Richard Boyle

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Boyle, Richard, Earl of Cork, was born at Canterbury, 3rd October 1566. His family had been settled in Herefordshire for many generations. On leaving Cambridge he entered the Middle Temple; but losing both his parents, his resources were insufficient for his maintenance during the usual course of study, and he was led to offer his services to Sir R. Manwood, Chief-Baron of the Exchequer. Ireland was then a desirable field for young adventurers of push, daring, and ability. Hither he came in his twenty second year, landing 23rd June 1588. "When I arrived in Dublin all my wealth was then £27 3s. in money, and two tokens, which my mother had formerly given me, viz.: a diamond ring, which I ever have since, and still do wear, and a bracelet of gold, worth about £10; a taffety doublet cut with and upon taffety; a pair of black velvet breeches, laced; a new Milan fustian suit laced and cut upon taffety; two cloaks; competent linen and necessaries; with my rapier and dagger." Procuring employment in drawing up memorials, conveyances, and public documents, he acquired an insight into affairs, and was enabled rapidly to turn over his small capital; while his acquaintance with government officials gave him an opportunity of purchasing at nominal prices some of the vast confiscated estates of the Irish chieftains.

In 1595 he married a Limerick heiress, who, dying within a short time, left him a considerable sum in cash and £500 per annum in landed property. He lived with economy, and was enabled to purchase so much territory that the envy of several influential persons was aroused. They alleged that his investments on the coast were with the view of co-operating with the Spaniards or other invaders, and indeed that he was supplied with funds by the King of Spain. About to proceed to London to clear himself of these charges, the war in Munster broke out, his estates were ravaged, and he returned to his studies at the Temple. When on the point of revisiting Ireland in the suite of the Earl of Essex, Sir Henry Wallop and others renewed the charges against him; his papers were seized and he was retained in prison some months. At length an examination before the Privy Council took place, the Queen being present. Boyle not only cleared himself, but turned the tables on Sir H. Wallop, and in his own words, Elizabeth "arising from council, gave orders not only for my present enlargement, but also discharging all my charges and fees during my restraint, gave me her royal hand to kiss, which I did heartily, humbly thanking God for that great deliverance."

He was now appointed Clerk of the Munster Council, purchased the Pilgrim from Sir Walter Raleigh, freighted her with arms and stores, sailed to Ireland, and assisted at the siege of Carrigfoyle Castle; "and," as he says, "this was the second rise that God gave my fortunes." After the reduction of Kinsale, 24th December 1601, he was employed to carry the news to Elizabeth; he accomplished the journey from Cork to London in the short space of forty hours, and was graciously received by the Queen, with whom he had an audience in her bed-chamber at seven in the morning: whereupon his biographer remarks: "If we reflect upon the hours our ministers keep at present [1755] we shall be the less surprised to find that our affairs are not managed altogether so successfully as in the days of Queen Elizabeth." His affairs continued most prosperous; he bought Sir W. Raleigh's estates of 12,000 acres for a small sum, and on the conclusion of peace set vigorously to settle them with English immigrants, and to build towns and forts. On 25 th July 1603, he married his second wife, Miss Fenton, daughter of Sir J. Fenton, Master of the Rolls. On this occasion, at Mary's Abbey, he was knighted by Sir George Carew. He speaks of this marriage as "the crown of all my blessings." He was created a Privy-Councillor (1606), Lord Boyle, Baron of Yonghal (1616), Viscount Dungarvan and Earl of Cork (1620), in 1629 he was Lord-Justice, in conjunction with his son-in-law, Viscount Loftus; he was Lord-Treasurer in 1631. His mansion in Dublin, on the site of the present City Hall, gave the name to Cork-hill. He selected as his family motto: "God's providence is my inheritance."

There was a violent antipathy between Lord Strafford and Lord Cork, said to have had its origin in Stratford's objection to the original position of the unsightly Boyle monument, still to be seen in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. Lord Cork appeared as a witness against Strafford at his trial in London. When the war broke out in 1641, he fortified Lismore, and placed it under command of his son, Lord Broghill. The town of Bandon, built, walled, and fortified by himself, at a cost of £14,000, he left under his son Lord Kynalmeaky; while assisted by another son, Lord Dungarvan, a troop of cavalry, and two hundred tenants, he undertook the defence of Youghal, then threatened by the Irish forces, who held the surrounding country. The details of his actions in the war have not come down to us. His son Kynalmeaky was killed in the battle of Liscarroll, 2nd September 1642. The same autumn, the Earl of Cork was empowered to hold sessions at Cork for the trial of 1,100 men charged with high treason. Even after the heavy losses in the war, his estates continued the most valuable in the kingdom. Cromwell remarked that "if there had been an Earl of Cork in every province, it would have been impossible for the Irish to have raised a rebellion." He died 15th September 1643, aged 76, at Youghal, and was buried in his own chapel in the parish church. His second wife, to whom he was tenderly attached, and by whom he had fifteen children, died in 1630.


47. Boyle, Memoirs of the Illustrious Family of, Dublin, 1755.

196. Irishmen, Lives of Illustrious and Distinguished, Rev. James Wills, D.D. 6 vols. or 12 parts. Dublin, 1840-'7.

345. Wentworth, Life of Thomas, Earl of Strafford: Elizabeth Cooper. 2 vols. London, 1874.

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