Taaffe, Francis (1639–1704), 4th Viscount Taaffe and 3rd earl of Carlingford soldier , and diplomat, was born at Ballymote, Co. Sligo, second son (third, according to Murtagh) of Theobald Taaffe (qv), 2nd Viscount and 1st earl of Carlingford, and his wife Anne, daughter of Sir Theobald Dillon (d. 1624) (qv). Sent by his father to study at the Jesuit college of Olmütz, he later became a page of honour to the emperors Ferdinard III and Leopold I. He also formed a close personal friendship with the young heir of Charles IV, duke of Lorraine, who would succeed to his father's then empty title in 1675. His influence helped him to secure a captaincy in the Austrian cuirassiers. In 1673 Taaffe commanded the young prince's regiment at the siege of Bonn; he was present the following year at the battles of Sanzheim and Mülhausen. The titular duke Charles of Lorraine sent Taaffe to Poland in 1674 in a vain attempt to push his claims for the vacant Polish throne; it was here that he made his famous speech to the Polish diet. In 1675 he returned to military duties, commanding the Austrian right wing against the Turks at Sassbach. In 1676 Lorraine sent him to prevent the elector palatine from concluding a separate peace with Louis XIV of France. In the same year he returned to the field in time to take part in the important siege of Philippsburg. Taaffe's loyalty to his ducal master was rewarded when Lorraine gave up his commission in the Austrian service in Taaffe's favour. In 1682 Taaffe received the commission of general and campaigned with the young duke in Hungary. Against impossible odds they resisted the Turkish onslaught until forced to retreat at Petronel. Taaffe also took part with Lorraine's forces in Jan Sobieski's heroic defence of Vienna (1683) and his subsequent rout of the grand vizier Cara-Mustapha. He sent one of the grand vizier's tents as a present to England, where it was later displayed at Somerset House. In 1684 he distinguished himself at the battle of Waizen, the relief of Buda, and the battle of Gran. In 1687, as a reward for his services, Taaffe received the commission of lieutenant-general of cavalry and was elevated to the order of the Golden Fleece. He was also given command of the 1,800 Irish recruits who had joined the imperial service.
The duke of Lorraine (d. 1690) recommended his wife and children to the care of his great friend Taaffe and urged his son to follow his counsel. Taaffe represented the young duke Leopold at the negotiation of the treaty of Ryswick, where he was restored to his inheritence. On Leopold's reinstatement in his dominions Taaffe became his chamberlain, prime minister, minister of finance, governor of Nancy, and colonel of his guards. He also had the privilege of going to Nancy to take possession of his master's dominions. The duke's former Augsburg allies also showered favour on Taaffe. Although two of his brothers had fought and died for King James's (qv) cause, King William (qv) received him at Loos and confirmed him in the estate of his older brother Nicholas. A subsequent act of parliament exempted him from attainder or forfeiture; later in the eighteenth century the disposal of the Taaffe estate was regulated by another act of parliament (15 Geo. II, c. 49). In 1694 the emperor promoted him to field-marshal and made him a knight of the Golden Fleece. He also received an audience with Louis XIV when he accompanied his ducal master to Versailles to do homage for the duchy of Bar. Taaffe died aged 65 at Nancy in August 1704 and was interred in the cathedral church.
He married Helena Maximiliana von Traudisch, widow of William Heinrich Schlik, and later of Franz Ernst Schlik (d. 16 August 1675), both counts of Bassano and Weisskirchen. His wife died in 1700; their one daughter, Anne, also predeceased him. In his will, dated 1702 (dated 23 February 1701–16 July 1704, according to G.E.C., Peerage), he left a considerable bequest to wounded soldiers and a substantial sum of money for the completion of Cologne cathedral. He was succeeded by his nephew Theobald, son of his brother John, as 4th and last earl of Carlingford.
A contemporary writer noted that ‘his favourite authors Livius and Curtius were his constant companions during all his campaigns’ (Memoirs, 25). Berwick (qv) wrote that Taaffe was ‘a thorough master of polite literature and a very able statesman’, but, contradicting all other sources, added that ‘he had little repute as a soldier’ (Murtagh, 256). A large collection of Taaffe's correspondence, surviving in the BL and the Beinike Library, Yale University, is reproduced in the ‘Memoirs’, including information on his imperial campaigns and his diplomatic endeavours on behalf of the duke of Lorraine.