Plunkett, Sir Christopher (1568–c.1636), politician, was eldest son of James Plunkett of Donsoghly, Co. Dublin, and Catherine, daughter of Thomas FitzWilliam of Meryon. His grandfather, Sir John Plunkett (qv), a distinguished lawyer, served as chief justice of the queen's bench in the 1560s. James Plunkett predeceased his father and Christopher inherited the family estates in Dublin and Meath in 1582 on the death of Sir John. He is described in official sources as an ‘eminent and gracious lawyer’ (Reportorium Novum, 330–34), but the only record of any legal training – from Gray's Inns in 1610 – almost certainly refers to one of his sons. He married a daughter of Sir Nicholas Bagenal (qv), marshal of Ulster; they had five sons, James, Francis, Richard, Nicholas, and Ambrose. An ardent catholic, in 1603 (after a visit to court) he helped an Irish priest to escape arrest in England. His son Nicholas studied for the priesthood in Douai, and later founded a religious house for the Capuchins in Charleville, Co. Cork. In April 1609 a number of catholic books, sent by Nicholas to Ireland, were intercepted in Chester, causing grave embarrassment to the family. At court the following year, however, Plunkett impressed the king with his ‘modesty, humility, and discretion’ (CSPI, 1615–25, 282), and received fresh grants of his estates in Meath.
He rose to national prominence after his election for Dublin county to the 1613 parliament. Described by the Dublin administration as a chief ringleader of the catholic opposition, he nominated Sir John Everard (qv) as the speaker of the commons. This led to violent scenes on the floor of the chamber, and after the physical expulsion of Everard from the speaker's chair by the protestant majority, the catholic members walked out. Plunkett accompanied Jenico Preston (qv), Viscount Gormanston, to court shortly afterwards, to air catholic grievances. Briefly imprisoned at the Fleet, in August 1614 he was given permission to return to Ireland after apologising for his conduct. For the next ten years Plunkett actively promoted the cause of economic and administrative reform. He travelled to London in 1620 with Richard Nugent (qv), Lord Delvin, and Walter Dongan, the recorder of Dublin, to discuss issues as diverse as the manufacture of ale, marriage registration, and ploughing by the tail. In 1623 he returned to court as the Leinster member of a delegation seeking the abolition of restrictions on the export of wool. Plunkett's final public role involved efforts by Pale catholics during 1627 to raise money for the army in Ireland. The date of his death is unclear, but his son James had apparently inherited the family estates by 1636. Another son, Richard, served as colonel of a regiment in Flanders and emerged as a leading conspirator in the events prior to the outbreak of the Ulster revolt in October 1641.