Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Esmonde, Laurence
ESMONDE, Sir LAURENCE, Lord Esmonde (1570?–1646), governor of Duncannon, was the second son of Walter Esmonde of Johnstown, co. Wexford, and his wife Margaret, daughter of Michael Furlong of Horetown. Becoming a convert to protestantism he served with credit against Spain in the Low Countries. In 1599 he was appointed to the command of 150 foot, and was actively engaged during the rebellion of Hugh, earl of Tyrone; and it appears from a letter of his to the Earl of Shrewsbury that he even endeavoured to procure the assassination or banishment of Tyrone, but in this he was unsuccessful. His services were, however, rewarded with the honour of knighthood. During one of his expeditions into Connaught he fell in love with the sister of Morrough O'Flaherty, whom he married; but the lady was as remarkable for her orthodoxy as for her personal charms, and fearing lest her infant son might be brought up a protestant, she fled with him to her family in Connaught. Esmonde thereupon repudiated her and married Elizabeth, daughter of the Hon. Walter Butler, fourth son of James, ninth earl of Ormonde (Burke, Extinct Peerage; Kilkenny Archæological Journal, 1856–7; Carew Cal. iv. 93, 397; Russell and Prendergast, Irish Cal. iii. 379). In December 1606 he succeeded Sir Josias Bodley as governor of the important fort of Duncannon, a post which he continued to hold till his death in 1646. In 1611, the lord deputy Chichester having projected a plantation in Wexford, he and Sir Edward Fisher were appointed to survey the confiscated territory, and for his services he was rewarded with a grant of fifteen hundred acres. In 1618 it was discovered that great frauds had been practised, and in consequence a number of natives were restored to the lands from which they had been wrongfully ousted. In 1619, having purchased a grant of certain lands in Wicklow from Sir Patrick Maule, he became involved in it transaction known as the case of Phelim MacPheagh O'Byrne, which, however we regard it, certainly reflected the utmost discredit on him. He was charged with packing juries and torturing witnesses in order to wrest the land out of the possession of the O'Byrnes (Irish Cal. ii. 44, iii. 531, iv. 452, v. 124; Carte, Ormonde, i. 27–32; Gilbert, History of the Confederation, i. 167–217; Hickson, Irish Massacres, i. 24–8, 38–46, ii. 263–75; Gardiner History of England, chap. lxxv.) Owning large property in Wexford, Waterford, Kilkenny, and Tipperary, he was created Lord Esmonde, Baron of Limerick, co. Wexford, on 20 May 1622. In 1639 he was summoned before the Star-chamber for having conspired with Lord Mountnorris and Sir Piers Crosby to libel the lord deputy Wentworth in the matter of one Robert Esmonde, whose death they laid to his charge (Irish Cal. ii. 71; Rushworth, iii. 888–902; State Papers, Dom. ccccxx. 36), After the outbreak of the great rebellion he seems to have tried to maintain a neutral position between the king and the parliament; but the suspicions of the confederates having been aroused by the fact that many of his officers and soldiers were roundheads and had broken the Cessation, they advised Ormonde 'to have a care of the fort of Duncannon.' But that nobleman being unable or unwilling to interfere, and the defection of Lord Inchiquin coming as a warning, General Preston laid siege to Duncannon in January 1646. The place was 'extremely decayed with age;' but though 'the governor was old and unable to act anything in this exigence,' 'the defendants behaved themselves exceeding well.' The death of Captain Lorcan, however, so discouraged them that they beat a parley, and without consulting Esmonde surrendered the fort on St. Patrick's day. Next day a relief force from the parliament appeared in the river, but finding the place in the enemies' hands immediately sailed away. Esmonde, surviving the surrender of Duncannon two months, died at Adamstown, and was buried at Limerick in a church he had himself built. He is said to have been a man of 'sanguine complexion, of an indifferent tall stature, compact, solid, corpulent body, with robustious limbs.' Not having issue by his second wife, he bequeathed his immense property to Thomas Esmonde, the son of his first wife.
[Carte's Ormonde, i. 514, 528; Letters ccliii, cclviii, cclxxxiii. ccclxxvii.; Journals of the House of Lords, v. 245; Desiderata Curiosa Hibernica, ii. ii. 276; Contemporary History of Affairs in Ireland, ed. Gilbert, i. 16. 102–4; Rinnocini MS. ii. 680–6; Account of the Barony of Forth, ed. H. F. Hore, Kilkenny Archæeological Journal, 1852; Irish MS., Chetham Library, 494; Cromwell's Letters, 14 Oct. 1649.]