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The Murder of Lord Charlemont

British Isles Genealogy | Chapters From the Family Chest

    The family of Caulfeild, Earl of Charlemont, is one of great power and distinction in the north of Ireland, where its members have been settled for the last three centuries. The present Lord Charlemont is the owner of some twenty thousand seven hundred acres of land in the county of Armagh, and about five thousand nine hundred in the county of Tyrone; his nominal rent roll in the two counties reaching, according to the modern Doomsday Book, to an aggregate of about twenty-five thousand six hundred pounds.
     The founder of this noble family in Ireland was Sir Toby Caulfeild, son of one Alexander or Richard Caulfeild, Recorder of Oxford, who was descended from ancestors of great antiquity and worth, settled in that county, and at Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire. Sir Toby was a distinguished and gallant soldier, and, to quote the words of Mr. Lodge, in his 'Peerage of Ireland,' 'being initiated in the affairs of war when very young, performed many serviceable and memorable actions in the reign of Queen Elizabeth against her Majesty's enemies in Spain, the Low Countries, and Ireland (all which are specified in the preamble to his patent of creation to the title of Baron of Charlemont), and especially against the formidable traitor, O'Neile, Earl of Tyrone.'
     Towards the close of the sixteenth century Sir Toby Caulfeild tools part in the siege of Kingsale against the Spaniards; and in the beginning of June, 1602, the Deputy, having collected his forces, took the field, entered Tyrone, and marched up to the passage of the Blackwater, which he bad in the previous year discovered to be most convenient to carry her Majesty's forces that way into the heart of that district. He there spent some time in causing a bridge to be built over the river, and a fort adjoining to guard the passage, which, after his own Christian name, Charles, was called Charlemont. Captain Caulfeild, with his company of one hundred and fifty men, were left to command it. The services of this gallant band were so eminent, that the Queen was pleased to reward their leader with a giant of part of Tyrone's estate and other lands in the province of Ulster.
     After King James' accession to the crown of England, he was honored with knighthood; called into his Majesty's Privy Council; made Governor of the fort of Charlemont and of the counties of Tyrone and Armagh; and further rewarded for his fidelity and worthy service with many giants of lands and employments. He was also returned as 'knight of the shire' for the county of Armagh, and appointed Master of the Ordnance. He was subsequently named Commissioner for the 'plantation' of the county of Longford and the territory of Elge O'Carrol in the King's County. In all these several employments and trusts the King found him so faithful, diligent, and prudent that he thought him highly deserving of the peerage of Ireland, and so created him Baron Caulfeild of Charlemont by Privy Seal, bearing date at Westminster Nov. 1, and by patent at Dublin Dec. 22, 1620, limiting, or rather extending, the honor to his nephew, Sir William Caulfeild, and his issue male.
     Toby, the third Baron of Charlemont, was returned to Parliament for the county of Tyrone, and succeeded his father as Governor of the fort. of Charlemont-a very considerable and important place at the time of the rebellion of 1641 -where he then lived, having his company of the 97th Foot (at fifteen shillings a day on the establishment) in garrison. But on Friday, October 22, be was surprised and made prisoner with all his family, and afterwards murdered by Sir Phelim O'Neill's directions, the circumstances whereof are related as follows in Lodge's work quoted above:
     `Sir Phelim O'Neill that day went to dine with his lordship, who very joyfully received and entertained him; but Sir Phelim having appointed that visit as a sign to his Irish followers, they repaired thither in great numbers, and his lordship's whole company, with the captain-lieutenant, Anthony Stratford, were either killed or imprisoned, and all the arms and goods seized by Sir Phelim, who, being thus master of the plane, marched that very nigh and took Dungannon; and, after keeping his lordship, with his mother, sisters, brothers, and the rest of his family, fifteen weeks prisoners in Charlemont, sent them about five miles' distant to Killeuane, the house of Lawrence Netterville. And the next day, sending away Major Patrick Dory, the Lord Caulfeild earnestly desired Sir Phelim that the major might stay with hin because he could speak the Irish language; but Sir Phelim answered, he should have better company before night; and the same day, in the majors presence, committed the charge of his lordship to Captain Neale Modder O'Neil an Captain Neale M`Kenna, of the Trough, in the county of Monaghan, with directions to convey, him to Couglowter Castle. That night be was taken to Kinard, Sir Phelim's own castle, when going into the castle between the said two captains, the latter spoke to Edmond Bog O'Hugh (foster-brother to Sir Phelim) saying, "Where is your heart now?" whereupon the said Edmond shot his lordship in the back, whereof he the died.
      'And that same night there were also fifteen or sixteen of Sir Phelim's servants and tenants all English and Scots murdered at Kinard, among whom was a base son of Sir Phelim's also murdered, because his mother was a British woman. And it is further observed that Peter Pilly, his lordship's servant, three months before the rebellion broke out, being threatened by the Lady Caulfeild (his lordship's mother) that she would turn him away unless he would go to church; he said she need not trouble herself, for he did believe she would not stay long at Charlemont herself; and the day the rebellion began he went with Sir Phelim to Charlemont, and took away his lordship's horses.
     'Sir Phelim took the king's broad seal from the confirmation patent of the estate to his lordship's father, and affixed it to a sham commission, which he pretended was granted by the king, authorising him to raise that horrid rebellion.'
     The murder of Lord Charlemont tools place on the 1st of March, 1641; and this farther circumstance is added by the examination of William Skelton, then a servant to Sir Phelim O'Neill, who witnessed the perpetration of the deed from a window, that, 'as his lordship was entering in at the outward gate of Kinard House, one Clogholey O'Hugh fired his piece at him, an missed to discharge it; whereupon another rebel named Edmond Boy O'Hugh, cocked his piece, and shot his lordship, being on foot, who fell down, and uttered these words, "Lord, have mercy upon me!"
     It also appears, by the deposition of Mrs. Jane Beer, that, not long after his lordship was murdered, the assassin was taken, and imprisoned in the gaol of Armagh, and had three men set as sentinels over him (as a mock exhibition on the part of Sir Phelim), namely, an English man, a Scotchman, and an Irishman. He, however, succeeded in making his escape, along with the gaoler; whereupon Sir Phelim O'Neil caused the three sentinels to be confined, and threatened to hang them all. The two former (the Englishman and the Scotchman) were accordingly executed; but the Irishman was released and the gaoler who had conveyed away the murderer afterwards returned to his place, and remained there unquestioned and unmolested by Sir Phelim.
      A most surprising instance of the divine Providence seems to have interposed for the prevention of this horrid design (Lord Caulfeild's murder). The butler, an old and trusty servant,' so runs the narrative, 'remarked that the assassin, his accomplices, and the noble family, made up the odd number of thirteen; and observed, with dread and concern, that the murderers had often changed both their seats and their countenances, except the bravo himself, who kept his place on the left hand of Lord Caulfeild, as he was wont to do, being an intimate acquaintance.
     "The butler took the opportunity, whilst they were at dinner, to acquaint his lady with the causes of his uneasiness, telling her that he dreaded some direful event. She rebuked his fears; told him he was superstitious; asked if the company were merry, and had everything they wanted. He answered, he had done his duty they all seemed very merry, and wanted nothing be knew of but grace; and since her ladyship was of opinion that his fears were groundless, he was resolved, through a natural impulse he felt, to take care of his own person. And there upon instantly left the house, and made the best o his way to Dublin.'The murder followed almost immediately after his departure, before he could well have reached the end of his journey.
His lordship dying unmarried, the honor devolved on Robert, his next brother, the fourth baron, who was a captain after the rebellionn began. He, however, enjoyed the title only few months, his death being occasioned by prescribing to himself too large a quantity of opium so that William, the third son (his brother), surnamed 'the Good,' became the fifth Baron of Charlemont, and had the good fortune to apprehend Sir Phelim O'Neill, his brother's murderer, and have him executed. His lordship Richard Blayney, Esq., 'Escheator' of Tyrone, and others were empowered to inquire 'What estate, right, and title Oliver Cromwell, or any of his predecessors, kings or queens of England, at any time had to any castles, manors, lordships rectories, tythes, &c., within the county of Tyrone, by virtue of any Acts of Parliament or Council, or by reason of any attainder, escheat, or otherwise, who were then possessed thereof, and by what title, which commission was then executed by an inquisition, taken August 9, 1688, at the town of Strabane.'
     After the Restoration, his lordship was called into the Privy Council, Be., and, being highly esteemed by King Charles II. on account of his merit and services, was advanced to the degree of a viscount by privy seal, dated at Hampton Court, July 17, and by patent at Dublin, October 8, 1665, by which title he took his seat in Parliament.
     His lordship, dying in April, 1671, was buried in the cathedral church of Armagh, under a noble monument. erected to his memory. His lady was Sarah, second daughter of Charles, Viscount Drogheda, and sister to the wife of his brother Thomas; and his children were four sons and three daughters, his second (but eldest surviving) son, William, succeeding to his honors. This nobleman, who was a zealous supporter of the cause of the Prince of Orange (afterwards William III) against King James, enjoyed the peerage more than half'-a-century. His grandson, James, fourth Viscount Caulfeild of Charlemont, was a distinguished patriot, and was advanced to the dignity of Earl of Charlemont in 1763.  His lordship was commander-in chief of the volunteer army in Ireland in 1779. He died in 1799, when the family honors and estates passed to his eldest son, Francis William, who was elected an Irish representative peer, and who in 1837 was created Baron Charlemont, in the peerage of the United Kingdom, with remainder to his brother and male issue. The earl died in 1863, and, as he left no issue, he was succeeded in all his hereditary honours by his nephew, James Molyneux Caulfeild, the third and present Earl of Charlemont.

Chapters From the Family Chests, 1887

Chapters From the Family Chest

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