Thomas Nugent, 1st Baron Nugent of Riverston

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Thomas Nugent (died May 1715) was an Irish Roman Catholic barrister who became Lord Chief Justice of Ireland under James II of Great Britain, and held a 1689 title as Baron of Riverston (of complex status).

Early life[edit]

He was the second son of Richard Nugent, 2nd Earl of Westmeath, by his wife Mary, daughter of Sir Thomas Nugent, bart., of Moyrath. He was brought up to the law, and after the accession of James II, when he was made K.C. in September 1685. During the following winter he was in communication with the lord-lieutenant, Henry Hyde, 2nd Earl of Clarendon, who treated him as a representative of the Irish Catholics.[1]

Nugent made his residence at Pallas, County Galway, an estate that his grandfather had acquired in 1621. He married in 1680 to Marianna Barnewall, daughter of Henry Barnewall, 2nd Viscount Barnewall (died 1688) of Kingsland and Hon. Mary Netterville. Their children were:

His title of Riverston, though disputed in law, was borne by his descendants until it merged in the earldom of Westmeath (1839). There was a full-length portrait of him in his robes by Peter Lely, in the hall at Pallas, County Galway.[1]

Professional life[edit]

In March 1686 he was made a judge of the Court of King's Bench (Ireland). In May he was admitted to the Privy Council of Ireland, and in October 1687 became Lord Chief Justice. His court was occupied in reversing outlawries of Catholics. One of his first acts was to present the lord-lieutenant with a list of sheriffs. An act of Henry VII, forbidding the keeping of guns without license of government, was revived and interpreted so as to deprive Protestants of their arms. Nugent said it was treason to possess weapons, though a fine of £20 was the highest penalty prescribed by the act. Clarendon records some instances of judicial partiality in Nugent, but he showed humanity in Ashton's case.[1]

Early in 1688 Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell sent Nugent to England with Chief-baron Stephen Rice, to concert measures for the repeal of the Act of Settlement 1662. They returned to Ireland in April without having been able to persuade James to let Tyrconnell hold a Parliament.[1]

Nugent was holding the assizes at Cork when James landed at Kinsale in March 1689, and ordered the people of Bandon who had declared for William III to be indicted for high treason. Nugent was for severity, but General Justin MacCarthy overawed him into respecting the capitulation. Nugent was consulted by James at his landing, the Comte d'Avaux and John Drummond, 1st Earl of Melfort being present.[1]

In the Parliament which met on 7 May 1689 Nugent, being called by writ on the opening day to the barony of Riverston, sat as a peer, and on the 13th introduced a bill for the repeal of the Acts of Settlement and Explanation. He took an active part in the House of Lords, and frequently presided. In July he was made a commissioner of the empty Irish treasury, and the commission was renewed in 1690, a few days before the Battle of the Boyne. Nugent was at Limerick during or soon after William's initial siege, and acted as secretary in Sir Richard Nagle's absence from September till the following January. He was accused by the Irish of holding secret communication with the Williamites, and of a plot to surrender Limerick. At the capitulation he had a pass from Ginkell to go to his lands.[1]

Nugent was outlawed as a rebel, but his lands remained in the family. He died in 1715.[1]



 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainBagwell, Richard (1895). "Nugent, Thomas (d.1715)". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography 41. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir William Davys
Lord Chief Justice of Ireland
Succeeded by
Sir Richard Reynell
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by
New Creation
Baron Nugent of Riverston
Succeeded by
Hyacinth Richard Nugent, 2nd Baron Nugent of Riverston