Dillon, Robert (1500?-1580) (DNB01)

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DILLON, Sir ROBERT (1500?–1580), Irish judge, born about 1500, was third son of James Dillon of Riverston, and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Bartholomew Bathe of Dullardstown. His eldest brother, Sir Bartholomew Dillon (d. 1534), was grandfather of Sir Robert Dillon (d. 1597) [q. v. Suppl.] of Riverston, and also, like his great-uncle, chief justice of common pleas.

The elder Robert was bred to the law, and, doubtless through family influence, was on 9 June 1534 appointed attorney-general for Ireland (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, vii. 922 [2]). He held this office for eighteen years, only leaving it on his promotion to the bench, and always accommodating himself to changes of government. He assisted Henry VIII in the dissolution of the Irish monasteries, receiving on 22 Dec. 1538 the site of St. Peter's priory, Newton, co. Westmeath, and on 20 March 1545-6 the site of the Carmelite monastery at Athnecarne in the same county. Dillon made Newton his principal seat, and his family were always called Dillons of Newton to distinguish them from their cousins, the Dillons of Riverston. On 17 Jan. 1553-4 Dillon was appointed second justice of the queen's bench, and during Mary's reign was placed on various commissions for the government of Ireland. His appointment was renewed by Elizabeth on 9 Jan. 1558-9, but on 3 Sept. following he was promoted to be chief justice of the court of common pleas. Dillon is said (Lodge, Peerage, ed. Archdall, iv. 154) to have been speaker of the House of Commons during Elizabeth's reign; but James Stanihurst was speaker in both the parliaments of 1560 and that of 1569. On 1 March 1574-5 Elizabeth expressed her intention of sending over an Englishman to supply Dillon's place, on account of his great age, but the chief justice retained his office until his death in April 1580, being succeeded by his great-nephew Robert.

Dillon married Genet, daughter of Edward Barnewell of Crickstown, and grand-daughter of Sir Thomas Plunket (d. 1471), chief justice of common pleas; by her he had issue four sons and three daughters; the eldest son, Sir Lucas Dillon, is separately noticed.

[Cal. Fiants, Henry VIII to Elizabeth, passim; Cal. State Papers, Ireland; Cal. Carew MSS.; Hist. MSS. Comm. 15th Rep. App. iii.; Lascelles's Liber Mun. Hib.; Smyth's Law Officers of Ireland; Bagwell's Ireland under the Tudors; Lodge's Peerage, ed. Archdall, iv. 154.]

A. F. P.