Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of Orrery  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of Orrery (25 April 1621–16 October 1679), British soldier, statesman and dramatist. He was the third surviving son of Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork and Richard's second wife, Catherine Fenton. He was created Baron of Broghill on 28 February 1627. Boyle 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 also a noted playwright and writer on 17th century warfare.


A colonial upbringing

Roger Boyle was named after his parents' first son who died at age nine. The Boyle family settled in Ireland in the late 16th century, Richard Boyle becoming the Earl of Cork and acquiring large estates and wealth, largely at the expense of the local Irish lords. Roger Boyle was educated at Trinity College, Dublin.

Rebellion and civil war

Boyle travelled in France and Italy, and took part in the Bishops Wars against the Scots on returning home. He 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. However, 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 him of the consequence of persisting in them. Cromwell offered him a command in Ireland against the rebels that entailed no obligations except faithful service. It was accepted.

His 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, and drove the rebels into Kilkenny, where they surrendered. He also 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 he 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 to Cromwell's parliaments of 1654 and 1656 as member for the county of Cork, 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, 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 his command in Munster he secured the island for Charles and anticipated Monk's overtures by inviting him to land at Cork. He sat for Arundel in the Convention and in the parliament of 1661, and at the Restoration was taken into great favour. 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 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. He 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 or 1682), succeeded as 2nd earl of Orrery.

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), tragedy
  • The Generall (1664), a tragi-comedy. [1]
  • Mustapha (1665), tragedy
  • Tryphon (acted 1668), tragedy
  • The Black Prince (acted 1667; printed 1669), tragedy
  • 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.


State Letters of Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of Orrery, ed. with his life by. Th. Morrice (1742); Additional manuscripts (Brit. Mus.) 25,287 (letter-book when governor of Munster), and 32,095 sqq. 109-188 (letters); article in the Dict. of Nat. Biog. and authorities there collected; Wood's Athenae Oxonienses, iii. 1200; Biographia (Kippis); Orrery Papers, ed. by Lady Cork and Orrery (1893) (Preface); Contemporary Hist. of Affairs in Ireland, ed. by John T Gilbert (1879-1880); Cal. of State Pap., Irish and Domestic.

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