Fortescue, Chichester Samuel Parkinson- (1823–98), Baron Carlingford and 2nd Baron Clermont , chief secretary for Ireland (1865–6, 1868–71), was born 18 January 1823 at Glyde, Co. Louth, second son (among two sons and two daughters) of Chicester Fortescue (1777–1826), of Dromisken, Co. Louth, and his wife Martha, daughter of Samuel Meade Hobson, of Co. Cork. Educated by a private tutor, he entered Christ Church, Oxford, in 1841, graduating BA in 1845. He held a studentship at Christ Church (1843–56), which required him to remain celibate for this period.
Travelling to Dresden to study German, in 1845 he visited Rome, where he became a friend of the humorist Edward Lear. Despite a lack of self-confidence, and a stammer that made public speaking difficult, he was persuaded by his brother to stand for parliament in August 1847 and was elected MP for Louth (1847–74). His maiden speech in 1848 was made in defence of Lord John Russell's bill for the removal of Jewish disabilities. A believer in tolerance, he opposed the 1851 ecclesiastical titles act forbidding Roman Catholic bishops from assuming English placenames as the titles of their sees. A rising liberal, in 1854 he was appointed a junior lord of the treasury. This was followed by posts in Lord Palmerston's successive administrations as under-secretary of state for the colonies (1857–8, 1859–65).
On inheriting the estate of William Parkinson Ruxton, of Ardee, Co. Louth, in 1862, he was obliged to assume the additional surname ‘Parkinson’ by the deceased's will. He became a privy councillor in 1864, and an Irish PC two years later. On 20 January 1863 he married the three-times widowed Frances Braham, who continued to be known as Frances, Countess Waldegrave. When Palmerston died (October 1865) she established herself as a leading society hostess, with her salon at Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, one of the key meeting-places for the liberal leaders. On 7 December 1865 Fortescue succeeded Sir Robert Peel (qv) (1822–95) as chief secretary in Russell's government and went to Dublin, where his wife's charm and extravagant hospitality made them popular figures. He attempted to introduce an Irish land bill to secure tenants' rights but this was overshadowed by the parliamentary reform bills, and their defeat signalled the end of the ministry; he resigned in June 1866.
With the formation of W. E. Gladstone's ministry in December 1868 he was reappointed chief secretary (23 December), with a seat in cabinet. Regarded as Gladstone's Irish spokesman, he was the most prominent Irishman in the upper ranks of the liberal party, and although not considered a formidable politician he made two important contributions to Irish affairs in his second term as secretary. Crucially involved in preparing the 1869 disestablishment of the church of Ireland bill (he had urged the legislation since 1866), he also worked on the 1870 land act. This second act gave the ‘Ulster custom’ legal status, and under the ‘Bright clauses’ allowed for tenant purchase of the land. In the later stages of the bill he introduced an important clause that secured tenant compensation for landlord disturbance. In June 1869 he was forced to investigate whether the Literary and Scientific College Society in the Queen's University had breached its prohibition on the discussion of political matters, but judiciously declared that although the rule had been broken no seditious or treasonable language had been used. He also introduced a peace preservation bill in 1870. Not considered commanding enough, in January 1871 he was replaced by Lord Hartington (qv), and succeeded John Bright as president of the Board of Trade.
The general election of January 1874 was a setback for both Fortescue and his party; his defeat at Louth was viewed as a symbolic rejection of Gladstone's policies for Ireland. Sensing defeat, he canvassed Gladstone before the election for a peerage and in February was made Baron Carlingford. The death of his wife in 1879 was a devastating blow and he vowed to retire from public life. Nevertheless, he was persuaded to return in Gladstone's second administration and was appointed lord privy seal (1881–5), in charge of Irish affairs in the house of lords. He played an important advisory role in the drafting and passing of the 1881 land act, and was appointed lord president of the council (1883–5). Attempts were made to remove him in the autumn of 1884, with the promise of a foreign embassy, but he stubbornly declined and the prime minister was unable to force his hand. The collapse of the ministry in 1885 lead to a reappraisal of his beliefs and the following year he was among those whigs who withdrew support from Gladstone on home rule; Fortescue refused to tamper with the act of union, which his father had supported. He became a liberal unionist and voted against the government on the second home rule bill in 1893.
Withdrawing increasingly from public life, he resided at Chewton House, Radstock. On the death of his brother, Thomas, he succeeded him as 2nd Baron Clermont on 29 July 1887. He died 30 January 1898 at Marseilles, while on his way to the Riviera for his health. He had no children; on his death the baronies of Clermont and Carlingford became extinct. There are collections of his papers in the Somerset Record Office and the British Library.