Valentine Brown Lawless, Baron Cloncurry

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Lawless, Valentine Brown, Baron Cloncurry, was born in Merrion-square, 19th August 1773. [His father, originally a Catholic, sought in France in early life those rights from which he was debarred in Ireland. Nettled at religious partiality shown towards titled neighbours by the clergy, we are told that he sold his Rouen estate, returned home, and turned Protestant. Engaging in trade, he became a woollen merchant and banker, was created a baronet in 1776, and elevated to the peerage as Baron Cloncurry in 1789.]

Valentine was educated at Portarlington, and at Dr. Burrowes' school at Blackrock, and graduated at Trinity College in 1791. He threw himself into the circle of which Lord Edward FitzGerald, the Emmets, and Sampson, were leading spirits. After a tour on the Continent he entered at the Middle Temple in 1795 — still keeping up the closest intimacy with the leaders of the United Irishmen, although not, overtly at least, entering into any of their revolutionary plans. In consequence of these relations he was arrested in London in June 1798, and committed to the Tower.

The Duke of Leinster, Curran, and Grattan, who happened to be visiting him at the time of his arrest, were also taken into custody, but were immediately liberated.

This imprisonment lasted about six weeks. Forbidden by his father to return to Ireland, then in the throes of the Insurrection, he made a tour of England on horseback. On 14th April 1799 he was again arrested under the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act, and again committed to the Tower, where he remained until the expiration of the Act in March 1801. "Of the sufferings and privations I was made to endure throughout the protracted and rigid imprisonment, I will not trust myself to write at length:.. dragged from a sick bed in the heart of the metropolis of British freedom, incarcerated in a filthy and loathsome cell, subject to the continual companionship (even in my hours of sleep) of a double guard, deprived of the society of my nearest relatives, and even of the use of pen and paper."

In the course of those two-and-twenty months he lost his grandfather, his father, and the lady to whom he was engaged. We are told that his father voted for the Union against his conscience, in the hope of obtaining his son's release, and before his death he left away from Valentine about £65,000, through fear of confiscation of his property by Government. "Whatever air or exercise I took was upon the leads of my prison, as the shouts of 'bloody Irishman' which greeted me from the mob allowed to assemble upon the parade when I was brought there for exercise in custody of my guards, obliged me to decline that indulgence."

He succeeded to the title on his father's decease. During his imprisonment his affairs were neglected; and after his release it required all his ability to set them to rights. He subsequently paid a lengthened visit to the Continent. The particulars of his sojourn in Rome are most interesting. There he was on intimate terms with the Pope, whose body-guard then consisted of a squadron of British hussars. Lord Cloncurry brought home to his seat at Lyons, not far from Dublin, a large number of works of art, which it was then possible to purchase at low prices. He was created a peer of the United Kingdom and a Privy-Councillor in 1831. Although taking part in all liberal measures, and retaining to the last his opinions regarding the Act of Union, he held aloof from O'Connell in his Repeal agitation. Yet on one occasion he offered to take the chair of a committee to adjust the dispute between the Old and Young Irelanders, which proposal, we are told, John O'Connell rejected "in very saucy and unbecoming language."

In 1849 he published an interesting volume of Personal Recollections. The summing up of the work shows that his hostility to the Act of Union continued unabated. Lord Cloncurry was twice married. He died 28th October 1853, aged 80, and was buried in the family mausoleum at Lyons. The honours of the family are at present (1877) enjoyed by his grandson.

Sources

54. Burke, Sir Bernard: Peerage and Baronetage.

82. Cloncurry, Valentine, Lord: Personal Recollections. Dublin, 1849.

213. Lefroy, Chief Justice, Memoir: Thomas Lefroy. Dublin, 1871.

233. Manuscript and Special Information, and Current Periodicals.

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