Barry, James (1667–1748), 4th earl of Barrymore , soldier, and Jacobite, was second but first surviving son of Richard Barry, 2nd earl, and his third wife, Dorothy, daughter of John Ferrar of Dropmore, Co. Down. His father sat in James II's (qv) Irish parliament, though his elder brother Laurence, later 3rd earl, was attainted by that body for remaining in England. On the outbreak of the Williamite war, Barry served as lieutenant-colonel of William III's (qv) army. On 15 March 1701 he purchased from his brother-in-law Sir John Jacob his old regiment of foot for 1,400 guineas (£1,470); with it, he served abroad in the war of the Spanish succession. Promoted to colonel of the 13th Foot (1702–5) he served with distinction during the war, commanding a regiment under Lord Galway (qv). Taken prisoner after the allied defeat at Almanza (25 April 1707), he later became a brigadier-general (1707), major-general (1709), lieutenant-general (1710–11), and privy counsellor (1713).
He sat in the English parliament as tory MP for Stockbridge (1710–13, 1714–15) and Wigan (1715–27, 1734–47), attending parliament regularly and making frequent addresses. A member of the committee to prepare an address to George I on his succession to the throne, he never forgave him or the house of Hanover for depriving him of his regiment. Although he declined to join the 1715 rebellion, he was arrested on suspicion of treason in 1715. He remained involved in Jacobite intrigue until the end of his political career. This association was particularly apparent in his senior role in the negotiations to procure a French descent on England in the run-up to the 1745 rebellion. In the early 1740s he was in communication with the Old Pretender from Paris, whom he told to expect little more from the English Jacobites than ‘fair words’ without a suitable invasion force (Cruickshanks, 22).
Marshal Saxe, supreme commander of the French army, corresponded with the English Jacobites through Barrymore's cousin Dr Peter Barry, a London physician. Barrymore assured the French that the English Jacobites would rally to the Stuart standard as soon as a French force landed, and he advocated a landing in fishing boats to avoid raising the suspicion of the British navy. However, a French special agent, François de Bussy, betrayed the Jacobite plotters to the duke of Newcastle for £2,000, naming Barrymore as a senior participant. ‘The Pretender's general’ (as Horace Walpole called him) was placed under house arrest at his residence in Henrietta St., Cavendish Square. When examined by the English privy council Barrymore denied the charge, pleading that he had ‘a very good estate in Ireland and on that I believe there are 1,500 acres of very bad land and by God I would not risk the loss of the poorest acre of them to defend the title of any king provided it was not in my interest’ (Cruickshanks, 60–61) It has been suggested that Barrymore sent his son James, Viscount Buttevant, with a letter to the Scottish Jacobite leaders. Instead of obeying his father's command, however, Buttervant gave it to the secretary of state, who ordered Barrymore's arrest and a search among his papers; not enough evidence was found to secure a conviction. He was eventually released on £60,000 bail.
Although Barrymore was an absentee landlord whose political energies would have been almost exclusively expended in England, his arrest was said to have caused an ‘inconceivable damp on the spirits of the common people’ in Ireland. Indeed one whig observer, Richard Purcell, added that Lord Barrymore might ‘in ten days have twenty thousand well-made strong young fellow at his heels’. (BL, Add. MS 47004B, f. 31). Throughout 1744 Barrymore sent messages to France pressing for an invasion, promising that the country was denuded of troops and the populace were highly exasperated by the suspension of the habeas corpus.
When Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, wrote to Lord Barrymore to inform him of his arrival and success in Scotland, Barrymore was unwilling to join the prince until he and his associates had received assurance of a French descent. After the defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden, Murray of Broughton, Charles Edward's secretary, turned king's evidence and named Barrymore and many other prominent Jacobites in London as being well affected to the Pretender. The government took no further action, apart from allowing the facts to be made public at Lord Lovat's trial.
He married first Elizabeth (d. 10 October 1703), daughter of Charles Boyle, Lord Clifford, who brought him a dowry of £10,000. He married secondly (June 1706), unknown to her father, Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Richard Savage, 4th Earl Rivers; she died in childbirth on 19 March 1714. His third marriage (12 July 1716) was to Anne, daughter of Arthur Chichester (1666–1706), 3rd earl of Donegall, with whom he had four sons (the eldest James, Visct Buttevant, succeeding as 5th earl of Barrymore) and two daughters.
He died 5 January 1748, leaving the English Jacobites ‘without a head . . . dispirited, frighted out of their wits by what had happened and without any trust in one another’ (Hist. parl., i, 442) He was buried in Castlelyons, Co. Cork, where a magnificent monument of Italian marble, with two Corinthian pillars, adorned with his bust in armour at the top and an angel at each corner, was erected in his memory in 1753.