Rawdon, Sir George (1604–84), Ulster landowner and politician, was son and heir of Francis Rawdon of Rawdon Hall, Yorkshire, England, and his wife Dorothy, daughter of William Aldborough of Aldborough, Yorkshire. The scion of an old gentry family, Rawdon was educated at schools in Bradford and York, attended court in the early 1620s, and in 1625, at the age of 21, became the private secretary of the 1st Viscount Conway. It was this Conway connection that first brought Rawdon to Ulster, probably before 1627, where he took on the management of the viscount's extensive estates in Down and Antrim. In the 1630s Rawdon became a personal friend of the Conways, accompanying the 2nd viscount (qv) to Charles I's coronation in Edinburgh in 1633, and acting as guardian to his children during his naval tour of duty in 1636. During this period he also acquired his own lands and interests in Ulster, including an estate at Moira, Co. Down, and became a business partner of Arthur Hill (qv) of Hillsborough. In 1639 he married Hill's relative by marriage, Ursula Hill, widow of Francis Hill of Castle Eagle, and in the following year was returned as MP for Belfast in the Irish parliament.
Rawdon was in London at the outbreak of the Irish rebellion of 1641, but had returned to Ulster by the end of November, where, as captain of a troop of horse in Conway's regiment, he played an important part in repulsing the surprise attack on Lisburn by Sir Phelim O'Neill (qv). From 1642 Rawdon served with his regiment in the British army under Robert Monro (qv), but his rejection of the cessation of arms of 1643 forced him, reluctantly, to make a break with the royalist Conways. In 1644 Conway's regiment was reassigned to Arthur Hill, and Rawdon was promoted to the rank of major. He continued to fight under Monro until early 1646, when he returned to Belfast and became involved in attempts by the Ulster commissioners to persuade the marquess of Ormond (qv) to sign a peace treaty with the English parliament rather than the catholic confederates. At the failure of these initiatives, Rawdon crossed to England in April 1646, where he acted as agent for the Ulster officers at Westminster, and raised money and horses for Hill's regiment. He continued to work in London until February 1647, when he returned to Ulster, possibly in response to criticism of his absence from his command at a critical time for the protestants in the province. In 1648 Rawdon joined George Monck's (qv) forces against his former commander, Monro, and helped the parliamentarians to take Belfast from the Scots without bloodshed. Although he continued to serve in Ulster in 1649, after the execution of Charles I Rawdon's support for parliament declined. In July 1649 he resigned his command (much to Monck's consternation) and by the end of the month had begun secret negotiations with Ormond. On 28 July he signed a bond promising to be loyal to the Stuarts – just five days before the decisive battle at Rathmines destroyed the Ormondist army.
Despite this terrible miscalculation, during the early 1650s Rawdon managed to conceal his royalist sympathies, and was able to retain his local position under the commonwealth regime. He was granted leases of government land in 1650, and was working as a revenue commissioner in Ulster by September 1651. In later years he served as JP in Co. Down. Despite their earlier differences, Rawdon was still in close contact with the Conway family, helping them to avoid sequestration, and acting as the 2nd viscount's attorney from 1653. In 1654 he married Dorothy, the 2nd viscount's daughter. As Rawdon became more prominent in Ulster circles, he came into conflict with other ambitious landowners, including Sir John Clotworthy (qv) and John Davies of Carrickfergus, who disputed his land claims to Massereene barony in Co. Antrim. Another cause of tension was his hostility to the presbyterians in the province – championed by Clotworthy and Davies – who in turn saw Rawdon as ‘one of the horns against the kirk’ (CSPI, 1647–60, 662). Rawdon's relations with the Dublin government were easier. In 1657 he attended Henry Cromwell (qv) in Dublin during the second protectorate parliament, and in 1657–8 he was heavily involved in attempts to secure arrears of pay for the pre-1649 officers. In 1659 Rawdon was elected MP for the counties of Antrim, Down, and Armagh for the third protectorate parliament, and at Westminster he collaborated with Monck's brother-in-law, Dr Thomas Clarges, in an attempt to pass an act for the payment of pre-1649 arrears. The Monck connection was to prove very important in the political crisis of 1659–60. After the fall of the protectorate, Rawdon visited Monck in Scotland before returning to Ulster, and he may have been in contact with the general in early 1660. Rawdon's prominence in the Dublin convention (where he sat for Co. Antrim) may have been occasioned by the need to coordinate political initiatives with Monck. In May 1660 Rawdon joined the Old Protestant petition to Ormond, pledging their loyalty to the Stuarts, but voicing concerns as to the fate of the lands they had gained under the Cromwellian settlement.
Rawdon was well placed to benefit from the restoration of the monarchy. He was pardoned in February 1661, and went on to sit in the Irish parliament of 1661–6. His election for Carlingford, Co. Louth, rather than for an Ulster seat, seems to have been the result of the machinations of his local rival, John Davies, and he was generally hated by the presbyterians in the province. But Rawdon could still rely on a number of important friends. In Ulster he remained intimate with the main aristocratic families, including the Conways and the Hills. He was created a baronet in 1665 through the efforts of George Monck, now duke of Albemarle, who later supported Rawdon's continued efforts to secure the interests of the pre-1649 officers – which he pursued through the 1660s and 1670s. Rawdon's support for the Church of Ireland also gained him many friends, including Jeremy Taylor (qv), bishop of Down. He also retained links with the duke of Ormond, who included him in the Irish privy council from the mid 1670s, and counted him one of his most trusted advisers. In later years Rawdon was involved in the schemes to reform the militia and to improve the state of the roads in the northern province. He died in August 1684, and was buried at Lisburn. His son and heir, Sir Arthur Rawdon (qv), was the ancestor of the earls of Moira.