Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of Orrery

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Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of Orrery (25 April 1621 – 16 October 1679) was a soldier, dramatist and politician from the British Isles who sat in the House of Commons of England at various times between 1654 and 1679. Lord Broghill, as Boyle was then called, fought in the Irish Confederate Wars (part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms) and subsequently became known for his antagonism towards Irish Catholics and their political aspirations. He was a noted playwright and writer on 17th century warfare.


Boyle was the third surviving son of Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork and his second wife, Catherine Fenton daughter of Sir Geoffrey Fenton of Dublin. He was named after his parents' first son who died at age nine. He was created Baron of Broghill on 28 February 1628. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin in 1630 and at Gray's Inn in 1636. From 1636 to 1639 he travelled abroad in France, Switzerland and Italy and then took part in the Bishops Wars against the Scots on returning home.[1]

Rebellion and civil war

Boyle returned to Ireland on the outbreak of the rebellion in 1641 and fought with his brothers against the Irish rebels at the battle of Liscarroll in September 1642. Boyle and the English in Ireland were left vulnerable by the outbreak of the English Civil War. Although initially under the command of the Royalist Marquis of Ormonde (later James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde), Lord Broghill consented to serve under the parliamentary commissioners in Cork against the Irish Confederates. Boyle fought with the Parliamentarians until the execution of the king, when he retired altogether from public affairs and took up his residence at Marston in Somersetshire.

Subsequently he originated a scheme to bring about the Restoration. On his way abroad to consult with King Charles II, he was unexpectedly visited by Oliver Cromwell in London. Cromwell informed him that his plans were well known to the council, and warned against persisting in them. Cromwell offered him a command in Ireland against the rebels that entailed no obligation except faithful service. It was accepted.

Boyle's assistance in Ireland proved invaluable during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. Appointed master of the ordnance, he soon assembled a body of infantry and horse, driving the rebels into Kilkenny, where they surrendered; he induced the Royalist garrison of Cork (English troops with whom he had served earlier in the wars) to defect back to the Parliamentarian side. On 10 May 1650 he completely defeated at Macroom a force of Irish advancing to the relief of Cork, and joining Cromwell assisted in taking the latter place. On Cromwell's departure for Scotland Boyle co-operated with Henry Ireton, whom he joined at the siege of Limerick. In 1651 he defeated an Irish force marching to Limerick's relief under Lord Muskerry at the battle of Knocknaclashy, the final battle of the Irish Confederate Wars, thus effecting the capture of the town.

By this time Broghill had become the fast friend and follower of Cromwell, whose stern measures in Ireland and support of the English and Protestants were welcomed after the policy of concession to the Irish initiated by Charles I. He was returned as member for the county of Cork in 1654 to the First Protectorate Parliament and in 1656 to the Second Protectorate Parliament[1] and also in the latter assembly for Edinburgh, for which he elected to sit. He served this year as lord president of the council in Scotland, where he won much popularity; and when he returned to England he was included in the inner cabinet of Cromwell's council, and was nominated in 1657 a member of the new House of Lords. He was one of those most in favour of Cromwell's assumption of the royal title,[2] and proposed a union between the Protector's daughter Frances and Charles II.


On Oliver Cromwell's death he gave his support to Richard Cromwell; but as he saw no possibility of maintaining the government he left for Ireland, where by resuming command in Munster, secured the island for Charles anticipating Monk's overtures by inviting the King to land at Cork.[3] In 1660, he was elected MP for Arundel in the Convention Parliament although he was busily engaged in Ireland at the time of the election.[1] On 5 September 1660 he was created Earl of Orrery. The same year he was appointed a lord justice of Ireland and drew up the Act of Settlement. In 1661, he was re-elected MP for Arundel in the Cavalier Parliament.[1] He founded the town of Charleville, County Cork, near his estate at Broghill. However, his mansion house in Broghill was later burned by Irish forces before the end of the century.

He continued to exercise his office as lord-president of Munster till 1668, when he resigned it on account of disputes with the duke of Ormonde, the lord-lieutenant. On 25 November, he was impeached by the House of Commons for "raising of money by his own authority upon his majesty's subjects," but the prorogation of parliament by the king interrupted the proceedings, which were not afterwards renewed. In 1673 he was appointed Custos Rotulorum of County Limerick, which position he held until his death.[4]

Boyle's writings

In addition to Lord Orrery's achievements as a statesman and administrator, he gained some reputation as a writer and a dramatist. He was the author of:

  • An Answer to a Scandalous Letter ... A Full Discovery of the Treachery of the Irish Rebels (1662), printed with the letter itself in his State Letters (1742)
  • another answer to the same letter entitled Irish Colors Displayed ... being also ascribed to him
  • Parthenissa, a novel (1651, 1654–56, 1669)
  • English-Adventures by a Person of Honor (1676), whence Otway drew his tragedy of the Orphan
  • Treatise of the Art of War (1677), a work of considerable historical value

There are some poems, of little interest, including verses:

Plays in verse, of some literary but less dramatic merit:

  • Henry V (1664), heroic drama
  • The Generall (1664), a tragi-comedy. [1]
  • Mustapha (1665), tragedy
  • Tryphon : a tragedy (acted 1668, Printed for H. Herringman, 1669)
  • The Black Prince (acted 1667; printed 1669), heroic drama
  • Herod the Great (published 1694 but unacted), tragedy
  • Altemira (1702), tragedy
  • Guzman (1669), comedy
  • Mr. Anthony (1690), comedy

A collected edition was published in 1737, to which was added the fourth earl's comedy As you find it. The General is also attributed to him.


Boyle married Lady Margaret Howard, 3rd daughter of Theophilus, 2nd Earl of Suffolk, whose charms were celebrated by Suckling in his poem "The Bride." By her he had besides five daughters, two sons, of whom the eldest, Roger (1646 –1681/1682), succeeded as 2nd earl of Orrery. Two other children, Henry and Margaret, married children of Murrough O'Brien, 1st Earl of Inchiquin.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 History of Parliament Online - Boyle, Roger, 1st Baron Broghill
  2. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography volume 7 (2002) p 110-111
  3. T. W. Moody, F. X. Martin, F. J. Byrne A New History of Ireland, Volume III: Early Modern Ireland 1534-1691 Oxford University Press (1976) p.420
  4. Fitgerald, Patrick. The history, topography and antiquities of the county and city of Limerick. p. 306.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Morrice, Thomas (1742). State Letters of Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of Orrery, edited with his life.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Additional manuscripts (Brit. Mus.) 25,287 (letter-book when governor of Munster), and 32,095 sqq. 109-188 (letters);
  • Article in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2002)
  • Athenae Oxonienses. iii. p. 1200.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Biographia.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • "Preface". Orrery Papers. 1893.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • "Life of Roger Boyle". Contemporary History of Affairs in Ireland. 1879–1880. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • "Calendar of State Papers, Irish and Domestic". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Parliament of England
Preceded by
John Downes
Member of Parliament for Arundel
with The Viscount Falkland 1660
Sir John Trevor 1660–1661
The Lord Aungier of Longford 1661–1679

Succeeded by
William Garway
James Butler
Peerage of Ireland
New title Baron Boyle of Broghill
Succeeded by
Roger Boyle
Earl of Orrery