Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Coote, Charles (d.1661)

COOTE, Sir CHARLES, Earl of Mountrath (d. 1661), was the eldest son of Sir Charles Coote [q. v.], military commander in Ireland. In 1639 he was elected member of parliament for Leitrim, and succeeded his father as provost marshal of Connaught. In 1641 he was besieged in Castle Coote by about twelve hundred Irish, but succeeded in raising the siege within a week. Not long afterwards he defeated Hugh O'Connor, titular prince of Connaught, and also took Con O'Rourke and his party prisoners. In April he relieved Athlone with provisions, and 12 May 1642 caused the surrender of Galway. On 16 Feb. 1643–4 he and his brother were appointed collectors and receivers-general of the king's composition money and arrears in Connaught during their lives, and on 12 May 1645 he was made lord president of the province of Connaught, with a grant of 500l. a year. In November 1646 he caused the Irish to withdraw from Dublin. In 1649 he was besieged in Londonderry by those of the Irish who had declared for Charles II, and was reduced to such extremities that in his letters asking assistance he stated that without immediate relief he must surrender (Whitelocke, Memorials, p. 396); but the siege having been raised by his brother, he made a sally, scouring the country within a radius of seven miles, and taking many prisoners. After this he arranged terms of peace with Major-general Owen Row O'Neal, and having been reinforced with a thousand foot and five hundred horse he cleared the country round Derry within a radius of fourteen miles (ib. p. 426). In December he defeated four thousand highlanders and Irish under Munro, who had come to the relief of Carrickfer- gus, after which Carrickfergus surrendered (ib. p. 436; A Bloody Fight in Ireland and a great Victory obtained by Sir Charles Coote, Lord President of Connaught, and commander of those forces, and of Londonderry, against the British forces of Laggan, with some Regiments of Irish and Highlanders under Major-general Monro, 1649). In the beginning of 1650 he advanced towards Belfast (Whitelocke, p. 433). On 21 June he routed the Irish with great slaughter at Skirfold, and on 8 July took Athlone and Portumna. In November 1651 he joined Ireton and harassed the barony of Burren. He then blockaded Galway (ib. p. 497), which surrendered 12 May 1652. Having reduced Sligo and the northern strongholds, he marched against the royal forces in Kerry, after which the Marquis of Clanricarde surrendered. On 17 Dec. he was appointed a commissioner of the Commonwealth in Connaught. Next to Roger Boyle, Lord Broghill, afterwards earl of Orrery [q. v.], Coote was the ablest friend of the Commonwealth in Ireland, and enjoyed the implicit trust of the parliamentary party even after the death of Cromwell, becoming in Jan. 1659 a commissioner of government. He was M.P. for Sligo and Mayo cos. 1654, 1656, and 1659. On the deposition of Richard Cromwell he, however, at once recognised that the cause of Charles II was in the ascendant, and in order to secure the favour of the royalists went to Ireland to take measures for his restoration. Notwithstanding the mutual jealousy of Broghill and Coote, they saw the expediency of working harmoniously together in the cause they had decided to support. According to Clarendon, the hesitation of Broghill, who was watching for a convenient opportunity to serve the king, was removed by the decisive steps at once adopted by Coote, whom Clarendon describes as ‘a man of less guilt’ (than Broghill) ‘and more courage and impatience to serve the king’ (History of the Rebellion, Oxford ed. iii. 999). Coote sent Sir Arthur Forbes, a ‘Scottish gentleman of good affection to the king,’ to Brussels to the Marquis of Ormonde, ‘that he might assure his majesty of his affection and duty; and that if his majesty would vouchsafe himself to come into Ireland the whole kingdom would declare for him’ (ib. p. 1000). The king deemed it expedient to try his fortunes first in England; but meanwhile, before the arrival of Sir Arthur Forbes in March with letters expressing the king's satisfaction at the proposal, though he deemed it inexpedient to land in Ireland, Broghill and Coote had virtually secured Ireland for the king, Coote having made himself master of Athlone, Drogheda, Limerick, and Dublin. For these services Coote was rewarded on 30 July 1660 by the appointment to be president of Connaught, and by a grant of the lands and liberties of the barony of Westmeath, which was renewed to him 29 March 1661. On 6 Sept. he was created Earl of Mountrath. On 9 Feb. 1660 he was appointed colonel of a regiment of horse, and on 31 Dec. was named one of the lords justices of Ireland, to whom, 15 Oct. 1661, a grant was made of 1,000l. to be equally divided among them as it should become due upon forfeited bonds. By the Act of Settlement it was enacted that he should be paid his arrears due for service in Ireland before 5 June 1649, not to exceed 6,000l. On 30 July 1661 he was appointed receiver-general of the composition money in Connaught and Thomond, and named governor of Queen's County. He died 18 Dec. of the same year, and was buried in the cathedral of Christ Church, Dublin. By his first wife, Mary, second daughter of Sir Francis Ruish of Ruish Hall, he had a son, Charles, who became second earl; and by his second wife, Jane, daughter of Sir Robert Hannay, knight and baronet, he had two sons and three daughters. After his death she married Sir Robert Reading of Dublin, baronet.

[Whitelocke's Memorials; Ludlow's Memoirs; Clarendon's History of the Rebellion; Cox's Hibernia Anglicana; Borlase's Reduction of Ireland; Contemporary History of Affairs in Ireland, 1641–1652, ed. I. T. Gilbert, 1879–80; Cal. of State Papers, Dom. Ser.; Clarendon State Papers; Prendergast's Cromwellian Settlement in Ireland (1870); Biog. Brit. (Kippis), iv. 266–9; Lodge's Peerage of Ireland, ed. Archdall, ii. 71–7; Carte's Life of Ormonde; Froude's English in Ireland.]

T. F. H.