Brodrick, Charles (1761–1822), Church of Ireland archbishop of Cashel, was born 3 May 1761 in London, the fourth son of George Brodrick (1730–1765), third Viscount Midleton, and his wife, Albinia, née Townshend (c.1737–1808). The Brodrick family had estates in England and in counties Cork, Waterford and Monaghan. Viscount Midleton was also patron of the parliamentary borough of Midleton.
After graduating from Cambridge University, Brodrick travelled to Ireland in 1784 to act as agent for his family's estates, at a time when their lands around Cobh and Cork harbour were being extensively developed as the provisions trade boomed. Shortly after his arrival in Ireland he married Mary, daughter of Richard Woodward (qv), bishop of Cloyne. Woodward, who had previously been agent to the Brodrick estates, became his patron and, impressed by Brodrick's ability, secured his early church appointments within the diocese of Cloyne as rector of Midleton and treasurer of Cloyne. The connection with his father-in-law may have got his career as a churchman under way, but he was an able and diligent man, and his talents were recognised while he was still in his thirties, when he was made bishop of Clonfert (22 March 1795). He spent less than a year there before being made bishop of Kilmore (19 January 1796), where he remained until after the act of union.
Following the union Brodrick was promoted to the archbishopric of Cashel (9 December 1801), the third most important anglican see in Ireland. This elevation was unconnected with the political negotiations that accompanied the passage of the union – throughout his career, he consistently refused to use his family's possession of the borough of Midleton as a bargaining tool – and was solely the result of a recommendation made by Lord Cornwallis (qv), who recognised his talent. The see of Cashel brought him greater financial rewards through its salary, church lands and patronage. Drawing on his experience in estate management, he embarked on an extensive plan to remodel the bishop's palace and gardens.
Brodrick was recognised, along with the primate, William Stuart (qv), as one of the main reformers within the Church of Ireland. He was determined that the church required structural reform to remove abuses, particularly non-residency among the clergy. He had an interest in education and church schools, and, following the resignation of Archbishop Charles Agar (qv), was in 1803 also put in charge of the Board of First Fruits, the body responsible for the building and repair of churches and glebe houses. As the effective heads of the church's financial policy, both he and Stuart were able to secure a number of parliamentary grants that enabled the church to embark on a large-scale building programme. This was aided by Brodrick's able negotiation of almost £47,000 from the government in 1803, as compensation for the disenfranchisement of the three ecclesiastical boroughs of Clogher, Old Leighlin and St Canice at the time of the union, an anomaly that had previously been recognised by Agar.
Though he was a teetotaller and abstemious in his own habits, Brodrick displayed generous hospitality during regular entertainments at the palace in Cashel. In 1811 he was appointed coadjutor archbishop of Dublin and, though he had a house in Merrion Square, chose to live in the newly purchased town house, belonging to the see of Dublin, on St Stephen's Green. He remained in Dublin between 1811 and 1819: from 1812 major modifications of the palace at Cashel were carried out. He died 6 May 1822, aged sixty-one.
An important reforming figure within the Church of Ireland, Brodrick was an opponent of catholic emancipation, but tolerated freedom of worship for catholics and allowed land from his family's estates to be granted to build catholic churches. With his wife, Mary, he had two sons and four daughters. Charles Brodrick (1791–1863), his eldest son, inherited the family title and became sixth Viscount Midleton before he was succeeded by his younger brother, the Rev. William John Brodrick (1798–1870). With a settlement of £5,000, his eldest daughter, Mary Susan Albinia (1787–1870), married James Bernard (qv), second earl of Bandon, on 13 March 1809, thus uniting two of the major landed interests of Co. Cork. Archbishop Brodrick's correspondence and papers are in the NLI and the Surrey History Centre.