Preston, Nicholas (c.1608–43), 6th Viscount Gormanston , Old English leader, was the son of Jenico Preston (qv), 5th viscount, and his wife Margaret, daughter of Nicholas St Lawrence, Lord Howth. On the death of his father in December 1630, Nicholas succeeded to the title and estates at the age of twenty-two. Though he took his seat in the Irish house of lords in 1634, his relative youth precluded him from assuming his father's leadership role among the Old English nobility, which was taken by his mother's second husband, the earl of Fingal (qv). In the following parliament, however, he played a significant part in the opposition which developed after the departure of the earl of Strafford (qv) from Ireland. He was one of the ringleaders in the promotion of the condemnatory petition of remonstrance in the house of lords in November 1640 and, after parliament was abruptly prorogued, was one of the four peers authorised at a private meeting to attend the king to complain of grievances. He remained in London until the following summer and was later widely suspected of involvement in the plot which eventuated in rebellion in Ireland in October 1641.
After the outbreak, Gormanston and other Old English leaders approached the lords justices to assert their loyalty and to request arms. They met with an evasive response, however, and such arms as were allocated for the defence of Meath were removed by government forces to Drogheda. On 29 November Gormanston warned the commander of a government force proceeding to Drogheda of a rebel ambush at Julianstown, Co. Meath, but was ignored. In early December he led the Old English nobility and gentry who made an alliance with representatives of the Ulster Old Irish at Knockcrofty, near Drogheda. Gormanston subsequently took a leading role in military arrangements, being appointed general of foot. In January 1642 he was appointed commander-in-chief of gentry of Meath. He was deeply involved, both in seeking means of access to the king and, after the relief of Drogheda, in the complex negotiations which resulted in the establishment of the catholic confederacy in October 1642. His prominence among members of the first supreme council was reflected in his selection as leader of the delegation which presented the confederation's petition of remonstrance to a royalist delegation at Trim on 17 March 1643.
He died 28 July 1643, his premature death contributing to the decline in the influence of the Pale nobility in the confederation. He was posthumously outlawed on 17 November 1643 and was excepted from pardon by Oliver Cromwell (qv) in 1652. Sir Charles Coote (qv) received a grant of the forfeited Gormanston demesne lands. The 6th viscount married Mary Barnewall, daughter of Nicholas, 1st Viscount Barnewall of Kingsland and his wife Bridget (d. 1642), widow of Roderick O'Donnell, earl of Tyrconnell and daughter of Henry Fitzgerald, earl of Kildare. Two daughters of the 6th viscount were granted £20 p.a. each out of their father's estate in 1654.
His eldest son Jenico Preston (d. 1691) succeeded as 7th Viscount Gormanston . He was at a Jesuit school in Kilkenny in July 1647 but was afterwards in exile on the continent. He was restored in the 1660s to the estates held by his father before the rebellion of 1641. The 7th viscount was a lieutenant in the regiment of the earl of Tyrconnell (qv) in September 1685, replacing Arthur Forbes (qv), Lord Forbes (d. 1734), as captain in March 1686. He was named, in the new charters issued by James II (qv), an alderman of Drogheda (1687) and a burgess of Athboy (1689). He was lord lieutenant of Co. Meath, and a member of the privy council (1686) and sat in the Irish house of lords in 1689. He was appointed a commissioner of the treasury (1690).
In 1686 his petition for reversal of his father's outlawry was granted by King James, but met with much opposition. He died 17 March 1691 at Limerick and was posthumously outlawed on 16 April 1691. Colonel Richard Coote (qv), nephew of Sir Charles, got a grant of his lands. The 7th viscount married, first, Frances (d. 1682), daughter of Francis Leke, 1st earl of Scarsdale, and his wife Anne Carye; and, secondly (in 1683) Margaret, daughter of Caryll, 3rd Viscount Molyneux. His widow, who went to France before the siege of Limerick, returned to live in England, and married secondly (1692) James Butler, of Kilveagher, Co. Tipperary.
The 7th viscount left no male heir and was succeeded by his nephew Jenico Preston (d. 1697), styled 8th Viscount Gormanston . He was a son of Nicholas, younger brother of the 7th viscount and his wife Elizabeth, grand-daughter of General Preston.
He fought at Limerick and, his claim under the articles being allowed, was restored to the estates, but Coote refused to give up. He married Margaret (d. 1733) and died without issue in 1697. His widow subsequently married Robert Casie of Dublin, was widowed again and was living in poverty in 1722.
He was succeeded by his brother Anthony Preston (d. 1716), styled 9th Viscount Gormanston , who had also been adjudged within the articles of Limerick. He too was opposed by Coote, who remained in possession of the estate and appealed the case to the English house of lords; it found in favour of Gormanston. He obtained a private act of the English parliament in 1710 enabling him to sell part of his estates to pay debts. He married (in 1700) his cousin Mary (d. 1750), daughter of the 7th viscount and his second wife Margaret Molyneux. He died 25 September 1716 and was succeeded as 10th viscount by his eldest son Jenico (1707–57).