Robert Molesworth, 1st Viscount Molesworth

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The Viscount Molesworth
PC (Ire)
Member of Parliament
for Dublin County
with Edward Deane
In office
1695–1703
Preceded by John Allen
Chambre Brabazon
Succeeded by John Allen
Joseph Deane
Member of Parliament
for Swords
with James Peppard (1703–1713)
Plunket Plunket (1713–1715)
In office
1703–1715
Preceded by Thomas Ashe
John Reading
Succeeded by Richard Molesworth
Plunket Plunket
Member of Parliament
for Camelford
with Ambrose Manaton (1695–1696)
Sidney Wortley Montagu (1696–1698)
In office
1695–1698
Preceded by Ambrose Manaton
Henry Manaton
Succeeded by Henry Manaton
Dennys Glynn
Member of Parliament
for Lostwithiel
with Russell Robartes
In office
1705–1706
Preceded by Sir John Molesworth
Russell Robartes
Succeeded by Russell Robartes
James Kendall
Member of Parliament
for East Retford
with Sir Hardolph Wastneys
In office
1706–1707
Preceded by Sir Willoughby Hickman
William Levinz
Succeeded by Parliament of Great Britain
Member of Parliament
for East Retford
with Sir Hardolph Wastneys
In office
1707–1708
Preceded by Parliament of England
Succeeded by William Levinz
Thomas White
Member of Parliament
for Mitchell
with Nathaniel Blakiston
In office
1715–1722
Preceded by Sir Henry Belasyse
John Statham
Succeeded by Charles Selwyn
John Hedges
Personal details
Born (1656-09-07)7 September 1656
Brackenstown, Swords, Ireland
Died 22 May 1725(1725-05-22) (aged 68)
Dublin, Ireland
Spouse(s) Hon. Letitia Coote
Children John Molesworth, 2nd Viscount Molesworth
Richard Molesworth, 3rd Viscount Molesworth
Hon. Robert Molesworth (I)
Hon. William Molesworth
Hon. Edward Molesworth
Hon. Coote Molesworth (I)
Hon. Robert Molesworth (II)
Hon. Hamilton Walter Molesworth
Hon. Coote Molesworth (II)
Hon. Bysse Molesworth
Hon. Robert Molesworth (III)
Hon. Margaret Molesworth
Hon. Mary Molesworth
Hon. Letitia Molesworth (I)
Hon. Charlotte Molesworth
Hon. Letitia Molesworth (II)
Parents Robert Molesworth
Judith Bysse
Alma mater Trinity College, Dublin (1675, B.A.)

Robert Molesworth, 1st Viscount Molesworth PC (Ire) (7 September 1656 – 22 May 1725) came of an old Northamptonshire family. He married Hon. Letitia Coote, daughter of Richard Coote, 1st Lord Coote, Baron of Coloony, and Mary St. George.

His father Robert (d. 1656) was a Cromwellian who made a fortune in Dublin, largely by provisioning Cromwell's army; Robert Molesworth the younger supported William of Orange and was made William's ambassador to Denmark. In 1695 he became a prominent member of the Privy Council of Ireland. The same year he stood for Dublin County in the Irish House of Commons, a seat he held until 1703. Subsequently, he represented Swords until 1715. In the following year, he was created Viscount Molesworth, of Swords, in the Peerage of Ireland.

Molesworth's An Account of Denmark, as it was in the Year 1692 (published 1694) was somewhat influential in the burgeoning field of political science in the period. He made a case for comparative political analysis, comparing the political situation of a country to the health of an individual; a disease, he reasoned, can only be diagnosed by comparing it to its instantiation in other people (Thompson, 495).

Through his son Richard, 3rd Viscount Molesworth's daughter Louisa, he is one of the ancestors of Diana, Princess of Wales; and through his son Edward he is, coincidentally, the ancestor of Sophie, Countess of Wessex, who married Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, the youngest son of Elizabeth II.

Life and career[edit]

Robert Molesworth was born two days after his fathers' death on 9 September 1656; his mother Judith Bysse later remarried Sir William Tichborne of Beaulieu. He was probably raised by his mothers' family at Brackenstown. His grandfather, John Bysse, rose to become Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer under Charles II. In 1675, Robert graduated from Trinity College, Dublin with a B.A.. On 15 August 1676, shortly before his 20th birthday, he was married in Dublin to Letitia Coote, third daughter of Richard Coote (1620–1683), 1st Baron Colooney, and Mary St. George, daughter of George St. George, Deputy Admiral of Connaught. Letitia's brother Richard was created Earl of Bellomont and served as Governor of New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire for William III from 1697 until his sudden death in 1701. Robert and Letitia Molesworth subsequently settled at the Bysse seat, Brackenstown House, where according to a letter of 1721 Letitia bore seventeen children, nine of whom were still living at the time.

On 7 May 1689, young Molesworth, an active supporter of the Williamites, was attainted by King James II's Catholic-dominated Irish Parliament. His estate, valued at £2825 per annum, was duly confiscated. James had succeeded his brother Charles II as king of England, Ireland and Scotland early in 1685. Although initially fearful of alienating English and Irish Protestant opinion, James came under the influence of the Catholic Earl of Tyrconnell and determined to make the island of Ireland a Catholic stronghold. Tyrconnell also secured the king's agreement to revise the 1662 Act of Settlement, which had confirmed many of the leading Cromwellian planters in their estates. Over the course of the next two years, war raged across Ireland between the rival armies of James II and the Dutch Protestant, William of Orange, who was invited to take the throne of England by the Parliament in 1688. The decisive victory of the Williamite forces at the battle of the Boyne in 1690, and the battle of Aughrim in 1691, confirmed the new Protestant monarchy and finally secured New English interests in Ireland. The age of the Protestant Ascendancy had begun.

Robert Molesworth, an ardent Whig, became a prominent figure in the new Williamite administration. Contemporaries acknowledged his opinions on politics and economy with considerable respect. From July 1689 to December 1692 he served as British Ambassador to the Court of Denmark, during which time he wrote a spirited attack on Danish absolutism in a treatise entitled An Account of Denmark as it was in the Year 1692. From 1695 to 1698 he stood as Whig MP in both the English and Irish Parliaments, representing Camelford and Dublin City respectively. In August 1697, he was appointed to the Irish Privy Council, an effective cabinet charged with the governance of Ireland and the introduction of the "Penal Laws". From 1703 to 1715 he represented Swords as MP in the Irish Parliament. Between November 1714 and December 1715 he served in the fruitful post of Commissioner of Trade and Plantations.

On 16 July 1716, Robert was advanced to the Irish peerage as Baron of Phillipstown and Viscount Molesworth of Swords "in reward for his steadfast adherence to the House of Hanover". He took his seat as such on 1 July 1719. In his later years he established the "Molesworth Circle", a group of eminent scientists, philosophers and thinkers who met at Brackenstown and are said to have introduced the spread of "politeness" in 18th century Ireland. Other members of this Whig-minded intellectual circle included Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, Francis Hutcheson, James Arbuckle, John Toland and Jonathan Swift. Molesworth's pamphlet Considerations on the Agriculture and Employment of the Poor of Ireland prompted Swift to address the last of his celebrated Drapier's Letters to Molesworth in 1724.

When the so-called South Sea Bubble burst in 1720, the 1st Viscount was perhaps the most vehement of those seeking vengeance against the company directors. He and his grandson, Robert Molesworth, had invested heavily in the company. He advised that, as no law existed for punishing such companies, the government "ought upon this occasion follow the example of the ancient Romans, who, having no law against parricide, because their legislators supposed no son could be so unnaturally wicked as to embrue his hands in his father's blood, made a law to punish this heinous crime as soon as it was committed. They adjudged the guilty wretch to be sewn into a sack and thrown alive into the Tiber". The Whig statesman declared that he would be quite "satisfied to see [the South-Sea Company directors] tied in like manner in sacks, and thrown into the Thames."

Family[edit]

With his wife Letitia, Molesworth had eleven sons and six daughters:[1][2]

  • John Molesworth, 2nd Viscount Molesworth of Swords (4 December 1679 - 17th or 18 February 1725/26). Ambassador at the Court of Tuscany and Sardinia in 1710 and 1720. He married Mary, daughter and co-heir of Thomas Middleton Esq. of Stansted Montfitchet, Essex, by whom he had a posthumous daughter Mary, who married Frederick Gore Esq., M.P.
  • Field Marshal Richard Molesworth, 3rd Viscount Molesworth of Swords (1680/1 - 12 October 1758). Aide-de-Camp to the Duke of Marlborough at the Battle of Ramilles, where he saved the Duke's life. He later became a General and rose to Fieldmarshal.
He married 1stly Jane Lucas and had 3 daughters:
  • Mary (wife of Robert Rochford, Earl of Belvedere).
  • Letitia (wife of Lt. Colonel James Molesworth).
  • Amelia (died unm 30 Jan 1758)
Richard married 2ndly Mary, daughter of Rev. William Usher, Archdeacon of Clonfert and had a son and six daughters:
  • Richard Nassau Molesworth (4th Viscount)
  • Henrietta (wife of Rt. Hon John Staples of Lissan House, Co. Londonderry. Their daughter Charlotte married William Lenox-Conyngham of Springhill, Co. Londonderry, father of Sir William Fitzwilliam Lenox-Conyngham).
  • Louisa (wife of William, 1st Lord Ponsonby, then William, 4th Earl Fitzwilliam)
  • Charlotte
  • Elizabeth (wife of James Stewart Esq. of Killymoon)
  • and Mary & Melosina who tragically died with their mother in the fire at their London house, 6th May 1763.
  • Hon. Robert Molesworth I (living in 1688)
  • Captain The Hon. William Molesworth (1688 - ), MP for Philipstown. His son Robert became 6th Viscount Molesworth. Married Anne, eldest daughter of Robert Adair Esq. of Holybrook, Co. Wicklow.
  • Major The Hon. Edward Molesworth (born c.1689, died 29 November 1768). Married firstly, Sept 1718 Catherine Middleton, daughter of Thomas Middleton, with whom he had a son Robert. Edward married as his second wife Mary Renouard and had a son John.
  • Hon. Coote Molesworth I (born c.1689 - )
  • Hon. Robert Molesworth II (born c.1692)
  • Hon. Walter Molesworth (born after 1692, between Robert II and Letitia II, died 1773). He left issue.
  • Hon. Coote Molesworth II M.D. (born 1698, died 9 November 1782)
  • Hon. Bysse Molesworth (born 1700, died 1779). Married 7th Dec 1731, Elizabeth, sister of John, 1st Lord Mount Florence and widow of Edward Archdall Esq. of Castle Archdall, Co. Fermanagh.
  • Hon. Robert Molesworth III (born c.1702, died aged c.10 of smallpox)
  • Hon. Juliana Molesworth (died unm 1759)
  • Hon. Margaret Molesworth (1677 - 1684)
  • Hon. Mary Molesworth (1682 - 1716). Married George Monk Esq. of Dublin.
  • Hon Letitia Molesworth I (living in 1688)
  • Hon. Charlotte Amelia Molesworth (born c.1691 - ). Married Capt. William Tichburne.
  • Hon Letitia Molesworth II (born 7th or 8 March 1697). Married Edward Bolton Esq. of Brazeel, Co. Dublin

Robert also appears to have had a natural son:

  • John Phillips of Swords, Co. Dublin. His son Molesworth Phillips, who sailed with Captain Cook.

Death and succession[edit]

The 1st Viscount died in Dublin on 22 May 1725 at the age of sixty-nine and was buried in Swords. His widow, Letitia, died "of a great cold" on St Patrick's Day 1729 and was buried privately in St. Audoen's Church Dublin. Their eldest son, John, succeeded as 2nd Viscount Molesworth in 1725. John, in turn, was succeeded by his younger brother Richard a year later in 1726.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Children of the 1st Viscount Molesworth - William Molesworth, MA (Cantab), MLitt (Dub)
  2. ^ A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire, by Sir Bernard Burke. 1869 Edition, published by Harrison, 59 Pall Mall.
Parliament of Ireland
Preceded by
John Allen
Chambre Brabazon
Member of Parliament for Dublin County
with Edward Deane

1695–1703
Succeeded by
John Allen
Joseph Deane
Preceded by
Thomas Ashe
John Reading
Member of Parliament for Swords
with James Peppard 1703–1713
Plunket Plunket 1713–1715

1703–1715
Succeeded by
Richard Molesworth
Plunket Plunket
Parliament of England
Preceded by
Ambrose Manaton
Henry Manaton
Member of Parliament for Camelford
with Ambrose Manaton 1695–1696
Sidney Wortley Montagu 1696–1698

1695–1698
Succeeded by
Henry Manaton
Dennys Glynn
Preceded by
Sir John Molesworth
Russell Robartes
Member of Parliament for Lostwithiel
with Russell Robartes

1705–1706
Succeeded by
Russell Robartes
James Kendall
Preceded by
Sir Willoughby Hickman
William Levinz
Member of Parliament for East Retford
with Sir Hardolph Wastneys

1706–1707
Succeeded by
Parliament of Great Britain
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Parliament of England
Member of Parliament for East Retford
with Sir Hardolph Wastneys

17071708
Succeeded by
William Levinz
Thomas White
Preceded by
Sir Henry Belasyse
John Statham
Member of Parliament for Mitchell
with Nathaniel Blakiston

17151722
Succeeded by
Charles Selwyn
John Hedges
Peerage of Ireland
New creation Viscount Molesworth
1716–1725
Succeeded by
John Molesworth