Nugent, William (Uilliam Nuinseann) (1550–1625), nobleman and poet, was born in 1550 in Co. Westmeath, the younger son of Richard Nugent, 13th Baron Delvin. His elder brother was Christopher Nugent (qv), 14th baron, who inherited the manor and castle of Ross in Co. Meath from his father. William was educated at Oxford, being recorded there in 1571 as ‘William Nugent of Meath. Hart Hall. Aged 21’. In 1573 he was involved in the abduction of an heiress, Janet Marward, the only child of Walter Marward, baron of Skreen, who was heir to a substantial fortune. She was a ward of William's uncle Nicholas Nugent (qv), baron of the exchequer, who ‘for some great consideration of gain to himself wanted to marry her to the baron of Delvin's brother, which is his nephew’. Janet was only eleven years old at the time, and her mother, Ellen Plunkett, wanted her to marry the young son of Lord Dunsany, the head of the Plunkett family. She therefore ‘was made to mislike of Nugent’, and was sent for safekeeping to Dublin. However, at ten o'clock on the night of 4 December 1573 William bribed the watch and entered a postern gate of the city with twenty swordsmen: he stormed ‘into the house where the maid lay and forcibly carried her away to the great terror of the mother and all the rest’ (White to Burghley, SP 63/43/52–3). Janet remained with William and eventually became his wife, the latter being granted her lands at Skreen, worth £130 in 1577. William resided at the time at Clonen in Co. Westmeath.
In 1575 William was arrested with his brother Christopher for refusing to sign a proclamation of rebellion against Gerald Fitzgerald (qv), 15th earl of Desmond. Subsequently released, he was implicated, along with his brother Christopher and Gerald Fitzgerald (qv), 11th earl of Kildare, in the Baltinglass rebellion of 1580. When Christopher and Kildare were arrested William went into rebellion himself at Robinstown, Co. Meath, on 20 March 1581. His English neighbours, the Dillon family, led by Justice Robert Dillon (qv), plotted against him. William's uncle Nicholas, who had become chief justice of the common bench in Ireland, was arrested and tried, Sir Robert and Sir Lucas Dillon (qv) forcing a jury to bring in a guilty verdict. Nicholas was then hanged. William's wife, Janet, was also arrested for sending him some shirts, although she declared herself ‘innocent’ of his rebellion.
William fled to Gaelic Ulster, where he was received by Turlough Luineach O'Neill (qv), lord of Tyrone. After a period accompanying O'Neill, William left for Scotland and then travelled to France before ending up in Rome. In Paris he had an audience with the Scottish Archbishop Beaton and the duke of Guise, and was sent with letters in cipher to King James VI of Scotland. In 1584 he returned to Ulster, where he spent some time with the Maguires of Fermanagh. However, he submitted to Lord Deputy Perrot (qv) in 1588 and was pardoned with his wife. In 1583 Janet had been restored to their lands, and, although she fell on hard times for a period, Queen Elizabeth remitted her substantial arrearages in 1584. The feud with the Dillons continued into the 1590s, with legal action being taken by Janet. However, this attempt to obtain redress proved to be unsuccessful.
Despite this, William remained loyal to the English interest in Ireland for the remainder of his life. He did not join his brother Christopher, who submitted to Hugh O'Neill (qv) during the Nine Years’ War and who subsequently died in prison. After the war, in 1607, William obtained a warrant from the lord deputy, Sir Arthur Chichester (qv), restoring him to the blood and guaranteeing his male heirs the right to his lands. William and Janet's own children were at the same time safeguarded in their right to inherit the Marward lands at Skreen. However, in 1612–13 William was still having difficulty obtaining King James's assent to this warrant. The remainder of his life was uneventful, and he died on 30 June 1625, having been predeceased in 1616 by his son Richard or Robert; he had two other sons, Christopher and James, the latter of whom became a confederate catholic in the 1640s.
William was an accomplished poet in both English and Irish. Richard Stanihurst (qv) had a high regard for his English compositions. The Fermanagh bardic poet Giolla Brighde Ó hEódhasa (qv) was a family friend and composed one extant poem in William's honour beginning ‘A sgríbhionn luidheas tar lear ar amus inns Gaoidheal’ (O letter that goes over the sea towards the isle of the Gael), and another for Janet on the death of their son in 1616, beginning ‘Deacair suan ar chneidh gcarad’ (It is a grievous thing to go to rest on a friend's wound). Two poems written by William during his period in exile also survive. These begin ‘Diombáidh triall ó thulchaibh Fáil’ (It is pitiful to go from the hills of Ireland) and ‘Fada i n-éagmais inse Fáil; Saxaibh (dia do dhiombáidh)’ (In England, away from Ireland, time passes slowly (sufficient reason for sorrow)). William also composed two poems for the Maguires of Fermanagh. One, addressed to Cú Chonnacht Óg Maguire (either the chieftain who died in 1589 or his son who died in 1608), begins ‘Duarsan cuimhne an chompanaigh’, and a second, a lament on the downfall of the Maguires after 1608, begins ‘Dorcha an lísi ar Loch Éirne’. William may have obtained his interest in Gaelic learning from his father, who had an interest in Irish, and his brother Christopher, who wrote a ‘Primer of the Irish Language’ for Queen Elizabeth.