Musgrave, Sir Richard (1746?–1818), 1st baronet, political writer, was born at Lismore, Co. Waterford, the first of the three sons of Christopher Musgrave (d. 1787) of Tourin, near Cappoquin, local agent to the duke of Devonshire, and his wife Susannah, daughter of James Usher of Ballyntaylor, near Dungarvan. At the age of eighteen he matriculated at Oriel College, Oxford (14 May 1764) but he did not graduate. Ten years later he was called to the Irish bar (Hilary term 1774) but he appears not to have practised. Through the duke's influence he entered the Irish house of commons as a member for Lismore (1778), retaining his seat until the abolition of the Irish parliament in 1800, for which he voted (1799, 1800). He married, by a licence dated 21 November 1780, a daughter of Sir Henry Cavendish (qv), receiver general for Ireland, a wealthy man and a relative of the 3rd duke of Portland (qv), lord lieutenant of Ireland from April to August 1782. Musgrave was created a baronet by Portland (privy seal, 12 August 1782, conferred probably 2 December), ‘with remainder to the issue male of his father’ (Burke). The reason for this provision was probably that soon after his marriage he parted from his wife, Deborah (1762–1832); she bore him no children.
Although Musgrave's associations were with the whigs until 1797, he was fiercely independent and privately was deeply hostile to the catholics. This hostility may have been a consequence of his experiences as high sheriff of Co. Waterford in 1786 when Whiteboyism was rising there. Attracted to the Orange Order, by 1798 he was Orange grandmaster of Co. Waterford. His Francophobia is evident in two pamphlets he wrote against peace with France, A letter on the present situation of public affairs (1795) and Considerations on the present state of England and France (1796). The Irish rebellion and attempted French invasion of 1798 prompted Musgrave, under the pseudonym ‘Veridicus’, to bring out two more pamphlets, To the magistrates, militia and the yeomanry of Ireland (1798) and A concise account of the material events and atrocities which occurred in the late rebellion (1799). The primary purpose of A concise account was to vindicate the protestants; two revised, expanded editions followed (1799). Musgrave's chief claim to fame was Memoirs of the different rebellions in Ireland (1801), a withering critique of the rebels. Two revised editions quickly followed (1801, 1802). Despite its strong bias against catholics and presbyterians, it is, for its substance, comprehensiveness, detailed treatment of events, and accumulation of documentary and oral evidence, the best of the contemporary histories of the Irish rebellion. There was a public reply (1801) from the catholic bishop of Ferns, James Caulfield (qv), while Marquess Cornwallis (qv) requested that the dedication to himself be removed from later editions.
Musgrave was appointed (1801) collector of Dublin city excise (worth £1,000 per year) and receiver of customs (£1,200 per year), which, even after the substantial expenses connected with the offices and with the publication of his magnum opus (which may have cost about £400), could not have left him impoverished. In May 1802 he was wounded in a duel with William Todd Jones (qv), whom he had charged in his book with supporting catholic relief for sordid motives. Musgrave published a reply (1804) to the Historical review of the state of Ireland (1803) of Francis Plowden (qv). His final fling into political controversy was a pamphlet written in 1814 against Thomas Dromgoole (qv). The judgment of Sir Jonah Barrington (qv) was that, ‘except on the abstract topics of politics, religion, martial law, his wife, the pope, the Pretender, the Jesuits and the whipping-post’, Musgrave ‘was generally in his senses’.
Sir Richard Musgrave died, aged seventy-two, on 6 April 1818 at his house in Holles Street, Dublin. The baronetcy passed to Christopher Musgrave's third son, Christopher Frederick, on whose death (1826), it passed to another Richard Musgrave, the younger Christopher's elder son. This Sir Richard Musgrave (1790–1859), MP for Co. Waterford (1831–2, 1835–7), was a supporter of the catholic party led by Daniel O'Connell (qv).