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Jones, Richard (1638?-1712) (DNB00)


JONES, RICHARD, third Viscount and first Earl of Ranelagh (1638?–1712), son and heir of Arthur, second viscount, and Catherine, daughter of Richard Boyle, first earl of Cork, and grandson of Thomas Jones [q. v.], archbishop of Dublin, was, according to Carte, ‘a man of good parts, great wit, and very little religion: had an head turned for projects, and was famed for intrigue, artful, insinuating, and designing, craving and greedy of money, yet at the same time profuse and lavish.’ He represented co. Roscommon in the Irish parliament from 1661 till the death of his father in January 1669 raised him to the upper house. In early life he owed much to the favour of the Duke of Ormonde, whose friendly interposition healed the breach between him and his father, and who, on the death of Sir Robert Meredith, appointed him (22 Oct. 1668) chancellor of the exchequer in Ireland, with a seat at the council table. But, coming to England about the end of 1670, he joined the cabal of the Duke of Buckingham, and, foreseeing considerable profit likely to accrue to himself, he took advantage of the publication of a paper styled ‘The State of his Majesty's Revenue,’ compiled by the vice-treasurer, Sir John Temple, to enter into an engagement with the king, whereby, in consideration of the revenue being assigned to him and his partners, he undertook to defray all the expenses connected with the government of Ireland. Certain disparaging remarks uttered by him at the time, reflecting apparently on the government of the Duke of Ormonde, led to an estrangement between them, and caused the duke to enter into an elaborate exposition of the fallacy of the whole scheme, but without shaking the king's confidence in Ranelagh, who passed his patent on 4 June 1674, and on the 17th of the same month was appointed constable and governor of the castle, town, and barony of Athlone. The mischief predicted by Ormonde came to pass. The subject was harassed by arbitrary taxation, and the revenue of the crown misapplied so largely, that the lord-lieutenant, the Earl of Essex, declined to pass Ranelagh's accounts. Notwithstanding the vigilance of the Duke of Ormonde, matters went from bad to worse, till in 1679 a scire facias was filed against Ranelagh by the attorney-general. But Ranelagh still interposing ‘frivolous pretexts,’ an order was passed in council in August 1681 prohibiting further payment being made to him, and shortly afterwards a decree for 76,000l. was given against him and his partners, but was subsequently remitted by favour of the king. In 1691 he was created a privy councillor by King William, and appointed paymaster-general of the army. He held the post for nearly twelve years, but his accounts at the end of that period proving unsatisfactory, he preferred to resign in December 1702 rather than face an inquiry. His conduct being regarded as an admission of guilt, he was expelled parliament on 2 Feb. 1703, and, being convicted of defalcations to the amount of 72,000l., an address was presented on 9 March 1704 to Queen Anne praying the attorney-general to prosecute him in the exchequer. His influence at court was, however, sufficient to prevent this, and on 3 Nov. 1704 he was appointed one of the governors of Queen Anne's Bounty for the augmentation of the maintenance of poor clergymen. He represented Plymouth in 1685, Newtown in the Isle of Wight in 1688 and 1689, Chichester in 1695, Marlborough in 1698 and 1700, Castle Rising in Norfolk in 1701, and at the time of his expulsion he sat as member for West Looe in Cornwall. He died on 5 Jan. 1711–12, and Swift, giving an account of his death to Archbishop King, says ‘he was very poor and needy, and could hardly support himself for want of a pension which used to be paid him, and which his friends solicited as a thing of perfect charity. He died hard, as the term of art here is to express the woful state of men who discover no religion at their death’ (Works, xv. 512).

Perhaps the only redeeming feature in Ranelagh's character was the unaffected pleasure he took in building and gardening. In 1690 he obtained a lease, afterwards converted into a grant in fee simple at an annual rent of 5l. to the hospital, of some twenty acres of land belonging to and adjoining the royal hospital at Chelsea. Here he built a house, according to Bowack, ‘not large but very convenient,’ after a design of his own, which he made his principal residence. The greenhouses and stables were adorned in a style ‘not to be seen in many prince's palaces,’ but it was the gardens attached to it, which were laid out with a degree of art and taste very unusual in England at that time, that gave to it its chief attraction. In 1700 he purchased Cranborne Chase, near Windsor, of which Swift spoke admiringly, from Lord Lexington. After his death the house and premises at Chelsea continued for some time in the possession of his daughter, Lady Catherine Jones, but in 1733, in accordance with an act of parliament passed in 1730, vesting his estates in the hands of trustees, they were sold, and the greater part coming shortly afterwards into the possession of Lacy, the patentee of Drury Lane Theatre, were converted by him into a place of fashionable resort.

Ranelagh married, first, Elizabeth, daughter of Francis, lord Willoughby of Parham, who died 1 Aug. 1695, by whom he had issue Arthur and Edward, who died young, and four daughters, one of whom it would appear (Sidney, Diary, i. 298; Notes and Queries, i. 478) was for a time mistress to Charles II; and, secondly, on 11 Jan. 1696, Margaret, daughter of James Cecil, third earl of Salisbury, and widow of John, lord Stawell, by whom he had no issue. The earldom became extinct upon his death, and the viscounty remained dormant until 1759, when it was claimed and allowed to Charles, great-grandson of Thomas Jones, who was brother of Arthur, second viscount, and second son of Roger, created first viscount Ranelagh in 1628. Charles, fourth viscount, played a prominent part in the Irish House of Lords, and was granted sums amounting to 13,000l. in all, for his ‘particular merit and faithful service’ as chairman of committees between 1760 and his death. He died 20 April 1797, leaving a numerous issue by his wife Sarah, daughter of Thomas Montgomery, M.P. for Lifford, co. Donegal, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Charles, who was a captain in the royal navy, and died at Plymouth 24 Dec. 1800.

[Lodge's Peerage, ed. Archdall; Playfair's British Family Antiquity, v. 34; Carte's Life of Ormonde; Letters of the Earl of Essex, 1772; Essex Papers, ed. O. Airy (Camd. Soc.); Luttrell's Brief Relation; Henry Sidney's Diary, ed. Blencowe; Burnet's Hist. of his own Time; Liber Hib.; Lysons's Environs, ii. 172; Bowack's Antiquities of Middlesex; Faulkner's Chelsea; Spring Macky's Characters; Lansdowne MSS. 81 f. 55, 1215 f. 11; Egerton MS. 2543 ff. 316–364; Addit. MSS. 15611, 15895, 17017 f. 98, 17761–5, 18799, 21494 f. 19, 23898 f. 5, 28053 f. 102, 28746, 28937 f. 234, 29561 f. 470.]

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