Boyle, Roger (1621–79), 1st Baron Broghill and 1st earl of Orrery , soldier, politician, and writer, was born 25 April 1621 in Co. Waterford, twelfth child and third son to survive of Richard Boyle (qv), 1st earl of Cork, and his second wife, Catherine (qv) (née Fenton).
On 28 February 1628 the boy was made Baron Broghill: a tribute at once to his father's preeminence among the protestant settlers in Munster and to the estate in the north of Co. Cork that he would inherit. In 1630 Broghill entered TCD. By 1634 he had removed to England, where his father had originated and where, both at court and in the west country, his interests were expanding. On 17 March 1636 he was admitted to Gray's Inn. Then, like his brothers, Broghill was sent to the Continent to extend his education. Under a French protestant, Marcombes, he travelled in France and Italy and in 1636 stayed in the Geneva house of the Calvinist theologian Diodati. Once back in England he frequented the court and aristocratic circles to which his father and elder brother, Dungarvan, enjoyed easy access. The resultant culture complemented and occasionally conflicted with the Calvinism of his upbringing. In May 1639 he was despatched by his father to attend the king at Berwick in his campaign against the Scots. Those to whom he was close at the time, such as Davenant and Suckling, emerged in 1640–41 as supporters of Charles I. On 27 January 1641 Broghill married Lady Margaret Howard, a daughter of Theophilus, 2nd earl of Suffolk. This marriage speeded the Boyles’ integration into the English aristocracy.
War and politics in the 1640s
On the outbreak in October 1641 of the Irish rebellion, much of the defence of the family's property in Ireland, centred on Lismore and Youghal, fell to Broghill. He quickly discovered talents for fighting, organisation, and politics. He steered a confident course through the hazards of English and Irish politics as both countries dissolved into civil war. Periodically, as in November 1642 and July 1643, he was sent to England to solicit for supplies. He saw the English parliament as a likelier source of aid than the vacillating Charles I or his Irish viceroy, the marquess of Ormond (qv). In Munster, although a subordinate of the earl of Inchiquin (qv), Broghill had his importance recognised by an appointment in 1644 to govern Youghal; much of the port was owned by the Boyles. In November 1644 and June 1645 he again visited London in the quest for aid. In 1645 he was commissioned as a general of the horse in Munster. In December 1645 he deputised for the temporarily absent Inchiquin. He assiduously mobilised his well-placed English contacts, such as the earl of Northumberland, and backed the appointment of Viscount Lisle (qv) as parliament's viceroy and commander in Ireland, believing that thereby the Munster protestants would be more speedily relieved. This strategy increasingly diverged from that favoured by Inchiquin: so much so, indeed, that in 1647 the latter defected to the king. This development left Broghill as the most prominent supporter of the English parliament in the region. His value was further recognised by a grant (February 1648) of £2,000 to satisfy his arrears of pay, and in March 1648 a commission as master of ordnance. However, Lisle's expeditionary force failed to deliver the expected victories, and further divided Munster protestants over the best strategy.
Commonwealth and protectorate
By 1649, with Charles I executed, a combined army of confederates and royalists routed at Rathmines, and the arrival of Oliver Cromwell (qv) in command of a formidable English army, Broghill was expected to follow his elder brother into exile. Instead, in a reversal much censured at the time and since, he joined Cromwell. His local knowledge and military acumen helped the English commanders in their southern campaigns. Broghill was rewarded with a commission in February 1651 as lieutenant-general of ordnance, fresh grants of land in lieu of pay, and access to Ireland's new masters. Calculating that only this English army could save protestant Ireland, he overcame qualms about the revolutionary origins and radicalism of the regime that it served. Broghill, suave and intelligent, used the ample opportunities to ingratiate himself with the newcomers. Among those whom he now encountered was Henry Cromwell (qv), with whom he developed an intimacy.
Broghill was regularly consulted about a variety of public matters; his influence over the making and application of policy is impossible to measure precisely. Much of his activity was directed to retrieving, improving, and supplementing his own and his family's wasted estates. In 1654 and again in 1656 he was elected to the Westminster parliament for Co. Cork. The talents that he displayed in the first protectorate parliament, coupled with what Oliver Cromwell had observed when campaigning in Ireland in 1649–50, led in March 1655 to Broghill's appointment as lord president of the council in Scotland. Without any obvious links with Scotland and very much as the nominee of an English regime that had recently reconquered and incorporated Scotland along with Ireland, his brief was to secure English rule. The military aspect had to be softened. Most urgently, the dominant but divided presbyterian clergy had to be reconciled to the Cromwellian order, at least outwardly. Broghill's success in persuading intransigent ministers to stop praying publicly for Charles Stuart was at best temporary. Nevertheless, he explored the means by which an indigenous civilian party might in time be constructed among the propertied and the prosperous. His tour of duty ended in August 1656.
Immediately the meeting of a new parliament at Westminster absorbed his attention. Outspoken as a critic of the system of rule by major-generals, he managed the campaign to make Cromwell king. In part, he aimed to extend into England the alliance with civilians and conservatives which he in Scotland and Henry Cromwell in Ireland had recently constructed. Cromwell's refusal of the title in May 1657, though not of the settlement itself in the ‘Humble petition and advice’, dismayed Broghill. Henry Cromwell, among others, pleaded with him not to withdraw completely from public life. Back in Ireland in the autumn of 1657 he discussed the future direction of English and Irish policy with Henry Cromwell. In January 1658 he willingly took his seat as one of Cromwell's peers in the nominated Other House. It was rumoured that he might also be added to the council of state, but nothing happened. With the installation of Richard Cromwell as protector (September 1658), his influence increased. However, when the protectorate collapsed (June 1659) he buried himself in Munster. In July 1659 he was one of many officers in Ireland removed from their commands.
If he maintained covert contacts throughout Ireland, Scotland, England, and beyond with the exiled courtiers, he skilfully obscured his intentions. Royalists hoped that he might declare early for them, but suspected (rightly) that he was too cunning to show his hand. Others in protestant Ireland, such as Sir Theophilus Jones (qv), Sir Hardress Waller (qv), and Sir Charles Coote (qv), alarmed at the disintegration of authority, ejected the radical regime from Dublin, summoned a representative assembly in Dublin (February 1660), and opened negotiations for the return of Charles Stuart as king of Ireland. The restored Rump in England named Broghill as one of its three commissioners to govern Ireland (January 1660). He devoted himself to persuading the army and principal inhabitants in Munster to comply with the changes. He was returned to the convention as representative for Co. Waterford and Dublin University, and elected to sit for the second. In the convention his rivalry with Coote and differences in political emphasis (Coote was reputed to be keener to see an unconditional restoration) enlivened the deliberations. Obliged to guide the convention towards the same destination as Scotland and England, only after it had declared unequivocally for Charles II was he able, late in May, to travel to London.
In conjunction with his brothers, Cork and Shannon, he stressed his enthusiasm for the restored dynasty and, less plausibly, his consistent adherence to its cause throughout the preceding years. Dextrous and unprincipled in his exploitation of his many connections with the social and political worlds of the court, he ingratiated himself with Clarendon and, ultimately, with the king. The latter, on 5 September 1660, advanced him to the Irish earldom of Orrery. Disappointed of the Howard borough of Cockermouth, he was elected in the same interest (that of his wife's family) to the 1660 convention at Westminster and the 1661 parliament for Arundel.
Restoration politics and government His value to the regime, currently and putatively, was attested by his appointment as lord president of Munster on 10 October 1660. Later in the same month (26 October) he was one of the three lords justices entrusted with the government of Ireland. The death of one of the trio in December 1661, Coote (lately ennobled as earl of Mountrath) further enhanced Broghill's importance. Till he surrendered the sword of office to the lord lieutenant, Ormond, in July 1662, he determined much of the outline and detail of Irish policy. With aplomb he combined defence of his own personal and familial concerns, oversight of the affairs of Munster, and concern with the larger settlements of England and Scotland with his responsibilities for Ireland. Critics would contend that he habitually exaggerated his own prowess and subordinated the public to his private interests. The arrival of Ormond, an old adversary, pushed him unwillingly into a largely provincial role. As an earnest of the seriousness with which he would treat his position as lord president, he rebuilt his mansion in north Co. Cork on a lavish scale and at a reputed cost of £20,000. It was renamed Charleville, and would be the hub from which he could control all Munster. In addition to the presidency, he governed Co. Clare and acted as constable of Limerick castle. Furthermore, on 22 June 1662 he was commissioned as serjeant major-general of the Irish army. The last office not only brought him the welcome salary of £365 a year but a reason to meddle in anything that involved the safety of the kingdom.
Ormond, although alert to Orrery's wiles, needed his help. He was essential if Munster was to be kept calm and if a potentially truculent parliament were to prosper. Those skills as manager and leader first revealed by Orrery in the parliaments of the 1650s were now put at Ormond's disposal. Orrery boasted how he had at least twenty-five ‘Orreronians’, members mainly for Munster constituencies, at his command, and many more in parliament willing to be guided or whipped by him. This assistance helped to ensure the passage of the controversial land settlement, much of which he had framed with associates in London and Dublin. Also, his management brought compliance with the equally provocative measures for ecclesiastical conformity.
As Ormond suspected, behind the cooperation lurked a lingering hostility. The heightened tension caused by the second Anglo-Dutch war and rumoured French invasion in 1666 allowed Orrery to contrast his own assiduity in Munster with the relaxed, even negligent, approach of Ormond. As the latter looked vulnerable to the vagaries of English political factionalism, Orrery entertained hopes that he might succeed to the lieutenancy which he so coveted. Already (26 May 1665) he had been sworn of the English privy council. He maintained existing friendships with established politicians and cultivated the rising men. He identified closely with Ormond's English enemies, such as the 2nd duke of Buckingham. In 1669 Ormond was dismissed, but Orrery, far from replacing him, was himself attacked. In November 1669 he was faced in the English parliament with a bid to impeach him, primarily for misconduct as president of Munster. He beat off the threat. But the incident reminded him of his own precariousness, and suggested how few contemporaries shared his high estimation of himself. On 30 July 1672 the suppression of the Munster presidency (along with that in Connacht) removed the principal public base of Orrery's power. Assured that the act was inspired by a wish for administrative uniformity, not personal animus against him, and promised a handsome pension by way of recompense, he consoled himself. Moreover, he retained his lucrative and prestigious military commands. As a further token of the continuing favour of the king, he was personally invited to attend the parliamentary session of 1673. Even so, contemporaries gloated over what they regarded as a humiliation. And for Orrery himself, it had the same character. Pettishly he abandoned his grandiose seat at Charleville to his wastrel heir. Instead he located himself at his south Cork residence of Castlemartyr, convenient for voyages to England but intended for his younger son.
He attended the 1673 session at Westminster, and revisited England in 1675. Invalidism, arising from gout and a botched operation to alleviate it, limited his circuit and shortened his temper. The return of Ormond to govern Ireland in 1677 revived old antagonisms. Through the evidence from his own locality and the reports of his correspondents, Orrery detected fresh endeavours to spread catholicism and ensconce a universal monarchy under Louis XIV. He again contrasted his own vigilance with Ormond's culpable indolence. He used his numerous contacts throughout the three kingdoms to collect and disseminate stories damaging to the lord lieutenant. As a result, relations with Ormond strained almost to breaking. Nor was Orrery's obsessive catholic scaremongering congenial to Charles II. It may have led to his removal from the privy council in April 1679. Exerting himself to the end in order to warn against the dire consequences of ignoring the catholic danger, he died on 16 October 1679. He was interred two days later at Youghal, where a mural monument to him survives.
Although Orrery was a younger son, his father was able to provide generously for him. On his marriage in 1641 he had also acquired an English estate, at Marston Bigot in Somerset. This provided a convenient base on journeys between Munster, Dublin, and London. It also emphasised the degree to which Orrery, like many of his siblings, operated successfully in both England and Ireland. Unusually among his contemporaries, he could claim to have been – if only briefly – a major player in the drama of all three nations: Scotland, as well as Ireland and England. Yet his offices never matched his ambitions. Nor did his income – in the 1660s and 1670s between £3,000 and £4,000 annually in rents – cover his lavish expenditure. State service, together with the fruits of his role in planning and implementing successive land settlements, considerably supplemented his wealth. In 1668, for example, he was rumoured to have received gifts of more than £36,000 from a single source. Much of the money was spent on public display justified by his official functions. Even so, judged by the amount of subsidy that he paid after the restoration, Orrery ranked only sixteenth in income among Irish peers. His heirs never showed signs of a sudden access of wealth to the family.
Protestant interest Orrery's political stance is inseparable from care for his immediate family and extended affinity. Concern for these, threatened by the uprising of the 1640s, first propelled him to prominence. It remained a preoccupation thereafter. Personable and energetic, he largely explained the influence that the Munster settlers exerted over English and Irish regimes from the 1640s onwards. In his heyday, blessed with charm, he was admired for ‘a devising head and towering wit’. Nevertheless, as the obverse – vanity and deviousness – became more pronounced, he estranged many contemporaries, including Ormond, Essex (qv), Anglesey (qv), and Shaftesbury. Important to his formation and his politics was a fervent anti-catholicism. Much of this could be traced back to the Calvinist traditions of his family and his own upbringing, including the stay in Geneva. It spoke, too, of the situation of the protestant settlers in Munster and elsewhere as a minority that had benefited from the conquest and expropriation of the indigenous catholics. His own awareness of popery, whether in Ireland or in Europe, increased his anxieties. In the face of the threat he counselled protestant unity. Thus, after 1660, although he enforced conformity with a rigid episcopalian settlement, he simultaneously investigated means by which orthodox dissenters could be comprehended. He also used spies to inform him about the plans of the catholics. In the early 1660s he himself took up the cudgels on behalf of the protestants against one catholic publicist, Peter Walsh (qv). Some, including Ormond, suspected Orrery of cynicism in manufacturing and manipulating a catholic menace for his own material and political gain. Undoubtedly a rancorous anti-catholicism constituted a vital ingredient in his ideology. By the 1670s, through his occasional publications and frequent actions, he was seen to have created as a principle, and to head as an inchoate political organisation, the Irish protestant interest.
Orrery urged his protestant neighbours to be wary. Military preparedness was essential. Building on the military origins and traditions of the Munster plantation, from the 1650s to the 1670s he consistently promoted the idea of a protestant militia. Long experience and local renown as a soldier inspired him to compile a manual, part of which was published (1677) as a Treatise of the art of war. The planned second volume never appeared. Connected with these ruminations was his interest in fortifications. One concrete result was the ambitious Charles Fort commanding Kinsale harbour, erected in the 1670s, for which Ormond rather than Orrery (one of the designers) received credit. Orrery may also have turned his hand to civil architecture, including his own mansion at Charleville. This was merely one among a daunting variety of skills that the polymathic Orrery, in common with several of his relations, deployed. His library was well stocked with theology, history, and travel. On his own account he wrote prolifically. He ventured on to several popular genres: romance, plays, and verse. The plays, some of which were performed to acclaim at court, explored themes of honour and loyalty which carried strong autobiographical resonances.
He was succeeded by an unsatisfactory heir, Roger (1646–82). A more impressive legacy passed through the line of his second son, Henry, who inherited Castlemartyr. His son, Henry Boyle (qv), 1st earl of Shannon (1684–1764), adroitly resuscitated the protestant interest as organised originally in Munster by his grandfather, Orrery, and made it the foundation of a powerful political grouping.
Prints of a portrait by J. Mynde are in the British Museum and National Portrait Gallery, London; another portrait is reproduced as the frontispiece of K. M. Lynch, Roger Boyle, first earl of Orrery (Knoxville, Tenn., 1965). The largest collection of Orrery's papers, mostly post-1660, is at Petworth House, West Sussex, England. Two volumes of correspondence, again after 1660, are in the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), Forster collection. The originals of A collection of the state letters of the Right Honourable Roger Boyle (1742) are in BL, Add. MSS 37206–8; those of E. MacLysaght (ed.), Calendar of the Orrery papers (1941), are in NLI, MSS 32–6. Some correspondence from the 1650s is included in T. Birch (ed.), A collection of the state papers of John Thurloe, esq. (7 vols, 1742). More (mainly after 1660) is to be found in BL, Lansdowne MSS 821–3, BL, Stowe MSS 200–17; PRO, SP 63; the Carte and Clarendon MSS in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, Harvard University Library; and the Lismore papers at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire. For Orrery's own writings, see W. S. Clark (ed.), The dramatic works of Roger Boyle, earl of Orrery (2 vols, 1937).