Stewart, William (1653-1692) (DNB00)

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STEWART, Sir WILLIAM, first Viscount Mountjoy (1653–1692), only son of Sir Alexander Stewart, was born six weeks after the death of his father, who fell fighting against Cromwell at Dunbar on 3 Sept. 1653. His grandfather, Sir William Stewart (d. 1662), was an undertaker for the plantation of Ulster, sat in the Irish parliament for co. Donegal, 1613–15, was created a baronet on 2 May 1623, and served with distinction against the Irish rebels, 1641–2 [cf. art. Stewart, Sir Robert]. The grandson was heir to much property in Donegal and Tyrone, and his wardship was given in 1660 to Sir Arthur Forbes, created earl of Granard, who had married his mother. In 1662 he succeeded his grandfather as second baronet. In 1675 he was appointed a commissioner for managing claims under the acts of settlement and explanation by protestant officers who served before 5 June 1649. In 1678 he was made custos rotulorum of co. Donegal. Although his father had been a presbyterian, the son was somewhat active against the ministers of that persuasion (Reid, Hist. of Irish Presbyterians, ed. Killen, ii. 339). By patent dated 19 March 1682–3 he was created Baron of Ramelton and Viscount Mountjoy, and on 9 May 1684 was made master-general of the ordnance for life. He was also colonel of a regiment of foot and a privy councillor (Hist. MSS. Comm. 14th Rep. App. vii. 358).

The accession of James II made no immediate difference in Mountjoy's position. Clarendon describes him as ‘very industrious in the king's service’ (Clarendon and Rochester Correspondence, i. 249), and recommends him to Evelyn and others as ‘an encourager of ingenuity’ (ib. p. 251). Mountjoy went to England in 1686, and Clarendon charged him to represent the pitiful state of arms and stores in Ireland. Among other things, the muskets were of many different bores (ib. p. 547). Mountjoy intended to return in two months, but was induced to volunteer for foreign service, much to the disgust of Clarendon (ib. p. 407), who regarded him as a check on Tyrconnel's growing power [see Talbot, Richard, (d. 1691)]. He was dangerously wounded at the capture of Buda by the imperialists on 2 Sept. 1686.

Returning to Ireland in 1687, Mountjoy was made a brigadier-general, with the pay of 497l. 10s. a year. Clarendon was gone, and Tyrconnel, as viceroy in his stead, was busy discharging protestant soldiers and replacing them by Roman catholic recruits. Mountjoy's regiment was quartered at Londonderry when William landed in Torbay. It had been less interfered with than others, and still consisted largely of protestants. Had it remained stationary, the famous siege might never have taken place; but Tyrconnel removed it to Dublin, to replace the Irish troops sent to help James in England. Londonderry was thus without a garrison at the critical moment. The anonymous letter to Lord Mount Alexander on 3 Dec. 1688 is now admitted to have been a hoax, but it put the protestants on their guard. Mountjoy was a tory of the passive obedience kind, and was inclined to put up with almost anything from his lawful king; but circumstances were too strong for him as for other protestants. On 7 Dec. the Londonderry apprentices, moved by an uncontrollable impulse, shut their gates against Lord Antrim's men. The graver citizens accepted the situation with many qualms, and invited Mountjoy's intercession in an apologetic letter (Witherow, Derry and Enniskillen, p. 39). The Roman catholics all left the town, and protestant guards were established.

As soon as the news reached Dublin, Tyrconnel burned his wig in a rage, and despatched Mountjoy and Robert Lundy [q. v.], with six companies, to the scene of action. Mountjoy halted at Omagh, and sent a message to Londonderry. Representatives of the citizens came to him at Raphoe, and afterwards the acting-governor, George Philips [q. v.], and others met him near St. Johnstown with full powers. They demanded a protestant garrison and a full pardon under the great seal. Mountjoy demurred, and it was not without some debate that he was admitted unattended within the walls. Philips resigned the governorship in his favour. On the 21st Mountjoy bound himself by articles with the town to procure a general pardon for the inhabitants of Ulster within fifteen days. Two companies only of his regiment—and these all, or nearly all, protestants—were to be admitted until after 1 March, and even then at least one half of the garrison were to be of the same religion. Mountjoy's two sons were to remain within the walls as hostages, and the two companies, if withdrawn, were to be replaced by armed citizens (ib. App. p. 3). The soldiers were then admitted, and Lundy became governor.

From Londonderry Mountjoy went to Newtown-Stewart, where delegates from Enniskillen met him. He told them that they were too weak to resist, and that they must receive a garrison and trust to the king's protection. Allen Cathcart ‘sharply replied that he could not protect himself’ (McCarmick, Enniskillen). Mountjoy, after some reflection, said he would go to Enniskillen himself, cautioning the inhabitants to shed no blood in the meantime. Before he could carry out his resolution he was summoned by Tyrconnel to Dublin.

As a trusted leader of the protestants, with some knowledge of war, Mountjoy was in Tyrconnel's way, and he persuaded him to go to France on 10 Jan. 1688–9 with Sir Stephen Rice [q. v.] Mountjoy refused to sail until Tyrconnel promised ‘upon his word and honour’ that no more levies should be made, no additional troops sent into Ulster, no more arms issued, and no fresh commissions signed until King James's pleasure should be known. Tyrconnel did everything that he had promised not to do. Mountjoy was commissioned to tell James that Ireland was untenable, and that the viceroy considered it so; while Rice had secret orders to denounce his colleague as a traitor. Tyrconnel's admirers considered this ‘a wise and seasonable dissimulation’ (Jacobite Narrative, ed. Gilbert, p. 43).

On his arrival at Paris Mountjoy was thrown into the Bastille. ‘If your majesty,’ wrote Avaux to Louis XIV, on 23 April 1689, ‘had not ordered the arrest of Lord Mountjoy, and had allowed him to leave France, as the king of England wished, the latter would never have been master of Ireland, Lord Mountjoy having great power there throughout the whole north.’ Mountjoy's life appointment as master of the ordnance was given to Justin Maccarthy, titular viscount Mountcashel [q. v.], and he was included in James's great act of attainder (7 May 1689) as not appearing in Ireland on the appointed day, although he was in the Bastille, and although he had gone to Paris by the viceroy's orders. After the battle of Newtown-Butler it was proposed to exchange him for Maccarthy, but the latter escaped. Ultimately, but not till 1692, Mountjoy was exchanged for Richard Hamilton [q. v.] He had had enough of passive obedience, joined William's army as a volunteer, and was killed at Steenkirk on 3 Aug. following. Mountjoy married Mary Coote, daughter of the first Lord Colooney. By her he had several children, of whom the eldest son, William, succeeded him as second Viscount Mountjoy (see Lodge, Peerage, vi. 253–4). Clarendon, who was of the same political school, gives Mountjoy a high character (Correspondence, ii. 241, 251); and Avaux, who had no prejudices, calls him ‘bon officier et homme d'esprit.’

[Lodge's Irish Peerage, ed. Archdall, vol. vi.; Lascelles's Liber Munerum Publicorum Hiberniæ; King's State of the Protestants under James II; Négociations de M. le Comte d'Avaux en Irlande; Burnet's Own Time; Macaulay's Hist. of England, chapters xii. and xix.]

R. B-l.