Coote, Richard (DNB00)

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COOTE, RICHARD, first Earl of Bellamont (1636–1701), governor of New York, was the only son of Richard Coote, lord Coloony in the peerage of Ireland (who had been granted that title on the same day, 6 Sept. 1660, that his elder brother, Sir Charles Coote [q. v.], was created Earl of Mountrath), by Mary, daughter of Sir George St. George of Carrickdrumruske, co. Leitrim, and sister of the first Lord St. George. He succeeded his father as second Lord Coloony in 1683, and having married Catherine, daughter and heiress of Bridges Nanfan of Birtsmorton, Worcestershire, he acquired an interest in that county, and was elected M.P. for Droitwich in 1688. He was a vigorous supporter of William III both in parliament and in the campaign in Ireland, and, though attainted by James's Irish parliament in 1689, he was largely rewarded by King William, made treasurer and receiver-general to Queen Mary, appointed governor of co. Leitrim, and finally, on 2 Nov. 1689, created Earl of Bellamont in the peerage of Ireland. He was re-elected for Droitwich in 1689, and continued to sit in the English House of Commons until 1695, in which year he was appointed governor of New England, with a special mission to put down piracy and unlawful trading. A certain Colonel Robert Levingston suggested to Lord Bellamont that Captain Kidd was a fit man to put down the piracy which prevailed in the West Indies and on the American coast, and when the king was obliged to refuse Kidd a ship of war, Levingston and Lord Bellamont induced the Duke of Shrewsbury, Lords Somers, Orford, Romney, and others, to advance a sum of 6,000l., with which the Adventure was fitted out for Kidd, with special powers to arrest pirates. When Lord Bellamont arrived at his seat of government in 1697 after the peace of Ryswick, he heard that Kidd had been reported as a most audacious pirate by the East India Company, and that he was again on the American coast, and he felt his honour involved in seizing this pirate captain, whom he had been chiefly instrumental in fitting out. Kidd wrote to Lord Bellamont that he was innocent of the crimes imputed to him, and the governor replied that if that was the case he might safely come to see him at Boston. Kidd accordingly came to Boston on 1 June 1699, but his former patron immediately arrested him, and, as there was no law in New England against piracy, sent him to England for trial in 1700. The whole question of the partners who had fitted out Kidd's ship was discussed in the House of Commons, and it was finally decided on 28 March 1701 that the grant to Lord Bellamont under the great seal of all the goods taken by Kidd from other pirates was not illegal. Lord Bellamont's short government in New England was not entirely taken up by his efforts to arrest Kidd. Bancroft speaks of him as ‘an Irish peer with a kind heart, and honourable sympathies for popular freedom’ (Bancroft, History of the United States of America, ii. 233), and tells a story of him, that he once said publicly to the House of Assembly of New York: ‘I will pocket none of the public money myself, nor shall there be any embezzlement by others’ (ib. ii. 234). Lord Bellamont died at New York on 5 March 1701, and was honoured with a public funeral there.

[Lodge's Peerage of Ireland, ed. Archdall, iii. 209–12; Bancroft's Hist. of the United States of America.]

H. M. S.