Burke, Ulick (1604–58), 1st marquess of Clanricard , politician, was born at Athlone in 1604, the only son of politician and landowner, Richard Burke (qv), 4th earl of Clanricard, and Frances, daughter and heir of the Elizabethan secretary of state Sir Francis Walsingham, and the widow of Sir Philip Sidney and Robert Devereux (qv), earl of Essex. Ulick had two sisters, Margaret and Honora; the latter married John Paulet, marquess of Winchester. Despite Richard's political prominence and landed interests in Ireland, Ulick spent most of his childhood in England. He became by courtesy Viscount Tunbridge and Baron Sommerhill in 1624, and entered the English house of lords as Lord Burgh in 1628. In December 1622 he married Lady Ann Compton, the only daughter of William, earl of Northampton.
After his father's death in November 1635 Ulick assumed the titles 5th earl of Clanricard and 2nd earl of St Albans, and the governorship of Galway town and county. He received special livery of his inheritance in January 1636, composed of his father's English properties at Sommerhill and Kent, and extensive Irish holdings in counties Galway, Roscommon, Mayo, Sligo, Westmeath, and King's County. Clanricard also inherited debts of approximately £25,000 from his father, and was forced to mortgage his Kent estate for seven years in 1637 to underwrite these and other debts and sureties of £20,000. The earl subsequently (1641) mortgaged portions of his Galway property to secure additional finance.
An influential political figure in England, Clanricard's connections in court circles included his stepbrother the 3rd earl of Essex, the future parliamentarian general, with whom he enjoyed a close relationship that would prove beneficial during the political and military upheavals of the 1640s. He also counted the earls of Bristol and Holland, his father-in-law, the earl of Northampton, and his brother-in-law, the marquess of Winchester, among his personal associates. Those links and his long residence at court afforded him access to Charles I. Clanricard additionally forged strong connections with members of the inns of court and was granted ‘honorific’ admission to Lincoln's Inns at the request of one of the benchers, Charles Jones (March 1640).
Despite his high profile on the English political stage, Clanricard retained an interest in and continued to exert influence over Irish affairs. Emulating his late father's role, after November 1635 he spearheaded opposition to the plantation of Connacht proposed by Thomas Wentworth (qv), and in this context exploited his courtly connections with much success. His influence on the ground in the west of Ireland through his official position as governor of Galway was strengthened by his marital connections with influential local figures, including Viscount Mayo (qv) and the Bourkes of Clanmorris, and to prominent Old English families in Ireland, most notably the Butlers of Ormond. Within the Irish house of commons active MPs, including Patrick Darcy (qv), Richard Martin (qv), Sir Richard Blake (qv), Geoffrey Browne (qv), and Sir Roebuck Lynch (qv), who subsequently emerged as the core secular leadership of the Connacht confederates, could be counted among his associates.
Having fought for the king in the first bishops’ war, Clanricard subsequently took his seat in the English house of lords (1640). He returned to Ireland in September 1641 and took up residence at Portumna, Co. Galway, and thus witnessed at first hand the outbreak of the 1641 rising. Clanricard was dismayed by the eruption of violence, and immediately adopted a proactive approach to defend his jurisdiction from the catholic rebels. At a meeting of prominent Galway gentlemen he secured agreement to raise 400 footmen and 100 horsemen, and subsequently travelled the breadth of the county inspecting garrisons and fortifications. His residence at Portumna functioned as a safe haven for protestant refugees fleeing from violence. Clanricard was convinced that the support of the catholic lay elite must be courted to prevent the growth of disorder. Consequently he opposed the disdainful attitude displayed by the Dublin administration towards the catholic population. Furthermore, their failure to provide Clanricard himself with the resources necessary to contain unrest (due to their suspicions of his catholicism as he perceived it) created considerable tension between the earl and the lords justices.
While Galway remained relatively quiet in the immediate aftermath of October 1641 largely due to his influence, Clanricard came under increasing pressure from his neighbouring co-religionists and from catholic notables throughout the country to embrace their cause. He remained steadfastly aloof from their overtures but displayed a willingness to enter into negotiations with the combatants, concluding a truce with the Galway insurgents in May 1642, which provoked criticism from the Dublin authorities. Clanricard has also been attributed with submitting to the rebel leaders, through clerical channels, proposals for a form of government closely resembling the arrangements that were put in place by the assembly that met in Kilkenny in October 1642 (however this interpretation has been questioned latterly in historical writing on the period). In January 1643 Clanricard was among the commissioners nominated by King Charles to conclude a deal with those in arms, by now organised as the Confederate Catholics.
With the progress of war came increasing isolation and hardship for Clanricard. His relationship with local confederates, many of whom were former associates, became increasingly strained following the agreement of a royalist–confederate truce (September 1643). He accused them of failing to honour the terms of cessation, and in October contemplated using force against the Galway confederate county council, who had issued warrants on his entire estate. Immediate crisis was averted by Clanricard's conclusion that to pursue military action would merely provide justification for the more extreme elements among the confederates who wished to re-ignite hostilities. However, future relations were punctuated by episodic tensions, notably during the Connacht campaign in summer 1646 of General Thomas Preston (qv), when the earl accused local confederates of being insufficiently prepared to support the venture. Clanricard's position in the western province was further undermined by the appointment of Viscount Thomas Dillon (qv) as president of Connacht (April 1644). His chagrin at not having been offered the post was exacerbated by numerous unfulfilled reports of impending appointments, including the post of lord treasurer and membership of the privy council, in circulation during 1644, which led the earl to believe that his sacrifices on behalf of the royalist cause were not recognised. However, Clanricard's loyalty was rewarded when Charles made him a marquess in February 1645, and in May of that year he was appointed to the privy council and authorised to raise a regiment of foot and troop of horse in the royalist standing army.
Clanricard's commitment to the royalist cause, and his overriding concern that he be viewed in this light, determined his opposition to sustained pressure from the confederates. However, as the military threat from parliament increased Clanricard and a number of key Connacht royalists advocated a proactive stance against the enemy, which could potentially involve practical interaction with the confederate forces (July 1644). In April and May 1646 this threat assumed a personal significance as a parliamentarian army commanded by Sir Charles Coote (qv) advanced as far as Clanricard's residence at Portumna. Despite this imminent danger, however, Clanricard refused confederate offers of a commanding role in Preston's campaign of summer 1646 in the absence of explicit sanction from the marquess of Ormond (qv), Charles I's lord lieutenant. His position was in no small way influenced by concern for the security of his English interests. Those interests had been to some degree protected by his stepbrother, Essex, up to this point, but such protection would not be forthcoming in the event of Clanricard's involvement in an unsanctioned military arrangement with the Connacht confederates.
Clanricard's political strategy from the initial outbreak of unrest was predicated upon the need for a speedy peace deal between the royalists and confederates. Unsurprisingly he opposed the clerical repudiation of the first Ormond peace in September 1646, but simultaneously empathised with confederate anxieties over the security of the catholic religion. The closing months of 1646 saw Clanricard spearhead an effort to broker agreement with the Confederate Association via negotiations with General Preston. Despite Preston's acceptance of a revised peace deal in November, with additional concessions and securities on the religious issue proposed by Clanricard, it proved insufficient to secure the support of the papal nuncio, GianBattista Rinuccini (qv), and the venture ultimately collapsed. In the wake of his attempts to make peace, Clanricard expressed gentle criticism of Ormond's role, suggesting that he had been too hesitant in his encouragement of Preston (November 1646).
In March 1647, in the context of a decline in royalist fortunes at national and three kingdoms level, and as continuing war made the earl's conditions in Connacht increasingly difficult, Clanricard declared his intention to leave Ireland. He continued to express this resolution throughout that year, prompting considerable opposition from local confederates, which reveal his enduring influence at provincial level. However, he would remain in Ireland. On 10 June 1648, following the recent truce (May 1648) between the confederates and the Munster protestant commander, Lord Inchiquin (qv), Clanricard publicly declared his intention to join interests with the confederates ‘so far as to prosecute the king's enemies, and compose or suppress the distractions in the kingdom, either by force or treaty’ (Gilbert, Ir. confed., vii, 100). He justified his decision on the grounds of fears that Connacht would become a site of war in the event of an invasion by parliament's forces and of discord among the Irish. His contemporary, the confederate secretary Richard Bellings (qv), subsequently speculated that Clanricard's awareness of renewed prospects for a royalist–confederate peace deal, the political complexion of the most recent confederate supreme council, and the military benefits accruing to the confederates from an alignment with Inchiquin also proved influential. Finally, correspondence with his sister, the marchioness of Hertford, throughout summer 1647 left Clanricard in no doubt that with Essex's death (September 1646) he had lost a powerful advocate and was now unlikely to gain access to the benefits from his English estate.
In this light, and in the context of rumours in circulation in England questioning Clanricard's political position, the earl had little to lose by aligning with the confederates. For the remainder of 1648 Clanricard targeted those catholics who sided with General Owen Roe O'Neill (qv), in opposition to the Inchiquin truce, and following the agreement of the second Ormond peace (17 January 1649) attempted to rebuff the onslaught of the Cromwellian forces. However, the newly constructed royalist alliance did not remain intact and when Ormond left for the continent, having lost the confidence of the catholic clergy (December 1650), Clanricard took over as lord deputy. In spring 1651 Clanricard negotiated with Stephan de Henin, agent for the duke of Lorraine, in the hope of procuring foreign aid, but ultimately proved unwilling to sanction an agreement owing to what he perceived as Lorraine's encroachments on royal authority. Clanricard presided over the preliminary negotiations between the parliamentarians and the Galway townsmen but he was not a party to the surrender of the town on 12 April 1652 and denounced the articles of agreement, which made no reference to either the king or the lord deputy, as base and perfidious. He remained in arms, campaigning with some success on the Connacht–Ulster border, where he captured Ballyshannon and a number of lesser forts, until he was surrounded by the converging armies of Coote and Robert Venables (qv) at Carrick. He submitted on 28 June, on terms that required him to renounce his office and leave Ireland within three months.
Clanricard's stance during the upheavals of the 1640s attracted criticism from certain quarters. Rinuccini, the papal nuncio, condemned his arrogance (Aiazzi, 301), while the less than impartial author of the Aphorismical discovery of treasonable faction, described him as ‘nay a prime Presbyterian instrument as Ormond ever yett have beene’ (Gilbert, Contemp. hist., i, 205). However, the marquess also received praise from his contemporaries. In the immediate aftermath of the eruption of violence, Richard Bellings lauded Clanricard on the grounds that he ‘gave singular prooffe of his great abilityes in the conduct of affaires perplexed and hard to be managed, of his unalterable duty to his King, and his great affection to his contry’ (Gilbert, Ir. Confed., i, 53). Clarendon subsequently lauded his unwavering fidelity to the king and his devotion to catholicism throughout the period (Clarendon, Rebellion, v, 219).
After securing protection from arrest for his debts from the Cromwellian authorities, Clanricard left Ireland for the continent, arriving in London in March 1653. Ill health prevented him from travelling any further and he remained in England until his death. He did not receive a pardon under the Act for Settling of Ireland (1652), but in 1654 Cromwell granted him £600 and it was decreed that Clanricard's wife should receive 4,000 acres from Clanricard's profitable estate in Ireland. Clanricard had one daughter, Margaret, who married Charles, Viscount Muskerry. As there were no male heirs the titles marquess of Clanricard and earl of St Albans became extinct. The earldom of Clanricard and barony of Dunkellin passed to his first cousin, Richard. Contradictory dates for Clanricard's death appear in the sources, but official records suggest he died in late April or early May 1658. On his death Cromwell's government contributed to his funeral costs. He was buried at the parish church in Tunbridge, Kent, alongside his father. Clanricard's portrait is at Westport House, Co. Mayo.