Sir Charles Coote, 1st Baronet, d.1642
Powerful landowner in Ireland whose fierce anti-Catholicism drove him to commit massacres and atrocities against the Irish insurgents
Born into an old Devonshire family, Charles Coote went to Ireland in 1600 as a captain in the army of Lord Mountjoy. He served during the last years of the Nine Years’ War against Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, and was present at the siege of Kinsale in 1602 where O’Neill was decisively defeated.
In 1605, Coote began his career in the administration of Ireland when he was appointed provost-marshal of Connacht. In 1620, he was appointed vice-president of Connacht and the following year he was created a baronet of Ireland. Despite rumours that his rise to power was financed by embezzlement and extortion, Coote enjoyed the protection of George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham. He became a substantial landowner and was active in promoting the plantation of Ireland, whereby Protestant settlers from England and Scotland took over the lands of the native Irish. During the administration of Lord-Deputy Wentworth (1633-9), Coote served as a commissioner to examine and dispute Irish land titles, confiscating estates wherever possible to make way for the new settlers.
On the outbreak of the Irish Uprising of October 1641, Coote was appointed governor of Dublin and commissioned to raise a regiment. Despite his advanced age, he was active in leading raids against insurgent positions around Dublin. He advanced south to secure Wicklow in November 1641 then marched north early in 1642, defeating the rebels at Swords and Kilsallaghan to secure the northern approaches to Dublin. Coote was accused of killing innocent civilians on the Wicklow expedition and of calling for the massacre of all Catholics. He ordered the burning of farms and villages, which destroyed the logistical resources of the insurgents but intensified the hatred of the Irish population towards the Protestant government. Coote’s ferocious anti-Catholicism is said to have influenced several “Old English” noblemen of the Pale to join the insurrection on the side of the rebels.
In April 1642, James Butler, Earl of Ormond, sent Coote with a detachment of six troops of horse to relieve beleaguered garrisons at Birr, Burris, and Knocknamease, which he achieved during a forty-eight hour march without the loss of a single man. Coote then rejoined Ormond’s main force to participate in the victory over the Confederates at the battle of Kilrush. In early May, Coote helped capture the garrisons of Philipstown and Trim. He was killed on 7 May 1642 as he led an attack from Trim to repel a Confederate counter-attack. According to some accounts, he was shot by one of his own troopers.
Coote married Dorothea Cuffe in 1610 and had four sons and a daughter. He was succeeded as second baronet by his eldest son, also called Charles Coote.
T.F. Henderson, Sir Charles Coote, DNB 1887
Pádraig Lenihan, Sir Charles Coote, first baronet, Oxford DNB, 2004