Earl of Darnley
Earl of Darnley is a title that has been created three times, twice in the Peerage of Scotland and once in the Peerage of Ireland. The first creation in the Peerage of Scotland came in 1580 in favour of Esme Stewart, 1st Earl of Lennox. He was created Duke of Lennox at the same time. See the latter title for more information on this creation of the earldom. The title of Lord Darnley had previously been held by John Stewart, head of the house of Stewart of Darnley and first Earl of Lennox (1488). The second creation in the Peerage of Scotland came in 1675 in favour of Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond. He was made Duke of Lennox at the same time. For more information on this creation, see the Duke of Richmond.
The only creation in the Peerage of Ireland came in 1725. John Bligh, first Earl of Darnley, the member of an old Devon and Cornwall family which had settled in County Meath, Ireland, he was the son of Rt Hon Thomas Bligh who was in turn the son of John Bligh of Plymouth a commissioner of customs and excise who went to Ireland as an agent for the forfeited estates, in turn his father was William Bligh a Plymouth Merchant.
John Bligh, 1st Earl of Darnley married Theodosia Hyde, 10th Baroness Clifton (of Leighton Bromswold), great-granddaughter of Lord George Stuart, younger son of Esmé Stewart, 3rd Duke of Lennox and 3rd Earl of Darnley (see the Baron Clifton of Leighton Bromswold and the Duke of Lennox for earlier history of these titles). He represented Athboy in the Irish House of Commons from 1709 to 1721. In 1721 he was raised to the Peerage of Ireland as Baron Clifton of Rathmore, in the County of Meath. In 1723 the Darnley title held by his wife's ancestors (which had become extinct on the death of Charles Stewart, 6th Duke of Lennox and 6th Earl of Darnley in 1672) was revived when he was made Viscount Darnley, of Athboy in the County of Meath, in the Peerage of Ireland. In 1725 Bligh was even further honoured when he was made Earl of Darnley, in the County of Meath, also in the Peerage of Ireland. He was succeeded by his eldest son, the second Earl. He had already succeeded his mother as eleventh Baron Clifton of Leighton Bromswold in 1722. Lord Darnley served as a Lord of the Bedchamber to Frederick, Prince of Wales, but died unmarried at an early age.
He was succeeded by his younger brother, the third Earl. He had earlier represented Athboy in the Irish House of Commons and Maidstone in the British House of Commons. On his death the titles passed to his eldest son, the fourth Earl. In 1828 he claimed as heir-general the dukedom of Lennox, but the House of Lords did not come to any decision on the matter. He was succeeded by his second but eldest surviving son, the fifth Earl. He sat as Member of Parliament for Canterbury and served as Lord-Lieutenant of County Meath. On the death of his grandson, the seventh Earl (who had succeeded his father in 1896), the barony of Clifford of Leighton Bromswold separated from the Irish titles. The barony was passed on to the late Earl's daughter and only child, the ten-month-old Elizabeth Adeline Mary Bligh, who became the seventeenth holder of the title. Lord Darnley was succeeded in the Irish titles by his younger brother, the eighth Earl. He was a successful cricketer and also sat in the House of Lords as an Irish Representative Peer from 1905 to 1927. On his death the titles passed to his only son, the ninth Earl. In 1937 he succeeded his first cousin the Baroness Clifton (who had died unmarried) as eighteenth Baron Clifton of Leighton Bromswold. As of 2009 the titles are held by his only son from his third marriage, the eleventh Earl, who succeeded his half-brother (the only son from the first marriage of the ninth Earl), in 1980.
Several other members of the Bligh family have also gained distinction. Thomas Bligh (1654–1710), father of the first Earl, represented County Meath in the Irish Parliament and was sworn of the Irish Privy Council. Thomas Bligh, younger brother of the first Earl, was a General in the Army and represented Athboy in the Irish House of Commons for sixty years. The Very Reverend Robert Bligh (cir 1704-1778), another younger brother of the first Earl, was a clergyman and served as Dean of Elphin. The Hon. Edward Bligh (1769–1840), second son of the third Earl, was a General in the Army. The Hon. William Bligh (1775–1845), third son of the third Earl, was a Colonel in the Army. The Hon. Sir John Duncan Bligh (1798–1872), fourth son of the fourth Earl, was a diplomat and served as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Hanover.
The ancestral family seat of the Earls of Darnley was Cobham Hall, near Gravesend, Kent, which was sold in 1955 and is now a boarding school for girls. The remaining 1400 acre Cobham estate was sold by the family in 1983.
Earls of Darnley (1581) 
- see the Duke of Lennox (1581 creation)
Earls of Darnley (1675) 
- see the Duke of Richmond (1675 creation)
Earls of Darnley (1725) 
- John Bligh, 1st Earl of Darnley (1687–1728)
- Edward Bligh, 2nd Earl of Darnley (1715–1747)
- John Bligh, 3rd Earl of Darnley (1719–1781)
- John Bligh, 4th Earl of Darnley (1767–1831)
- John Bligh, Lord Clifton (1793–1793)
- Edward Bligh, 5th Earl of Darnley (1795–1835)
- John Stuart Bligh, 6th Earl of Darnley (1827–1896)
- Edward Henry Stuart Bligh, 7th Earl of Darnley (1851–1900)
- Ivo Francis Walter Bligh, 8th Earl of Darnley (1859–1927)
- Esme Ivo Bligh, 9th Earl of Darnley (1886–1955)
- Peter Stuart Bligh, 10th Earl of Darnley (1915–1980)
- Adam Ivo Stuart Bligh, 11th Earl of Darnley (b. 1941)
The heir apparent is the present holder's only son Ivo Donald Bligh, Lord Clifton (b. 1968)
The heir apparent's heir apparent is his eldest son the Hon. Harry Robert Stuart Bligh (b. 1999)
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (May 2013)|
- "Lord-Lieutenant for Herefordshire". Downing Street website. 22 October 2008
- Kidd, Charles, Williamson, David (editors). Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage (1990 edition). New York: St Martin's Press, 1990,[page needed]
- Leigh Rayment's Peerage Pages [self-published source][better source needed]
- Lundy, Darryl. "FAQ". The Peerage.[unreliable source]
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by John Stuart Bligh, 6th Earl of Darnley
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Edward Henry Stuart Bligh, 7th Earl of Darnley
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Esme Ivo Bligh, 9th Earl of Darnley
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Peter Stuart Bligh, 10th Earl of Darnley
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Adam Ivo Stuart Bligh, 11th Earl of Darnley