Loftus, Adam (1568?-1643) (DNB00)
|←Loftus, Adam (1533?-1605)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 34
Loftus, Adam (1568?-1643)
LOFTUS, ADAM, first Viscount Loftus of Ely (1568?–1643), lord chancellor of Ireland, born about 1568, was the second son of Robert, and the nephew of Archbishop Adam Loftus [q. v.] His grandfather was Edward Loftus of Swineside, parish of Coverham, Yorkshire. In or about 1592 the chancellor-archbishop, who knew how to look after his own family, bestowed upon his nephew a prebend of St. Patrick's, Dublin, without cure. The young man was then in holy (perhaps only deacon's) orders, and had been for three or four years a master of arts, probably of Cambridge (Irish Calendar, 17 Sept. 1592). Two years later he held the archdeaconry of Glendalough, and on 17 Sept. 1597 he was made judge of the Irish marshal court. The patent calls him bachelor of civil law, and notes his good knowledge therein (Lib. Munerum, pt. ii. p. 100). During the Elizabethan wars martial law was commonly exercised, and the object of Loftus's appointment was to secure that its decrees should be ‘orderly and judiciously examined and determined.’ He was the only holder of this office, which became almost useless in the next reign. Loftus afterwards complained that its ill-paid duties had obliged him to abandon a lucrative practice in the ecclesiastical courts. On 8 Nov. 1598 he was made a master in chancery, and a year later he obtained an interest in lands leased by his uncle with the consent of the chapters of St. Patrick's and Christchurch (Morrin, ii. 502, 563). In 1604 the archbishop officially described his nephew, a professor of civil law and his own vicar-general, as archdeacon of Glendalough, and as keeping a sufficient minister to do the parochial duty. The archdeacon was soon afterwards knighted. Later, Laud protested strongly against this arrangement, but Loftus kept Glendalough till his death. In 1607 he seems to have gone to England; on 21 March Archbishop Jones, whose chancellor he then was, recommended him strongly to Lord Salisbury. Three months later he obtained a life annuity of 219l. Early in 1608 Loftus was a member of the Irish privy council. He seems to have worked well with Lord-deputy Chichester, who praised his conduct in the marshal court. In 1610 he had a bitter dispute with Lord Thomond, which Salisbury decided against him. In 1611 he became constable of Maryborough, Queen's County, which was already a virtual sinecure.
Loftus was returned, along with Sir Francis Rushe, as member for the King's County in the parliament of 1613, more apparently by the act of the sheriff than by the choice of the freeholders, and he was one of the protestant majority who made Sir John Davies speaker. In the following year he had a grant of forfeited lands in Wexford. In the summer of 1618 Loftus went to England, carrying with him a commendatory letter from Lord-deputy St. John and his council, and in the following year he was made one of the commissioners of the court of wards. Archbishop Jones died on 10 April 1619, and on the 23rd Loftus was appointed lord chancellor in his stead.
On the recall of St. John in May 1622, Loftus was one of the lords justices, and he was at the same time created Viscount Loftus of Ely. In the privy seal directing this creation James I said he had bestowed this hereditary honour on him ‘that his virtues may be recorded to future ages, so long as there shall remain an heir male to his house.’ As chancellor Loftus was included in the commissions which inquired into the state of the church and completed the Ulster settlement. With St. John he had always agreed well, and he was at first on good terms with the new lord deputy, Henry Cary, first viscount Falkland [q. v.] But in 1624 they were at open war. The chancellor refused to affix the great seal to certain licenses for tanning and distilling, but offered to submit their legality to the decision of the judges. Falkland, as the king's representative, claimed practically to overrule all legal scruples. The dispute lasted long, Loftus complaining bitterly that his thirty years' service was despised, that his dues were not paid, and that he had but 300l. a year to support the dignity of his great place. These complaints appeared well founded, and half the fines of and for chancery writs were granted to him in 1625. The accession of Charles I made no difference in the relations between Falkland and his chancellor, and in May 1627 the latter was summoned to England, the great seal being placed in commission. After a long inquiry Charles I declared Loftus quite innocent of all charges made against him as a judge, and in May 1628 Falkland was ordered to reinstate him fully, and to treat him with the respect due to himself and to his office. In 1629 the king granted Loftus the unusual favour of a general license to visit England when he pleased, leaving the great seal in the hands of the commissioners last appointed, of whom his cousin, Sir Adam Loftus of Rathfarnham, co. Dublin, was one (Morrin, p. 463). Falkland left Ireland in August 1629, and the chancellor became lord justice along with Sir Richard Boyle, afterwards Earl of Cork. In 1632 Loftus took an active part in forcing William Newman, afterwards his chaplain, upon Trinity College as a fellow (Elrington, Life of Ussher, p. 150; Stubbs, p. 64).
Wentworth did not reach Ireland till the summer of 1633, but Loftus wrote him a congratulatory letter as soon as his appointment was known. He thanked him for some former services, deplored his own differences with the late deputy, and promised to deserve the favour of one ‘whose fame had outrun his presence’ (Strafford Letters, i. 64). When Wentworth arrived he had to deal with a chancellor who had been acting viceroy for four years. Until 1636 the two men seem to have got on pretty well together, but on 23 April in that year Wentworth wrote to Bramhall of Loftus and of ‘that fury his lady’ (Rawdon Papers) in disparaging terms.
In 1621 the chancellor's eldest son, Sir Robert, married Eleanor, daughter of Sir Francis Rushe, whose sisters, Mary and Anne respectively, married Sir Charles Coote and Sir George Wentworth, the lord deputy's brother. Rushe died in 1629, leaving his three daughters coheiresses. Sir Robert Loftus and his wife lived in the chancellor's house, and mainly at his expense, until the beginning of 1637, when the lady's half-brother, Sir John Gifford, petitioned the king, as her next friend, for specific performance of her father-in-law's alleged promise as to a post-nuptial settlement. The consideration set up was that she had brought with her a portion of 1,750l. As the chancellor could scarcely be judge in her own case, the matter was referred to the lord deputy and council, who decided, upon the evidence of a single witness, who testified to words spoken nearly twenty years before, that Loftus must settle upon Sir Robert Loftus and the children by Eleanor Rushe his house at Monasterevan, co. Kildare, furnished, and 1,200l. a year in land. The promise, if promise there was, had been purely verbal, and it was not pretended that there was anything to bind the chancellor in law. He declared that all his land was not worth more than 800l. a year, out of which he had settled a jointure of about 300l. a year on his daughter-in-law; and he declined altogether to oust his second son, Edward, who ultimately succeeded to the peerage. Costs were given against Loftus, who refused to pay them and appealed to the king. His property was sequestered, and he was imprisoned in the castle from February 1637 until May 1639, and afterwards in his own house until August, the great seal being transferred to commissioners. He accused the lord deputy of partiality at the trial, but apologised and withdrew the charges as being unsupported by evidence and as not proper to be lightly made against a viceroy (Strafford Letters, ii. 260). Even this was not enough for Wentworth, and the chancellor had to make his whole estate over to trustees as security before he was allowed to go to England to prosecute his appeal. Wentworth's friends, Wandesford and Mainwaring, were two of those trustees. In November 1634 the chancellor's appeal was heard before the king in council and dismissed. The great seal was in December 1639 given to Sir Richard Bolton [q. v.] Young Lady Loftus had died in the previous summer, ‘one of the noblest persons,’ Wentworth wrote, ‘I ever had the happiness to be acquainted with. … With her are gone the greatest part of my affections to the country, and all that is left of them shall be thankfully and religiously paid to her excellent memory and lasting goodness’ (ib. ii. 381).
When the Long parliament met Loftus appealed to it, and on 3 May 1642 the House of Lords quashed all the decisions against him. The question was again raised after the Restoration, during the viceroyalty of Arthur Capel, earl of Essex, whose report to the king gives the best general account of the whole affair (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. pt. ii. p. 322). The result was that the House of Lords in England, after several days' hearing, reversed the decree made in 1637, thus finally and solemnly declaring that Charles I, Strafford, and their respective councils had been wrong throughout. His arbitrary treatment of Loftus formed part of the eighth article of Strafford's impeachment. Eleanor Loftus herself was Strafford's friend, the sister of his brother's wife, but there is no evidence that she was his mistress, and his words quoted above do not support the accusation, which seems to rest upon some ambiguous expressions in Clarendon's ‘History.’ On the other hand, it may be thought suspicious that Sir Robert Loftus refused to join in his wife's suit against his father.
After his fall Loftus lived at or near his small property at Coverham in Yorkshire. His son Edward, by his marriage with Miss Lyndley, seems to have been then in possession of Middleham Castle, Yorkshire. In 1641 the ex-chancellor was one of several Irish lords and gentlemen living in England who petitioned parliament against disseminators of false news from Ireland. The outbreak of the Irish rebellion rendered his Irish estates worthless. He died at the beginning of 1643, and was buried in Coverham Church.
Loftus married Sarah Bathow, widow of Richard Meredith, bishop of Leighlin, by whom he had four sons and two daughters. Robert died before his father, who was succeeded in the peerage by his second son, Edward. The younger daughter, Alice, married Charles Moore, afterwards Earl of Drogheda. In June 1639 she was seen on her knees before the king at Berwick, ‘very earnestly soliciting for her father's coming over’ (Strafford Letters, ii. 364). On the extinction of the male line, Monasterevan passed through her children to the Moore family. Lord Drogheda possesses a portrait of the chancellor, and many interesting papers connected with him.
[Liber Munerum Publicorum Hiberniæ; Cal. of Irish State Papers, Eliz. 1588–92, and James I; Morrin's Cal. of Patent Rolls, Charles I; Strafford's Letters and Despatches; House of Lords MSS. in 4th and 5th Reports of the Hist. MSS. Commission, and Drogheda MSS. in 9th Rep.; Strafford's Trial in Rushworth and Howell's State Trials; Gardiner's Hist. of England, chap. xc.; Traill's Strafford; Burke's Dormant and Extinct Peerage; Berwick's Rawdon Papers; Lodge's Peerage (Archdall), vol. vii.; Cotton's Fasti Eccl. Hib. vol. ii.; Stubbs's Hist. of Univ. of Dublin; Whittaker's Richmondshire; Atthill's Documents relating to Middleham Church (Camd. Soc.)]