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Richard Boyle Cork in United Kingdom

Richard Boyle Cork, 1st Earl of (1566-1643), Irish statesman, second son of Roger Boyle of Faversham in Kent, a descendant of an ancient Herefordshire family, and of Joan, daughter of Robert Naylor of Canterbury, was born at Canterbury on the 3rd of October 1566, and was educated at the King’s school and at Bennet (Corpus Christi) College, Cambridge, where he was admitted in 1583. He afterwards studied law at the Middle Temple and became clerk to Sir Richard Manwood, chief baron of the exchequer; but finding his position offered little opportunity for advancement he determined to make a new start in Ireland. He landed in Dublin on the 23rd of June 1588, as he relates himself, with £27, 3s. in money, a gold bracelet worth £10, and a diamond ring, besides some fine wearing apparel. He began to make his fortune almost immediately. In 1590 he obtained the appointment of deputy escheator to John Crofton, the escheator-general, and in 1595 he married Joan, daughter and co-heiress of William Appsley of Limerick, who died in 1599, having brought him an estate of £500 a year.

Meanwhile he had been the object of the attacks of Sir Henry Wallop and others, incited, according to his own account, by envy at his success and increasing prosperity, and was apprehended on various charges of fraud in his office, being more than once thrown into prison. He was on the point of leaving for England to justify himself to the queen, when the rebellion in Munster in October 1598 again reduced him to poverty and obliged him to return to London to his chambers at the Temple. He was, however, almost immediately taken by Essex into his service, when Sir Henry Wallop again renewed his prosecution, with the result that Boyle was summoned before the star chamber. His enemies appear to have failed in substantiating their accusations, and in the course of the inquiry, at which he had secured the presence of the queen herself, he was able to expose several instances of malversation on the part of his opponent, who was dismissed in consequence from his office of treasurer, while Boyle himself, who had favourably impressed the queen, was declared by her as “a man fit to be employed by ourselves” and was at once made clerk of the council of Munster.

He brought to Elizabeth the news of the victory near Kingsale in December 1601, and in October 1602 was again sent over by Sir George Carew, the president of Munster, on Irish affairs; and on this occasion, at the instance of Carew, he bought for £1000 the whole of Sir Walter Raleigh’s lands in Cork, Waterford and Tipperary, consisting of 12,000 acres with immense capabilities of development. This offered a splendid opportunity for the exercise of his genius for business and administration. Manufactures were established, the breeding of cattle and fish introduced, mines opened, colonists from England encouraged to come over, the natural resources of the land developed, bridges, harbours and roads constructed, and towns settled, order being maintained by 13 castles garrisoned by retainers.

While himself quickly accumulating vast riches, the services 156 which Boyle rendered to the government and to the nation at such a time of disorder and transition were incalculable. He soon became the most powerful subject in Ireland. On the 25th of July 1603 he married, as his second wife, Catherine, daughter of Sir Geoffrey Fenton, secretary of state, and was knighted. In 1606 he became a privy councillor for Munster and in 1613 for Ireland. On the 6th of September 1616 he was raised to the peerage as Lord Boyle, baron of Youghal, and on the 26th of October 1620 was created earl of Cork and Viscount Dungarvan. He was appointed on the 26th of October 1629 a lord justice, and on the 9th of November 1631 lord high treasurer. Though no peer of England, he was “by writ called into the Upper House by His Majesty’s great grace,” and took his place as an “assistant sitting on the inside of the Woolsack.”1 The appointment of Wentworth (Lord Strafford), however, as lord deputy in 1633 put an end to the predominant power and influence of Cork in Ireland. “A most cursed man,” he writes in his diary on Wentworth’s arrival, “to all Ireland and to me in particular.” In reality these two great men had much in common, held similar views of administration, and had the same talents for practical statesmanship.

Cork had already carried out in Munster the policy which Strafford desired to see extended to the whole of Ireland. But Cork belonged to the “spacious days of great Elizabeth,” and for such a man there was no room within the narrow despotism and intolerance of the government of Charles. The subjection of the great was part of Strafford’s settled policy, and consequently, instead of seeking his collaboration in developing the country and in maintaining order, he studied merely to diminish his influence. He subjected him to various humiliations. He forced him to remove his wife’s tomb from the choir in St Patrick’s at Dublin, and deprived him arbitrarily of the greater part of the revenues of Youghal, a portion of the Raleigh estates. “No physic,” wrote Laud, delighted, “better than a vomit if it be given in time, and therefore you have taken a very judicious course to administer one so early to my Lord of Cork. I hope it will do him good….” (Strafford Letters, i. 156) Cork, however, refrained from any systematic or retaliatory resistance, and even simulated an admiration for Strafford’s rule. At the latter’s trial he was an important witness, but took no active part in the prosecution, though he thoroughly approved of his condemnation and execution. Scarcely had he returned to Ireland from witnessing his rival’s destruction when the rebellion broke out, but his influence and preparations, supported by the military prowess of his sons, were sufficient to offer a successful resistance to the rebels in Munster and to save the province from ruin. This was his last great service to the state. He died about the 15th of September 1643, leaving a large and illustrious family by his second wife.

Four of his seven sons received independent peerages,—Richard, created Baron Clifford and earl of Burlington; Lewis, Viscount Kinalmeaky, killed in 1642 at the battle of Liscarrol; Roger, baron of Broghill and earl of Orrery; and Francis, Viscount Shannon. Another son was Robert Boyle (q.v.), the famous natural philosopher and chemist.

The title passed to the eldest surviving son, Richard Boyle, 1st earl of Burlington and 2nd earl of Cork (1612-1698), who matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, and was knighted in 1624. Returning home after travelling abroad he married in 1635 Elizabeth, daughter and heir of Henry, Lord Clifford, later earl of Cumberland. On the outbreak of the rebellion he supported his father in Munster, fought at the battle of Liscarrol, and raised forces for the first war with the Scots. In 1640 he represented Appleby in the Long Parliament, and in the civil war he supported zealously the royal cause, being created in 1643 Baron Clifford of Lanesborough in the peerage of England, in addition to the earldom of Cork which he inherited from his father the same year. At the Restoration he obtained also the earldom of Burlington (or Bridlington), and was appointed lord-lieutenant of the West Riding of Yorkshire, resigning this office through opposition to the government of James II. He held the office of lord treasurer of Ireland from 1680 till 1695. He died on the 15th of January 1698. His two sons having predeceased him, he was succeeded in his titles by his grandson Charles, issue of his eldest son Charles, as 2nd earl of Burlington and 3rd earl of Cork; and on the extinction of the direct male line in the person of Richard, the 4th earl, in 1753 the earldom of Cork fell to the younger branch of the Boyle family, in the person of John, 5th earl of Orrery, he and later earls being “of Cork and Orrery.”

John Boyle, 5th earl of Cork and Orrery (1707-1762), only son of the 4th earl of Orrery, was born on the 2nd of January 1707. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, and was led by indifferent health and many untoward accidents to cultivate in retirement his talents for literature and poetry. His translation of the Letters of Pliny the Younger, with various notes, for the use of his eldest son, was published in 1751. He also published Remarks on the Life and Writings of Jonathan Swift (1751), in several letters addressed to his second son, and Memoirs of Robert Carey, earl of Monmouth, from the original manuscript, with preface and notes. He died on the 16th of November 1762. His Letters from Italy appeared in 1774, edited, with memoir, by the Rev. J. Duncombe. The earldom continued in later years in the Boyle family, being held in 1909 by the 10th earl (b. 1861). The wife of the 7th earl (see Cork and Orrery, Mary, Countess of) was a famous figure in society in the early 19th century.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica (1911)


Further Reading

True Remembrances, written by himself and printed by Birch in his edition of the works of Robert Boyle; Lismore Papers, ed. by A. B. Grosart (10 vols., 1886-1887), 1st series consisting of the diary from 1611 to his death and of autobiographical notes, and 2nd series of correspondence; Life of Lord Cork, by Dorothea Townshend (1904); article in the Dict. of Nat. Biog., with authorities there given; Egerton MSS. 80 (copies of correspondence); Add. MSS., Brit. Mus., 19831-19832 (rebellion in Munster, examination before the Star Chamber, correspondence) and 18023; Strafford’s Letters; Calendars of State Papers, Domestic and Irish, and Carew Papers; E. Lodge’s Irish Peerage, i. 144; E. Budgell’s Memoirs of the Boyles (1737); Ed. Edwards’s Life of Raleigh; Gardiner’s Hist. of England; Charles Smith’s History of Cork (1893); R. Caulfield’s Council Book of Youghal; also the biography in Biographia Britannica, Kippis, vol. ii.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica (1911)

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  • Article Name: Richard Boyle Cork
  • Author: International
  • Description: Richard Boyle Cork, 1st Earl of (1566-1643), Irish statesman, second son of Roger Boyle of Faversham in Kent, a descendant [...]

This entry was last updated: October 18, 2016


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