Richard Nugent, 1st Earl of Westmeath

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Richard Nugent, 1st Earl of Westmeath (1583–1642) was an Irish nobleman and politician of the early seventeenth century. Imprisoned for plotting against the English Crown in 1607, he soon obtained a royal pardon, and thereafter was always a reliable supporter of the Government. His death resulted from his refusal to join the Irish Rebellion of 1641.

Early life[edit]

He was the eldest son of Christopher Nugent, 6th Baron Delvin, and Lady Mary FitzGerald, daughter of Gerald FitzGerald, 11th Earl of Kildare. He succeeded his father as seventh Baron Delvin in 1602.

Imprisonment[edit]

It is not surprising that the Crown regarded him with suspicion: when he was born his father was in custody on charges of treason, and was to die nineteen years later in prison, once more suspected of plotting treason. Initially Richard seems to have acted cautiously; he was knighted at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin in 1603. The Crown's suspicion about his loyalty was justified: Delvin was implicated in the conspiracy which led to the Flight of the Earls in 1607 and was imprisoned in Dublin Castle. Due to lax security a servant was able to smuggle a rope into his cell, with which he escaped through the window and fled for safety to Cloughoughter Castle, a lake fortress in County Cavan.[1]

Pardon[edit]

In 1608 he appeared at Court and asked for a royal pardon. He seems to have been a youth blessed with charm and good looks, which was always a path to favour with King James I, whose fondness for handsome young men was a source of much gossip .[2] Delvin was pardoned and restored to favour.

Political career[edit]

Thereafter his career until 1641 was one of almost uniform success. He received grants of land in several counties in 1611 - including 14,000 acres in County Galway, mainly around Tynagh and Kileen - and was able to build a new dwelling, Clonyn Castle, near the older Nugent Castle. He took his seat in the Irish House of Lords in the Parliaments of 1613-15 and 1634-5, and was appointed a royal commissioner for the redress of grievances in 1633.[3] He accompanied the Duke of Buckingham, the prime royal favourite, to the ill-fated Siege of Saint-Martin-de-Ré in 1627. He was created Earl of Westmeath in 1621.

Clonyn Castle

Death[edit]

On the outbreak of the Irish Rebellion of 1641 the Earl, unlike many of the Anglo-Irish nobility, remained loyal to the Crown. Concerned that he was isolated at Clonyn, the Government sent a party to accompany him to Dublin. The party was ambushed at Athboy and the Earl was captured. He was rescued, but attacked again near Trim. He was seriously injured in the second attack and being nearly sixty, blind and afflicted with "palsy", died from his injuries.[4]

Family[edit]

Richard Nugent married Jenet Plunkett, daughter of Christopher Plunkett, 9th Baron Killeen and sister of Luke Plunkett, 1st Earl of Fingall. According to family tradition, Lady Westmeath was nicknamed Jenny the Scraper due to her thrift and determination to eliminate household waste.

They had five sons:

  • Christopher, Baron Delvin
  • Francis
  • John, ancestor of the Austrian Counts Nugent von Westmeath
  • Lawrence
  • Ignatius (died 1671), a Colonel in the French service.

Christopher pre-deceased his father leaving an only son Richard, who succeeded as second Earl of Westmeath.

They also had two daughters :

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Webb, Alfred A Compendium of Irish Biography Dublin 1878
  2. ^ Kenyon, J.P. The Stuarts B.T. Batsford London 1958
  3. ^ Anonymous Historical Sketch of the Nugent Family J.C. Lyons 1853
  4. ^ Webb Compendium of Irish Biography
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by
Christopher Nugent
Baron Delvin
1602–1642
Succeeded by
Richard Nugent, 2nd Earl of Westmeath
Preceded by
New Creation
Earl of Westmeath
1621–1642