Rochfort, George Augustus (1738–1815), 2nd earl of Belvedere , politician, was born 12 October 1738, eldest son of Robert Rochfort, 1st earl of Belvedere, and his second wife, Mary, eldest daughter of Richard, 3rd Viscount Molesworth (qv). Robert Rochfort (qv), MP and chief baron of the Irish exchequer, was his great-grandfather.
Robert Rochfort (1708–74), 1st earl , was born 26 March 1708, eldest son of George Rochfort (d. 1730) and Elizabeth (‘Betty’), daughter of Henry Hamilton Moore, 3rd earl of Drogheda. He married first (16 December 1731) Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Richard Tenison, and secondly (1736) Mary Molesworth. Educated by Thomas Sheridan (qv) (d. 1738) in Dublin, he entered TCD ( 5 August 1723) and graduated BA (1727). Elected an MP for Co. Westmeath at the by-election after the death (8 July 1730) of his father, he was created Baron Belfield (1738), Viscount Belfield (5 October 1751), and earl of Belvedere (29 November 1756) and was a PC from 1749. Residing at the family seat, Gaulston, Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath, Robert Rochfort suspected his second wife of committing adultery with his younger brother Adam. This was brought to his attention by a series of letters purporting to be the correspondence of the lovers, delivered to him anonymously, though perhaps by another brother, George. Robert took a suit against his brother and was awarded damages of £20,000; Adam fled overseas, returning after seven years to be incarcerated, at his brother's urging, in the Marshalsea debtors’ prison, Dublin. The countess admitted her guilt in the hope that her husband would divorce her. He refused, effectively imprisoning (1743–74) his young wife at Gaulston; she was permitted no visitors and was restricted to the estate's house and gardens. She escaped (1755) to her father in Dublin, who refused to see her and returned his daughter to her confinement.
The 1st earl moved from Gaulston to Belvedere House, completed in 1743 on the east shore of Lough Ennell, and regarded as one of the most significant works of Richard Castle (qv). It was within view of Rochfort (later Tudenham) House, his brother George's residence, for whom the earl had such disregard that he employed a Florentine architect to construct (c.1760) at great expense ‘an artificial ruin of an abbey’ (Lyons, 11, 279), the largest gothic folly in Ireland. The ‘jealous wall’ hid from his residential vista the abodes of those he despised. Consistently quarrelsome, Belvedere died 13 November 1774; his will stipulated he was to be buried at 6 a.m., with no family in attendance. He was succeeded by his eldest son, George Augustus, who released his mother from her captivity; vastly differing accounts attest to her subsequent circumstances. The two younger sons, Richard and Robert, died without issue.
George Augustus Rochfort, styled Viscount Belfield 1756–74, was MP for Philipstown, King's Co. (1759–60, 1761–8), standing against his uncle and namesake in the latter contest. The elder George later sat for the borough (1775–6), and declared he ‘represented the independent interest of the county and no family interest’ (Woods, 26). On his father's death George Augustus succeeded as 2nd earl of Belvedere, assuming his father's seat in the Irish house of lords. He served as grand master of the freemasons in Ireland (1774–5). In 1786 Belvedere House in Dublin, commissioned by the 1st earl in 1765 to designs by Robert West (qv), was completed on the north side of Great Denmark St. at a cost of £24,000, and was elaborately decorated by Michael Stapleton (qv). The Jesuits purchased the building (1841) and founded a school there. Rochfort also rebuilt Gaulston House some time before selling it in 1784 to Sir John Browne (1730–94), later 1st Lord Kilmaine. Rochfort formed the first volunteer corps in Ireland in 1776, reportedly numbering 1,000 infantry and 600 cavalry, and for this was awarded an annual pension of £800 by the government in July of that year.
He married first (20 August 1775) Dorothea (d. 6 April 1803), second daughter of John Bloomfield of Redwood, King's Co. (Offaly), and secondly (10 November 1803) Jane (d. 1836), daughter of the Rev. James McKay (MacKay) of Philipsborough, near Dublin. He died (14 December 1815) without issue, his title becoming extinct. There is a neoclassical monument to him in St Sinian's church, Clonfad, by John Bacon. His widow married Abraham Boyd; their son George Augustus Rochfort-Boyd (1817–87) inherited the estate.