The Nugent Family

Nugent family crest

(Crest No. 10. Plate 69.)

THE Nugent family is of Norman-French origin, its founder having come to England with the Conqueror in 1066. In the next century (1172), when Hugh de Lacy received a grant of the ancient Kingdom of Meath from King Henry the Second, he parcelled it out among his followers, one of whom was the Chevalier Gilbert de Nogent, or Nugent, a descendant of the adventurer referred to. This Gilbert, who married de Lacy’s sister, received from his chief the County of Dealbhna, or Delvin, the territory belonging to the O’Finnellans, an ancient Munster family of Dalcassian origin. In this large and fertile territory Gilbert Nugent established his brothers and others of his followers. In the course of time the family grew powerful, and branches of it settled in the present Counties of Waterford, Galway, Down, and Cavan. The chief branch of this family was that of the Barons of Delvin, who in 1621 were raised to the rank of Earls of Westmeath.

Sir Richard Nugent, fifteenth Baron of Delvin, born in 1583, was knighted at the age of twenty, when Rory O’Donnell was created Earl of Tyrconnell. He was arrested in 1607 on the charge of being implicated in the plot, real or pretended, for the overthrow of the English power in Ireland, which caused the flight of the Earls O’Neil and O’Donnell. He succeeded in escaping from the castle where he was imprisoned, and having submitted to the Crown was again received into favor. He sat in the Parliaments of 1613 and 1615, and in 1621 was created Earl of Westmeath. He refused to join in the insurrection of 1641, and was killed by the insurgents.

There were many distinguished officers of this name in the army of King James the Second during the Revolution of 1688. Among them was Colonel Thomas Nugent, fourth Earl of Westmeath, who was outlawed by the Williamites, but, being one of the hostages exchanged for the observance of the Treaty of Limerick, his forfeited estates and honors were restored to him. His brother, the Honorable John Nugent, fifth Earl of Westmeath, a cadet in the Horse Guards of King James and afterward attached to the dragoon service of the Irish army, fought at the battle of the Boyne and the siege of Limerick; his uncle, Hon. William Nugent, Lord Lieutenant of the County of Longford and member of the Dublin Parliament of 1689 for Westmeath, was colonel and brigadier of infantry; and Sir Thomas Nugent, third baronet of Moyrath, and Richard Nugent were both colonels on the Irish side. Walter Nugent was colonel of dragoons, and was slain at the battle of Aughrim.

Many members of this distinguished family also signalized themselves in the military service of the Continent. John Nugent, the fifth Earl of Westmeath, already mentioned, passed into France after the fall of Limerick, and served in the King’s Regiment of Irish Horse until the peace of Ryswick, in 1697. He afterward fought at the battles of Luzzara, Ramillies, Oudenarde, Malplaquet, Kehl, and Denain, and participated in the sieges of Douay, Quesnoy, Landau, and Friburgh. He took part in numerous other campaigns, battles, and sieges, and resigned from the army with the rank of major-general in 1748, in the seventy-seventh year of his age. He died at Nivelles, in Brabant, in 1754. He married Margaret, daughter of Count Molza, of the Duchy of Modena, Italy. He was the last Catholic representative of his title, his son Thomas, the sixth Earl, conforming to the Protestant Established Church of England and Ireland.

Christopher Nugent, of the family branch of Moyrath and Dardistown, in the County of Meath, was a lieutenant-colonel of cavalry in King James the Second’s Irish army, and went to France upon the capitulation of Limerick in 1691, thus losing his large estate, which had been offered to him on condition of his remaining in Ireland.

He was given command of the Irish Horse Guards, and served in Flanders, where he was wounded at the battle of Landen. In 1701 he joined the army of Italy, and fought at the battles of Chiari, Luzzara, and Spire, where he was wounded. In 1706 he obtained command of Colonel Sheldon’s Regiment on the latter’s retirement, and led it through six campaigns, during which he fought with distinction at the battles of Ramillies, Oudenarde, and Malplaquet. In 1712 he participated in the sieges of Denain and Douay, and in those of Friburgh and Landau the following year. He accompanied King James the Second’s son, the Pretender, in his expedition to Scotland in 1715 without permission of the French Government, and on the remonstrance of the British ambassador in Paris was deprived of the command of his regiment. The punishment, however, was only nominal and merely to save appearance, as he was shortly after advanced to the rank of major-general of cavalry. On losing the command of his famous regiment, as above mentioned, it was transferred to his son, the Comte de Nugent, then only sixteen years of age. Major-General Nugent died June 4, 1731.

Another highly-distinguished soldier of this family in the French service was the Chevalier Pierre de Nugent, or Sir Peter Nugent, who entered Nugent’s Regiment of Irish Horse as lieutenant, and afterward raised a command of his own, which served at the sieges of Kehl and Philipsburgh.

After serving in various campaigns he was created brigadier of horse, May 1, 1845. He was present at the capture of Tournay and Oudenarde, and was one of the officers chosen to assist the expedition of Prince Charles Stuart—the Pretender—to Scotland. He was captured by Admiral Knowles, was exchanged as a prisoner, re-entered the French service, and participated in the reduction of Maestricht, in 1748. On May 10 of that year he was raised to the rank of major-general. We next find him with the army of Germany, 1757, under the Prince de Soubise, during which campaign he distinguished himself at the battle of Kosbach. He rejoined the French service, and King Louis the Fourteenth created him “Lieutenant-General of the Armies of the King,” 1762.

Patrick Nugent, of the same branch of the family, served as captain in Lord Dongan’s Dragoons, and was made subsequently lieutenant-colonel in the Duke of Berwick’s Regiment, Irish Brigade, and his successor as colonel was his elder brother, Walter Nugent.

In other European countries also this name has been distinguished for its valor.

Field-Marshal Count Lavall Nugent was a descendant from the first Earl of Westmeath, and was born in Ireland in 1777. In 1794 he entered the imperial service of Austria, where his abilities soon attracted notice, though a foreigner and serving among the proudest and most exclusive military circles of Europe. Having signalized himself at the battle of Varragio, in 1799, he was made a Knight of the Military Order of Maria Theresa, and after the battle of Marengo he was raised to the rank of major. A lieutenant-colonel in 1805, a major-general in 1809, he was appointed the plenipotentiary for Austria at the Congress which preceded Napoleon’s marriage to Maria Louisa.

Field-Marshal Count Lavall Nugent of Austria


The excessively hard conditions imposed by Napoleon on Austria caused Nugent to resign rather than sign them, and he did not return to the Austrian service until 1813, when he drove the French out of Illyria. In the campaign of the following year he bore a leading part, and in 1815 he commanded the force in Tuscany that defeated Murat, after which he was made captain-general of the Neapolitan army. He was raised to the rank of field-marshal in 1849, and accompanied Emperor Francis Joseph in his unsuccessful Italian campaign in 1859. Marshal Nugent married the Duchess of Riario Sforza, a descendant of Augustus the Third, King of Poland. After the Franco-Austrian war he retired to his estate in Croatia, where he died in 1862 at the age of eighty-four.

This family possesses a special interest for the Irish reader, from the fact that the last surviving member of the Irish Brigade in the service of France was a descendant of the Nugents of Moyrath, County Meath. According to the records of the French War Office, quoted in Michelet’s History of France, more than four hundred and fifty thousand Irishmen died in the French military service during the period intervening between 1692 and 1792. This distinguished soldier, Comte Louis Francois Basile Antoine Aime, former Prefect and Chevalier of the Orders of Sts. Maurice and Lazare, died at Mesnuls, France, July 8, 1859. The old brigade which had carried Irish valor over Europe was disbanded in 1793, on the occasion of the French Revolution with the record of a century of honor and valor, acknowledged by Louis the Fifteenth on presenting them with a banner on which was inscribed the legend, “1692-1792—Ubiquique et Semper Fidelis”—Everywhere and Always Faithful.