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NOTICE OF THE EARL OF BLESSINGTON-HIS ORIGIN, EARLY
CAREER, FIRST AND SECOND MARRIAGE, ETC.
The first Earl of Blessington was a descendant of the Walter Stewart, or Steward, who, “on account of his high descent, and being the nearest branch of the royal family of Scotland,” we are told by Lodge, * was created Seneschal, or Lord High Stuart of Scotland, or Receiver of the Royal Revenues, from which office his family afterwards took and retained their surname of Stewart.” This office and dignity were created by Malcolm the Third, of Scotland, after the death of Macduffe, in 1057. The descendants of the Lord High Constable became the founders of the house of Lenox, and one of them, by intermarriage with the daughter of King Robert Bruce, the founder of many noble families in England and Ireland. The first Stewart of this race who settled in Ireland, was Sir William Stewart, of Aughentean and of Newtown Stewart, in the county of Tyrone, and his brother, Sir Robert Stewart, of Culmore, knights, “ both very active and able gentlemen, in the distracted times of King Charles the First.” Sir Robert came into Ireland in the reign of James the First. He received from that monarch, for his Irish services, various grants of rectories and other church property in Leitrim, Cavan, and Fermanagh, and subsequently a large tract of country of the confiscated lands of Ulster were obtained by his brother William. In 1641, he raised and com
* Irish Peerage, vol. ii. p. 196, ed. 8vo. 1754.
manded a troop of horse and a regiment of foot of one thousand men. He was made Governor of Derry in 1643, and in that year totally routed the Irish under Owen O'Neill, at Clones. He and his brother having refused to take the covenant, were deprived of their command, and sent by Monck's orders prisoners to London. After many vicissitudes, Sir Robert returned to Ireland, and was appointed Governor of the city and county of Derry in 1660. Sir William “ being in great favour with James the First, became an undertaker for the plantation of escheated lands in Ulster.” He was created a baronet in 1623. He assisted largely in the plantation of Ulster, and profited extensively by it. He was a member of the Privy Council in the time of King James the First and Charles the First. At the head of his regiment, he, with his brother's aid, routed Sir Phelim O'Neill at Strabane. He left many children; his eldest son,
, Sir Alexander Stewart, sided with the Covenanters, in 1648. He was killed at the battle of Dunbar, in Scotland, in 1653. By his marriage with a daughter of Sir Robert Newcomen, he had issue Sir William Stewart, who was made Custos Rotulorum of the county of Donegal, in 1678, and was advanced to the dignity of Baron Stewart of Ramaltan, and Viscount Mountjoy, in 1682, being constituted at the same time Master-General of the Ordnance, and Colonel of a regiment of horse.
William Stewart, first Viscount Mountjoy, was slain at the battle of Steinkirk, in Flanders, in 1692.
He was succeeded by his son, William, Viscount Mountjoy, who died in Bourdeaux, without issue.
Alexander, brother of the preceding William, died during the lifetime of his brother, leaving an only daughter.
The Right Honourable Luke Gardiner, Member of Parliament and Privy Councillor, married, in 1711, Anne, sole daughter and heiress of the Honourable Alexander Stewart, second son of William, first Viscount Mountjoy.*
* Exshaw's London Magazine, 1754, p. 259.
Lord Primate Boulter recommended Mr. Luke Gardiner as a fit and proper person to be made a Privy Councillor. His views of fitness for that high office led him to look out for a sturdy parvenu of Irish descent, without regard to ancestry, who was capable of curbing the degenerate lords of the English pale, and gentlemen in Parliament descended from English undertakers, too influential to be easily managed, who had become “Hiberniores quam Hibernis Ipsis ;” in a few words, “such a one as Mr. Gardiner, to help to keep others in order," in the Privy Council.
Primate Boulter, in a communication to the English minister, recommending Mr. Gardiner, said:
“ There is another affair which I troubled the Duke of Dorset about, and which I beg leave to lay before your Grace which is the making Mr. Gardiner a Privy Councillor. He is deputy to the Vice-Treasurer of this kingdom, and one of the most useful of his Majesty's servants here, as your Grace, will be fully satisfied when you do us the honour to be with us. There is nobody here more against increasing the number of Privy Councillors than I am, who think they are by much too numerous; but it is because many have been brought in without any knowledge of business, or particular attachment to his Majesty's service, merely for being members of either house of Parliament, that we want such a one as Mr. Gardiner to help to keep others in order, as he is most zealously attached to his Majesty by affection as well as by interest, and is a thorough man of business, and of great weight in the country.”*
* Luke Gardiner's generally supposed origin and rise in the world from a menial station in the service of Mr. White, of Leixlip Castle, a descendant of Sir Nicholas White, the owner and occupier of the castle in 1666, were subjects of some satirical pasquinades and witticisms in the early part of the last century. In reference to his alleged former servile situation, it was said that a noble friend of his in embarrassed circumstances, once observed to him, on seeing him enter his carriage, “ How does it happen, Gardiner, you never make a mis. take, and get up behind ?" To which Gardiner replied, " Some people, my lord, who have been long accustomed to going in, remain at last on the outside, and can neither get in, nor up again.”
The practice of making Jews officers of the Inquisition, was thought to have worked well in Spain, and to have served to keep the grandees in order.
Luke Gardiner died at Bath in 1753, and was succeeded in his estates by his son, Charles Gardiner, who, on the demise of his maternal grandfather (when the male line of the Stewart family ceased), succeeded to all the property of the late lord. He married in 1741, and at his death left several children.
His eldest son, the Right Honourable Luke Gardiner, inherited the Mountjoy estates. He was born in 1745, represented the city of Dublin in Parliament, was made a Privy Councillor, and held the rank of Colonel in the Dublin Volunteers, and subsequently in the Dublin Militia. He held a command also in a volunteer corps in his native county. The Mountjoy title was renewed in his person. In 1789, he was created a baron, and in 1795 was advanced to the dignity of Viscount Mountjoy. He married, in 1773, the eldest daughter of a Scotch baronet, Sir William Montgomery, and sister of Anne, Marchioness of Townsend, by whom he had issue two sons, Luke and Charles John, and several daughters.
1st. Luke, who died in 1781, in infancy.
2nd. Charles John, who succeeded his father, second Viscount Mountjoy, the late Earl of Blessington, born the 19th July, 1782. 3rd. Florinda, who died in 1786, aged twelve years.
* Boulter's Letters.
4th. Louisa, born in 1775, who married the Right Reverend Robert Fowler, D.D., Bishop of Dromore, and died in 1848, aged seventy-three years.
5th. Harriet, born in 1776, died in 1849, aged seventy
6th. Emily, who died in 1788.
His Lordship married, secondly, in 1793, Margaret, the eldest daughter of Hector Wallis, by whom he had issue,
9th. Margaret, born in 1796, married the Honourable Hely Hutchinson, died in 1825.
The father of the late Earl of Blessington, the Right Honourable Luke Gardiner, Viscount Mountjoy, was an able and energetic man. In his zeal for the public weal, he was by no means unmindful of his own interests. He advocated warmly the claims of the Roman Catholics, he was one of the earliest and most zealous champions of their cause in the Irish parliament. He took a very active and prominent part in the suppression of the rebellion of 1798 ; and on the 5th of June of that disastrous year, fell at the head of his regiment at the battle of New Ross.
Mr. John Graham, a small farmer, still living on the Mountjoy Forest estate, in the county of Mountjoy, now in his eighty-sixth year, informs me the first Lord Mountjoy, in the year 1798, induced him to join his lordship's regiment, and to accompany him to Wexford. He was close to his lordship at Three Bullet Gate, at the battle of New Ross, when the king's troops were attacked by a party of rebels, who lay in wait for them in the ditches on either side of the road, and commenced a heavy fire, which threw the troops into complete disorder. The General who was there in command ordered the troops to retreat ; and they did retreat, with the exception of Lord Mountjoy and a few soldiers of his regiment. Graham