Massue de Ruvigny, Henri (1648–1720), marquis de Ruvigny , earl of Galway , soldier and lord justice, was born 9 April 1648 in Paris, France, son of Henri Massue, 1st marquis de Ruvigny, and his wife Marie Tallemand. The elder Ruvigny in 1656 became the deputy-general for the huguenot churches in France, in succession to the marquis d'Arzelliers. As such, the marquis de Ruvigny functioned as the court advocate for the French Calvinist population, arguing for the preservation of their rights and immunities under the edict of Nantes. This task would become increasingly challenging as King Louis XIV gradually became more fanatically catholic. The marquis's namesake son was trained in the arts of diplomacy and received his initial military training under Marshal Frederick Hermann, duke of Schomberg (qv), in Portugal and Marshal Henri, Vicomte Turenne, in the Rhineland. Among his diplomatic assignments was a term as envoy to England, where he was connected (through his cousin, Lady Rachel Russell) to whig circles. In 1679 he joined his father in sharing the office and responsibilities of deputy-general.
During the dragonnades crisis of 1681, when the huguenots of Poitou were being subjected to merciless persecution from troops forcibly quartered in their homes by order of the intendant Francois de Marillac, Ruvigny protested with such persistence that, coupled with unfavourable international reaction, King Louis was compelled to relent temporarily and to sack Marillac. Louis's retreat was only temporary, for the dragonnades resumed with greater vehemence in 1683, and the resultant campaign of repression culminated in the legal extinction of French Calvinism in the edict of Fontainebleau of October 1685 (also known as the revocation of the edict of Nantes). Unable to moderate the king's policy, which compelled some 200,000 of their co-religionists to flee their homeland, the Ruvignys were nonetheless granted the privileges of keeping their estates in France and of holding private worship services. However, the family soon decided to go into exile in England, establishing themselves at Greenwich, near London.
In 1689 Ruvigny's father passed away and his younger brother, Pierre Massue de Ruvigny, sieur de la Caillemotte, enlisted in the service of King William III (qv) and went to Ireland as part of the expedition commanded by Marshal Schomberg. At the Boyne on 1 July 1690 two combat deaths occurred that would alter the direction of Ruvigny's life: one was that of his brother Pierre, the other of his old mentor Schomberg. Feeling now that he had to participate actively in the Williamite expeditionary forces, Ruvigny assumed command, at the rank of major-general, of the slain Schomberg's cavalry squadron, which became known as ‘Ruvigny's Horse’. Because Ruvigny committed himself militarily to the Williamite cause, Louis XIV confiscated his estates. The defining moment for Ruvigny happened at the battle of Aughrim, when he led his squadron against the Jacobite left flank and shattered it, an action that would secure the decisive Williamite victory in the war of the two kings and establish his military reputation.
In 1692 he was given command of royal forces in Ireland and awarded the titles of Baron Portarlington and Viscount Galway. In compensation for the loss of his French estates King William granted him the forfeiture of the lands once held by the attainted Jacobite Sir Patrick Trant. The Trant holdings lay mainly along the River Barrow in what is now Co. Laois and Co. Offaly. Viscount Galway, extending his role as huguenot deputy-general into exile, planned to form colonies in Ireland with thousands of expatriate huguenots, with many of them clustering around the town of Portarlington, which had been incorporated as early as 1666, and was at the centre of the former Trant estate.
Political and financial setbacks considerably lessened the intended number of huguenots who actually made it to Ireland, but families from Dauphiné, Provence, and Burgundy, and (quite importantly) pensioned military veterans and their families, settled at Portarlington itself, which became the second largest huguenot community in Ireland, exceeded only by Dublin. The huguenot settlement at Portarlington became a significant part of Galway's scheme for ‘Fortress Ireland’, wherein huguenot garrison communities would, if necessary, serve as a deterrent to Jacobite plans at launching an invasion of Ireland from France. The Franco–Jacobite initiative called for landings at Cork and/or Waterford and a thrust into the Irish midlands to the River Barrow region, followed by a march on Dublin. An estimated 10,000 huguenots settled in Ireland and, besides Portarlington, military colonies were founded at Youghal, Waterford, Carlow, Dublin, and perhaps Birr and Kilkenny. Galway provided much of the finance and impetus; he certainly built between 100 and 150 houses for his Portarlington settlers, donated land for a cemetery, and endowed a French church, an English church, a French school, and a classical school.
In 1693 he was called to service as a lieutenant-general in the war of the league of Augsburg, served on the Flanders front, and was soon transferred to action in Piedmont, where he was assigned to an ultimately unsuccessful diplomatic mission aimed at cementing William III's alliance with Duke Victor Amadeus of Savoy. It was in the wake of the peace of Ryswick (1697) that the huguenot leader was elevated to the title of earl of Galway, and named among the lords justices of Ireland. Galway was thus, for all practical purposes, William III's viceroy in Dublin from May 1697 to April 1701. Of the four lords justices who at different times served alongside Galway only Charles, earl of Berkeley, showed occasional tendency to differ with the huguenot earl; Charles Paulet (qv), duke of Bolton, and Archbishop Narcissus Marsh (qv) never evinced major disagreement; while Edward Villiers, earl of Jersey, busied himself as a foreign envoy and was seldom even in Ireland. Galway's tenure of office was, and remains, highly controversial; he seems to have inspired either lavish praise or utter opprobrium, and little in between. A lasting accusation levelled against him revolved around the fact that most of the penal laws were enacted at the time when his influence in Irish administrative circles was at its zenith. The most serious allegations state that his anger over the treatment meted out by the French catholic establishment to him and his co-religionists was translated into a deliberately vindictive policy against Irish catholics. Recent evidence tends to argue against the extreme view of the huguenot earl as a willful persecutor and would present him as a more moderate and tolerant individual – at least in what he overtly advocated. It is more difficult to determine the degree to which he could have intervened to lessen the persecution of catholics, and whether he might have passively acquiesced in some of the repressive actions that were undertaken.
In 1699 the administrative fabric at Dublin Castle was rent by a protracted attempt by Galway to dismiss Matthew Prior (1664–1721), the secretary to the lords justices, and to replace him with the assistant secretary, Humphrey May. Galway was accused of intending to use this smokescreen to elevate his personal secretary and countryman, Élie Bouhéreau (qv), to the post necessarily vacated by May's promotion. This indeed appears to be what eventually occurred. The dispute became vituperative and drew in most of the leadership echelon, all the way to the king. It is likely that the Prior incident occasioned the famous characterisation of Galway by Jonathan Swift (qv) as ‘A deceitful, hypocritical, factious knave – a damnable hypocrite of no religion’ (The prose works of Jonathan Swift . . ., x (1902), 285). There were murmurings, too, about the king's favouritism towards his foreign retainers – Galway among them – and fears that the earl, bolstered by his huguenot followers, was creating a personal power base in Ireland. The year 1700 brought serious political and physical reverses for the lord justice. When William III's whig junto directing parliament lost control, the act of resumption rescinded certain forfeitures previously granted by the monarch, with Galway's estates among them. Then the earl was stricken by debilitating attacks of the gout. In April 1701 he relinquished office as a lord justice.
He was assigned minor diplomatic duties until the time of King William's demise in 1702, when he retired to a small country estate at Rookley in Hampshire, which had become home to him. In 1704 he was called back to command as a full general in the war of the Spanish succession. Dispatched to the Iberian peninsula, the earl was given the direction, under the earl of Peterborough, of the ill-starred allied efforts to secure the throne of Spain for Archduke Charles of Austria. Running from 1704 to 1710, the campaign was marred by in-fighting, mismanagement, and faulty intelligence. In 1705 an attack on French-held Badajoz failed to capture the city and a cannon shot severed Galway's right forearm. In 1706, however, he succeeded in forcing the Franco-Jacobite forces of James Fitzjames (qv), duke of Berwick, out of Madrid, and actually held the Spanish capital for six weeks. He had to withdraw when Peterborough failed to reinforce him. Amid recriminations, Peterborough was recalled to England and on 25 April 1707 Galway, as overall commander of allied troops in Spain, made the fatal decision to attack Berwick's numerically superior force at Almanza. The allied army was routed and Galway lost the sight in his right eye as the result of a sabre slash. Following another defeat at the Caya river in 1709, Galway was ordered home and in 1711 was summoned before the house of lords to be censured for his conduct of operations at Almanza.
Restored to favour after the accession of King George I, Galway was once again named lord justice of Ireland (August 1715), this time in partnership with Charles Fitzroy (qv), duke of Grafton. His primary task lay in securing Ireland for the Hanoverians in the wake of the impending Jacobite uprising in Scotland – perhaps re-implementing ‘Fortress Ireland’. Aside from deploying troops to Ulster and Scotland to counter the potential of incursions from that direction, suppressing Jacobite literature in Dublin, and struggling to offset a shortage of military ordnance, Galway and Grafton experienced little trouble. In 1717 he retired to England, where he passed away on 3 September 1720 at Lady Russell's estate of Stratton, Hampshire.
In his impact on Ireland, Galway's legacy is subject to controversy. If he was not a vindictive persecutor of catholics, can he be taxed with, at the very least, being ineffectual? There is ample evidence of his ability; his admirers noted the diligence with which he conducted Irish state affairs, and cited instances of his humanity to others. He certainly fostered huguenot colonisation projects; the most successful was – outside Ireland – the 1700 expedition to Virginia which established the Manakintown community. Certainly, he helped secure the permanence of the huguenot presence in Ireland and thus assured that the influence of these most productive of immigrants would permeate Irish life and society for years to come.