Jocelyn, Robert (1788–1870), 3rd earl of Roden , landowner and politician, was born 27 October 1788 at Brockley Park, Queen's Co. (Laois), eldest son of Robert Jocelyn (qv), 2nd earl of Roden, and his first wife, Frances Theodosia (d. 1802), daughter of the Rev. Robert Bligh, dean of Elphin. He was educated at Harrow and was only 18 when he was returned at his father's instigation as MP for Co. Louth (1806–7). As a minor he could be disqualified, so the following year Lord Roden arranged for his brother, the Hon. John Jocelyn (1769–1828), to be the locum tenens for Louth until Robert, who went abroad, should come of age. Returned in February 1810, Jocelyn sat for Louth until raised to the peerage in 1820. In parliament he was the mouthpiece of his father and informed the viceroy, on at least one occasion, that his political conduct would always be guided by his father's wishes. A supporter of the government, he voted against catholic relief in 1811, 1813, 1816, and 1817, and insisted that absentee landlords were responsible for Ireland's difficulties. He spoke seldom, but his large stature and booming voice generally made an impression. His few interventions in the house were to defend the Irish insurrection bill (8 July 1814), to blame public health problems on Ireland's expanding population, and to call for more English capital investment in Ireland. He held several positions in the royal household, including treasurer (1812), vice-chamberlain (1812–21), and lord of the bedchamber (1828–31).
On his accession to the title (29 June 1820), Roden inherited over 4,000 acres in Co. Louth and almost 9,000 acres in Co. Down, as well as land in Essex and Herefordshire. On the coronation of George IV, the extinct English barony of Clanbrassil, which belonged to his maternal ancestors, was revived in his favour and he was created Baron Clanbrassil (17 July 1821). In the lords he emerged, with Lord Enniskillen, as leader of the Irish tories, and was known as an ‘ultra tory’. A deeply religious man who was president of the Sunday School Society of Ireland and who personally served as chaplain in his home seat of Tollymore Park, Co. Down, he was alarmed by the threat emancipation posed for protestantism in Ireland. His alarm was exacerbated by the tithe war of the early 1830s, and he took on himself the organisation of propaganda tours and rallies throughout Ireland in an attempt to unite the protestants of Ireland, regardless of class or denomination, and to parade the might that catholics would have to face if they pushed the tithe war too far. These meetings culminated in the monster rally at Hillsborough, Co. Down, on 30 October 1834, where between 30,000 and 60,000 gathered. Roden was so sincere in his wish to unite the protestant cause that in 1831 he joined the Orange order, an unusual move for a Church of England high tory. The following year he was elected grand master for Louth, and at a meeting convened in November 1837 to reconstruct the order after its outlawing, he was elected grand master of Ireland in abstentia.
In January 1835 he proposed giving the police greater powers to recover tithes, but this was thwarted by the influential under-secretary, Thomas Drummond (qv). Roden also failed to prevent the passage of the 1838 Irish poor law bill, which he considered destructive to property. Exasperated by the government and alarmist by nature, he was appointed in March 1839 to a select committee of the house of lords to inquire into the state of crime in Ireland, which was supposed to demonstrate that the whigs were incapable of keeping order. The committee received widespread press coverage in England and Ireland, but its findings were rejected as propaganda by the government. The threat of repeal confirmed Roden's worst fears; he was probably instrumental in formulating Wellington's proposal in June 1843 that northern protestants should be armed and trained as a volunteer force under officers of the crown. Two years later he led the opposition in the lords to the Maynooth grant, and called the alliance of Church of England, evangelicals, methodists, and dissenters a ‘holy union’ to defeat the bill.
However, his activities were curtailed after the ‘Dolly's Brae’ incident of 12 July 1849, the bloodiest encounter between catholics and Orangemen in Ulster since the 1790s. Two thousand Orangemen returning from a celebration in Roden's grounds in Co. Down and passing through the catholic district of Dolly's Brae, were met by about a thousand Ribbonmen. Estimates of the number of catholics killed vary from three to thirty. There were no protestant deaths. On 13 September, at the Castlewellan petty sessions, Roden (although indirectly implicated) presided, and he and his fellow magistrates refused to take statements against the Orangemen involved. This was not the first occasion Roden had used his position to excuse Orangemen; on 28 February 1842 he was on the bench when four Orangemen were acquitted of the murder in atrocious circumstances of a 19-year-old catholic. However, the public outcry after Dolly's Brae was such that the government ordered an inquiry into the incident, following which the lord lieutenant, Lord Clarendon (qv), dismissed Roden and two colleagues from the magistracy.
Roden was less prominent in public affairs after his dismissal, although this may also be put down to age. He continued his defence of property and protestantism in the lords, denouncing as communism the 1852 proposal to offer tenants compensation for improvements. He was himself accounted a humane and improving landlord. Religious to the end, he undertook in 1851 a proselytising tour of Connemara, during which he examined children on the scriptures. The book arising from this, Progress of the reformation in Ireland: letters to a friend in England written from the west of Ireland in September 1851 (1851) commented frequently on the extreme misery suffered by the post-famine inhabitants of Galway and Mayo and closed with his assertion that only the diffusion of scripture could save the wretched country.
Roden died in Edinburgh on 20 March 1870, aged 81. He married first (9 January 1813) the Hon. Maria Frances Catherine Stapleton (d. 25 February 1861), daughter of Thomas, 12th Baron Le Despenser; and secondly (16 August 1862) Clementina Janet (d. 9 July 1903), daughter of Thomas Andrews of Greenknowes, Dumfries, and widow of Robert Lushington Reilly of Scarva, Co. Down. With his first wife he had four sons and four daughters. His eldest son predeceased him and he was succeeded by his grandson, Robert Jocelyn (1846–80), as 4th earl of Roden.