Conolly, Lady Louisa (1743–1821), society woman and public benefactor, was born 5 December 1743, perhaps at Goodwood House, Sussex, fifth child of Charles Lennox , 2nd duke of Richmond, and his wife Lady Sarah Cadogan. After her parents’ deaths (1750, 1751) Lady Louisa and two younger girls came to live with their sister, Emily Fitzgerald (qv), duchess of Leinster, at Carton, Co. Kildare. On 30 December 1758, aged 15, Lady Louisa married Thomas Conolly (qv) of Castletown, Co. Kildare, one of the richest men in Ireland. She was responsible for planning much of the decoration and furnishing of their magnificent house near Celbridge, including the celebrated print room and long gallery. The Conollys entertained lavishly and were prominent in the society of the day, in Ireland and also in London. Thanks to surviving lively and detailed letters, the basis of several popular biographies, we know a great deal about Lady Louisa's personality and about the daily life of the families in Castletown and Carton.
In 1798, when her beloved nephew Lord Edward Fitzgerald (qv), a leader of the United Irishmen, was captured and lay wounded in prison in Dublin, Lady Louisa pleaded unsuccessfully with Lord Camden (qv) to be allowed to visit him; through the kindness of John Fitzgibbon (qv), earl of Clare, she and Henry Fitzgerald, Edward's brother, were finally permitted a short visit to the dying man. Lady Louisa's narrative is one of the best-known evocations of events in that year. In 1819 the 1798 act of attainder passed against Lord Edward was finally repealed, thanks to the persistence of Lady Louisa's petitions.
After her husband died (27 April 1803), Lady Louisa lived with an adopted daughter, her niece Emily Napier, at Castletown, and continued to make improvements in the estate and to give ‘unceasing and unlimited charities’ to the poor (Gent. Mag.). She built a church and other buildings to her own design, developed the Female Charter School, and built pioneering industrial schools where children were trained in trades and crafts. Over 300 children were attending the school in 1820; Lady Louisa was keen to ensure that catholics and protestants were educated together, hoping that they would grow up in increased religious harmony. The manufacture of straw hats, which she initiated in Celbridge, became quite famous for a time. When she died (6 August 1821), of an abscess on her hip she was universally mourned; she was loved by all who knew her and almost worshipped by the poor of Celbridge.