Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Skeffington, Clotworthy

SKEFFINGTON, CLOTWORTHY, seventh Viscount and second Earl of Massereene (1742–1805), son of Clotworthy Skeffington, sixth viscount and first earl (created 1756), by his second wife, Anne, daughter of Henry Eyre of Rowter, was born on 28 Jan. 1742, succeeded to his father's title in 1757, and in 1758 entered Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Visiting Paris about 1765, he was inveigled into signing bills for 15,000l. or 20,000l. One version is that he was cheated at cards, another that he was deluded by a scheme for importing salt from Asia Minor. Refusing to pay, he was consigned in 1769 or 1770 to the debtors' prison of Fort-l'Evêque, where he entertained his fellow-prisoners, and is said to have spent 4,000l. a year. An attempt in June 1770 to escape was foiled by the bad faith of a turnkey, who had accepted from him a bribe of two hundred louis. On the closing of Fort-l'Evêque in 1780, Massereene was transferred to La Force, where he lived luxuriously until the outbreak of the revolution. In an appeal to the Marquis of Carmarthen, dated 26 Nov. 1788, he described himself as ‘imprisoned abroad, robbed at home, misrepresented everywhere’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. vii. 56). In the same letter he describes various hardships he had suffered in gaol, where he alleged he was shut up ‘solus save for the vermin and a mouse which I taught to come for food.’ On 13 July 1789, the eve of the fall of the Bastille, he either headed the captives in forcing their way out of La Force, or, as is more probable, was liberated by the mob, for several of his fellow prisoners made formal declarations that they had been set free against their will (Archives Nationales, Paris, Y 13454). After presenting himself at the British embassy, Massereene took refuge in the precincts of the Temple, a privileged spot for debtors; but, finding himself in no danger of rearrest, he proceeded to Calais. There he is said to have narrowly escaped detention, but he took the packet for Dover, where, the first passenger to land, he kissed the ground, exclaiming ‘God bless this land of liberty!’ He was accompanied by Marie Anne Barcier, described as daughter of the governor of the prison, whom he is said to have already married, and whom he formally wedded at St. Peter's, Cornhill, 19 Aug. 1789. He afterwards repaired to Ireland. His wife, celebrated for her beauty, died at Blackheath in 1800, aged 38, and he subsequently married Elizabeth Lane (d. 1838). He died at his seat in Antrim, without issue, on 28 Feb. 1805, and was succeeded by his brother Henry as eighth viscount Massereene, the earldom becoming extinct. The latter, who died on 12 June 1811, was succeeded as ninth viscount by his brother Chichester, whose daughter Harriet, suo jure viscountess Massereene, married Thomas Foster, second viscount Ferrard, and was mother of

John Skeffington Foster Skeffington, tenth Viscount Massereene (1812–1863). Born in Dublin on 30 Nov. 1812, he was educated at Eton, and matriculated from Christ Church, Oxford, on 25 Nov. 1830. He succeeded his mother as Viscount Massereene in 1831, and his father as Viscount Ferrard in 1834, at the same time assuming Skeffington as an additional surname. He was created K.P. on 3 July 1851, and died at Antrim Castle on 28 April 1863. On 1 Aug. 1835 he married Olivia, fourth daughter of Henry Deane Grady of Stillorgan Castle, co. Dublin, and left four sons and four daughters. He was the author of: 1. ‘O'Sullivan, the Bandit Chief: a romantic poem,’ Dublin, 1844, 4to. 2. ‘Church Melodies,’ London, 1847, 8vo. 3. ‘A Metrical Version of the Psalms,’ Dublin, 1865, 8vo. 4. ‘The Love of God: a poem,’ London, 1868, 8vo.

[Gent. Mag. 1789, 1800, and 1805 (inaccurate in details of imprisonment); Annual Register, 1805; Lodge's Peerage, ed. Archdall, ii. 388; G. E. C.'s Peerage, s. v. ‘Massereene;’ Rutledge's Quinzaine Anglaise; Burke's Peerage; Alger's Englishmen in the French Revolution; Berryer's Souvenirs; Mém. de Richard-Lenoir; and for the tenth viscount see O'Donoghue's Poets of Ireland, p. 231; Gent. Mag. 1863, i. 806; Stapylton's Eton School Lists, p. 138; Foster's Alumni Oxon.]

J. G. A.