Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Nugent, Richard (d.1538?)

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NUGENT, RICHARD, twelfth Baron Nugent (d. 1538?), was son and successor to Christopher, eleventh baron, by Elizabeth or Anne, daughter of Robert Preston, first viscount Gormanston [see under Nugent, Sir Richard, d. 1460?]. He succeeded his father as twelfth Baron Delvin in 1493. He had summonses to the Irish parliament in 1486, 1490, 1493, and 1498. But in 1498, when the parliament was summoned to meet at Castle Dermott on 28 Aug., Lord Delvin neglected to appear, and was fined 40s. for non-attendance. His loyalty to the English crown was very strict, and he was constituted, on 25 June 1496, by the lords justices and council, commander and leader-in-chief of all the forces destined for the defence of Dublin, Meath, Kildare, and Louth from the attacks of the native Irish. In 1504, when Gerald, eighth earl of Kildare, the lord-deputy, marched against the lord of Clanricarde, who had formed a confederacy of several Irish chiefs in opposition to the royal authority, Delvin accompanied the earl. At a council of war held by the lord-deputy within twenty miles east of Knocktough, where a battle was to be fought, Delvin promised ‘to God and to the prince’ that he would ‘be the first that shall throw the first spear among the Irish in this battle.’ ‘According, a little before the joining of the battle (in which he commanded the horse), he spurred his horse, and threw a small spear among the Irish, with which he chanced to kill one of the Burkes, and retired’ (Lodge). The battle of Knocktough, or Cnoc Tuagh, resulted in a decisive victory for Kildare and his companions. In 1505 Delvin was entrusted with the custody of the manors of Belgard and Foure. In 1515 the lord-deputy appointed him a justice of the peace in Meath, and seven years later he joined the council. He signed the letter addressed by the council of Ireland to Wolsey on 28 Feb. 1522, thanking him for the care he was taking of Ireland, and begging that five or six ships might be sent to keep the sea betwixt them and the Scots, as they were afraid that, in consequence of the departure of the Earl of Surrey and the king's army, the Irish rebels would receive help from Scotland, and prove too strong. When in 1524 an indenture was drawn up between the king and the Earl of Kildare, the earl promised not to ‘procure, stir, nor maintain any war against the Earl of Ormond, the Baron of Delvin, nor Sir William D'Arcy’ (State Papers, Ireland). In 1527 Delvin, on the departure of Kildare from Ireland, was nominated lord-deputy, and for a time conducted the government with success. But in 1528 Archbishop Inge and Lord-chief-justice Bermingham reported to Wolsey that the vice-deputy had not the power to defend the English from the raids of the native Irish; but, notwithstanding this inability, the people were far more charged and oppressed by him than they had been under the Earl of Kildare. They ascribed Delvin's weakness to the fact that he was not possessed of any great lands of his own. The writers mention that the council had divers times advised the vice-deputy to beware especially of the Irish chief, Brian O'Connor (fl. 1520–1560) [q. v.], and to pay him the subsidy that he and his predecessors had long received rather than to run into further danger of war. Despite this advice, when in 1528 the Irish chief was preying on the borders of the Pale, the vice-deputy ordered a yearly rent due to him out of certain lands in Meath to be withheld. This procedure led to a conference on 12 May, at the castle of Rathin in that county, belonging to Sir William D'Arcy, when, by stratagem, the vice-deputy was seized and detained a close prisoner at O'Conor's house. Many of the vice-deputy's men were slain, wounded, and made prisoners in endeavouring to rescue him. On 15 May the council of Ireland reported the misfortune to Wolsey. Walter Wellesley of Dangan Castle and Sir Walter Delahyde of Moyclare were subsequently deputed to expostulate with O'Conor, and to procure Delvin's liberation; but all arguments proved ineffectual. Another lord-deputy was appointed to administer the government, and Lord Delvin remained in confinement until O'Conor's pension was restored to him, by order of the government, on the following 25 Feb.

Delvin was again governor of Ireland for eight weeks in June, July, and August 1534, during the absence in England of the Earl of Kildare. When in 1535 Thomas FitzGerald, tenth earl of Kildare, ‘Silken Thomas,’ threw off his allegiance to the English crown, Delvin was nominated by Lord-deputy Skeffington (13 March 1535) to take charge, with others, of the garrisons at Trim, Kenles (Kells?), Navan, and Westmeath. Delvin signed the letter to Henry VIII, dated from the camp (27 Aug. 1535), giving an account of the final surrender of O'Conor and FitzGerald. On 21 May 1536 Lord Leonard Grey, writing to Cromwell, described the lord-treasurer and the Baron of Delvin ‘as the best captains of the Englishry, except the Earl of Ossory, who cannot take such pains as they’ (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, Foreign and Dom.), and Delvin on this account was refused a license to visit the king in England on business of his own. In 1536 Robert Cowley, in sending to Cromwell a scheme for the ‘readopting’ of the king's dominion in Ireland, recommended that, should all the native Irish join O'Conor, Delvin and his son, with six hundred men, should be entrusted with winning Athlone, and making war on O'Melaghlyn, McGoghegan, and others (ib.) In August 1536 Lord James Butler wrote to Cromwell, reporting that Delvin had failed to come to the hosting in Limerick. In October 1536 Delvin received a reward of 26l. 13s. 4d. for his military services. When in June 1537 a new expedition was decreed against the rebel O'Conor, the army was met at the king's manor of Rathwere by Delvin, who accompanied the deputy on the march to O'Conor's country, and advised the invasion of the countries of Omulmoy, McGoghegan, and O'Melaghlyn, adherents of O'Conor. Subsequently Delvin attacked O'Conor, and besieged and razed the strong castle of Dangan (ib.) In 1537 Robert Cowley informed Cromwell that Delvin and his sons were the most worthy for their truth, power, and ability of any in the land to protect the marches of the English Pale. In December Delvin accompanied the deputy in pursuit of the traitor Brian O'Connor, through McGoghegan's country to Offaly.

But Delvin was held by some competent observers to be in part personally responsible for the grievances which led to the dissatisfaction of the native Irish. He permitted the ‘taking of coyne and livery,’ which was declared to be the root of all disorders in Ireland. He probably died when on an expedition against O'Conor early in February 1538. St. Leger, in writing to Wriothesley on 10 Feb., says ‘the Baron of Delvin, who was one of the best marchers of this country, is departed to God’ (State Papers). It was stated that the scandalous words of Lord Leonard Grey, the deputy in the camp, and the ‘reproacheous handeling of the late Baron of Delvin, was a great cause of the death of the said baron.’ Grey called Delvin a traitor, and constrained the king's subjects to pass over a great water ‘overflowen,’ where their horses did swim, whereof divers took their death (ib.) In June 1538 Aylmer and Alen, in their articles of accusation against Lord Leonard Grey, assert that, in the hosting against O'Conor, Grey took horses from Delvin and others, and gave them to their Irish enemies. From Lord Delvin's will, set out in the inquisition taken in 1538, it appears that Drakestown formed part of the estates of the family. Archdall states that Delvin was of great age at the time of his death, and that his services to his country are briefly summed up in this distich:

In patria natus, patriæ prodesse laboro,
Viribus in castris consiliisque domi.

By his wife Isabella, daughter of Thomas FitzGerald, son of Thomas, seventh earl of Kildare, he left two sons. From Sir Christopher, the elder, descended the Nugents, earls of Westmeath (through Christopher, fourteenth baron Delvin [q. v.]), the Nugents of Coolamber, co. Longford, the Nugents of Ballina, and the Nugents of Farrenconnell, co. Cavan; from his younger son, Sir Thomas of Carlanstown, Robert, earl Nugent [q. v.] (ancestor in the female line to the Dukes of Buckingham, who were Earls Nugent in the peerage of Ireland) derived descent.

[Historical Sketch of the Nugent Family, 1853, printed by J. C. Lyons; Burke's Peerage; Lodge's Peerage, ed. Archdall, i. 227–8; Pedigree of the Nugent Family by D'Alton; Cal. of State Papers, Ireland, 1509–73; Letters and Papers of Henry VIII; Gilbert's Viceroys of Ireland.]

W. W. W.