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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Earl of Westmeath

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A title held in the Irish family of Nugent since 1621. During the reign of Henry II. Sir Gilbert Nugent received the lordship or barony of Delvin in Meath, which soon passed by marriage from the Nugents to the family of Fitzjohn. About two hundred years later the barony returned to the Nugent family, Sir William Nugent (d. c. 1415) marrying Catherine, daughter of John Fitzjohn. The barony, however, is considered to date from the time of Sir William Nugent and not from that of Sir Gilbert, 1389 being generally regarded as the date of its creation.

Sir William Nugent, who is generally called the 1st, but sometimes the 9th, baron Delvin, was succeeded by his son Sir Richard (d. c. 1460) as 2nd baron. In 1444 and 1449 Sir Richard was lord deputy of Ireland. His grandson, Richard, the 4th baron (d. c. 1538), was summoned to the Irish parliament in 1486. During his whole life he was loyal td the English king, and both before and after the years 1527 and 1528 when he was lord deputy, he took a vigorous part in the warfare against the Irish rebels. Among his descendants was Robert Nugent, Earl Nugent. Richard's grandson, Christopher, the 6th baron ( c. 1544-1602), also served England well, but about 1576 he fell under the displeasure of Queen Elizabeth and he was several times imprisoned, being in the intervals employed in Ireland. He was a prisoner in Dublin Castle when he died. Delvin wrote A Primer of the Irish Language, compiled at the request and for the use of Queen Elizabeth. His son, Richard, the 7th baron (1583-1642), took part in 1606 in a plot against the English government and was imprisoned, but he soon escaped from captivity and secured a pardon from James I. In 1621 he was created earl of Westmeath. Having refused in 1641 to join the Irish rebellion, he was attacked by a party of rebels and was so seriously injured that he died shortly afterwards. His grandson, Richard, the 2nd earl (d. 1684), served Charles II. against Cromwell in Ireland and afterwards raised some troops for service in Spain. His grandson Thomas, the 4th earl (1656-1752), served James II. in Ireland. Thomas's brother, John, the 5th earl (1672-1754), left Ireland after the final defeat of James II. and took service in France. He fought against England at the battles of Ramillies, Oudenarde and Malplaquet and remained on active service until 1748. He died in Brabant on the 3rd of July 1754. His son Thomas, the 6th earl (d. 1792), also served in the French army; later he conformed to the established religion, being the first Protestant of his house, and took his seat in the Irish House of Lords in 1755. His son George Frederick, the 7th earl (1760-1814), a member of the Irish House of Commons before 1792, was succeeded by his son George Thomas John (1785-1871), who was created marquess of Westmeath in 1822 and who was an Irish representative peer from 1831 to 1871. He died without legitimate sons on the 5th of May 1871, when the marquessate became extinct.

The earldom of Westmeath now passed to a distant cousin, Anthony Francis Nugent (1805-1879), a descendant of Thomas Nugent (d. 1715) of Pallas, Galway, who was a son of the 2nd earl. Thomas was chief justice of Ireland from 1687 until he was outlawed by the government of William III. In 1689 he was created by James II. baron of Riverston, but the validity of this title has never been admitted. In 1883 his descendant, Anthony Francis (b. 1870), became the 11th earl.

Cadets of the Nugent family were Nicholas Nugent (d. 1582), chief justice of the common bench in Ireland, who was hanged for treason on the 6th of April 1582; William Nugent (d. 1625) an Irish rebel during the reign of Elizabeth; Sir George Nugent, Bart. (1757-1849), who, after seeing service in America and in the Netherlands, was commander-in-chief in India from 181 to 1813 and became a field-marshal in 1846; and Sir Charles Edmund Nugent (c. 1759-1844), an admiral of the fleet. More famous perhaps was Lavall, Count Nugent (1777-1862), who rose to the rank of field-marshal in the Austrian army and was made a prince of the empire. His long and honourable military career began in 1793 and sixty-six years later he was present at the battle of Solferino. His most distinguished services to Austria were during the war with France in 1813 and 1814, and he was also useful during the revolution in Hungary in 1849.

See D'Alton, Pedigree of the Nugent Family; and Historical Sketch of the Nugent Family, printed by C. Lyons (1853).

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Earl of Westmeath'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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