Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Forbes, Arthur

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FORBES, Sir ARTHUR, first Earl of Granard (1623–1696), eldest son of Sir Arthur Forbes of Corse in Aberdeenshire (who went to Ireland in 1620 with the Master of Forbes's regiment, of which he was lieutenant-colonel, and was granted large estates in Leitrim and Longford by James I), by Jane, daughter of Sir Robert Lauder of the Isle of Bass, and widow of Sir Alexander Hamilton of Killeshandra, co. Cavan, a lady of singular ability and courage, was born in 1623, and at an early age exhibited conspicuous spirit and ability. His father was killed in a duel in 1632, and he was trained entirely under his mother's care. During the rebellion of 1641 she was besieged in Castle Forbes, the family seat, for nine months, and Forbes raised men for her relief, though only eighteen years old. He is next heard of in Scotland, serving under Montrose in the cause of Charles I. On the defeat of Montrose in 1645 he was taken prisoner, and for two years confined in Edinburgh Castle. On his release he still embraced every opportunity to aid the fallen fortunes of the Stuarts, but, all efforts to restore them failing, he returned to Ireland in 1655. In 1660 he was sent to Charles at Breda to assure him that if he would only go over to Ireland the whole kingdom would declare for him. At the Restoration he was appointed a commissioner of the court of claims in Ireland, and received additional grants of land in Westmeath. In 1661 he entered parliament as member for the family borough of Mullingar. In 1663 he did good service in the north of Ireland by nipping in the bud efforts there in support of Blood's plot. Honours now flowed rapidly in on him. In 1670 he was sworn of the Irish privy council, and appointed marshal and commander-in-chief of the army. In 1671 he was one of the lords justices. On several subsequent occasions he held the same post. In 1672 he was the means of rendering to the presbyterian church of Ireland, of which he was an attached member, an important service, by procuring for it the first grant of regium donum, which that body continued to enjoy until the passing of the Irish Church Act in 1869, with the exception of a short interval. Kirkpatrick, in his ‘Presbyterian Loyalty,’ gives an account of his action in this matter, which, he says, came ‘from Sir Arthur Forbes's own mouth,’ to the effect that he (Forbes) being in London, the king inquired of him as to the welfare of the Irish presbyterian ministers, of whose loyalty and sufferings in his cause he had often heard. Forbes having told him that ‘they lived in no great plenty,’ the king said ‘that there was 1,200l. a year in the settlement of the revenue of Ireland which he had not yet disposed of, but designed it for a charitable use, and he knew not how to dispose of it better than by giving it to these ministers.’ It subsequently appeared that only 600l. was available for the purpose, and at this figure the grant was made to Forbes (Presbyterian Loyalty, p. 384).

In 1675 he was created Baron Clanehugh and Viscount Granard. In 1684 he raised the 18th regiment of foot, and was made colonel thereof, and in the same year was advanced to the dignity of Earl of Granard. James II, when he came to the throne, endeavoured to make use of his services for the promotion of the interests of Romanism, but Granard could not be induced to betray his fellow-protestants. He was accordingly removed from the command of the army, Tyrconnel being put in his place. When James's Dublin parliament passed the acts of repeal and attainder, he boldly remonstrated with the king. Finding his arguments vain, he went to the House of Lords, entered his solemn protest against these measures, and retired to Castle Forbes. Here he was besieged by the Irish, but in vain. When William went over to Ireland, no one welcomed him more heartily than Granard. He was placed by the king in command of a force of five thousand men for the reduction of Sligo, the surrender of which he secured. This was his last public service. His closing years were spent quietly at Castle Forbes, where he died in 1696.

He married Catherine, daughter of Sir Robert Newcomen of Mosstown, co. Longford, and widow of Sir Alexander Stewart, ancestor of the Mountjoy family, by whom he had five sons and one daughter.

[Forbes's Memoirs of the Earls of Granard; Kirkpatrick's Historical Essay upon the Loyalty of Presbyterians; Adair's True Narrative; Reid's History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.]

T. H.