Coote, Charles (1738–1800), earl of Bellomont and MP, was born 6 April 1738, the only son of Charles Coote (d. 1750) and Prudence Coote (née Geering) of Cootehill, Co. Cavan. He attended TCD, without graduating, and spent some time on the Grand Tour in Europe. Perhaps not much improved by the experience, he afterwards affected a foreign accent when speaking English, insisted on delivering his maiden speech in the house of lords in French, and referred to his Cavan neighbours as ‘Irish Hottentots’ (Cassidy, 350). He was MP for Co. Cavan 1761–6, after which he sat in the house of lords as 5th Baron Coote of Coloony (succeeding his cousin Richard, great-grandson of Sir Charles Coote (qv) (d. 1642)).
He was energetic in putting down popular protests in the north of Ireland in the early 1760s; on several occasions he is reported to have led attacks on Oakboys in local villages, and on 27 July 1763 seven Oakboys were killed in a skirmish at Wattlebridge. In April 1764 he was tried for the murder of an insurgent captain, but acquitted. For his forceful support of government, he was made a knight of the Bath (January 1764), and on 4 September 1767 was created earl of Bellomont. In the lords, he was known as a pompous and bombastic speaker (he published his own speeches) whose views were eccentric and unpredictable; during the early 1780s he strongly advocated that Westminster should formally renounce its right to legislate for Ireland. He was a member of the Irish privy council, deputy quartermaster general, and (from 1789) postmaster general of Ireland. A very influential figure in Cavan, he combined severity towards popular disturbances with strong support for the linen trade of the northern counties; on one occasion, he entertained merchants and 500 weavers at his magnificent house, Bellamont Forest.
Proud and quarrelsome, on 2 February 1773 he was shot in the groin in a duel with the former lord lieutenant, George Townshend (qv), who Bellomont believed had slighted him by failing to grant him sufficient patronage. The duel caused a sensation in both Ireland and Britain, and Bellomont became the toast of many Irish Patriots. In 1774, just before his marriage (20 August) with Lady Emily Fitzgerald, he openly criticised the conduct of her mother, Emily Fitzgerald (qv), dowager duchess of Leinster, and a family feud ensued. His own personal behaviour was notorious: a private marriage, perhaps to a Miss MacDermott, seems to have predated that to Lady Emily, and at least four other liaisons produced twelve illegitimate children; Lady Emily left him in 1794.
His only legitimate son, Charles, died in 1786, but the earl had secured in 1774 an English baronetcy for himself, with special remainder to an illegitimate son, also Charles Coote (qv) (1765–1857). Yet another illegitimate Charles inherited Bellamont Forest; the earl provided for all his children, including four legitimate daughters. He opposed the union in 1800, and died 15 November 1800 of an inflammation of the lungs, which developed after he attended races at the Curragh. A portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds hangs in the NGI.