Thomas Plunket (Chief Justice)

Last updated

Sir Thomas Plunket (c.1440–1519) was a wealthy Irish landowner, lawyer and judge in fifteenth-century and early sixteenth-century Ireland. He held office as Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer and Chief Justice of the Irish Common Pleas. After the change of dynasty in 1485 his loyalty to the Tudors was deeply suspect, and he was involved in two attempts to put a pretender on the English throne. On each occasion he was disgraced, fined and removed from office; yet he had sufficient political influence to ensure his return to favour and high office.

Judge official who presides over court proceedings

A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as a part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and, typically, in an open court. The judge hears all the witnesses and any other evidence presented by the barristers of the case, assesses the credibility and arguments of the parties, and then issues a ruling on the matter at hand based on his or her interpretation of the law and his or her own personal judgment. In some jurisdictions, the judge's powers may be shared with a jury. In inquisitorial systems of criminal investigation, a judge might also be an examining magistrate.

Ireland Island in north-west Europe, 20th largest in world, politically divided into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (a part of the UK)

Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the second-largest island of the British Isles, the third-largest in Europe, and the twentieth-largest on Earth.


He is principally remembered as the builder of the impressive Dunsoghly Castle, at Finglas, which still exists. He should not be confused with his uncle, Sir Thomas Fitz-Christopher Plunket. [1]

Dunsoghly Castle

Dunsoghly Castle is a castle and a National Monument located in the civil parish of St. Margarets, in Fingal, Ireland.

Sir Thomas Fitz-Christopher Plunket (c.1407-1471) was a leading Irish lawyer and judge of the fifteenth century who held office as Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. He was an ancestor of the Duke of Wellington in the female line. His second marriage to the heiress Marian Cruise inspired the ballad The Song of Mary Cruys.


He was born in County Meath, the only son of Sir Robert Plunket, who served briefly as Lord Chief Justice of Ireland in 1447, and his wife Genet Finglas. [2] Sir Robert was the fourth of the seven sons of Sir Christopher Plunket, who married the Cusack heiress and was created 1st Baron Killeen in about 1426. Thomas was "bred to the law": his uncle Thomas was also Lord Chief Justice, and his family produced six senior judges over four generations.

County Meath County in the Republic of Ireland

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.

Lord Chief Justice of Ireland

The Court of King's Bench was one of the senior courts of common law in Ireland. It was a mirror of the Court of King's Bench in England. The Lord Chief Justice was the most senior judge in the court, and the second most senior Irish judge under English rule and later when Ireland became part of the United Kingdom. Additionally, for a brief period between 1922 and 1924, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland was the most senior judge in the Irish Free State.


By 1480 Thomas had become a very wealthy man. He held extensive lands in County Dublin at Castleknock, Cabra and Finglas. It has been suggested that his father began the building of the main family residence, Dunsoghly Castle at Finglas, but the weight of the evidence points to Thomas as the builder. Dunsoghly today is one of the few fifteenth-century Irish castles to remain intact, and the only one whose original timber roof survives. [3]

County Dublin Place in Ireland

County Dublin is one of the thirty-two traditional counties of Ireland. Prior to 1994 it was also an administrative county covering the whole county outside of Dublin City Council. In 1994, as part of a reorganisation of local government within Dublin the boundaries of Dublin City were redrawn, Dublin County Council was abolished and three new administrative county councils were established: Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown, Fingal and South Dublin.

Castleknock Suburb in Fingal, Leinster, Ireland

Castleknock is a large residential suburb of Dublin, centred on a village, in Fingal, Ireland. It is located 8 km (5 mi) west of the centre of Dublin.

Cabra, Dublin Inner western Northside suburb of Dublin, Ireland

Cabra is an inner suburb on the northside of Dublin city in Ireland. It is approximately 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) northwest of the city centre, in the administrative area of Dublin City Council. It was commonly known as Cabragh until the early 20th century. Largely located between the Royal Canal and the Phoenix Park, it is primarily a residential suburb, with a range of institutions and some light industry. Cabra is governed by Dublin City Council, and served by bus, light rail and mainline rail; it lies across one of the main roads from central Dublin to the orbital motorway, the Navan Road.

Castles of Leinster- Dunsoghly, Co. Dublin (geograph 2496350).jpg Dunsoghly Castle

He was appointed Chief Baron of the Exchequer in 1480 and Chief Justice of the Common Pleas two years later. [4]

Lambert Simnel

Lambert Simnel in Ireland Lambert Simnel, Pretender to the English Throne, Riding on Supporters in Ireland.gif
Lambert Simnel in Ireland

In 1487 a priest called Richard Simon (or Symonds) appeared in Ireland with a young boy called Lambert Simnel, who due to a striking physical resemblance was able to impersonate Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick. As the nephew and direct male heir of the last two Yorkist Kings, the real Earl of Warwick (who was actually a prisoner in the Tower of London), had a much stronger claim to the English Crown than did Henry VII, who had only a remote claim to the Crown through his mother as the heir in the female line of John of Gaunt.

Priest person authorized to lead the sacred rituals of a religion (for a minister use Q1423891)

A priest is a religious leader authorized to perform the sacred rituals of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and one or more deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities. Their office or position is the priesthood, a term which also may apply to such persons collectively.

Lambert Simnel Imposter-pretender to the throne of England

Lambert Simnel was a pretender to the throne of England. His claim to be Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick in 1487 threatened the newly-established reign of King Henry VII. Simnel became the figurehead of a Yorkist rebellion organised by John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln. The rebellion was crushed in 1487. Simnel was pardoned and was thereafter employed by the Royal household as a scullion, and, later, as a falconer.

Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick English Earl

Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick was the son of George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence, and a potential claimant to the English throne during the reigns of both Richard III (1483–1485) and his successor, Henry VII (1485–1509). He was also a younger brother of Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury.

The Anglo-Irish nobility were in general strongly Yorkist in sympathy, and they probably also saw the conflict as a chance to strengthen their own power at the Crown's expense. Gerald FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, the dominant magnate in Ireland, declared for Simnel, who was crowned King Edward VI in Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin. Ball remarks that most of the Irish judiciary followed Kildare "like sheep"; [5] but Plunket played an active role in rallying support for Simnel, and as a result he was regarded by the Crown afterwards with particular mistrust. [6]

Simnel, with about 4500 Irish troops, invaded England, but his army was crushed by the royal army at the Battle of Stoke Field. Henry VII was merciful in victory: Simnel was taken into the royal household as a kitchen boy, and later promoted to falconer, while Kildare and most of his fellow nobles were given a royal pardon.

Aftermath of the Simnel rebellion

The general pardon did not extend to Plunket, or to Sir James Keating, Prior of the Order of St John of Jerusalem at Kilmainham, since these two men. were regarded as "the prime instigators" of the rebellion. [7] Sir Richard Edgcumbe, who was sent to Ireland in 1488 to accept the submission of the Irish nobles, refused, despite Kildare's pleas, to take oaths of homage or fealty from Plunket or Keating, "who were specially noted among the other chief causes of the Rebellion". Eventually, with great reluctance, Edgcumbe was persuaded to pardon Plunket, but not Keating, who was removed from office and died in poverty. [8] Plunket retained office, but he was never fully trusted again.

Perkin Warbeck

Perkin Warbeck Perkin Warbeck.jpg
Perkin Warbeck

In 1491 a second pretender to the English Crown, Perkin Warbeck, appeared in Ireland: he claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury, younger son of King Edward IV of England. He received far less support than Simnel, (Kildare, prudently, refused to back him) but a small rising took place in which Plunket was implicated. He was removed from office and fined for "diverse seditions and transgressions" but not imprisoned. [9] His removal was part of a general purge of Kildare's supporters among the Irish judiciary: although Kildare had not made the mistake of supporting Warbeck, his loyalty was still deeply suspect. Warbeck reappeared in Ireland in 1495, but it is not known if Plunket had any further dealings with him.

Last years

In 1498, rather surprisingly, Plunket regained office as Chief Justice, probably at the request of Kildare, who had now been restored to Royal favour. In his last years on the Bench he held office jointly with Richard Delahide, who had married his granddaughter Jenet. He retired in 1515 and died in 1519. [10]

An inventory of his possessions, taken in connection with the fine imposed on him in 1491, and which refers among many other items to "gilt salt cellars" and "coconut cups", confirms his great wealth. He was a noted benefactor of Christchurch Cathedral, presenting it with gifts of gold, silver and vestments, and assigning to the Cathedral Chapter his lands at Cabra subject to a life interest for himself and his second wife Helen. [11]


He married firstly Janet Finglas, and secondly Helen Strangwick. Hie had two children:

Related Research Articles

Rowland FitzEustace, 1st Baron Portlester Lord Chancellor of Ireland

Rowland FitzEustace, 1st Baron Portlester was an Irish peer, statesman and judge. He was one of the dominant political figures in late fifteenth-century Ireland, rivalled in influence probably only by his son-in-law, the 8th or "Great" Earl of Kildare.

John Garvey (1527–1595) was an Irish Protestant bishop of Kilmore and archbishop of Armagh.

Nicholas St Lawrence, 4th Baron Howth was a leading Irish soldier and statesman of the early Tudor period, who held the office of Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

Sir Thomas Cusack (1490–1571) was an Anglo-Irish judge and statesman of the sixteenth century, who held the offices of Master of the Rolls in Ireland, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and Chancellor of the Exchequer of Ireland. He was one of the most trusted and dependable Crown servants of his time, but led a somewhat turbulent private life. He was an ancestor of the Duke of Wellington. He is also memorable as the fourth of the six husbands of Jenet Sarsfield.

Jenet Sarsfield, Baroness Dunsany was an Anglo-Irish noblewoman who lived in Dublin during the Tudor era. She is chiefly memorable for having married no less than six husbands.

Robert Shilyngford Irish politician

Robert Shilyngford was Mayor of Dublin in 1534–35. Apart from his tenure of this office, he is mainly remembered as the first of the six husbands of Jenet Sarsfield.

Sir Robert Dowdall was an Irish judge who held the office of Chief Justice of the Irish Common Pleas for more than forty years. He is mainly remembered today for the murderous assault on him by Sir James Keating, the Prior of Kilmainham, in 1462.

Richard Delahide was an Irish judge of the sixteenth century, who held the offices of Chief Justice of the Irish Common Pleas and Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer. His career was seriously damaged by the Rebellion of Silken Thomas, in which several members of his family played a leading part, and he narrowly escaped permanent disgrace.

Walter St. Lawrence (c.1445-1504) was an Anglo-Irish nobleman, lawyer and judge. He held the offices of Attorney General for Ireland and Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer.

Sir John Plunket (c.1497–1582) was an Irish politician and judge of the Tudor era who held the office of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. He was also a member of the Privy Council of Ireland and was regarded by three successive English monarchs as a reliable supporter of the Crown. He was noted for his integrity, but was criticised for remaining in office when old age and illness had made him unfit for it. He is also notable as the fifth of the six husbands of Jenet Sarsfield.

Philip Bermingham (c.1420–1490) was an Irish judge who held the office of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. He was regarded as "the most learned Irish lawyer of his time", but he had a somewhat turbulent political career and was twice accused of treason.

John Payne, Bishop of Meath held that office from 1483 until his death in 1507; he was also Master of the Rolls in Ireland. He is best remembered for his part in the coronation of Lambert Simnel, pretender to the Crown of England, in 1487.

Peter Rowe was an Irish judge who held the office of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland from 1388 to 1397.

The Brotherhood of Saint George was a short-lived military guild, which was founded in Dublin in 1474 for the defence of the English-held territory of the Pale. For a time it was the only standing army maintained by the English Crown in Ireland. It was suppressed by King Henry VII in 1494. It was not an order of knighthood, although some of its individual members were knights.

Barnaby Barnewall was an Irish barrister and judge, and a founder member of the Brotherhood of Saint George.

Thomas Cusacke was an Irish barrister and judge, who held the offices of Attorney General for Ireland and Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. He should not be confused with his much younger cousin Sir Thomas Cusack, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, who was a child of about six when the elder Thomas died.

John Bathe (1536-1586) was an Irish lawyer and statesman of the sixteenth century. He held several important offices, including that of Attorney General for Ireland and Chancellor of the Exchequer of Ireland. He was a member of a prominent landowning family in County Dublin, and himself added to the family estates. His children included the Jesuit William Bathe, who was also a noted musicologist.

Sir James Keating was an Irish cleric and statesman of the fifteenth century. He was Prior of the Irish house of the Knights Hospitallers at Kilmainham, and a member of the Privy Council of Ireland. Despite his political eminence he was a man of ruthless character and violent temper who once tried to murder a senior judge, and was responsible for the death of his replacement as Prior. After a long and turbulent career he was removed from office for his treason in supporting the Lambert Simnel Rebellion of 1487, and died in poverty.


  1. Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921 London John Murray 1926 Vol.1 p.186
  2. Ball 1926 p.186
  3. Ball, F. Elrington History of the Parishes of Dublin Vol.6 University Press Dublin 1920 p.65
  4. Ball 1926 p.186
  5. Ball 1926 p.106
  6. Ball 1926 p.186
  7. Voyage of Sir Richard Edgcumbe into Ireland in the Year 1488, printed by Harris Hibernica Dublin 1747 p.29
  8. Harris p.29
  9. Ball 1920 p.64
  10. Ball 1926 p.186
  11. Ball 1920 p.65
  12. Ball 1920 p.65
  13. Burke's Peerage 107th Edition 2003 Vol.1 p.265