John Clotworthy, 1st Viscount Massereene
John Clotworthy, 1st Viscount Massereene (died September 1665) was a leading Anglo-Irish politician of the seventeenth century.
He was the son of Sir Hugh Clotworthy, High Sheriff of Antrim (died 1630) and Mary Langford; his father was the son of Thomas Clotworthy of Rashleigh Barton, Devon. Hugh first came to Ireland as agent of the Irish Society in connection with the colonisation of Londonderry.
John was elected to the Irish House of Commons as member for County Antrim in 1634, and was a member both of the Short and of the Long Parliament in England, in 1640, representing Bossiney in Cornwall. Clotworthy was a vehement opponent of the earl of Strafford, in whose impeachment he took an active share. He also took part in the prosecution of Archbishop Laud. He seems to have felt a deep personal hatred, springing perhaps from profound religious differences, for both Strafford and Laud. He was criticised for his conduct at Laud's execution, where he thrust himself forward and harangued the old man, who was trying to prepare himself for death, on his alleged religious errors
During the Irish Confederate Wars he unsuccessfully negotiated with the Royalist commander Ormond for the surrender of Dublin to the Parliamentary forces in 1646. He was accused in the following year of having betrayed the Parliamentarian cause, and also of embezzlement; in consequence of these charges he fled to the Continent, but returned to parliament in June 1648. On December 12 in that year he was arrested, and remained in prison (including at Wallingford Castle) for nearly three years. Having taken an active part in forwarding the Restoration of Charles II, he was employed in Ireland in arranging the affairs of the soldiers and other adventurers who had settled in Ireland.
Clotworthy in no way abated his old animosity against "papists" and high Anglicans, and he championed the cause of the Irish Presbyterians; but being personally agreeable to Charles II, his ecclesiastical views were overlooked, and on November 21, 1660 he was created Baron Lough Neagh and Viscount Massereene in the Irish peerage, with remainder in default of male heirs to his son-in-law, Sir John Skeffington.
Massereene married Margaret Jones, daughter of Roger Jones, 1st Viscount Ranelagh: they had two daughter, Mary and Lettice. He died without male issue, and the title devolved on Mary's husband Skeffington, whose great-grandson, the fifth viscount, was created Earl of Massereene in 1756. The earldom became extinct on the death of the fourth earl without male issue in 1816, the viscounty and barony of Lough Neagh descending to his daughter Harriet, whose husband, Thomas Foster, took the name of Skeffington, and inherited from his mother in 1824 the titles of Viscount Ferrard and Baron Oriel of Collon in the Irish peerage, and from his father in 1828 that of Baron Oriel of Ferrard in the peerage of the United Kingdom.
Historians, especially Strafford's biographer C.V. Wedgwood, have dealt very harshly with Clotworthy as a human being : "a heartless, dour and repellent man who throughout his life showed a consistent inhumanity towards his fellow men". She does allow that, unlike others who conspired to bring Strafford down, he was motivated less by self-interest than by genuine religious fanaticism. Laud's biographer Lord Dacre also criticises his unpleasant behaviour at Laud's execution, where he engaged him in religious controversy while Laud was trying to prepare himself for death.
Many Clotworthys since then have emigrated to other countries around the world, many to America and proceeded to be well-dressed. There are very few known to still live in Northern Ireland.
- Wedgwood, C.V. Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford 1593-1641- a revaluation Phoenix Press reissue 2000 p.248
- Wedgwood p.312
- Hugh Trevor-Roper Archbishop Laud Phoenix Press reissue 2000 p,428
- Wedgwood p.312
- Wedgwood p.329
- Trevor-Roper p.428
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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