Grace, Richard (c.1620–1691), royalist and Jacobite governor of Athlone, was a younger son of Robert Grace, baron of Courtstown, Co. Kilkenny; nothing is known of his mother. Recommended to Charles I by James Butler (qv), marquess of Ormond, he served the royalist cause during the English civil war until the surrender of Oxford in 1646, when he returned to Ireland to serve the cause there. He destroyed a pass over the Shannon, continually drove off cattle, and burned corn. He burned Castlejordan, near Edenderry, compelled a considerable parliamentary detachment to surrender at Bellaghmore in Ossory, and seized a great prey in Westmeath. His forces also killed more than fifty Cromwellians at Birr and took prisoners and horses. After the overthrow of the king's forces he joined the tories and maintained a guerrilla war, defying the capitulation of Col. John Fitzpatrick (qv) to the Cromwellian forces in 1651. As a consequence of this a sum of £300 was placed on his head. In June 1651 Colonels Hewson and Axtell (qv) forced him out of the fastnesses of Laois and Offaly. He later raided Nenagh and crossed the Shannon to join the royalist forces of the marquess of Clanricard (qv). After burning Portumna, he was routed by Col. Ingoldsby (qv); he capitulated and was offered generous terms which allowed him to transport himself and some 12,000 men to Spain. His estates were forfeited to John Vaughan.
In Spain Grace served under the English royalist general Henry Goring. While in Spain Goring's company was placed as garrison in the fortified town of Hostartia on the French frontier, but was alleged to have secretly planned treachery. The citizenry apparently discovered this and reported it to the Spanish commander Don Juan José, who at once dispatched a force; the Irish immediately barricaded themselves into the town, and stalemate ensued until all parties negotiated a bargain that facilitated the departure of the Irish. They were transferred to the Portuguese front, where they were deemed less likely to desert. Although Grace and his men were badly treated by the Spanish authorities, he served in Catalonia until the end of the campaign, when he transferred to the service of France. His namesake Sheffield Grace claimed that he betrayed the Spanish forces in Catalonia, although he emphatically refused to hand up his charge to the French until relieved of his duty by the Spanish. He also stated that he served as chamberlain to the duke of York (qv; see James II), received 100 gold pieces from Charles II, and was esteemed by their mother Henrietta Maria, who committed the prince to his care.
Grace's devotion to the Stuart cause assured him of a favourable reception at the exiled court in Saint-Germain. After Cardinal Mazarin's alliance with Oliver Cromwell (qv) in 1655, he followed the duke of York into the Spanish service and served against Turenne in the battle of the Dunes. He attended Charles II at Breda, returning to England with Charles at the restoration, where he received a pension of £100 and a warrant for the payment of his regiment. Mentioned in the declaration for the settlement of Ireland (30 November 1660), he was restored to his estates by the court of claims in June 1663. He received a patent for other lands in Moyelly and Kilcoursy which became a manor, and had all quit-rents and charges on his lands remitted in February 1670. For the rest of his life he resided at Moyelly castle. In 1687 he received another pension of £3,000 and an additional £200 (1687) for ‘secret services’.
Appointed governor of Athlone in 1689, the aged Grace treated the protestant inhabitants well. When called to surrender Athlone by the Williamite general Douglas, he responded with a pistol shot and a promise that when his provisions were exhausted he would eat his old boots. He then destroyed the bridge and held the Connacht side of the town until Sarsfield (qv) came with 15,000 men to his relief. Douglas finally raised the siege and retired. In the following year (1691) St Ruth (qv) obliged Grace to exchange three of his veteran regiments for inferior troops before Ginkel (qv) invested Athlone for the second time. Although superseded by the French commander d'Usson, Grace did his duty and was killed on 20 June 1691. After the capture of the Connacht side of the town his body was found under the ruins of the wall. According to tradition he is buried in St Mary's church.
Richard Grace married Sarah Tucker; they had one daughter, Francis, god-daughter of James II, who married (1665) Robert, eldest son of John Grace of Courtstown and colonel of her father's regiment, who died from wounds received at Aughrim.
In his memoirs James II singled out Grace as the single Irish Jacobite officer who withstood a formal siege and forced the Williamites to raise it after considerable casualties. Although the severity of his discipline often contrasted with the irregularities tolerated in other portions of the Irish Jacobite army, he was generally beloved by his men. An engraving entitled ‘The portraiture of Colonel Richard Grace, now utterly routed by the courageous Coll. Sankey’ survives but its authenticity has been questioned. Grace's name is associated in popular tradition with the ‘six of hearts’ playing card. According to popular tradition, when the duke of Schomberg (qv) approached him with a proposal for deserting James II, Grace wrote his indignant rejection of the proposal on the back of the six of hearts. It seems, however, that it was his son-in-law, John Grace of Courtstown, who sent the famous refusal on the card.