Alan Brodrick, 1st Viscount Midleton

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Alan Brodrick circa 1717

Alan Brodrick, 1st Viscount Midleton, PC (Ire) (c. 1656 – 29 August 1728) was a leading Anglo-Irish lawyer and politician of the early eighteenth century: he was Speaker of the Irish House of Commons and Lord Chancellor of Ireland. He was a man of great gifts, but so hot-tempered and passionate that even Jonathan Swift is said to have been afraid of him.


He was the second son of Sir St John Brodrick of Ballyannan, near Midleton in County Cork, by his wife Alice (d.1696), daughter of Laurence Clayton of Mallow, County Cork, and sister of Colonel Randall Clayton MP, of Mallow. Brodick's father had received large land grants during the Protectorate, and thus the family had much to lose if the land issue in Ireland was settled to the satisfaction of dispossessed Roman Catholics.

He was educated at Magdalen College and the Middle Temple, being called to the English bar in 1678. Brodrick and his relatives fled Ireland during the Glorious Revolution. They were attainted under the rule of King James II in Ireland. In exile in England, Brodrick argued for a speedy reconquest.


In 1690 he returned to Dublin and was given the legal office of Third Serjeant. He also became Recorder of Cork. He was dismissed as Serjeant in 1692, apparently on the ground that there was no work for him to do. Brodrick, while complaining bitterly about his dismissal, admitted privately that his post had been a superfluous one.[1]

As a prominent Whig supporter of the outcome of the Glorious Revolution he was not always in agreement with court policies in Ireland, which he considered too lenient on the Jacobites; the dismissal of the First Serjeant, John Osborne at the same time as Brodrick was due to his even stronger opposition to Court policy.[2] Despite this he often held Irish government offices and aspired to manage the Irish Parliament for English ministers. He represented Cork City in the Irish Parliament, which met in 1692 and held this seat until 1710. He was a vocal opponent of court policies, until the new Whig Lord Deputy of Ireland, Lord Capell decided to appoint him Solicitor-General for Ireland in 1695.[3] He promoted penal laws against Catholics, whilst also supporting greater powers for the Irish Parliament.


He was Speaker of the Irish House of Commons from 21 September 1703. After promoting resolutions critical of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland he lost his post as Solicitor-General in 1704. He was Attorney-General for Ireland 1707–1709. He became Chief Justice of Ireland 1710–1711 [4] and was replaced as Speaker on 19 May 1710, but again held the office in the next Parliament 25 November 1713 – 1 August 1714, where he also represented Cork County. He was appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland in 1714 and was ennobled in the Peerage of Ireland in 1715, as the 1st Baron Brodrick. He was advanced to the rank of 1st Viscount Midleton in 1717.

Sherlock v Annesley and its aftermath[edit]

The most celebrated lawsuit heard in his time as Lord Chancellor was Sherlock v Annesley; although on the face of it this was an unremarkable dispute between cousins over possession of lands in Kildare, it raised the sensitive question as to whether the Irish or British House of Lords was the final court of appeal from Ireland, and ultimately put an effective end to the independence of the Irish Parliament until 1782. The parties ended up with conflicting orders from the two Houses entitling each of them to be put in possession; when the Barons of the Court of Exchequer enforced the decree of the British House, the Irish House committed them to prison for contempt. This was against the advice of Midleton, who though normally a very hot-tempered man, did his best on this occasion to calm matters down. The imprisonment of the judges proved to be a disastrous mistake: the British Parliament retaliated with a statute, the Dependency of Ireland on Great Britain Act 1719, the notorious "Sixth of George I", which not only removed the right of appeal to the Irish House of Lords but asserted the right of the British Parliament to pass laws concerning Ireland.[5]


Midleton feuded with his successor as Speaker William Conolly, as they were rivals to be the leading figure in Irish politics.[3] Despite intrigues in England (where he was Member of the House of Commons of Great Britain for Midhurst 1717–1728),[6] Midleton lost out and resigned as Lord Chancellor in 1725. He left behind him a legacy of bitterness and ill-will for which he was not really responsible: the Irish peers chose to blame him for the loss of their powers under the Sixth of George I, rather than their own misjudgment in imprisoning the Barons of the Exchequer.[7]

Later years[edit]

He led the opposition in the next session of the Irish Parliament, but then let others take the lead. In his memoirs, he famously expressed a great sense of disappointment at having lost to another of his lifelong rivals, Adam Montgomery of Cambridge.

In 1713 he purchased a substantial estate at Peper Harrow, in Surrey, from Philip Frowde.[8]


Midleton was acknowledged by all who knew him to be a man of great talent and intelligence, but he was also arrogant, hot-tempered and violent in speech. Even his closest friends admitted that he was "too passionate"; Jonathan Swift, not always the mildest of men himself, called him "as violent as a tiger".[9]


Lord Midleton married three times. His first wife was Catherine Barry, daughter of Redmond Barry of County Cork, by whom he had a son, St John Brodick, who predeceased him. His second wife was Lucy Courthorpe, daughter of Sir Peter Courthorpe of County Cork, by whom he had his second son and heir Alan, 2nd Viscount Midleton. He married thirdly Anne Hill, daughter of Sir John Trevor, and widow of Michael Hill.[10]


  1. ^ Hart, A.R. History of the King's Serjeant-at-law in Ireland Dublin Four Courts Press 2000
  2. ^ Hart History of the King's Serjeant-at-law
  3. ^ a b Hayton, David. The Anglo-Irish Experience, 1680-1730, Boydell Press, 2012 ISBN 9781843837466
  4. ^ Dictionary of National Biography - but Haydn's Book of Dignities says that he was appointed in 1709
  5. ^ O'Flanagan, J. Roderick The Lives of the Lord Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal of Ireland 2 Volumes 1870
  6. ^ "BRODRICK, Alan, Baron Brodrick [I] (?1655-1728), of Midleton, co. Cork, and Peper Harrow Park, Surr". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 18 August 2018. 
  7. ^ O'Flanagan Lives of the Lord Chancellors, above
  8. ^ Victoria County History, A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3 (1911), pp. 49-52, Parishes: Peper Harrow Date accessed: 16 May 2010.
  9. ^ Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921 London John Murray 1926
  10. ^ Wilson, Rachel, Elite Women in Ascendancy Ireland, 1690-1745: Imitation and Innovation (Boydell and Brewer, Woodbridge, 2015). ISBN 978-1783270392


  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • Wilson, Rachel, Elite Women in Ascendancy Ireland, 1690-1745: Imitation and Innovation (Boydell and Brewer, Woodbridge, 2015). ISBN 978-1783270392
Parliament of Ireland
Preceded by
James Fitz Edmond Cotter
Member of Parliament for Cork City
With: Robert Rogers 1692–1703
Thomas Erle 1703–1710
Succeeded by
Thomas Erle
Edward Hoare
Preceded by
Sir John Perceval, 5th Bt
Thomas Brodrick
Member of Parliament for Cork County
With: Sir John Perceval, 5th Bt
Succeeded by
Henry Boyle
St John Brodrick
Legal offices
Preceded by
Richard Levinge
Solicitor-General for Ireland
Succeeded by
Richard Levinge
Preceded by
Robert Rochfort
Attorney-General for Ireland
Succeeded by
John Forster
Preceded by
Sir Richard Pyne
Lord Chief Justice of Ireland
Succeeded by
Sir Richard Cox
Preceded by
Sir Constantine Phipps
Lord Chancellor of Ireland
Succeeded by
Richard West
Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Rochfort
Speaker of the Irish House of Commons
Succeeded by
John Forster
Preceded by
John Forster
Speaker of the Irish House of Commons
Succeeded by
William Conolly
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
John Fortescue-Aland
William Woodward Knight
Member of Parliament for Midhurst
With: William Woodward Knight (1717-1721)
Sir Richard Mill (1721-1722)
Bulstrode Knight (1722-1728)
Succeeded by
Bulstrode Knight
Sir Richard Mill
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by
New creation
Viscount Midleton
Succeeded by
Alan Brodrick