Ussher, Robert (c.1592–1642), provost of TCD and Church of Ireland bishop of Kildare, was the youngest son of Henry Ussher (qv), archbishop of Armagh, and his wife Margaret Elliot. His father had played a key role in soliciting the foundation of TCD and Robert enjoyed a successful career in the college, graduating BA in 1611 and becoming a fellow in October the same year. He graduated MA (1614) and DD (1621). Even by Irish standards he was an impressive pluralist: he was prebend of St Audoen's, Dublin (1617–36), rector of Ardstraw (1617), rector of Moylagh (1623), prebend of Dromaragh, Dromore (1629–34), rector of Sigoun (1628) and rector of Lurgan (1629). During his time at TCD, academic life was becoming increasingly fractious, there being considerable rancour between the senior and junior fellows and a general rowdiness among the students. By 1615 he had emerged as the leader of the juniors, who made him vice-provost that year. During the early 1610s, the college considered leasing its lands in Ulster to Sir James Hamilton (qv) in perpetuity for £500 a year. The juniors, led by Ussher, successfully protested against this, and were subsequently vindicated as it emerged that the lands were worth over twice as much.
In 1617, he resigned his fellowship and vice provostship to pursue a career outside academia for a time. However, controversy over the election of a new provost in 1627 drew him back to Trinity. The senior fellows claimed the exclusive right to elect the provost and chose Joseph Meade. The juniors pointed out that the college charter gave the right to elect to all fellows and elected Ussher on 14 April 1627, actually swearing him in. At this point royal letters arrived in favour of William Bedell (qv), who was elected by the senior fellows and sworn provost on 16 August 1627. The juniors remained defiant and Ussher, who supported them, refused to accompany Bedell when he visited the archbishop of Armagh. Many in the college were angry at royal interference in the college's internal affairs, which was held to be contrary to the charter. When Bedell resigned in 1629, the king and his chief religious adviser, William Laud, bishop of London, wishing to replace him with William Chappell (qv), ordered that no election should take place until the king's wishes were known. The fellows sent a delegation to London to protest that this was a violation of the college's charter and to express a clear preference for Ussher. At this point Chappell ruled himself out and on 25 June the king permitted the college to nominate Ussher, whose appointment he would ratify if he were found to be suitable. Following a recommendation from his cousin and primate of Ireland, James Ussher (qv), who praised his administrative abilities, Robert was sworn in as provost on 13 January 1630. Nonetheless, the principle had been established that the king could at least veto nominated candidates.
Noted as an outstanding preacher, Ussher was a diligent administrator and a learned and modest academic. However, time would show that he lacked the stomach to govern the college during one of the most turbulent periods in its history. As provost he promoted the study of the Irish language, directing that a chapter of the Bible be read in Gaelic each day before dinner. Disliking frivolity, he banned Christmas plays and continued his predecessor's efforts to restore discipline in the college. He also made an effort to please Laud by fining those who refused communion. There is no denying that the college was in need of reform, but much of the criticism directed against it by Laud and his supporters was a camouflage for the imposition of their theological views on the college. Ussher's dilemma lay in the fact that the college could be reformed only with the aid of a government with whose religious views he disagreed. Squeezed between these conflicting forces, he vainly attempted to resist government interference while trying to reform the college. His cousin's criticism of him as being too weak does little justice to the complexity of his predicament. In the spring of 1634 Robert intimated his willingness to resign if offered a suitable post elsewhere.
He resigned as provost 11 August 1634 to become archdeacon of Meath. On 19 October 1635 he was appointed bishop of Kildare, being consecrated 25 February 1636. As bishop he unsuccessfully attempted to recover alienated church lands, bringing a petition before the Irish parliament. After the rebellion of October 1641 he fled to England, where he died 7 September 1642 at Pantabirsly, near Ellesmere, Shropshire. He was buried at Doddleston chapel near Oswestry. He married Jane, eldest daughter of Francis Kynaston, of Pantabirsly, Shropshire; they had three sons and three daughters.