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Nugent, Richard (1583-1642) (DNB00)


NUGENT, Sir RICHARD, fifteenth Baron Delvin, first Earl of Westmeath (1583–1642), eldest son of Christopher, fourteenth baron Delvin [q. v.], and Marie, daughter of Gerald Fitzgerald, eleventh earl of Kildare, was born in 1583. His father had died while labouring under a charge of treasonable correspondence with the Earl of Tyrone, but his death was regarded as sufficient atonement for his offence, and Nugent was allowed to succeed to the title without opposition. A grant of lands made to his father in 1597, but which had hitherto remained unexecuted, was, on 10 Aug. 1603, also confirmed to him and his mother, and on 29 Sept. he was knighted by Lord-deputy Mountjoy in Christ Church, Dublin, at the same time that Rory O'Donnell [q. v.] was created Earl of Tyrconnel.

The grant of lands thus confirmed by James I was attended with disastrous consequences for Delvin; for having, at the request of certain of the O'Farrells, taken up some of their lands in co. Longford, supposed to have been forfeited to the crown, and having gone to considerable expense in respect to them, it was found that the lands in question did not after all belong to the crown. At the instigation of Sir Francis Shaen, who claimed to be an O'Farrell himself, petitions were accordingly presented for the revocation of Delvin's grant, and, there being no question that the lands had been passed under misinformation, pressure was brought to bear on him to surrender his patent. This he was unwilling to do, having, as he said, spent 3,000l. over the business. But he was roundly told by Salisbury that the O'Farrells were as good subjects as either he or his father had been, and that his patent must be surrendered. Exasperated at his ill-luck, Delvin listened to the voice of the tempter, and in the summer of 1606 entered into a conspiracy to overthrow the government. He soon had occasion to regret his rashness, but, fearing lest ‘he should thereby dishonour himself and do harm to his kinswoman, the Lady Tyrconnel, and make his friends his enemies,’ he refrained from revealing the plot to the government. Not so Christopher St. Lawrence, lord Howth [q. v.] Howth's revelations, implicating Delvin among others, found, however, no credence till the flight of the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnel, in September 1607, placed them in a new light. It was then felt highly desirable to get as much information as possible, and Howth having suggested Delvin as intimately acquainted with the details of the plot, he was inveigled to Dublin and arrested. His confession on 6 Nov. confirmed Howth's statement, and having admitted his own share in the plot, he was forthwith committed to the castle by Chichester.

But his confinement was of short duration, for within a fortnight of his commitment he managed, ‘by practice of some of his servants and negligence or corruption of his keeper,’ to effect his escape out of the castle and to reach Cloughoughter, co. Cavan, in safety. From Cloughoughter he wrote to Chichester, apologising for his ‘unexpected departure,’ protesting ‘he did it not so much for the safety of his life as to prevent the certain ruin of his estate, which would of force happen if he had been sent for England,’ and ‘praying forgiveness of his untimely fault, which was only in thought, not in act, and occasioned by the subtlety of another, who entrapped him, a youth.’ Chichester, for answer, gave him five days in which to submit himself. Anticipating some such answer, Delvin had meanwhile taken refuge among the Carn mountains, where he defied all the efforts of Sir Richard Wingfield to capture him. His castle of Cloughoughter was taken and also his little son, and he himself ‘enforced as a wood-kerne in mantle and trouses to shift for himself.’ Still there was a danger in allowing him to remain at large in the event of the return of the northern earls, and Chichester thought it ‘not amiss to promise him his life’ as an inducement to submit. No conditions were, indeed, offered him, but hints were dropped that he should not fare worse for an unconditional surrender. Seeing that this concession was the utmost he could expect, and regarding the rebellion of Sir Cahir O'Dogherty [q. v.] as a favourable opportunity, he unexpectedly, on 5 May 1608, presented himself before the council, ‘and, in presence of a great number of people, humbly submitted himself to his majesty without word or promise of pardon.’ He was assured of his pardon; but, in order that James might satisfy himself as to his sincerity, he was required to go to England for it. Owing to his extreme poverty he would have found some difficulty in obeying the king's command had not Chichester lent him the necessary money for his journey. At court he fared better than he could have hoped. His misconduct was entirely overlooked, and orders were given for the restitution of his property, together with a grant of certain lands in lieu of those he had been obliged to surrender.

He returned to Ireland in November 1608, and for some time caused the government no trouble. His refusal to be reconciled to Lord Howth was a point in his favour, and Chichester was of opinion that only the fear of scandal prevented his conformity in religion. In 1613, however, he again incurred the displeasure of government by the part he played in parliament, and, with other recusant lords, he was, in January 1614, summoned to England to answer for his conduct. He subsequently recovered the king's favour, and on 4 Sept. 1621 he was advanced to the dignity of Earl of Westmeath. After that event he seems to have spent a considerable portion of his time in England. In October 1627 he was despatched on an urgent message to the Duke of Buckingham at Rhé, to announce the arrival of a relief force under Lord Holland. In May 1628 he acted as one of the agents of the Irish catholic nobility to the king and council in the matter of the Graces, and again in 1633. He was present at the opening of the Irish parliament on 14 July 1634; but on 17 Feb. 1635 he obtained permission to travel for one year with six servants, 60l. in money, and his trunks of apparel. On the outbreak of the rebellion of 1641 he declined to co-operate with the catholic nobility and gentry of the Pale, his refusal being ascribed to the influence of Thomas Deas, titular bishop of Meath. His action did much to weaken the rebels, who, after trying persuasion in vain, endeavoured, with equal unsuccess, to intimidate him. He was, however, compelled to quit his house at Clonyn about February 1642, and was being escorted to Dublin when he was attacked by the rebels near Athboy. He was in an infirm state of health, being, it is said, blind and palsy-stricken, and did not long survive the injuries he then received.

He married Jane, daughter of Christopher Plunket, ninth lord Kileen, by whom he had two daughters, Bridget and Mary, who both died unmarried, and five sons, viz.: 1, Christopher, lord Delvin, who married the Lady Anne, eldest daughter of Randal MacDonnell, earl of Antrim [q. v.], and, dying before his father, was buried at Clonyn on 10 July 1625, and had issue an only son Richard, second earl of Westmeath [q. v.]; 2, Francis Nugent of Tobber, who engaged in the rebellion and was present at the siege of Drogheda in 1641–2, but died without issue; 3, John Nugent of Drumeng, who married Catherine, daughter of James Dillon of Ballymuley, co. Longford; 4, Laurence, who died (unmarried) in France; 5, Colonel Ignatius Nugent, who commanded a regiment in the French service, and died in 1670.

[Lodge's Peerage, ed. Archdall, i. 237–41; Cal. State Papers, Ireland, James I, passim; Meehan's Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnel; Erck's Repertory of Patent Rolls; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1627, 1634–5; Gilbert's Contemporary Hist. of Affairs in Ireland (Irish Archæol. Soc.), i. 35; Hist. of the Confederation, ii. 252–8.]

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