Ulick Burke

Ulick Burke (de Burgh), 1st Marquis of Clanricarde, 1604-58

Irish nobleman who struggled to reconcile the interests of the Confederates and Royalists in Ireland

Portrait of the Marquis of ClanricardeUlick Burke was the only son of Richard de Burgh, fourth Earl of Clanricarde (1572-1635), and his wife Frances (d.1632), daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham and widow of Sir Philip Sidney and of Robert Devereux, the second Earl of Essex. Ulick was brought up in England. In 1622, he married Lady Ann Compton (d. 1675), daughter of the Earl of Northampton, and in 1628, he took his seat in the English House of Lords as Lord Burgh. On the death of his father in 1635, Ulick inherited the titles fifth Earl of Clanricarde and second Earl of St Albans together with extensive lands in Ireland and an estate in Kent.

Clanricarde was prominent in opposing attempts by lord-deputy Sir Thomas Wentworth to extend the colonisation of Ireland by Protestant settlers into Connacht. To Wentworth’s fury, King Charles agreed to exempt Clanricarde’s lands in western Ireland from the scheme. After serving the King in the Bishops’ Wars, Clanricarde sat as a member of the House of Lords in the Long Parliament, where he worked closely with Wentworth’s enemies in the London and Dublin parliaments to bring about his downfall.

In 1641, Clanricarde returned to Ireland and took up residence at Portumna in County Galway. Alarmed at the outbreak of the Irish Uprising in October 1641, Clanricarde raised a regiment of foot to protect Galway from the insurgents. As the most powerful nobleman in Connacht, he came under pressure from other Catholic lords to join the Confederate Assembly upon its formation in 1642. Although he worked covertly with Patrick Darcy and others to formulate the constitution, Clanricarde refused to declare openly for the Confederates. In March 1643, he mediated on the King’s behalf with Confederate representatives at a meeting at Trim, where he received the Irish “Remonstrance of Grievances”.

Despite ill-health, Clanricarde persisted in his attempts to broker a treaty that reconciled the interests of the Irish Catholics and the Crown. King Charles acknowledged his loyalty in February 1645 by conferring a marquisate upon him. He accompanied the Confederate army during its advance on Dublin in September 1646 and tried, without success, to persuade General Preston to bring the Leinster army over to the Royalists. Clanricarde opposed the extremist Confederate faction associated with Archbishop Rinuccini. He welcomed the Inchiquin Truce of May 1648 and the Second Ormond Peace the following year, which secured an alliance of Confederates, Royalists and the Ulster Scots against the English Parliamentarians. However, Ormond’s coalition was unable to stem the relentless advance of the New Model Army through Ireland during 1649-50. When Ormond went into exile in December 1650, King Charles II appointed Clanricarde lord-deputy of Ireland in his place, which Clanricarde reluctantly accepted.

Clanricarde’s attempts to defend Connacht during 1651 proved ineffective and he finally surrendered to the English invaders in June 1652. Poor health prevented him from joining the Royalist court-in-exile in France. The Commonwealth government allowed him to live on his estate at Somerhill in Kent where he died in 1658. Having no direct male heir, the marquisate became extinct and the earldom of Clanricarde passed to his cousin Richard. His only daughter Margaret, Lady Muskerry, inherited his English estates and some of his Irish lands.


Sources:

R.T. Gilbert, Ulick de Burgh, fifth Earl and Marquis of Clanricarde, DNB 1886

Jane Ohlmeyer, Ulick Burke, Marquis of Clanricarde, Oxford DNB, 2004

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