Blake, Richard (c.1595–1663), lawyer and politician, was the eldest son of Robert Blake, a wealthy merchant from Ardfry, Co. Galway, and Katherine, daughter of Richard Darcy of Gorteen, Co. Galway. The Blakes, one of the fourteen ‘tribes’ of Galway, were centrally involved in the economic and political life of the city. Richard entered Middle Temple on 29 July 1612, but returned to Ireland on the death of his father in 1615 to manage family affairs. Knighted by the lord deputy, Viscount Falkland (qv), in 1624, and elected mayor of Galway in 1627, Blake also acted as an agent for Richard Burke (qv), 4th earl of Clanricard, the leading catholic nobleman in the province. The Blake estates, situated primarily in Co. Galway, in Co. Mayo, and in the bishopric of Kilmacduagh, came under threat during the 1630s when the lord deputy, Thomas Wentworth (qv), proposed to extend the plantation scheme into the province of Connacht. The growing crisis throughout the three Stuart kingdoms from 1638 onwards, however, presented Wentworth's opponents with an opportunity to challenge his authority.
Blake, anxious to present Connacht's case on the national stage, was elected to parliament in 1640 for Co. Galway. In early 1641 the commons appointed a committee to consider a series of questions about the legality of recent administrative practices. Blake presented these ‘queries’ to the lords, and in June assisted in drawing up the articles of impeachment against the lord chancellor, Sir Richard Bolton (qv); the lord chief justice, Sir Gerald Lowther (qv); the bishop of Derry, John Bramhall (qv); and Sir George Radcliffe (qv). At the outbreak of the Ulster rising in October 1641, Blake travelled back to Galway, and promised Ulick Burke (qv), 5th earl of Clanricard, that he would defend the city against the insurgents. Forced to flee the city in May 1642, with his close associates Patrick Darcy (qv) and Roebuck Lynch (qv), he returned after Clanricard managed to restore an uneasy peace. Blake avoided committing himself openly to any side, and he was not among the catholic members expelled from the commons in June 1642. He concentrated exclusively on local politics until 1646, as a member of Galway city government and the Connacht provincial council.
The publication of a peace treaty with James Butler (qv), marquess of Ormond, in August 1646 precipitated a split in confederate ranks. In early 1647 the general assembly supported GianBattista Rinuccini (qv) in rejecting the treaty, but favoured renewed attempts at a settlement with the royalists. The assembly elected a new executive supreme council, with Blake as one of the members for the province of Connacht. Ormond's departure for England in July, followed by a series of military defeats, forced the confederates to seek assistance from abroad. In December 1647 the general assembly nominated Blake as envoy to Spain, but in fact he never departed. The Spanish court, bankrupt and facing revolts in Catalonia, Portugal, and Naples, had already informed their envoy in Kilkenny that no resources would be available for Ireland. Shortly afterwards a confederate civil war erupted, over the issue of a truce with the protestant commander in Munster, Murrough O'Brien (qv), Lord Inchiquin. Rinuccini bitterly opposed the truce, but Blake joined the other side, helping frustrate the nuncio's attempt to hold a national synod of clergy in Galway. The final general assembly met in September 1648, and in the absence of the usual chairman, Nicholas Plunkett (qv), the members appointed Blake in his place. As chairman, he played a leading role in the ensuing peace negotiations with Ormond. In January 1649 Blake presented the agreed treaty terms to Ormond in Kilkenny castle, bringing to a formal end the conflict between royalists and confederates. Shortly afterwards, he wrote to Ormond seeking a title in recognition of his achievements, but nothing came of this approach.
Blake returned to Galway in 1649, where he survived an outbreak of plague in the city and the subsequent Cromwellian invasion, accepting a large estate in Loughrea in 1656 as part of the transplantation settlement. After the restoration, Charles II ordered that Blake be restored to his original lands, but by 1664, a year after Blake's death in June 1663, this still had not happened. Blake married Gylle, eldest daughter of Andrew Kirwan, an alderman of Galway; they had three sons and four daughters (Robert, Andrew, Peter, Bridget, Christiane, Catharine, and Margaret). The eldest son, Robert, finally obtained a regrant of the family lands in 1681 under the terms of the act of settlement.