Nugent, George Frederick (1760–1814), 7th earl of Westmeath , nobleman and politician, was born 18 November 1760, the third son of Thomas Nugent (1714–92), 6th earl of Westmeath, and his second wife, Catherine, daughter and co-heir of Henry White of Pitchfordstown, Cloncurry, Co. Kildare. Thomas's father was John Nugent (qv), the 5th earl. Thomas was brought up a catholic and in his youth was an officer in the French army, but after succeeding to the earldom (3 July 1754) soon conformed to the established protestant church (9 August 1754); he was grand master of the grand lodge of Irish freemasons (1763–5) and was one of the first knights of St Patrick.
George Frederick Nugent, known as Lord Delvin after the death of an elder brother, Thomas (probably in the early 1760s), was returned by his father as MP for Fore, the family's pocket borough (1780). In opposition at first, he later supported the administrations of the 3rd duke of Portland (qv) and Earl Temple (qv), for which the latter rewarded him with the appointment of secretary to the order of St Patrick from its institution (11 March 1783). He was a trustee of the linen board for Leinster (from 1785) and a commissioner of accounts (1788–94). By 1791 the offices he held were worth £1,300 per annum. On succeeding as earl at his father's death (7 September 1792) he left the commons, where he had anyway been a most indifferent speaker, and proved more active in the lords. He became a member of the Irish privy council (29 January 1793) and, after the abolition of the Irish parliament, was elected an Irish representative peer (1801). As Lord Delvin he had been a captain in the Fore infantry loyalist volunteers (1782); as earl of Westmeath he was colonel of the Westmeath militia (from 1793). He was a member of the Royal Irish Academy (from 1789).
The earl came to widespread attention owing to the breakdown of his marriage to his first wife, Marianne (1757?–1849), eldest daughter of James St John Jeffreys of Blarney castle, Co. Cork, and a niece of John FitzGibbon, later earl of Clare (qv). The marriage took place in April 1784. Ten years later an affair began between the countess and a friend of her husband, a fellow MP, Augustus Cavendish Bradshaw (1768?–1832). The earl took an action for criminal conversation (adultery) and obtained damages of £10,000 (20 February 1796). Subsequently the marriage was dissolved (October 1796), and the countess married Cavendish Bradshaw about a month later. The earl remarried on 2 February 1797, his second wife being Elizabeth Emily (1771–1841), eldest daughter of the 1st marquess of Drogheda (qv) and a granddaughter of the 1st marquess of Hertford. About the time of the divorce the earl took part in the arrests of two United Irishmen, Samuel Neilson (qv) and Thomas Russell (qv); he insisted on searching the bedroom of the wife of another United Irishman, William Sampson (qv), only to be told by Sampson that ‘she was not, as some other ladies are, in the habit of privately harbouring gentlemen’ (Northern Star, 16 Sept. 1796).
The earl of Westmeath's seat was Clonyn castle, near Delvin, Co. Westmeath, and his Dublin town house was on St Stephen's Green. In debt for much of his life – more so as a result of his divorce – he sold the borough of Fore to the 1st marquess of Downshire (qv) probably for £14,000 (1798). From 1807 he was clerk of the crown and hanaper. He died on 30 December 1814 in Rutland (latterly Parnell) Square, Dublin. With his second wife he had two sons and two daughters.
Westmeath was succeeded by the only son of his first marriage, George Thomas John Nugent (1785–1871), marquess of Westmeath , politician, who was born at Clonyn on 17 July 1785. Educated at Eton (1796–7) and Rugby (from 1797), he was known as Lord Delvin until he succeeded as 8th earl on his father's death; later he was raised to a marquessate (12 January 1822). Delvin was commissioned in the British army as an ensign in the Coldstream guards (9 March 1800), served in Egypt under Sir Ralph Abercromby (qv), and was promoted lieutenant and captain (September 1803), exchanging into the 88th foot regiment on half pay (July 1805), where he remained until he was appointed commander of barracks in Ireland (1813–15).
On 29 May 1812, at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, seat of the 1st marquess of Salisbury, he married Emily Anne Benet Elizabeth, second daughter of Salisbury and his Irish wife, Mary Amelia (née Hills), daughter of the 1st marquess of Downshire. Emily (born 14 July 1789), charming but domineering, and, unlike her husband, belonging to a very rich family, soon took a dislike to Clonyn, where their daughter Rosa Emily Mary Anne was born (May 1814). By then she disliked also her husband, who was quick-tempered, and shortly afterwards separated from him. A reunion resulted in the birth of their son, William (24 November 1818), but the infant Lord Delvin died of water on the brain (16 November 1819) and the reconciliation was brief; the couple did not live together after 20 July 1819. The earl wished to save the marriage, if only in appearance, and submitted to the imposition by his wife, the stronger personality, of ruinous financial settlements.
After many vicissitudes – the earl challenged to a duel the duke of Wellington (qv), a relative and friend of his wife, believing falsely that he was her lover, and another challenge by him resulted in his imprisonment for three months – Emily marchioness of Westmeath sought a conjugal separation in the ecclesiastical courts in Dublin (1825), alleging adultery with five named women (1815–23) and cruelty. The charge of adultery was well founded, for the earl had had, when aged only nineteen, a mistress in Ireland, a Mrs Irwin, and fathered a child by her; he not only continued to associate with her after his marriage but had another child by her and amply supported all three. Evidence of other liaisons was also produced by the marchioness. Begun in 1819, the litigation continued until 1834, and was ‘one of the most complex, most expensive and most long-drawn-out legal battles of the age’ (Stone, 581). The marquess, whose property was mortgaged and yielded only £5,000 in the 1820s (reduced from £10,000 during his father's lifetime) reckoned in 1857 that litigation had cost him over £30,000.
In public life, from 1831 until his death, he was a representative Irish peer in the British house of lords and lord lieutenant of his county. Although he supported the reform bill (1832), he was later conspicuous as a tory, strongly opposing measures favourable to the catholics, last of all the Irish Church Disestablishment Bill in 1869. The estranged marchioness, who from 1829 (thanks to Wellington) had an income of £385 per annum on the Irish civil list, and (thanks to her friendship with the duchess of Clarence) rent-free chambers in London at St James's Palace, died early in 1858. Her husband in the 1840s formed a liaison with a Frenchwoman (whom he referred to as ‘Lady Westmeath’) from which another son, George, was born (1843/4), but this son died in Paris aged eight (July 1852). Soon after his wife's death he married, at the age of seventy-two, a much younger woman, but divorce followed.
Westmeath died on 5 May 1871 leaving no legitimate male heir and so his marquessate lapsed, his earldom passing to a distant catholic cousin, Anthony Francis Nugent (1805–79) of Pallas, near Tynagh, Co. Galway, known as Lord Riverston. It was Rosa who inherited Clonyn. She had married (1840) Fulke Southwell Greville, afterwards Greville-Nugent, who was created Baron Greville of Clonyn (15 December 1869). They demolished the castle and rebuilt on the site.