Skeffington, John (1632–95), 2nd Viscount Massereene , soldier and politician, was baptised 27 December 1632 at Lichfield in Staffordshire, the son of Sir Richard Skeffington, knight, of Fisherwick near Lichfield, and his wife, Anne Skeffington (née Newdigate). His father (who was descended from the lord deputy Sir William Skeffington (qv)) was MP for Staffordshire, 1646–7. His mother was a daughter of Sir John Newdigate, of Arbury in Warwickshire, a parliamentary soldier and a judge and MP under the Commonwealth. Skeffington was admitted to Magdalene College, Cambridge, in 1649, and succeeded to the baronetcy of his cousin Sir William Skeffington upon the latter's death in April 1652. He married, in London in 1654, Mary, only daughter and heir of John Clotworthy (qv), 1st Viscount Massereene; on Clotworthy's death in 1665, Skeffington succeeded to his extensive lands in Co. Antrim and, by a special remainder in the peerage, to the title.
Named as the captain of a troop of militia in Co. Antrim in 1659 or 1660, he sat in the protectorate parliament for Co. Down, Co. Antrim, and Co. Armagh in 1659, and in the Irish house of commons for Co. Antrim from 1661; on succeeding as 2nd Viscount Massereene in 1665 he went to the house of lords. He held many offices in the local government of Ulster. He was one of the justices of the peace removed from office in Co. Antrim in the aftermath of the plot of Thomas Blood (qv) in 1663, but was custos rotulorum in Co. Londonderry in 1666. In 1674 he became a freeman of Belfast, and he was governor of Co. Londonderry (1678), Co. Antrim (by 1683), and Derry and Coleraine (1685). He was appointed to the privy council in 1667; though omitted on the accession of James II (qv) in 1685, he was reappointed by that monarch in 1690 and by William III (qv) in 1692. He was a member of the commission appointed in 1673 to take the accounts of Viscount Ranelagh (qv) and his partners in the tax farm. In 1680 Massereene was made captain of Lough Neagh, an office held in the time of Queen Elizabeth by the 1st Viscount's father and subsequently by the 1st Viscount; it involved the transport of troops and munitions and the general security of the districts adjoining the lake. The appointment was made partly in consideration of the 2nd Viscount's expenditure on fortifying the town and castle of Antrim.
He was one of the most prominent members of the English presbyterian community in Ireland, and the English presbyterian minister and author, John Howe, spent the years 1671–7 as domestic chaplain to his family in Antrim castle. Massereene was evasive in response to direct charges concerning his own religious practice, but the widely held and well-founded belief in his dissenting affiliations sometimes led to strained relations with the government. His eldest daughter, Mary, married (with a dowry of £5,000) in 1677 Sir Charles Hoghton, an important presbyterian landowner in (and subsequently MP for) Lancashire. Massereene himself was a frequent visitor to England, and maintained close contact with his relatives by blood and marriage, especially his cousin Sir Richard Newdigate, MP for Warwickshire.
An enthusiastic persecutor of the catholic clergy, he alleged in 1681 that many soldiers in the Irish army were either papists or married to papists. The lord lieutenant, the duke of Ormond (qv) – who had warned Massereene in 1665 to conform to the Church of Ireland or retire from Ulster – resented this intervention. In the aftermath of the Rye House plot in 1683 Ormond, with his son the lord deputy Arran (qv), pressed Massereene very hard personally to conform and to enforce the laws against dissenters in his own part of the country. They anticipated with no little pleasure the discomfiture of the presbyterian peer, who was known to attend a conventicle at his mother-in-law's house. Massereene, whom Ormond was prepared to dismiss from the privy council and all his other offices, nonetheless survived the crisis unscathed.
Massereene and his son successively were the lessees of the Irish Society's fisheries on Lough Foyle and the River Bann from 1680 or 1682. Massereene was also a noted patron of the turf, and lavished much money and care on the improvement of his residence at Antrim castle and its demesne. He fled from there on 15 March 1689, the day before it was taken by an advancing Jacobite army. He went first to Derry and then to Scotland, and by September 1689 was in London, where he was one of a committee chosen by Irish protestant exiles to represent their concerns to the English government. He returned to Antrim castle after the war, seeking compensation for the losses he had suffered. Predeceased by his wife, he died 21 June 1695.
Massereene and his wife had three daughters and a sole surviving son, Clotworthy Skeffington (1661–1714), soldier and politician, who succeeded as 3rd viscount . The son was prominent among the east Ulster protestants who associated for defence in 1688–9 under the leadership of the earl of Mount-Alexander (qv), and received a colonel's commission from William III in January 1689. He (with his father) was excluded from the pardon offered to these protestants by the Tyrconnell (qv) government in March 1689, and later served in the defence of Derry. He was MP for Co. Antrim, 1692–3, and governor of Co. Londonderry, 1699.
Letters and other papers of the 2nd Viscount survive in the PRONI and in the British Library, principally among the Stowe manuscripts