Robert Rochfort (9 December 1652 – 10 October 1727) was a leading Irish lawyer, politician and judge of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. He held office as Attorney General for Ireland, Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer, and Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. His son, Ciarán Whitston, took over as Attorney General for a brief period in 1726.
The Speaker of the Irish House of Commons was the presiding officer of the Irish House of Commons until its disestablishment in 1800.
He was the second son of Lieutenant-Colonel James (nick-named "Prime-Iron") Rochfort (d. 1652), a Cromwellian soldier, and his wife Thomasina Pigott, daughter of Sir Robert Pigott of Dysart Manor, County Laois, and widow of Argentine Hull of Leamcon, County Cork. Robert was born posthumously: his father, who had fatally wounded one Major Turner in a duel, was court-martialled and executed for murder a few months before Robert's birth. His mother made a third marriage to George Peyton of Streamstown, County Roscommon, who was her distant cousin through her mother Thomasina Peyton, second wife of Sir Robert Pigott.
James Rochfort was a leading Lieutenant colonel in Oliver Cromwell's Army during the English Civil War. He was better known by the nickname Prime Iron Rochfort.
County Laois is a county in Ireland. It is located in the south of the Midlands Region and is also located in the province of Leinster, and was formerly known as "Queen's County." The modern county takes its name from Loígis, a medieval kingdom.
County Cork is a county in Ireland. It is the largest and southernmost county of Ireland, situated in the province of Munster and named after the city of Cork, Ireland's second-largest city. The Cork County Council is the local authority for the county. Its largest market towns are Mallow, Macroom, Midleton, and Skibbereen. In 2016, the county's population was 542,868, making it the third-most populous county in Ireland. Notable Corkonians include Michael Collins, Jack Lynch, and Sonia O'Sullivan.
Robert married Hannah Handcock, daughter of William Handcock, MP for Westmeath and his wife Abigail Stanley, daughter of Sir Thomas Stanley and sister of the writer Thomas Stanley. He and Hannah had two sons, George and John.
William Handcock was an Irish politician.
Westmeath was a constituency represented in the Irish House of Commons until the Act of Union in 1800. Between 1725 and 1793 Catholics and those married to Catholics could not vote. The borough was disenfranchised under the terms of the Act of Union 1800.
Sir Thomas Stanley was an English author and translator.
The Rochfort family is recorded in Ireland from 1243. They acquired substantial lands in Meath, Westmeath and Kildare. Robert was descended from Sir Milo de Rochfort (died after 1309). His father was the younger son of James Rochfort of Agherry, County Wicklow.
County Meath is a county in Ireland. It is in the province of Leinster and is part of the Mid-East Region. It is named after the historic Kingdom of Meath. Meath County Council is the local authority for the county. At the 2016 census, the population of the county was 195,044. The county town of Meath is Navan. Other towns in the county include Trim, Kells, Laytown, Ashbourne, Dunboyne, and Slane.
Kildare is a town in County Kildare, Ireland. As of 2016, its population was 8,634 making it the 7th largest town in County Kildare. The town lies on the R445, some 50 km (31 mi) west of Dublin – near enough for it to have become, despite being a regional centre in its own right, a commuter town for the capital. Although Kildare gives its name to the county, Naas is the county town.
County Wicklow is a county in Ireland. The last of the traditional 32 counties to be formed, as late as 1606, it is part of the Mid-East Region and is also located in the province of Leinster. It is named after the town of Wicklow, which derives from the Old Norse name Víkingaló, which means "Vikings' Meadow". Wicklow County Council is the local authority for the county. The population of the county was 142,425 at the 2016 census.
Rochfort initially pursued a successful legal career in Ireland before going on to attain high government office. In 1680 he was appointed Recorder of Derry, a post which he held until 1707.
A Recorder is a judicial officer in England and Wales and some other common law jurisdictions.
Derry, officially Londonderry, is the second-largest city in Northern Ireland and the fourth-largest city on the island of Ireland. The name Derry is an anglicisation of the Old Irish name Daire meaning "oak grove". In 1613, the city was granted a Royal Charter by King James I and gained the "London" prefix to reflect the funding of its construction by the London guilds. While the city is more usually known colloquially as Derry, Londonderry is also commonly used and remains the legal name.
Between 1692 and 1707, Rochfort represented Westmeath in the Irish House of Commons. He supported the 'whiggish' elements in the House at this time in their claim to possess the 'sole right' to legislate for Ireland. This was both a challenge to Poynings' Law and the Irish executive, leading to a constitutional crisis, resolved by a compromise in the parliamentary session of 1695. Rochfort was, nonetheless, appointed Attorney-General in 1694 with the help of the Whig Lord Justice, Lord Capell. With the executive's support, he was elected Speaker of the Irish House of Commons the same year. He remained in this position until 1699.
The Irish House of Commons was the lower house of the Parliament of Ireland that existed from 1297 until 1800. The upper house was the House of Lords. The membership of the House of Commons was directly elected, but on a highly restrictive franchise, similar to the Unreformed House of Commons in contemporary England and Great Britain. In counties, forty-shilling freeholders were enfranchised whilst in most boroughs it was either only the members of self-electing corporations or a highly-restricted body of freemen that were able to vote for the borough's representatives. Most notably, Catholics were disqualified from sitting in the Irish parliament from 1691, even though they comprised the vast majority of the Irish population. From 1728 until 1793 they were also disfranchised. Most of the population of all religions had no vote. The vast majority of parliamentary boroughs were pocket boroughs, the private property of an aristocratic patron. When these boroughs were disfranchised under the Act of Union, the patron was awarded £15,000 compensation for each.
Poynings' Law or the Statute of Drogheda was a 1494 Act of the Parliament of Ireland which provided that the parliament could not meet until its proposed legislation had been approved both by Ireland's Lord Deputy and Privy Council and by England's monarch and Privy Council. It was a major grievance in 18th-century Ireland, was amended by the Constitution of 1782, rendered moot by the Acts of Union 1800, and repealed by the Statute Law Revision (Ireland) Act, 1878.
The Lord Justice of Ireland was an ancient senior position in the governance of Ireland, held by a number of important personages, such as the Earl of Kildare.
He played a key role in the impeachment of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, Sir Charles Porter, on charges of judicial misconduct in 1695, the impeachment collapsed after Porter's brilliant speech in his own defence. Disappointment, and a keen sense of his own dignity, led Rochfort to start a quarrel the night after Porter's acquittal: seeing the Lord Chancellor's coach trying to precede his, he jumped down and tried to physically restrain Porter's coachman. The Irish House of Lords next day rebuked the Commons over the affair. The Commons replied that the affair had been a misunderstanding, and that Rochfort, it being a very dark winter night, had not recognised Porter (the streets of Dublin were in fact notoriously dark and badly lit in this era).
Meanwhile, Rochfort began to demonstrate Tory sympathies: from 1703 he became identifiable as one of the government's leading parliamentary managers. He became Chief Baron of the Exchequer in 1707. He remained in this position until 1714, when, on the death of Queen Anne of England, along with almost all his colleagues on the Bench, he was dismissed from office, on account of his political sympathies. Rochfort now returned to his practice at the Irish Bar.
Rochfort died on 10 October 1727. His grandson, Robert Rochfort, son of George Rochfort and Lady Elizabeth Moore, was raised to the Irish peerage in 1737 as Baron Bellfield and made Earl of Belvedere in 1757. His second son John Rochfort moved to Clogrennane, County Carlow.
The office of Lord High Chancellor of Ireland was the highest judicial office in Ireland until the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. From 1721 to 1801, it was also the highest political office of the Irish Parliament: the Chancellor was Speaker of the Irish House of Lords. The Lord Chancellor was also Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of Ireland. In all three respects, the office mirrored the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain.
Baron Castlemaine, of Moydrum in the County of Westmeath, is a title in the Peerage of Ireland. It was created in 1812 for William Handcock, with remainder to his younger brother Richard Handcock. Handcock represented Athlone in Parliament and also served as Governor of County Westmeath. In 1822 he was further honoured when he was made Viscount Castlemaine in the Peerage of Ireland, with remainder to the heirs male of his body.
Thomas Parker, 1st Earl of Macclesfield, was an English Whig politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1705 to 1710. He was Lord Chief Justice from 1710 to 1718 and acted briefly as one of the regents before the arrival of King George I in Britain. His career ended when he was convicted of corruption on a massive scale and he spent the later years of his life in detention.
Thomas Trevor, 1st Baron Trevor, was a British judge and politician who was Attorney-General and later Lord Privy Seal.
Earl of Belvedere was a title in the Peerage of Ireland created in 1756 for Robert Rochfort, 1st Viscount Belfied. The title and its subsidiaries became extinct in 1814.
This is a list of people who have served as Lord Lieutenant of Westmeath.
Alan Brodrick, 1st Viscount Midleton, PC (Ire) was a leading Irish lawyer and politician who sat in the Parliament of Ireland between 1692 to 1715 and in the British House of Commons from 1717 to 1728. He was Speaker of the Irish House of Commons and Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Although he was a man of great gifts, he was so hot-tempered and passionate that even Jonathan Swift is said to have been afraid of him.
Events from the year 1695 in Ireland.
Sir Richard Bolton was an English lawyer and judge, who was an important figure in the politics of Ireland in the 1630s and 1640s.
James Dennis, 1st Baron Tracton PC was an Irish politician and judge.
The High Sheriff of Westmeath was the British Crown's judicial representative in County Westmeath, Ireland from its creation under The Counties of Meath and Westmeath Act of 1543 until 1922, when the office was abolished in the new Free State and replaced by the office of Westmeath County Sheriff. The sheriff had judicial, electoral, ceremonial and administrative functions and executed High Court Writs. In 1908, an Order in Council made the Lord-Lieutenant the Sovereign's prime representative in a county and reduced the High Sheriff's precedence. However the sheriff retained his responsibilities for the preservation of law and order in the county. The usual procedure for appointing the sheriff from 1660 onwards was that three persons were nominated at the beginning of each year from the county and the Lord Lieutenant then appointed his choice as High Sheriff for the remainder of the year. Often the other nominees were appointed as under-sheriffs. Sometimes a sheriff did not fulfil his entire term through death or other event and another sheriff was then appointed for the remainder of the year. The dates given hereunder are the dates of appointment. The following is an incomplete list: all addresses are in County Westmeath unless stated otherwise.
Sir Charles Porter, was a flamboyant and somewhat controversial English-born politician and judge, who nonetheless enjoyed a highly successful career. He sat in the English House of Commons, and was twice Lord Chancellor of Ireland. As Chancellor, he survived an attempt by his political enemies to impeach him, and attempts to persuade the English Crown to remove him from office. In the last months of his life he was effectively head of the Irish government. In his dealings with the Irish people he was noted for tolerance in religious matters.
Sir Edward Bolton was an English-born judge who served for many years as Solicitor General for Ireland before succeeding his father Sir Richard Bolton as Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer.
Thomas Rochfort (c.1450-1522) was a distinguished Irish judge and cleric who held the offices of Solicitor General for Ireland, Master of the Rolls in Ireland, and Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral.
The Rochfort family came to Ireland in the thirteenth century and acquired substantial lands in counties Kildare, Meath and Westmeath. Several members of the family were prominent as lawyers and politicians. They gained the title Earl of Belvedere, and gave their name to the village of Rochfortbridge. The main Rochfort line ended with the death of the 2nd Earl of Belvedere in 1814.
Sir Lucas Dillon was a leading Irish barrister and judge of the Elizabethan era who held the offices of Attorney General for Ireland and Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer. He was held in high regard by the Queen, although his enemies accused him of corruption and maladministration. He was the father of James Dillon, 1st Earl of Roscommon. His tomb, which has the curious local nickname "the jealous man and woman", can still be seen at Newton Abbey.
George Augustus Rochfort, 2nd Earl of Belvedere was an Anglo-Irish peer and politician.
Sir Thomas Pakenham (1649-1703) was an Irish barrister and politician: he sat in the Irish House of Commons as MP for Augher and held the office of Serjeant-at-law (Ireland). He was the grandfather of the first Baron Longford.
John Rochfort was a member of the pre-1801 Parliament of Ireland, in the Irish House of Commons. He was born in 1692 the second son of Robert Rochfort and his wife Hannah Hannock, he married Deborah Staunton in 1722 and they had two sons Robert and John. John Rochfort lived in Cloughgrean, Co, Carlow, and Newpark, Co. Dublin. Rochfort served in the Irish Parliament for Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal from 1713 to 1714 and from 1715 to 1727 and for Mullingar, Co. Westmeath from 1727 to 1760. Rochfort died in January 30, 1771.
|Parliament of Ireland|
| Member of Parliament for Westmeath |
With: Dillon Pollard 1692–1695
George Peyton 1695–1703
William Handcock 1703–1707
George Rochfort 1707
| Speaker of the Irish House of Commons |