Monck, George (1608–70), 1st duke of Albemarle , army officer, was born 6 December 1608 at his family home of Great Potheridge, Devon, the fourth child of Sir Thomas Monck, landowner, and Elizabeth Smyth of Old Matford, Exeter. By the time he landed at Dublin in January 1642 as a colonel in the forces raised to quell the Irish rebellion, he was already an experienced soldier, having participated in expeditions to Cadiz (1625) and the Isle of Ré (1627), and having served in the Low Countries (1631–8) and in the bishops’ wars (1639–40). In Ireland he campaigned with distinction under James Butler (qv), earl of Ormond, in Leinster until the cessation of hostilities in September 1643. His record was marred by his perpetrating at least two massacres while campaigning in Co. Kildare in summer 1642. He induced the surrender of the castles of Timolin and Blackwood by pledging to spare all within but then proceeded to have their occupants put to the sword including women and children. In December 1642 the general of the catholic confederate Leinster army, Thomas Preston (qv), attempted to ambush him at Timahoe, Co. Kilkenny, but Monck – forewarned – evaded the trap and inflicted a significant defeat on his adversary. At the end of 1643 Ormond, uncertain where Monck's loyalties lay as between king and parliament, sent him to Oxford, where Charles I offered him a command in the royalist army. A determined careerist, Monck accepted but was almost immediately captured at the battle of Nantwich, near Manchester, on 24 January 1644, and was eventually incarcerated in the Tower of London.
Released in late 1646, Monck returned to fight in Ireland, serving in Munster under parliament's lord lieutenant, Viscount Lisle (qv), from February to May 1647. Lisle's mission in Munster was undermined by the opposition of the royalist-leaning Munster protestants but Monck proved a loyal subordinate and thereby gained the confidence of the parliamentarian regime. Thus, in September Monck became parliament's major general in Ulster. He had an uneasy relationship with the Scottish troops stationed in the province under Robert Monro (qv) and based himself at Dundalk. As relations between the English parliament and the Scottish government soured, he struck against the demoralised and divided Scots at Carrickfergus on 16 September 1648, capturing Monro. The other Scottish garrisons surrendered bringing Ulster under parliament's control. Nonetheless many of the protestant commanders in Ulster retained royalist sympathies and the presbytery at Lisburn regarded him warily. The execution of the king in January 1649 provoked a general rising in Ulster against parliament, forcing Monck, starved of supplies, to retreat to Dundalk. Meanwhile Ormond had secured the support of the catholic confederates for the royalist cause. The major exception was the Ulster army commanded by Owen Roe O'Neill (qv), who, desperately short of supplies and munitions, wrote to Monck in March proposing a cessation of hostilities. Monck reacted cautiously but perceived that such an agreement would both deepen the rift between Ormond and O'Neill and buy him time. After receiving rather vague directions from Westminster as to how to proceed, Monck concluded an agreement for a three-month cessation on 8 May. He kept this agreement a secret from nearly all of his men and in his subsequent dispatch to London stressed that the cessation was the result of extreme military necessity.
Under the terms of this truce, both sides agreed to help the other if either was attacked by royalists; they also agreed to maintain each other's cattle and Monck pledged to share any supplies he received from England with O'Neill. In July, as royalist forces advanced on Dundalk, Monck appealed to O'Neill who agreed to help defend Dundalk in exchange for munitions. Monck camped about seven miles from the town and sent a detachment to collect the ammunition. However, these men lingered in Dundalk and became very drunk. The royalists were informed of their condition and ambushed them after they left the town, seizing the munitions intended for O'Neill who was thereby forced to withdraw. A now isolated Monck had to withstand a royalist siege. Worse still, having seen O'Neill's troops collect the munitions, his men were horrified that their commander would ally himself with Irish catholics. After a two-day siege, they mutinied and forced Monck to surrender Dundalk on 17 July 1649.
He was permitted to return to England, where news of the truce with O'Neill had leaked out, igniting a furore. Indeed, one of his officers arranged for Monck's correspondence with O'Neill to be published in London, much to the consternation of the republican regime. The council of state, which had known about and tacitly accepted the truce, now distanced itself and Monck was obliged to accept full responsibility; he was formally censured in parliament.
His discretion was appreciated nonetheless and, after a year, Monck was recalled to play prominent roles in both the conquest of Scotland and the naval war with the Dutch republic (1652–3); he was made military governor of Scotland in 1654. He received nearly 20,000 acres of land in Wexford under the Cromwellian plantations. But as the republic collapsed in 1659–60 he took the initiative, leading his troops down to London from Scotland to restore order and, after considering his options, declared for the restoration of the monarchy. Throughout this careful progression he kept in close touch with the leaders of the successful conservative coup mounted in Ireland in December 1659, encouraged their efforts to consolidate their position, and used his influence on their behalf in London. It was to Monck, in his role as commander in chief of all the forces of the commonwealth, that the army in Ireland addressed its guarded acceptance of the restoration on 7 May 1660. Fittingly, his rewards for the services he had rendered were drawn from Ireland as well as England. He was knighted on 25 May 1660, then on 7 July was created duke of Albemarle and endowed with a huge pension and extensive tracts of land (including around 3,500 acres in Connacht, mainly in Mayo). His Irish lands alone were worth £4,000 a year. Finally, he was made lord lieutenant of Ireland in August, but had no interest in going to Dublin to exercise that role. He did try to influence Irish policy, which led in August 1660 to a clash with Ormond regarding the contours of the restoration settlement in Ireland. In opposition to Ormond and others, Albemarle counselled moderation towards the defeated puritan interest, but not so forcefully as to imperil his own political and financial prospects. Indeed, in 1661, he pushed successfully for Ormond to replace him as lord lieutenant as he believed that only the (by-then) duke had the requisite standing to bring about a durable land settlement in Ireland and thereby provide Albemarle with a secure title to his extensive property holdings there.
Similarly, his prudent acceptance of the political dominance enjoyed by the king's longstanding adherents enabled him to remain a prominent, but not particularly powerful, member of the royal court. He continued to enjoy the high personal regard of the grateful king who relied heavily on him during the crises occasioned by the outbreak of the plague in London (1665) and by the disastrous course of the second Anglo–Dutch war (1666–7). He died 1 January 1670 at Whitehall and was buried on 30 April in Westminster Abbey. He married Ann Clarges (d. 1670), widow of Thomas Ratsford, perfumer; they had one son, Christopher.