listed as a friend by Lord Wharton, but he did not reach Westminster till June, and never became an active Member. His five committees in the Convention included those to consider the bills nominating commissioners for the army and restoring Lord Inchiquin’s estates. On 7 Sept. he was appointed a manager of the conference on the disbandment bill. Before the next session Wharton sent him a statement of the case for modified episcopacy ‘with some circumstances’, but he took no part in the debate. A court supporter, he was amply rewarded with the confirmation of the Irish lands which he had acquired during the Interregnum, and the earldom of Orrery. He was appointed a lord justice in Ireland, and though he did not leave England until after the dissolution of the Convention, he played no further part in its proceedings.1
Lord Orrery was re-elected in his absence at the top of the poll, but throughout the whole course of the Cavalier Parliament he was named to only five committees. He was absent from the corporate communion of 26 May 1661, and it was noted that he was in Ireland, where he exercised the chief authority until the arrival of Ormonde as lord lieutenant. During his visits to England he preferred the Court and the theatre to the routine business of the House. His heroic dramas in the French manner, lavishly produced, won him the favour of Charles II, though Samuel Pepys found them monotonous, not to say soporific, a verdict which posterity has endorsed. He was listed as a court dependent in 1664, and appointed to the English Privy Council in the following year, though with his record he could never be entirely secure, despite incessant professions of unconditional loyalty and orthodoxy. He sought to remain on good terms both with Clarendon and Arlington, though the former condemned his squandering of forfeited Irish lands on English courtiers, and the latter became his bitterest enemy. ‘A deceitful and vain man, who loved to appear in business, [Orrery] dealt so much underhand that he had not much credit with any side.’ The need to provide marriage portions for his daughters and to finance his extensive building operations made the Government’s failure to satisfy his claims very irksome. Ormonde, the lord lieutenant, resented his virtually independent authority in Munster, and deplored his ‘vanity, ostentation and itch to popularity’, as well as his peevish, malicious jealousy; but he admitted that Orrery’s ‘industry, ability and ambition’ made him a dangerous enemy. Writing on Clarendon’s fall to his friend Lord Conway, Orrery declared himself ‘too much a country gentleman to understand the causes of things at Court’. His chaplain’s story that he was proposed as successor to the lord chancellor by the Duke of York cannot be sustained, because of the Duke’s description of him as one ‘of the republican and Cromwellian stamp’. In view of the marriage between his niece and Clarendon’s son Laurence Hyde, the King even felt it necessary to send him a reassuring letter at this juncture. However, the change of ministry in England weakened Ormonde’s position in Ireland. Orrery still maintained an effusive correspondence with the lord lieutenant, but in 1669, acting in conjunction with Buckingham, he secured his dismissal. In Burnet’s account of the affair he described Orrery as one who
pretended to knowledge, but was very ignorant; to wit, but it was very luscious; to eloquence, but had the worst style in the world; to religion, but was thought a very fickle and false man, and was vain to the pitch of the Earl of Shaftesbury.2
Orrery’s frequent audiences at Court made him vulnerable in Parliament, and at the King’s instance he formed ‘a strict friendship’ with Lord Keeper Bridgeman and, probably, (Sir) Thomas Clifford, of which Arlington was kept in ignorance. When Parliament met in the autumn, charges were brought against Orrery which, it was agreed, would amount to treason if proved, though most of them were merely allegations of maladministration. A week later, seated because of the gout, he demolished them one by one in masterly fashion. A motion to name a day for hearing witnesses, however, failed by only three votes, Ormonde’s and Arlington’s friends joining with independent Members avid for juicy revelations of government scandals, but the House then resolved unanimously to leave the complainants to the remedy of the law. But on 10 Dec. Arlington’s brother-in-law Sir Robert Carr succeeded in reopening discussion of the charges. A motion was passed to seek permission for the witnesses to come over from Ireland, but on the following day Parliament was prorogued, and no more was heard of the charges. Despite Orrery’s increasing infirmity he attended the next session, supporting union with Scotland and speaking in favour of the comprehension measure designed by Robert Atkyns ‘to enlarge the Church on good terms’. Andrew Marvell saw Orrery and John Trevor as replacing the crypto-Catholic members of ‘the governing cabal’, and in June 1670 he secured himself against a revival of the impeachment proceedings by suing out a general pardon. Listed by the Opposition as a government supporter in 1671, he urged moderation in a procedural dispute with the Lords, as he ‘would not have anything look like a breach’ between the Houses.3
The resignation of Berkeley and his replacement by Arlington’s candidate, the Earl of Essex, was a death-blow to Orrery’s independent jurisdiction in Munster. Arlington wrote to him by the King’s command ‘to moderate his zeal’ against the Roman Catholics, and, even more unkindly, ‘to forebear harassing the militia by unnecessary duty’. On 30 June 1672 the presidency of Munster was abolished. But Arlington’s star was also on the wane, and in January 1673 Orrery received a letter from the King ‘written in his own hand’ urging him to attend the next session. He was too ill to comply, but he gave way to renewed pressure in October, and it was even reported that he was to be Danby’s candidate to succeed Arlington as secretary of state. He was also present in 1674 and sent regular reports of parliamentary proceedings to Essex. On 27 Jan. he spoke in favour of peace with the Dutch, and in the following month during a debate on the farming of the Irish revenue by his nephew Lord Ranelagh (Richard Jones) he was repeatedly urged to speak. But he refused to do so until the contract had been examined regularly in committee and reported to the House. He was appointed to the committee to inquire into the revenue farm and other matters concerning Ireland, but no report was made. Under the Danby administration, some of Orrery’s claims on the Government were settled. He was again summoned to Westminster for the spring session of 1675, listed as a court dependant; but he did not arrive until the prorogation. According to his own account he told the King that if during the recess
some things were not effectually done to satisfy his subjects in point of religion and property, all measures which would be taken would prove ineffectual. I took also the confidence to add that too many Parliament men had observed to me that we had a set of principles when the Parliament was near, and another set when they were prorogued.
He also had several nocturnal interviews in which he strove to persuade the lord treasurer that the non-resisting test would never pass the Lower House. He urged the wisdom of a ‘moderate indulgence’ for the nonconformists, the natural allies against Popery, and in order to satisfy the Anglicans and obtain a supply, he proposed that a money bill containing guarantees of liberty and property should be brought forward early in the session. To it would be tacked provisions that the Penal Laws against Roman Catholics should be suspended ‘for some years’ for those who registered as such and refrained from all public employment and appearance at Court, and that dissenters should be allowed to meet for worship subject to certain safeguards, including disqualification from office. Such an omnibus bill, he felt, would satisfy all except the extremists. Sir Richard Wiseman noted him as absent from the autumn session, though on the working lists he was entrusted with the management of his Somerset neighbour and correspondent (Sir) John Malet and the old Commonwealth official Richard Lucy. He left England for good in August 1676, though Shaftesbury marked him doubly vile in the following year, and the Opposition included him in their ‘unanimous club’ of the court party. A permanent invalid after an unsuccessful operation on his foot, he beguiled his leisure by producing his most substantial literary work, A Treatise of the Art of War. He continued to receive regular newsletters from Malet. He died of gout on 16 Oct. 1679 and was buried at Youghal. His grandson, the 3rd Earl, sat for East Grinstead in three Parliaments under William III.4
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: M. W. Helms / B. M. Crook / Basil Duke Henning
Except where otherwise indicated, this biography is based on K. M. Lynch, Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of Orrery.
- 1. HMC Le Fleming, 403, CSP Dom. 1660-1, pp. 37, 408; CJ, viii. 157.