Grace, Richard (DNB00)

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GRACE, RICHARD (1620?–1691), governor of Athlone, a younger son of Robert Grace, baron of Courtstown in the county of Kilkenny, and a lineal descendant of Raymond le Gros, one of the first Anglo-Norman settlers in Ireland [see Fizgerald, Raymond], was born about 1620. Being commended to the notice of Charles I by the Earl of Ormonde, to whom he was allied, he served in England during the civil wars on the royalist side, till the surrender of Oxford in 1646, when he returned to Ireland, where the influence of his family placed him at the head of a considerable body of men, whereby he was enabled to perform good service at Birr (now Parsonstown in King's County) and elsewhere. After the overthrow of the royalist party and the formation of a national party pure and simple, he found free scope for the exercise of his abilities in guerilla warfare. His activity, boldness, and popularity with the Irish rendered him one of the chief obstacles in the way of a settlement of the island by the officers of the Commonwealth. Notwithstanding the evident hopelessness of the struggle, and the demoralising effect of the submission of Colonel Fitzpatrick in 1651, he continued to defy every effort made to capture him, and occasionally succeeded in inflicting a severe blow on the outlying forces of the parliament. In May 1652 a sum of 300l. was offered for his head. But on 21 June the Irish government had the satisfaction of reporting ‘that Colonel Grace and his party (who were forced out of the fastnesses in the King's and Queen's counties by the forces under Colonel Hewson, Colonel Axtell, and Colonel Sankey) being got over the Shannon to Portumna, where they burnt the town and intended to force the castle; and that Colonel Ingoldsby, with five hundred horse and dragoons, marched towards them, and at Loughrea fell upon them, totally routed their horse and surrounded their foot in a bog’ (Commonwealth Papers, P. R. O., Dublin, A/90, p. 169). He was offered terms more honourable than those obtained at Kilkenny by the other Leinster commanders, and capitulated to Colonel Sankey on 14 Aug. (Aphorismical Discovery, iii. 130). He was allowed to transport himself and his adherents, numbering between ten and twelve hundred men, into Spain; but his estates in the King's County were confiscated and granted to one John Vaughan. On his arrival in Spain ‘the Spaniards wholly broke the capitulation they had made with him, and used his men so very ill, that before he could march them into Catalonia he had lost half his number’ (Clarke, Life of James II, i. 268). Nevertheless he continued faithfully to serve the Spanish government till the end of the campaign, when he honourably surrendered his charge as commander of a castle on the frontiers, and transferred his services to the crown of France, stipulating only that his regiment might be put on the same footing as the other Irish regiments in the French service, and that they might be permitted to support their own sovereign whenever the occasion demanded (ib. 269). The devotion of his family to the Stuart cause at once secured for him a favourable reception at the court of the exiled princes, and particularly from the Duke of York, who, we are told, ‘treated him with the familiarity of an equal rather than the reserve of a sovereign’ (Strean, Athlone). In 1655, after the completion of the alliance between England and France, he, with the rest of the Irish colonels, followed the Duke of York into the service of Spain, and in June 1658 took a prominent part in the battle between the Spaniards and the allied English and French forces at the Dunes, before Dunkirk (Clarke, Life of James II, i. 345). At the Restoration he attended the royal family to Breda, and thence into England. On 5 March 1661 Charles II conferred on him a pension of 100l. in token of his approbation, and on 28 Nov. a warrant was issued for the payment of his regiment (Cal. State Papers, 1661–2, p. 161). On 20 June 1663 the court of claims decreed his restoration to his estates in the King's County, and in 1664 a patent was granted to him, whereby Moyelly and his adjoining lands in the barony of Kilcoursy were constituted a manor, with the privileges of holding courts baron and leet. A further grant of lands in the county of Kildare followed in June 1670, and an additional pension of 300l. a year during pleasure in June 1685 (Memoirs of the Family of Grace). He received 200l. as bounty for secret services in 1687 (Secret Services of Charles II and James II, Camd. Soc., p. 164). He was appointed governor of the castle of Athlone, and, though a Roman catholic, treated the protestants so fairly as to merit a severe reprimand from the government of Lord Tyrconnel. Although as an officer he maintained severity of discipline, contrasting strongly with the prevailing licentiousness of the Irish army, he was beloved as well as trusted by his soldiers (Strean, Athlone). He was one of the first to join the standard of James II upon the revolution. He was not present at the battle of the Boyne, but when William despatched General Douglas with a portion of his army to besiege Athlone, he replied to offers of capitulation with a pistol shot, adding: ‘These are my terms; these only will I give or receive, and when my provisions are consumed I will defend till I eat my old boots.’ After a vain attempt to pass the Shannon, Douglas was compelled to raise the siege and retire (Harris, Life of William III, p. 282; Story, Continuation, p. 30). In the following year (1691), when the place was besieged by General Ginkel, he was superseded in the conduct of the defence by the French commander D'Usson. He did his duty nobly and died at his post on 20 June. He was buried where he fell. After the revolution the castle and lands of Moyelly and his estates elsewhere were confiscated. By his wife Sarah, daughter and heiress of — Tucker, of the county of Kent, he had an only daughter, Frances, to whom King James was godfather, and who was married in 1665 to Robert, eldest son of John Grace of Courtstown. It had been the intention of James to reward the services of the house of Courtstown by conferring the dignity of viscount on Robert Grace, but this the revolution rendered impossible.

[Sheffield Grace's Memoirs of the Family of Grace, privately printed, 1823; Aphorismical Discovery or Contemporary History of Affairs in Ireland, 1641–53, edited by J. T. Gilbert for the Irish Archæological Society; Commonwealth Papers, P. R. O. Dublin; Prendergast's Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland; Heath's Brief Chronicle of the Civil War; Clarke's Life of James II; Strean's Account of Athlone; Calendar of State Papers, 1661–2; Macariæ Excidium (Irish Archæol. Soc.); Harris's Life of William III; Leland's Hist. of Ireland; Story's Continuation of the Wars in Ireland.]

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