Chichester, Arthur (1563–1625), soldier, politician, and lord deputy of Ireland, was born at Raleigh, Devon, in May 1563, the second son (of the seven sons and nine daughters) of Sir John Chichester of Raleigh and his wife, Gertrude, the daughter of Sir William Courtenay of Powderham Castle. The family were well known for their puritan sympathies, and Sir John had appeared before the court of high commission on at least one occasion. Chichester matriculated at Exeter College, Oxford, in 1583 but did not graduate. He left the college to join the army and by 1588 held the rank of captain. In 1592 his involvement in a factional dispute resulted in an attack on a royal purveyor, and Chichester was summoned to appear before the privy council. He fled first to Ireland, but by 1592 was a captain of marines on Sir Francis Drake's last voyage to the New World. By 1597 he was sergeant-major of the English army in Picardy. He was knighted by the king of France for his bravery.
One of Chichester's brothers, Sir John, was already in Ireland at the outbreak of the Nine Years War in 1594 as governor of Carrickfergus. Sir John was killed in an action against the Scots in Antrim in 1597. In 1599 Arthur Chichester himself arrived in Ireland with the expedition led by the earl of Essex (qv). He was appointed to his brother's former posting as governor of Carrickfergus and remained in Ireland for the remainder of the war apart from a return to England in 1600 on private business, reportedly being the collection of a great debt owed to him. Chichester was the architect of the scorched-earth policy pursued in Ulster after 1601 by the lord deputy, Charles Blount, 8th Baron Mountjoy (qv), combining this with a ring of garrisons that progressively reduced the scope of the earl of Tyrone (qv) for manoeuvre. This strategy gave rise to his reputation as a garrison hard-liner prepared to maintain law and order.
By October 1601 Mountjoy recommended that Chichester should become governor of Ulster if such a post were to be established. In October 1604 he was appointed lord deputy, and on 8 April 1605 he married Letitia, the widow of Walter Vaughan of Golden Grove, Carmarthen, and of John Langhorne of St Bride's, Pembrokeshire, and the daughter of Sir John Perrot (qv), lord deputy of Ireland (1584–8). There was only one child of the marriage, Arthur, who was born on 22 September 1606. He did not survive and was buried on 31 October 1606 in Christ Church cathedral, Dublin, and subsequently reinterred in the family vault at Carrickfergus.
Chichester was initially reluctant to accept the office of lord deputy because of the costs that it involved and the amount of time that it would absorb to the neglect of his own private interests. Already by 1605 he had acquired a large south Antrim estate centring on Carrickfergus, and he intended to exploit this by settling it with former soldiers. However, making this viable required time and capital, both of which the post of lord deputy would absorb; he frequently complained about it and asked to be relieved of his position. Despite his reluctance to undertake the office, Chichester was a creative lord deputy. In the early years of his appointment he tried to ascertain the limits to which he could push his authority. The most significant measure of that is the mandates policy on which he embarked in 1605–6. Under this prerogative procedure, ‘mandates’ or instructions were issued requiring sixteen prominent Dublin catholics to attend worship in the established church. The mandates were disregarded and fines and periods of imprisonment imposed on the recusants. The Pale gentry petitioned Chichester, who imprisoned several instigators of the petition. Further mandates were issued and duly ignored before the London administration intervened in late January 1606. The London privy council, appalled that Chichester had acted without their consent and afraid that there would be dangerous repercussions from Old English catholics who effectively controlled power in the localities, ordered Dublin to proceed more circumspectly. The Dublin administration reactivated the policy in the city towards the end of 1606, and a number of catholics were fined in the court of castle chamber for not attending the Church of Ireland. As word of the escalation of these actions reached London it elicited a sharp response from the privy council, which was furious that its attempts to moderate Chichester's actions had been ignored. Chichester was ordered in no uncertain terms to halt his actions. The mandates episode certainly revealed a good deal about Chichester's attitude to religious conformity and the way to achieve it and also about his desire to push out the boundaries of his office against the power of the London administration and the vested interests of the Old English of the Pale.
A second challenge was presented to Chichester's lord deputyship by the flight of the Ulster earls in September 1607. This opened a power vacuum in Ulster which he felt would best be filled by a plantation scheme. A significant interruption to the planning for that scheme came in April 1608, when Sir Cahir O'Doherty (qv) rose in rebellion and seized Culmore and Derry. The rising was suppressed within two months, but it enabled the government to confiscate the property of a second level of Gaelic lords, below those of the earls, who had been involved. The principal beneficiary was the lord deputy, Sir Arthur Chichester, who received O'Doherty's Inishowen property and hence expanded his own property portfolio. Limited in time and capital to develop these lands, as with the south Antrim estates, he set his Inishowen property on long leases with low rents and high entry fines, thus trading off future income for present gain. The move restricted his ability to raise rents in the future and created substantial debts in the long run.
Apart from the interruption of O'Doherty's rising, the planning of a plantation scheme for Ulster was a fairly straightforward process. Between the flight of the earls and O'Doherty's rising Chichester's views predominated with the administrative planners. His pragmatic view of how social relations in Ulster should develop was set out in a letter of 17 September 1607. He advocated the division of the escheated lands of Ulster among the native Irish inhabitants, former soldiers (or servitors), and some ‘colonies of civil people of England and Scotland at his Majesty's pleasure’ (CSPI, 1606–8, 275–7). However, servitors were to be given priority, with most Irish being left on the land they already occupied. This was an extension of what had previously been happening in Ulster with settlements of soldiers around Chichester's own property at Carrickfergus and Sir Thomas Phillips's (qv) settlement at Limavady. A second scheme propounded by Chichester favoured the removal of all inhabitants, together with their goods and cattle, from the escheated counties, but this was clearly unworkable and was probably included for effect. These ideas were developed in Chichester's ‘Notes of remembrance’ of March 1608, in which he used the sixteenth-century freeholding of Monaghan as his precedent for a proposed settlement which – by the creation of freeholds – would remove the Irish landowners from the control of greater lords. In Tyrone he argued strenuously that those ‘who are in my opinion most fit to undertake this plantation are the captains and officers who have served in these parts’ (Moody, 285). They were to receive the best land, with the remainder going to the new settlers. Chichester was, in effect, arguing for a continuation of the sort of methods by which Ireland had been governed in the past: small military colonies with native settlement around them. In fact what transpired in the plantation scheme was rather different and probably owed more to the ideas of the attorney general, Sir John Davies (qv), than to Chichester's proposals. The military men, of whom Chichester was one, whose cause the lord deputy had championed, did not do well in the final allocation of land. These servitors were allocated fifty-seven precincts, amounting to 13 per cent of the escheated lands (less than the amount allocated to deserving natives).
Chichester's final significant contribution to the development of Ireland under his lord deputyship came in the parliament of 1613–15. No parliament had been held in Ireland since 1586 and, particularly given the use of prerogative powers in episodes such as the mandates, such a body was needed to regularise innovation. More importantly, Chichester's government was bankrupt and urgently needed the grant of a subsidy. Given Chichester's strong views about the limited role catholics were to play in government, conflict was inevitable. In 1611 he consulted the Old English gentry in a ‘grand council’ traditionally summoned before parliament and therefore entitled to see the bills which the administration intended to transmit to London for approval. Chichester refused them this right. It may have been that they simply wanted to know the nature of any anti-recusant legislation which, it was rumoured, was to be introduced into the parliament. It might have been in an attempt to repair this insult that in September 1611 Chichester asked for Poynings’ Law to be suspended in respect of private bills, but the king and council in London firmly refused. When the parliament met there were long-running disputes about the validity of election results and the creation of new constituencies after 1603, mainly masterminded by Sir John Davies. Members of the Old English opposition went to England seeking redress of their grievances and attempting to impugn Chichester's conduct and so have him recalled. In this they failed. Chichester's principal interest was in the grant of the subsidy, and he managed to achieve this on 28 April 1615, in the third session of the parliament. Undoubtedly Chichester's revelation on 18 April of the discovery of a largely imagined plot in Ulster concentrated minds in a way that ensured an easy passage of the subsidy. Given the ramshackle nature of this conspiracy, a fact of which Chichester was well aware, its stage-managed revelation can only be interpreted as a tactic to speed up deliberations. Parliament was prorogued on 16 May 1615, but did not meet again, and it was dissolved in November.
The parliament was Chichester's last main act. In November 1615 the lord deputy was removed from office; this had probably been prearranged. He was ill and his main contacts in the London court, Robert Cecil, earl of Salisbury, and Henry Howard, earl of Northampton, were now dead, and it would have been difficult to establish a new patronage network to ensure his voice was heard in London.
Following his recall from the lord deputyship Chichester retired to Carrickfergus. His wife died there in 1620. In May 1622 he was sent as ambassador on a diplomatic mission to the German palatinate. On his return he was appointed to the English privy council, where he was held in high regard and was even considered as a candidate for the post of lord treasurer. He died 19 February 1625 in London and was buried at Carrickfergus on 27 October 1625. His estate, heavily encumbered with debt, was worth some £6,000 per annum. Under the terms of his will this property, together with the title of Viscount Carrickfergus, passed to his brother Edward.