Robert Booth (judge)

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Sir Robert Booth (1626–1680) was an English-born judge who had a highly successful career in Ireland, where he held the offices of Chief Justice of the Irish Common Pleas and Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench in Ireland.

Early life[edit]

He belonged to the wealthy Booth family of Salford; he was the son of Robert Booth and Anne Mosley, daughter of Oswald Mosley of Ancoats, who was an ancestor of the prominent twentieth-century politician Sir Oswald Mosley. His father died when Robert was still young and his mother remarried the noted Presbyterian preacher Thomas Case.[1] He was educated at Manchester Grammar School and St. John's College, Cambridge, where he matriculated in 1644.[2] He entered Gray's Inn in 1642 and was called to the bar in 1650; he became an ancient of Gray's Inn in 1662.[3]

Career[edit]

He is first heard of in Ireland in the entourage of William Steele, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, in 1657, and entered the King's Inns the same year. After the Restoration he had the good fortune to attract the favour of Steele's successor, Sir Maurice Eustace. Eustace was normally hostile to anyone who had been associated with the Cromwellian regime, but he admired Booth's legal ability and believed (perhaps naively) that his wealth would preserve him from any temptation to corruption.[4] Booth was appointed an ordinary justice of the Court of Common Pleas (Ireland) in 1660 and its Chief Justice in 1670, by which time he had already begun to suffer from the chronic ill-health which plagued his later years.

In 1679 the Chief Justiceship of the Court of King's Bench (Ireland) became vacant. This occurred at the height of the Popish Plot, which created an uncontrollalbe atmosphere of anti-Catholic hysteria. At this time several Irish judges had open Roman Catholic sympathies, despite the practice of that faith being (in theory) a bar to public office. Booth had a reputation as a staunch Protestant, and it was probably for that reason that Charles II appointed him Lord Chief Justice, despite objections from James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who thought Booth too extreme in his religious views, and pointed out that he was almost incapacitated by illness.[5] Ormonde's objections on the second point were fully justified, since Booth died after little more than a year in office. He was buried at Salford.

Personal life[edit]

Booth married firstly Mary Potts of Chalgrove, who died in 1660 along with their infant son. He remarried Susanna Oxenden of Deane in Kent, who died in 1669; they had four daughters.[6] His principal residence was at Oxmantown, now near Dublin city centre; Belvedere, his house at Drumcondra, Dublin, is now St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra. The Gore-Booth baronets of Lissadell are relatives but not direct descendants of the judge.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ball, F. Elrington, The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921, John Murray, London, 1926, Vol. I, p.349
  2. ^ "Booth, Robert (BT644R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  3. ^ Ball, p.349
  4. ^ Ball, p.271
  5. ^ Ball, p.289
  6. ^ Burke's Peerage, 107th Edition
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir Edward Smith (or Smythe)
Chief Justice of the Irish Common Pleas
1670–1679
Succeeded by
John Keating
Preceded by
Sir John Povey
Lord Chief Justice of Ireland
1679–1680
Succeeded by
Sir William Davys