Coote, Sir Charles (c.1609–1661), 1st earl of Mountrath , lord president of Connacht, and military commander, was the eldest of the four sons of Sir Charles Coote (qv), provost-marshal of Connacht, and his wife Dorothea, daughter of Hugh Cuffe of Cuffe's Wood, Co. Cork. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, as a fellow-commoner in 1622 and was knighted in 1626. He appears to have come of age in 1630, when he visited London on behalf of his father, with whose business interests he was actively involved throughout the following decade. He was elected to the Irish parliament for Co. Leitrim in 1640 and appointed in the same year to a commission to examine those accused of bewitching Katherine (qv), sometime duchess of Buckingham, latterly wife of the earl of Antrim (qv).
After the outbreak of rebellion in October 1641, he was briefly besieged in Castle Coote, Co. Roscommon, and subsequently campaigned against the O'Connors and O'Rourkes. In April 1642 he relieved Athlone with provisions and he was present at Trim in May when his father was killed. He continued to defend the family interests in Leitrim and Roscommon but it was not until the summer of 1643 that he was commissioned to form a troop in Connacht. In February 1644 he succeeded his father as both provost-marshal and collector and receiver general of composition money for Connacht. In November 1643 he had signed the petition in which ‘loyal protestants’ protested against the cessation which Ormond (qv) had concluded with the confederate catholics, and he substituted for Michael Jones (qv) as a member of the unofficial delegation that attended the king at Oxford in April–May 1644 to oppose the confederate demands. From Oxford, Coote went with his brother Chidley to London, where they lobbied parliament to authorise the transfer to Connacht of part of the British forces in Ulster. Chidley published a pamphlet denouncing the cessation as ‘a trap to catch protestants’ and joined Brereton's army in the north-west.
In Connacht, local protestant forces commanded by their brother Thomas ignored the truce. On 1 October the commons voted to nominate Charles as lord president of Connacht, and in December agreed to provide 1,500 men for service in the province. Lack of money imposed delays and Charles appeared as a witness ‘concerning the generality of the rebellion’ at the trial of Lord Maguire (qv) in London in February 1645. His formal appointment as parliament's lord president of Connacht was made on 12 May, and on 13 May the committee of both kingdoms ordered the British commander in Ulster Robert Monro (qv) to release 1,500 men for service in Connacht. Coote returned to Ireland at once and with the aid of the Laggan army of west Ulster took Sligo on 8 July with ordnance that he had purchased in England. After the northern force returned home he defended the town against counter-attack, in a series of actions that saw the killing of Archbishop O'Queely (qv) and the disclosure of the Glamorgan treaty (October), and retained control of the surrounding area. In July 1647 parliament placed him in command of all of the protestant forces in west Ulster and north Connacht. The adherence of the Scots to the king in 1648 created divisions in Ulster; and in the autumn, reinforced with a fresh regiment of English soldiers, Coote executed parliamentary instructions to seize the leaders of the Laggan army and disbanded its dissident units. In January 1649 he campaigned in Connacht to hinder logistic support for royalist campaigns against Sligo and Derry. The Laggan army withheld its cooperation, decided to join the Ormond royalist coalition and laid siege to Coote in Derry (late March), though without the firepower to take the city. The garrison was sustained by parliamentary control of the sea until an unlikely alliance with the politically isolated Owen Roe O'Neill (qv) led to the raising of the siege on 7 August. Col. Venables (qv), who had accompanied Cromwell's expeditionary force, was sent to join Coote in September and together they routed Gen. George Monro's (qv) army at Linestrain, near Lisburn (December). On 21 June 1650 they destroyed the Ulster army under its new commander, Bishop Heber MacMahon (qv), at Scariffhollis near Letterkenny. On 14 August, after a short siege, Coote took Charlemont fort and captured Sir Phelim O'Neill (qv). An unsuccessful attempt on Athlone followed before Coote returned to Ulster to prepare for his part in a coordinated assault on the remaining Irish strongholds in Connacht in the following year. Entering the province in May 1651 with an army of 4,000, he took Portumna on 2 June, followed by Athlone on 18 June, and proceeded to Galway, which he loosely invested from the east (August). The town surrendered on 12 April 1652 on terms that the parliamentary commissioners judged too lenient and which they unilaterally revised. Coote returned to Ulster where he rejoined Venables, recaptured Ballyshannon and Donegal, and brought resistance in the north-west to an end by June. In December he was appointed first commissioner for the commonwealth in Connacht.
Coote was actively involved in the subsequent settlement of Irish lands. He was appointed to the Athlone commission, which adjudicated catholic claims to receive lands in Connacht, in December 1654, and to the Loughrea commission, which set out the lands to be awarded, in June 1655. He was a member of numerous committees dealing with Petty's survey and with details of the distribution of land to the soldiers, including the scrutiny of claims for arrears for service before 1649. He acquired substantial lands by purchase in Connacht, among them the earl of Clanricard's (qv) Tirellan estate, received a grant of the demesne lands of the earl of Gormanstown in Meath and Dublin, and, with his brothers, was awarded Fitzpatrick lands in Queen's Co. in recognition of their father's services. The ironworks that he had inherited from his father had resumed production by 1654 and supplied ordnance to the army throughout the interregnum. Coote's horse regiment was disbanded in 1655, but he retained his infantry command. His patent as lord president was renewed in the same year, though the office was titular and the institutions of the presidency remained in abeyance. He was elected to all three of the protectorate parliaments, appointed to the commission of the peace in Co. Wexford, made an alderman of Londonderry under the new charter of 1657, and elected mayor of Galway in 1658.
Coote was on good terms with Henry Cromwell (qv), who trusted him to explore the possibility of support for the protectorate when Richard Cromwell was overthrown in May 1659, but the extent of his influence protected him from being cashiered when the army command was purged by the restored Rump. When the Rump was in turn overthrown by the army (October), he entered into a widespread conspiracy with other officers and ex-officers, most notably Lord Broghill (qv) and Theophilus Jones (qv), which culminated in the surprise of Dublin castle on 13 December and the subsequent assumption of control over the Irish army and the seizure of garrisons throughout Ireland. Coote secured Galway and Athlone before joining the ruling council of officers in Dublin in late December, where he became one of the acknowledged leaders of the New English interest. The once-more-restored Rump appointed him as one of five members of a stillborn commission for the management of Irish affairs on 19 January. Shortly afterwards, he sent Sir Arthur Forbes (qv) to Charles II to offer support for his restoration and, on 14 February, was instrumental in persuading the council of officers to issue a declaration in favour of the restoration of the Long Parliament. On 7 March Charles issued two commissions to Coote authorising him to do ‘anything that is to be done’; the first was to Coote alone, the second was so drafted as to allow the insertion of other names. It was left to Coote to decide which to use. Events in both England and Ireland overtook these plans. On 8 March, some three weeks before the king's letter reached him, the council of state appointed Coote, Broghill, William Bury (qv), and John Clotworthy (qv) as commissioners for the government of Ireland, and Coote emerged as the leader of the group in the general convention of Ireland which wished to bring about the restoration of Charles under conditions relating only to the retention of lands acquired during the interregnum. When the English convention restored Charles in May, Coote was one of those sent to present him with the Irish convention's requests. He was confirmed in the lord presidency on 30 July and created earl of Mountrath on 6 September. In the discussions that preceded the publication of the king's ‘gracious declaration’ of 30 November, he opposed the indiscriminate confirmation of lands in the possession of adventurers and soldiers, on the grounds that many of them had opposed the restoration.
He was appointed lord justice jointly with Orrery and Sir Maurice Eustace (qv) on 26 October 1660, though the new administration did not take office formally until 2 January 1661. In government, Coote's concerns were with preserving order, restraining religious unorthodoxy, managing the parliament that convened in May 1661, and contributing to the conversion of the king's declaration into the act of settlement. He was continuously attentive to the interests of himself and his supporters, ensuring the honouring of engagements made to a few on foot of the king's assurances of March 1660, securing the unmerited classification of others as ‘49 officers, and procuring a general pardon for many more. A significant proportion of his own acquisitions was scheduled for return to the original proprietors and he was still busily engaged in negotiating for reprisal lands when he died on 18 December 1661, of smallpox. He was buried at once and a ceremonial funeral conducted on 6 February 1662. Posterity has judged him an able and ruthless man of narrow vision, devoted to his own interests and, in furtherance of them, to those of the New English community to which he belonged. He was twice married; first (c.1630) to Mary, daughter of Sir Francis Rushe of Castlejordan, with whom he had a son, Charles, who succeeded him; and (a. 1645) to Jane, daughter of Sir Richard Hannay, his lieutenant-colonel in Connacht, with whom he had two sons and three daughters.