Sir Charles Coote

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Coote, Sir Charles, Bart., first landed in Ireland late in the 16th century, as a captain in Mountjoy's army. He was present at the siege of Kinsale, was appointed Provost-Marshal, and afterwards Vice-President of Connaught. In 1620 he was sworn on the Privy Council, and next year was created a baronet. He received large grants of land, principally in Connaught, out of which, at the breaking out of the War of 1641, he was, according to Carte, worth £4,000 per annum. He raised a considerable body of troops to act against the Irish, and soon distinguished himself. His first action in the war was the relief of the Castle of Wicklow, a service he executed with success. He was hastily recalled by the Lords-Justices to place Dublin in a proper state of defence. On his way, he was attacked by, but routed Luke O'Toole at the head of 1,000 native troops. Carte says Dublin "was but sorrily fortified, for the suburbs, which were large, had no walls about them; and the city wall, having been built about four hundred years, was now very much decayed, and had no flankers on it, nor places whereon the garrison might stand to fight. Sir Charles . . was a man of courage and experience, but very rough and sour in his temper, and these qualities of his nature being heightened by a recent sense of the very great damages he had sustained from the rebels in his forges [iron smelting works] and estate, put him upon acts of revenge, violence, and cruelty, which he exercised on all occasions with too little distinction between the innocent and the guilty." He raised the sieges of Swords and other strong places near Dublin, and repelled repeated incursions of the Irish upon the suburbs. His severity and intemperate language at the council board tended to send over many of the Catholic lords of the Pale to the Confederate Irish.

Carte speaks of "his inhuman executions and promiscuous murders of the people in Wicklow;" and his condemnation of Father Higgins, brought to Dublin on safe-conduct by the Marquis of Ormond, is specially animadverted on by the same author. On 10th April 1642 he showed great bravery in the relief of Birr, and other strongholds in the vicinity, and after being forty-eight hours on horseback, returned to his camp without the loss of a man. "This," says Cox in his History, "was the prodigious passage through Montrath woods, which, indeed, is wonderful in many respects, and therefore justly gave occasion for the title of Earl of Montrath to be entailed upon the posterity of Sir Charles Coot, who was the chief commander of this expedition."

Soon after his return to Dublin, he again marched out to the relief of Geashill. Being warned concerning the difficulty of retreating from some difficult passes he entered, he rejoined: "I protest I never thought of that in my life. I always considered how to do my business, and when that was done I got home again as well as I could, and hitherto I have not missed by forcing my way." He next occupied Philipstown, and then Trim. His death, early in May 1642, in the defence of that town, is thus related by Cox: " The Irish, to the number of 3,000, came in the dead of the night to surprise him; but the sentinel gave the alarm, and thereupon Sir Charles Coot, with all the horse he could get, being not above seventeen, issued out of the gate, and was followed by others as fast as they could get ready. The success was answerable to so generous an undertaking, and the Irish were routed, without any other considerable loss on the English side except that of Sir Charles Coot himself, who was shot dead; but whether by the enemy or one of his own troopers is variously reported. Upon his death, the government of Dublin was given to the Lord Lambert."

Sources

52. Burke, Sir Bernard: Dormant, Abeyant, Forfeited, and Extinct Peerages. London, 1866.

170. Ireland, History of: Richard Cox. London, 1689.

271. Ormond, Duke of, Life 1610-'88: Thomas A. Carte, M.A. 6 vols. Oxford, 1851.

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