Nagle, Richard (DNB00)

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NAGLE, Sir RICHARD (fl. 1689), attorney-general for Ireland, was of an ancient family in co. Cork. By old authors the name is often incorrectly written Nangle. Carrigacunna Castle, on the Blackwater, between Mallow and Fermoy, belonged to him, and some neighbouring hills still bear the family name. According to the commonly received but very scanty authorities, he was educated by the jesuits and intended for the priesthood. Preferring the law, ‘he arrived to a good perfection, and was employed by many protestants, so that he knew the weak part of most of their titles’ (King, ch. iii. sec. iii. p. 9).

Charles II died 6 Feb. 1684–5, and Ormonde, though ‘with dismal sadness at his heart,’ proclaimed James II in Dublin. He was at once removed, and Henry Hyde, earl of Clarendon [q. v.], was made lord-lieutenant in October, and landed in Ireland 29 Dec.; but Richard Talbot, earl of Tyrconnel [q. v.], who was in London, thwarted him at every step, and soon took Nagle into consultation. In February 1685–6 Nagle proposed to the lord-lieutenant that the outlawries on which the protestant settlement rested should be reversed (Clarendon Correspondence, i. 273). In May he became a privy councillor, but refused to be sworn, ostensibly on account of the great professional loss likely to follow (ib. i. 445). At the end of July 1686 Nagle was consulted by Clarendon and dined with him, the lord-lieutenant regarding him as the authorised representative of the Irish Roman catholics (ib. i. 516). He was already contemplating a parliament (ib. p. 538) which might dispossess the English settlers, though he as yet admitted that they would have to be compensated (ib. p. 564). At the end of August Tyrconnel went to London again to arrange with James for the supersession of Clarendon, and for the further depression of the protestant interest in Ireland. Nagle accompanied him, and was consulted by the king as well as by Sunderland. He returned to Ireland before Tyrconnel, after addressing to him the famous letter, bearing date 26 Oct., in which the repeal of the Act of Settlement was first seriously suggested (Jacobite Narrative, p. 193). Clarendon did not see a copy of this letter until January following (Corresp. ii. 142). Though dated from Coventry and nominally written on the road, this document bears no mark of haste, and was probably composed in London after careful consultation with Tyrconnel and Sunderland (Harris, p. 107). Nagle was knighted by James, and at the end of 1686 was appointed attorney-general for Ireland, displacing a protestant who had held the office since the Restoration. In August 1687 Tyrconnel, who had then superseded Clarendon as viceroy, went to Chester with Nagle and Rice, and Bishop Cartwright entertained the party during James II's visit (Diary, pp. 73–5).

The anti-English interest in Ireland was strengthened by this meeting, and Nagle was active in the matter of the quo warrantos which destroyed the protestant corporations, often by means of mere legal quibbles (King, ch. iii. sec. v. p. 2). In the spring of 1688 Nagle joined in the attempt to force Doyle upon Trinity College, Dublin, as a fellow (ib. sec. xv. p. 2). A little later he was more friendly to the college (Stubbs, p. 127), but its protestant character would have been destroyed if James had succeeded. Outlawries arising out of the rebellion of 1641 were reversed wholesale, and Nagle told those who were in a hurry to sue for their confiscated estates ‘to have a little patience, perhaps they would come more easily’ (King, ch. iii. sec. xii. p. 2). He went to France about the end of 1688, and returned with James (Jacobite Narrative, p. 316), who landed at Kinsale 12 March 1688–1689. Means were at once taken to carry out the new policy. A parliament was called, which met in Dublin on 7 May, and Nagle sat for the county of Cork with Justin MacCarthy [q. v.] as a colleague. He was at once chosen speaker, and had a principal part in repealing the Acts of Settlement and Explanation, and in passing the great Act of Attainder, which deprived 2,455 landowners of their estates and vested them in the crown. King says that when Nagle presented the bill for the royal assent he remarked that many of these persons had been attainted on common fame. Pardons granted after 1 Nov. were made null and void, and the act was not published, but kept carefully secret, lest absentees should return within the specified time. We are told that James himself did not know what was in the act, that he had read without understanding it, thus destroying his own prerogative by mistake, and that he upbraided Nagle for deceiving him (King, ch. iii. sec. xii.). The attorney-general was also zealous in depriving protestants of their churches (ib. sec. xviii.), and in making the position of their clergy intolerable (ib. sec. xx.).

Schomberg landed at Carrickfergus in August, and advantage was taken of the subsequent mortality among his troops to tamper with them. A letter bearing Nagle's imprimatur, and perhaps written by him, was circulated among the soldiers reminding them of the fate of Sennacherib's host, and exhorting them to return to their legitimate king (Jacobite Narrative, p. 251). At Tyrconnel's request, James in September made Nagle his chief secretary as well as attorney-general, with Albeville for a colleague (Berwick, i. 360). After the Boyne, 1 July 1690, he was one of those who urged James's immediate flight to France. In the September following, if not sooner, he was at St. Germain with Tyrconnel and Rice, and returned with them to Galway in January 1690–1, bringing about 8,000l. and some inferior stores (Story, Cont. p. 51). Chief-justice Nugent acted as Jacobite secretary during his absence. After the battle of Aughrim in July following, and the consequent fall of Galway, Nagle remained at Limerick with Tyrconnel, who trusted him in the most secret matters (Macariæ Excidium, p. 109), and he remained in the city during the siege by Ginkel. Tyrconnel died on 14 Aug., and a commission from James was produced which left the wreck of his authority in the hands of Fitton, Nagle, and Francis Plowden, as lords justices, but without power in military matters (Jacobite Narrative, p. 155). After the surrender of Limerick they all three sailed together in the same vessel with Sarsfield on 22 Dec., and reached France in safety (ib. p. 191; Cardinal Moran, Spicilegium Ossoriense, ii. 303). With the title of secretary of state for Ireland Nagle was for a time one of the junto of five who ruled at the melancholy court of St. Germain (Clarke, ii. 411). He probably died abroad, but the date is uncertain. He had a large family, and one son at least was married in France to Margaret, younger daughter of Walter Bourke of Turlogh. Mr. Garrett Nagle, now a resident magistrate in Ireland, is Sir Richard's descendant.

Berwick (i. 360) says Nagle was a ‘very honest man, of good sense, and very clever in his profession, but not at all versed in affairs of state.’ At the beginning of 1686 Clarendon wrote of him as ‘the lawyer, a Roman Catholic, and a man of the best repute for learning as well as honesty among that people’ (Corresp. i. 273), and for some months after he often backs that opinion; but in his diary a year later is ‘sure that he is both a covetous and an ambitious man,’ and does not in the least believe his most solemn asseverations (ib. ii. 150).

[Archbishop King's State of the Protestants under James II, with Charles Leslie's Answer, 1692; Singer's Clarendon and Rochester Correspondence; Journal of the Parliament in Ireland, 1689; Clarke's Life of James II; Macariæ Excidium, or Destruction of Cyprus, ed. O'Callaghan; Bishop Cartwright's Diary (Camden Soc.); Stubbs's Hist. of Dubl. Univ.; Mémoires du Maréchal de Berwick, Collection Petitot and Monmerqué; Harris's Life of William III; Story's Hist. and Cont. 1693; Lodge's Peerage of Ireland, ed. Archdall; Jacobite Narrative, ed. Gilbert, from Lord Fingall's manuscript. This last is the work quoted by Macaulay as ‘light to the blind.’]

R. B-l.