Hadsor, Richard (d. c.1635), lawyer, was eldest son of Nicholas Hadsor of Keppock, Co. Louth; nothing is known of his mother. He went to Oxford (1587), then transferred to the New Inn, London, before being admitted to the Middle Temple (July 1590). Although he inherited land at Keppock, he lived for the rest of his life in his chambers at Shere Lane near Temple Bar in London. Called to the bar (February 1603), he became a bencher of the Middle Temple (1617) and treasurer (1624–5). His unrivalled expertise in Irish legal matters enabled him to build up a lucrative private practice composed of both protestant and catholic Irish landowners, including Sir Theobald Dillon (qv), Viscount Tullophelim, Sir Randal MacDonnell (qv), Lord Dunsany, and the earls of Thomond, Clanricard, and Kildare. Easily his most important clients were the royal cousins, the duke of Lennox and Esme, and Lord Aubigny. From 1606 he defended Lennox's English aulnage patents and their extension to Ireland in 1618. The importance of this brief can be judged from the fact that these patents were worth £2,400 a year to Lennox by 1624.
In 1598 Henry Cecil, the queen's chief minister, appointed him the crown's counsel for Irish affairs. Cecil found him to be a very useful source of advice on events in Ireland, where from 1594 to 1603 a prolonged and destructive war raged between the crown and the Gaelic Irish rebels led by Hugh O'Neill (qv), earl of Tyrone. This conflict strained the already tense relationship between the New English protestant officials, who staffed the Irish bureaucracy, and the traditionally loyal Old English catholics of the Pale, with whom Hadsor's roots and sympathies lay. Although he was almost certainly a protestant, Hadsor's family was catholic, and he came to act as an unofficial spokesman for the Old English within the English government. Throughout his career he queried the official line emanating from the Dublin administration that it was impossible to be both catholic and loyal, and urged the crown to encourage the catholics’ loyalty. Despite his criticisms of the Irish government, he fully supported the campaign against the rebels and was an early proponent of plantation schemes in Ulster as a means of civilising the Gaelic Irish. However, he was by no means prejudiced against the native Irish, and during his career he supported loyal Gaelic leaders such as Sir Randal MacDonnell and Sir Niall Garvach O'Donnell (qv).
In 1601 he advised Cecil on the introduction of a debased currency into Ireland, as a means of raising money for the crown's war effort there. The scheme proved a disaster, causing considerable economic dislocation, and damaged Hadsor's reputation. Nonetheless, he was always in demand at Whitehall. With the rebels defeated, Hadsor presented a political tract, ‘Discourses . . . on the Irish state’, to James I in the summer of 1604. This document, the most comprehensive exposition of Hadsor's political views, argues that Ireland is a separate kingdom under the Jacobean crown with its own independent institutions. The ‘Discourses’ rejected the view that Ireland was a conquered country and hence a colony of the kingdom of England. It also called for the native Irish to be given a say in the governance of their country.
Even after Cecil's death (1612) Hadsor continued to be regularly employed by the crown in Irish affairs. From September 1615 he reported on Irish grievances to Secretary Lake and sat on committees for leasing crown lands, for regulating the Irish wool trade, and for the Longford plantation. In March 1619 he was given responsibility for drafting the royal warrants concerning Irish policy and patronage passed to him by Sir Francis Blundell, the king's secretary for Irish business. Hadsor was deeply unhappy with many of the warrants that came before him, believing Irish revenues were being diverted systematically to benefit well-connected officials and courtiers. His experiences during the 1610s would have provided him with first-hand proof of the appetite of Ireland's new colonial elite and a greater appreciation of how to combat it.
At the centre of a web of patronage stood George Villiers, later duke of Buckingham, the chief royal favourite, who monopolised control of Irish office and incomes in London. Virtually all the leading officials in the Dublin administration were beholden to Villiers, and they made sure that he and his clients benefited from any available bounty. However, Villiers's dominance also bred resentment, and he came under sustained criticism from members of the English parliament in 1621, particularly for being the root of the blatant misgovernment of Ireland. The impetus for reforming the government of Ireland was spearheaded by the lord treasurer of England, Lionel Cranfield, later earl of Middlesex, who appointed Hadsor a member of a commission of inquiry established by the English parliament to report on alleged abuses in Ireland. The commissioners arrived in Dublin in mid April 1622, and Hadsor played a key role in the commission's deliberations. As the only Irish-speaker among the commissioners, he dealt with the flood of complaints that were brought against the government. Although he was careful to avoid criticising plantation schemes in principle, the evidence brought before him of injustices and failures of settlements appears to have turned Hadsor into an opponent of plantations. As commissioner, and for the rest of his career, he would support the cause of small landowners dispossessed by ill-considered plantation schemes. During the summer of 1622 he also carried out a rigorous inspection of the accounts of many petty officials, and from 10 August to 10 October he was in Ulster surveying the progress of the Londonderry plantations. While his colleagues returned to England in November 1622, Hadsor remained in Ireland for another month or two to visit his family. He is thought to have been the author of a private report, ‘Advertisements for Ireland’, which contrasted with the commission's less stringent findings of defects within the Irish administration.
Middlesex strongly approved of Hadsor's proposals, ordering a ban on grants of concealment in January 1623 and establishing a commission to deal with Irish grants in May 1623. Indeed, by August, he was contemplating the appointment of Hadsor as chief baron of the Irish exchequer, provoking considerable consternation among interested parties in both Dublin and London. In the event the promotion never materialised, and in May 1624 Buckingham engineered Middlesex's fall from power. This, and the death of Lennox the previous February, meant that Hadsor had been deprived of his two chief patrons within the space of three months. Inevitably his crusade to clean up the Irish government languished, and Buckingham reasserted his vice-like grip over Irish affairs.
However, in May 1625 the duke arranged Hadsor's appointment to the commission for Irish affairs. This appointment reflected the crown's need to conciliate the Old English in Ireland, because of an ongoing war with Spain. More prosaically, Buckingham realised that Hadsor's abilities could be used to bring a troublesome rival, Sir Richard Boyle (qv), earl of Cork, to heel. For his part Hadsor was pragmatic enough to realise that he had to come to terms with Buckingham. Moreover, he must have relished the thought of pursuing Cork, a brash self-made settler, who symbolised for Hadsor all that was wrong with English rule in Ireland. For the next four years he threw himself into investigating the highly dubious means by which Cork had acquired his massive estates in Munster. With the aid of Buckingham's clout, Hadsor was able to initiate legal proceedings in London against Cork that threatened to undermine the very foundations of the earl's estate. However, the assassination of Buckingham in August 1628 effectively ended Hadsor's period of influence over Irish matters. Hadsor continued to press for Cork's prosecution, but his case was dismissed in June 1629, following a timely £15,000 loan from the earl to the king.
During his last years Hadsor remained active in Irish administrative affairs, but he could only watch passively as the nondenominational royalism he had tried to foster throughout his career was undermined both by his old adversary Cork, in his capacity as lord justice 1629–33, and by Thomas Wentworth (qv), lord deputy of Ireland from 1633. Hadsor had died by the spring of 1635.