Domvile (Domville), Sir William (1609–89), attorney general and constitutional writer, was son and heir of Gilbert Domvile (1583–1637) of Cheshire and his wife, Margaret Jones (d. 1615), a daughter of Thomas Jones (qv) (d. 1619), archbishop of Dublin and lord chancellor of Ireland. Brothers Gilbert and John Domvile, sons of William Domvile and his wife, Mary Mere (Meyre) of Lyme in Cheshire, moved to Ireland during the early years of the seventeenth century and, under the patronage of the lord chancellor, acquired offices in the law courts. Gilbert was appointed clerk of the crown and hanaper, while his brother John became a clerk in the court of common pleas and was admitted to membership of the King's Inns as an attorney in 1626. Gilbert Domvile, who unsuccessfully stood for parliament in 1613, was returned as member for Donegal borough in 1634. William, who was an only son, had three sisters, Margaret, Mary and Elizabeth (d. 1629). Margaret married Anthony Dopping (d. 1649), a clerk of the privy council and member for Bandon, Co. Cork, in the 1640 parliament.
Education and early career Domvile attended Merton College, Oxford, and was admitted to Lincoln's Inn in August 1631. He graduated BA from Merton College in February 1633 and MA from St Mary's Hall in July 1637. He was called to the English bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1639. He remained in legal practice in England, residing at Friar Barnet in Middlesex, until his return to Ireland as attorney general after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. He was called to the bench of Lincoln's Inn in January 1657, coincidentally at a council meeting that also approved the call to the bar of Sir John Temple (qv), who was appointed Irish solicitor general in 1660.
Disquisition In July 1660 Domvile presented a disquisition on the independence of the Irish parliament to the duke of Ormond (qv), who gave him thereafter an annual £50 retainer for legal advice. Domvile's son-in-law William Molyneux (qv) later made extensive use of the disquisition in The case of Ireland . . . stated (1698).
In the Disquisition Domvile starts from the fact that Henry II (qv) acquired Ireland through the voluntary submission of the Irish rather than by forcible conquest, and in turn granted them English laws and customs, including the right to hold parliaments. Ireland's position as a distinct and separate kingdom was confirmed on its transfer to John (qv) in 1177, who subsequently granted the Irish English laws in written form. Since laws conferred by a Christian conqueror could only be altered with the consent of those who had received them, John's grant excluded the English lords and commons from legislating for Ireland. The laws in question were the common law and general customs set forth in the laws of early kings, and confirmed in John's great charter, which was granted to the Irish by Henry III in 1225. Since then English statutes had been re-enacted on many occasions, notably in 1494 when all English public acts were received as valid by Poynings's parliament. Even statutes that purported to bind not only England but all the king's dominions (which Coke had declared in Calvin's case to be valid in Ireland) had been re-enacted there, particularly those effecting the Reformation. Ireland's status as an independent kingdom was recognised by English judges in Pilkington's case and that of the merchants of Waterford, where English statutes were held to be of no effect because Ireland was not represented in the English parliament. Participation in law-making, either in person or by representation, was a fundamental right, confirmed in the ‘Modus tenendi parliamentum’ which Henry II granted to Ireland. Whereas the claim that the English parliament should legislate directly for Ireland was of recent date, ill-founded, and irrational, and therefore to be rejected.
Though Domvile initially relies on contemporary accounts of Henry's expedition to Ireland by Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis) (qv) and Roger Hoveden, the bulk of his arguments, as well as his method of presentation, derive from legal writers and the practice of the courts. Much is made of the authority of the Irish ‘Modus tenendi parliamentum’, and other legal records both English and Irish, while there is a significant debt to Selden and above all Coke's Institutes and Reports. It is noticeable that, as with a lawyer pleading in court, arguments are advanced which seemingly contradict each other, in the hope that one of them may prove sufficiently cogent to establish the case. A notable example is the contradiction (referred to above) between the assertion that John granted laws to the Irish in virtue of the donation of Ireland to him by his father, and the subsequent claim that John's laws, as the grant of a Christian conqueror, can only be subsequently changed with the consent of the conquered themselves, i.e. the Irish and not the English parliament.
Attorney general Domvile was named as Irish attorney general by Charles II in June 1660, mainly on the recommendation of Daniel O'Neill (qv), a protestant nephew of Owen Roe O'Neill (qv) and a gentleman of the king's bedchamber. He was knighted in August 1660 and was admitted to membership of the King's Inns in July 1661. He represented Co. Dublin in the Irish parliament of 1661–6 and, although he was preferred as speaker of the house of commons by Charles II, Sir Audley Mervyn (qv) was elected when parliament opened in May 1661. Lord Aungier attributed Mervyn's election to the ‘new interest’ men being jealous of Domvile ‘whom they fear to be too much inclining to the Irish’ (Bodleian Library, Carte MS 31, f. 174).
In September 1661 Domvile attended the Co. Cork assizes, where he conducted the prosecution of Florence Newton (qv) on charges of witchcraft, and in 1663 he prosecuted those arrested in connection with the Dublin castle plot. As attorney general, he was primarily concerned with matters relating to the restoration land settlement. It was a position he found extremely difficult, given the variety of interests and diversity of judgments with which he had to contend, and the frauds and false debentures that it was his duty to discover. His legal opinion was sought in the controversial case involving the restoration of the confiscated estates of Alexander Mac Donnell (qv) in Ulster. He also acted as legal adviser to Colonel William Legge (d. 1670), father of the 1st earl of Dartmouth, in relation to his Irish estates, and his name appeared on a number of bills engrossed in the chancery court on behalf of Sir William Petty (qv). He was also one of twelve counsellors appointed to safeguard the interests of the ’49 officers, for which he received a salary of £500 per annum. In 1663 Domvile remarked that if Charles II had as many kingdoms as he had provinces ‘it is much feared that he would not be able to answer all the claims and exorbitancies which may be thus obtruded upon him’ (CSPI, 1663–5, 271).
Domvile was generally in favour of restoring the Old English catholic gentry, whom he considered fit to be restored to their seats of honour, rather than that ‘tinkers and cobblers’ should possess their lands while ‘they themselves retain only the empty titles of their honours’ (CSPI, 1663–5, 237). He was less favourably disposed towards the Gaelic Irish, whom he thought should be removed from their relatives and dependants and settled in English quarters, which would have a civilising influence on them. He supported Sir Henry Bennet (Viscount Arlington from 1663), English secretary of state, in his attempt to secure the confiscated lands of the O'Dempseys, lords of Clanmalier, in King's Co. and Queen's Co. While Domvile strove to achieve an equitable solution to the land question, he inevitably made many enemies, particularly among the soldiers and adventurers. He referred to himself as ‘a clouded man’ (ibid., 640), though he was reassured by Ormond, who believed that, given the divided interests in Ireland, it was impossible, especially for one who did not depart from the strict rules of equity, to please everyone. Domvile informed Arlington that he viewed the latter's kindness towards him as ‘a shelter from a storm and a shadow from the heat of enraged and unreasonable men’ (ibid., 306). His correspondence with the secretary of state reveals his clear understanding of the legal technicalities of the restoration land settlement, an understanding that was unrivalled among his contemporaries.
Later years In 1673, and again in 1679, Domvile declined a seat on the Irish bench, the lord chancellorship reputedly being the only position he would have considered accepting. Although initially retained in office by James II (qv), Domvile, after twenty-six years in office, was finally superseded by the catholic Sir Richard Nagle (qv) in 1687. He died in Dublin in July 1689 and was buried in the parish church of St Bride.
Wealth The Domvile family seem to have been relatively secure financially, even during the early years of the century, with William Domvile and his father, Gilbert, both appearing as creditors on the Dublin statute staple. From 1623 until his death in 1637, Gilbert Domvile invested at least £4,000 on the statute staple and, as early as March 1632, William was recorded as a creditor in the amount of £1,500. In 1657, while still at Lincoln's Inn, he wrote to the lawyer Sir John Perceval of Co. Cork, informing him that he had a statute of £800 acknowledged by James, earl of Roscommon, before the mayor and constable of the Dublin staple in 1642, ‘the execution of which must be sued out of Dublin’. Domvile may also have advanced loans to the Perceval family, whose lands in Co. Cork were heavily encumbered by debts during the 1650s. In May 1658 William Dobbyns wrote to Sir John Perceval from London, commenting that he ‘must give William Domvile and Mr Wynne, two of the mortgagees, a dinner in Fish Street and pay the interest’ (Manuscripts of the earl of Egmont, i, 598). Mr Wynne was probably the barrister Richard Wynne, who was granted Domvile's vacant chamber at Lincoln's Inn in 1661.
Domvile was amply rewarded for his services to the crown. Already the possessor of a town house in Bride Street, which had been the property of his father, he received a grant of 440 acres of forfeited land in Loughlinstown, Co. Dublin, in May 1661. In recognition of his work in the court of claims, he was granted in October 1662 the confiscated lands of Patrick Bathe of Rathfeigh, Co. Meath, and of Peter Cruise in the Naul, Co. Dublin. In November 1663, however, he was forced to surrender these grants as Peter Cruise was restored to his lands and Patrick Bathe's estate was made liable to the several charges of his daughters. Domvile was then granted the forfeited lands of the late James Jans of Dublin, as well as a portion of the confiscated estates of Marcus Fitzsymons and the late Robert Preston, also in Co. Dublin, all three men having been attainted of high treason. Between 1667 and 1670 he was listed as a creditor on the Dublin statute staple, in the amount of £5,267, and the family estates were further extended when his son Sir Thomas Domvile was granted the forfeited manor of the late James Talbot at Templeogue in 1694.
Family In 1637 Domvile married Brigid Lake, a daughter of Sir Thomas Lake (1567–1630), secretary of state under James I, and an ancestor of the viscounts Lake. His early married life was marred by accusations from his mother-in-law, Lady Lake, of a previous alliance between Domvile and a woman in Ireland, accusations that appear to have been groundless. He and his wife had seven children, including four sons: Sir William Domvile (1643–98); Sir Thomas Domvile (1650–c.1721); Launcelot Domvile (d. 1673), and Richard Domvile (1667/8–c.1679). They also had three daughters, the youngest of whom, Lucy (d. 1691), married William Molyneux (1656–98) in September 1678, at the Domvile residence, Loughlinstown House, the bridegroom's brother-in-law Anthony Dopping (qv) officiating. Following in their father's footsteps, William and Launcelot were admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1660 and 1668 respectively, although Launcelot died five years later in 1673. William was granted the reversion of the office of clerk of the crown and hanaper in 1664, an office previously held by his grandfather Gilbert Domvile. He received a knighthood from Ormond in 1684 and his brother, Thomas, was similarly honoured by James II in 1687. The younger William Domvile, at the behest of his brother-in-law William Molyneux, translated Bernard de Fontenelle's work Entretiers sur la pluralité ses mondes (1686) into English as A discourse of the plurality of worlds, which was published in Dublin in 1687. He married Elinor, a daughter of Sir Maurice Eustace (qv), but survived his father by only nine years and was buried in St Patrick's cathedral in 1698.