Skeffington, Clotworthy (1743–1805), 2nd earl of Massereene, eccentric, was born 28 January 1743, eldest son of Clotworthy Skeffington, 1st earl of Massereene (c.1713–1757) and his second wife, Anne (c.1715–1805), daughter of Henry Eyre of Row Tor, Derbyshire. At 14 he fell from a horse, and it was widely believed that he sustained permanent brain damage. In 1758 he left Harrow School and was admitted to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he matriculated in 1759 before commencing a grand tour. In 1763 the tour ended and he settled in Paris. He came of age in 1764 and inherited the family estates, the bulk of which were in Co. Antrim, but allowed his mother to continue as administrator and to bear the expense of elections for the borough of Antrim.
By 1770 he had run up debts of £30,000 through a combination of fashionable living, womanising, and gaming, as well as a disastrous attempt to clear his late father's debts by investing £10,000–12,000 with a gentleman called Vidari in a scheme to supply salt from the Barbary coast to France and the Swiss cantons. At this time the Massereene estate was worth £5,000 a year, but Massereene refused to sign any documentation that would repay Vidari, who he felt had defrauded him. According to French law, if a debtor stayed in gaol for twenty-five years his debts were cancelled, so Massereene settled down to his sentence, first in L'Évêque, where conditions were comfortable, and then in the harsher regime of the Hôtel de la Force. In prison he was befriended by Mary Anne Barcier, whom he married (1787). She took part in two failed attempts at his escape before paying a Paris mob to break down the prison walls in the spring of 1789.
He arrived in Dover at the end of May 1789, and by late November returned briefly to the family seat, Antrim Castle, before settling in London. He lived extravagantly and by the end of 1791 it was rumoured some of his estates would have to be sold. In 1793 he parted from his wife, settling £300 a year on her for life. He moved to Hatton Garden and commenced a relationship with Elizabeth Blackburn (née Lane), a servant in a house opposite his lodgings. When he was thrown in gaol in 1793 after being duped for £9,000 by a man called Whaley, she came to live with him there until a lawsuit established that his debts were fraudulently incurred and that he was suffering mental illness. However, in 1796 he was put in a debtors’ gaol once again and was only released when he agreed to place his estate under trusteeship. He returned to Antrim Castle 1797, installed Blackburn as his mistress, and lived on the scanty income left to him. In 1798 he raised a yeomanry corps, which beat off a rebel attack on Antrim Castle during the battle of Antrim (June 1798). He took the victory as a personal triumph, although his part had been undistinguished. In 1803, when he was denied the right to raise a legion of 300 men, he wrote a hysterical letter of protest to the lord lieutenant, Lord Hardwicke (qv).
In 1802, two years after his first wife died of angina (November 1800), he married Blackburn, who already had another lover, George O'Doran (or O'Dornan). O'Doran helped Blackburn turn Massereene against his family and friends. Isolated, in 1804 Massereene wrote a will leaving a guinea each to his siblings and everything else to Lady Massereene. After his death (28 February 1805) his eldest brother Henry – now 3rd earl, as Massereene had no children from either marriage – contested the will. In October 1808 the prerogative court in Dublin declared the will invalid on the grounds of Lady Massereene's undue influence. She appealed to chancery, and an action of the king's bench was heard at Co. Antrim assizes in March 1809, where evidence was given of Lord Massereene's mental deficiencies. The jury found in the 3rd earl's favour, and Lady Massereene abandoned her claim in exchange for £15,000 and an annuity of £800 a year for life. She drew on this until her death (19 March 1838) at Gloucester. By this time she was the widow of both George O'Doran (d. p. 1828) and the Hon. George Massy. Massereene's obituary stated ‘his lordship's whole history exhibits a striking picture of the vicissitudes of human life’ (Gent. Mag., lxxv, i, 1805, 290), and was later celebrated by an elegy in twenty-four stanzas by Thomas Romney Robinson (qv).