Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Taaffe, Nicholas

TAAFFE, NICHOLAS, sixth Viscount Taaffe (1677–1769), lieutenant-general in the Austrian army, was the son of Francis Taaffe (grandson of John, first viscount) by Anne, daughter of John Crean of O’Crean’s Castle, co. Sligo. He was born at O’Crean’s Castle in 1677, but, his family having attached themselves to James II, he was educated in Lorraine. He was made chancellor to Duke Leopold, whose son married Maria Theresa and became the Emperor Francis I.

Passing into the Austrian service, in 1726 he was in command of a squadron of Count Hautois’s regiment. In October 1729 he became lieutenant-colonel of it, and on 3 Jan. 1732 he was made colonel of the Lanthieri cuirassiers. He served with this regiment against the French in the war of the Polish succession (1734–5), and against the Turks in the war of 1737–9. He covered the retreat of part of the army in November 1737, and again in September 1738. On 11 Feb. 1739 he was promoted major-general (general-feldwachtmeister). He was given the command of a brigade in the main army under Wallis, and distinguished himself in the operations round Belgrade. He was promoted lieutenant-general (feldmarschall-lieutenant) on 2 July 1752.

On 30 Oct. 1729 he had married Maria Anna (d. 1769), daughter and heiress of Count Spindler of Lintz, and he was himself afterwards made a count of the empire. By the death of his second cousin, Theobald, fourth earl of Carlingford, in 1738, he succeeded to the title of Viscount Taaffe in the peerage of Ireland [see under Taaffe, Francis, fourth Viscount and third Earl of Carlingford]. His claim to the Irish estates was disputed by Robert Sutton, who was descended from the only daughter of Theobald Taaffe, first earl of Carlingford [q. v.], and who took advantage of the penal laws which enabled protestants to supersede catholic heirs. It was ultimately agreed (and confirmed by 15 Geo. II, c. 49) that the estates should be sold, and that Taaffe should receive one-third, Sutton two-thirds, of the purchase-money. They were bought by John Petty Fitzmaurice (afterwards Earl of Shelburne).

Taaffe was present at the battle of Kolin (18 June 1757), and helped to rally the heavy cavalry of the Austrian right wing, though he was at that time eighty years of age. In 1763 he conferred a lasting benefit on the people of Silesia, where he had a large estate, by introducing the potato culture. In 1766 he published (in Dublin and London) ‘Observations on Affairs in Ireland from the Settlement in 1691 to the Present Time.’ This was a moderate and dignified plea against the penal laws, with, which he contrasted the tolerant policy of William III and of the German sovereigns. In a petition to the empress not long afterwards he mentioned that he had voluntarily exiled himself from his own country lest these penal laws should tempt his descendants to turn protestants.

He died at the castle of Ellischau in Bohemia on 30 Dec. 1769. He had two sons, of whom the eldest died before him, and he was succeeded by his grandson Rudolph, grandfather of the late president of the Austrian ministry.

[Memoirs of the Family of Taaffe, privately printed at Vienna, 1856; Wurzbach’s Biograph. Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich, pt. xlii. p. 311; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. ii. 425; Herald and Genealogist, iii. 471; Lodge’s Peerage of Ireland, ed. Archdall, 1789.]

E. M. L.