Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wilmot, Charles

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WILMOT, Sir CHARLES, first Viscount Wilmot of Athlone (1570?–1644?), born about 1570, was son and heir of Edward Wilmot of Witney, Oxfordshire, formerly of Derwent, Gloucestershire. On 6 July 1587 he matriculated from Magdalen College, Oxford, aged 16, but left the university without a degree, and took service in the Irish wars, probably in attendance upon his neighbour, Sir Thomas Norris [q .v.], who was also a member of Magdalen College. In 1592 he became a captain, and early in 1595 he was sent to Newry; in the same year he was also in command of sixty foot at Carrickfergus. In 1597 Norris, now president of Munster, made Wilmot sergeant-major of the forces in that province, which office he discharged ‘with great valour and sufficiency,’ being promoted colonel in 1598. He was knighted by Essex at Dublin on 5 Aug. 1599, and on the 16th was sent with instructions to the council of Munster for its government during Norris's illness. On 23 June 1600 Mountjoy directed Carew to swear in Wilmot as a member of the Munster council, and during the next two years he took a prominent part in suppressing the formidable Irish rebellion.

In July 1600 Wilmot was left by Carew in command of ‘Carrygofoyle’ Castle on the Shannon; shortly afterwards he was given command of a force of 1,050 foot and fifty horse, with which in October he defeated Thomas Fitzmaurice, eighteenth lord Kerry and baron Lixnaw [q. v.], and in November captured Listowel Castle after sixteen days' siege. Florence Maccarthy Reagh [q. v.] is said to have urged Wilmot's assassination at this time, but he was warned by Florence's wife. On 8 Dec. he was granted the office of constable of Castlemaine Castle, and in July 1601 was appointed governor of Cork. A year later Carew left Munster, suggesting Wilmot's appointment as vice-president; Cecil, however, wrote that the queen would not ‘accept Wilmot or any such’ (Cal. Carew MSS. 1601–3, p. 274), but Wilmot became commander-in-chief of the forces during Carew's absence, and in September 1602 was made governor of Kerry; in the same month he captured ‘Mocrumpe,’ and throughout the winter was engaged in clearing Kerry of the rebels. In the last week of December and first week of January 1602–3 he inflicted a series of reverses upon the Irish in Beare and Bantry, completely overrunning the country (ib. 1602–3, pp. 368, 404–5; Stafford, Pacata Hibernia, ed. 1896, ii. 281–4). Thence, in February, he turned north-west, again captured Lixnaw, and subdued the Dingle peninsula, effecting a junction with Carew over the Mangerton pass (Bagwell, Ireland under the Tudors, iii. 420).

In the following March Wilmot was associated with Sir George Thornton in the government of Munster during Carew's absence. Cork, however, refused to acknowledge his authority and proclaim James I, and shut its gates against him. Wilmot sat down before it, and turned his guns on the inhabitants to prevent their demolishing the forts erected against the Spaniards. He refused, however, to attack the city, and waited till Carew's return, when its submission was arranged. Wilmot now settled down as governor of Kerry. In 1606 he was again acting with Thornton as joint-commissioner for the government of Munster, and in November 1607 was granted a pension of 200l., and sworn of the Irish privy council. On 20 May 1811 he was granted in reversion the marshalship of Ireland, but surrendered it on 24 Aug. 1617. He sat in the English House of Commons for Launceston from 5 April to 17 June 1614. On 3 June 1616 he was appointed president of Connaught, the seat of his government being Athlone; and on 4 Jan. 1620–1 he was created Viscount Wilmot of Athlone in the peerage of Ireland. Among the rewards for his services were grants of the monastery of Ballinglass and abbey of Carrickfergus in 1614.

While president of Connaught Wilmot embarked on a scheme for completely rebuilding Athlone; and in 1621 Sir Charles Coote accused him of leasing and alienating crown lands and reserving the profits to himself (Cal. State Papers, Ireland, 1615–25, pp. 436–7). These charges were referred to commissioners, but Wilmot's defence was accepted for the time being, and on 7 Nov. 1625 he received a pardon (Morrin, Cal. Patent Rolls, Charles I, p. 41). Charles I also renewed his appointment as president of Connaught, and in October 1627 selected him as commander of a relief expedition to be sent to Rhé. His fleet was, however, delayed at Plymouth, first by want of supplies, and then by storms, which damaged the ships and drove them back into port. Meanwhile the English at La Rochelle had been compelled to retreat (Gardiner, vi. 191–192 sqq.), and Wilmot returned to Ireland, where he was appointed on 6 Nov. 1629 general and commander-in-chief of the forces. On 11 Sept. 1630 Sir Roger Jones, first viscount Ranelagh, was associated with him in the presidency of Connaught, and on 6 Aug. 1631 he was one of the commissioners appointed to govern Dublin and Leinster during the absence of the lords justices.

In 1631, when it was resolved to supersede the lords justices of Ireland by the nomination of a lord deputy, Wilmot entertained hopes of being selected for the post (Strafford Letters, i. 61). Wentworth's appointment he resented as a slight on his own long services, and the new lord-deputy's vigorous inquisition into financial abuses soon brought him into collision with Wilmot. In September 1634 the latter's proceedings at Athlone were again called in question; a commission of inquiry was issued early in 1635, and the Irish law officers instituted suits against Wilmot before the castle chamber on the ground of misdemeanour and in the court of exchequer for recovery of the crown lands he had alienated. Wilmot, in revenge, abetted Barr's petition against Wentworth (ib. i. 369, 377, 399, 402, 421), but on 3 Oct. 1635 was forced to submit, and on 13 July 1636 besought the lord-deputy's favour. Wentworth insisted on restitution of the crown lands, but apparently failed to make Wilmot disgorge before his recall from Ireland. Wilmot's age prevented his serving against the Irish rebels in 1641, but he retained his joint-presidency of Connaught till his death, probably in the early part of 1644. He was alive on 29 June 1643, but dead before April 1644, when his son Henry and Sir Charles Coote were appointed joint-presidents of Connaught (Lascelles, Liber Mun. Hib. ii. 188–90).

Wilmot married, first, about 1605, Sarah, fourth daughter of Sir Henry Anderson, sheriff of London in 1601–2; by her, whose burial on 8 Dec. 1615 is registered both at St. Olave's Jewry and at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, he had issue three sons—Arthur, Charles, and Henry—who were all living in 1631 (Morrin, Cal. Patent Rolls, Charles I, p. 645). Arthur married the second daughter of Sir Moyses Hill, provost-marshal of Ulster, but died without issue on 31 Oct. 1632, and was buried in St. Nicholas's Church, Dublin (Lodge, Peerage of Ireland, ii. 321). Charles also died without issue, the third son, Henry (afterwards first Earl of Rochester) [q. v.], succeeding to the viscountcy. Wilmot married, secondly, Mary, daughter of Sir Henry Colley of Castle Carberry and widow of Garret, first viscount Moore [q. v.] , who died in 1627; she survived till 3 June 1654, being buried on 3 July with her first husband in St. Peter's, Drogheda; her correspondence with the parliamentarians during the Irish wars gave Ormonde some trouble (Gilbert, Cont. Hist. of Affairs, vol. ii. pp. xix–xx).

[Cal. State Papers, Ireland, 1592–8, 1603–1625 passim; Cal. Carew MSS. 1589–1603; Strafford Letters, i. 61, 369, 377, 399–402, 421–423, 496, ii. 9–10, 81–2, 102, 205, 280; Morrin's Cal. Patent Rolls, Ireland; Cal. Fiants (Dep.-Keeper Rec. 17th Rep., Ireland); Cal. State Papers, Dom.; Lascelles's Liber Munerum Hibernicorum; Lords' Journals, Ireland, i. 17, 63; Rawlinson MS. B. 84, ff. 12, 92; Egerton MS. 2597, f. 51; Official Returns Members of Parl.; Stafford's Pacata Hibernia, ed. 1896 passim; Bagwell's Ireland under the Tudors, vol. iii.; Gardiner's Hist. of England; Foster's Alumni Oxon, 1500–1714; Lodge's Irish, Burke's Extinct, and G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerages.]

A. F. P.