Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/St. Lawrence, Christopher (d.1589)

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ST. LAWRENCE, Sir CHRISTOPHER, twentieth or more properly eighth, Baron Howth (d. 1589), commonly called the ‘Blind Earl,’ was the third son of Sir Christopher, seventeenth baron Howth, and younger brother of Edward and Sir Richard, eighteenth and nineteenth barons respectively. His grandfather was Nicholas St. Lawrence, sixteenth baron Howth [q. v.] On the death of Sir Richard in 1558 he succeeded to the family estates; but the title of baron was not confirmed to him and his heirs male by Elizabeth until 1561 (Cal. Carew MSS. i. 311). He appears to have sat in the first parliament of Elizabeth's reign, and he and Lord Slane were instrumental in inducing Shane O'Neill to repair to England. He himself paid a visit thither in December 1562 with letters of credit to the privy council, and returned to Ireland on 28 Feb. 1563. In 1565 he signed a memorial to the queen commending the government of Sir Nicholas Arnold, and he was knighted by Sir Henry Sidney at Drogheda on 9 Feb. 1569 in acknowledgment of the assistance he had rendered the deputy against Shane O'Neill (ib. ii. 148). Subsequently, however, he gave great offence by the part he played in the agitation of the Pale against cess in 1577–8 [see under Nugent, Sir Christopher, fourteenth Baron Delvin]. In his examination before the council he justified his conduct by declaring that, ‘having read the chronicles and laws,’ he was convinced that the imposition was unconstitutional. But after five months' confinement in the castle he consented to admit that he had no intention ‘to gainsay any part of the queen's prerogative,’ and acknowledged ‘that, in times of necessity, the queen may lay charge upon her subjects here as fully as in England;’ whereupon, having been sharply reprimanded for his undutiful behaviour, he was set at liberty (ib. ii. 133). The question was, however, revived in 1586, and it was mainly in consequence of the opposition offered by him and Lords Slane and Louth that an attempt of Sir John Perrot [q. v.] to induce parliament to consent to a composition for cess was defeated. He was induced to confess his fault, and seems to have become reconciled to Perrot, to whom he sent, shortly before his death, an ‘intermute gossawk.’ He died at Howth on 24 Oct. 1589, and was buried in the south aisle of the abbey. Over him is a monument in high relief, with the effigies, it is said, of him and his first wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Plunket of Beaulieu, co. Louth, though, as the inscription is now entirely obliterated, it is questionable whether they do not represent some earlier members of the family, conjecturally Christopher, thirteenth baron, and his wife (Lewis, Topogr. Dict. s.v. ‘Howth;’ Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, Irel. iii. 449). By his first wife St. Lawrence had Nicholas, his successor [see below], Thomas, and Leonard (Lodge; or, according to the pedigree in Harl. MS. 1425, f. 104, Richard, who married a daughter of Francis Corby of Queen's County, and Lionel, who married Ann Eustace), and three daughters, viz. Jane (d. 1577); Mary, who married Sir Patrick Barnwell of Turvey, and (?) Margaret. His second wife, by whom he had no issue, was Cecilia, second daughter of Henry Cusack, alderman of Dublin, who remarried, first, John Barnwell of Monctown, co. Meath, and, secondly, John Finglas of Westpalstown.

The well-known ‘Book of Howth’ (published by the master of the rolls), a compilation of considerable historical value, bears evidence of having belonged to him, and he may possibly have been the author of some of the concluding entries.

Sir Nicholas St. Lawrence, twenty-first, or more properly ninth, Baron Howth (1550?–1607), his eldest son, born about 1550, was knighted by Sir William Fitzwilliam in 1588; but he incurred some suspicion as a discontented person by the eagerness with which, two years later, he joined the Nugents in attacking Sir Robert Dillon, chief justice of the common pleas, for maladministration (Cal. State Papers, Ireland, Eliz. v. 98). He had the honour of entertaining the lord deputy, Sir William Russell [q. v.], for one night on his arrival in Ireland on 31 July 1594, and subsequently, in May 1595, attended him on an expedition against Fiagh MacHugh O'Byrne [q. v.], the outlaw of the Wicklow glens; and for his services on that occasion the deputy thought he deserved ‘some few words of thanks from her majesty.’ He earned the commendation of the Lords-justices Loftus and Gardiner for his promptness in obeying their order in 1598 to assemble the gentlemen of county Dublin ‘to consider of a course for some provision to be made for the soldiers intended to be laid at Naas under Sir Henry Bagenal.’ But his alacrity in this respect did not prevent him from complaining directly to Sir Robert Cecil, in October 1600, of the spoils committed by the soldiery upon the inhabitants of the Pale. Being a Roman catholic, though at one time he apparently conformed to the established church, he resented the increased rigour of the laws against his co-religionists that followed the accession of James I; and on 8 Dec. 1605 he signed a memorial to the Earl of Salisbury praying that the penal laws might be rather restrained than extended. He died early in May 1607, and was buried with his ancestors in the abbey of Howth. He married, first, Margaret or Allison, fifth daughter of Sir Christopher Barnwell of Turvey, by whom he had Sir Christopher (1568?–1619) [q. v.], his successor; Thomas, who served in the Spanish army in the Netherlands; and, according to Lodge, Richard and Mary (? Margaret), the wife of William Eustace of Castlemartin, co. Kildare. His second wife was Mary, daughter of Sir Nicholas White of Leixlip, master of the rolls, widow of Robert Browne of Mulrankan, co. Wexford, and also of Christopher Darcy of Platin, by whom he had, according to Harl. MS. 1425, f. 104, the above-mentioned Richard, Americ, Edward, Margaret (married to Viscount Gormanston), and Allison (married to a Luttrell).

[Lodge's Peerage, ed. Archdall, iii. 196–9; D'Alton's Hist. of Dublin, pp. 127–9; Cal. State Papers, Ireland, Eliz. i. 172, 175, 210, 213, 276, 318, ii. 115, 118, 129, iii. 10, 20, iv. 235, 415, 419, 576, v. 15–27, 98, 317, vii. 342, James I, i. 365, ii. 147; Cal. Carew MSS. i. 311, ii. 58, 133, 148, 354, iii. 62–84, 221, 228, 475; Cal. Fiants Eliz. Nos. 260, 542, 2117, 2345, 2445, 3601, 3657, 4515, 5134, 5342, 6044, 6692.]

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