Boyle, Roger, Baron Broghill and first Earl of Orrery 1621-1679, statesman, soldier, and dramatist, the third son of Richard Boyle, first earl of Cork, and Catherine, daughter of Sir Geoffrey Fenton, was born at Lismore 25 April 1621. In recognition of his father's services he was on 28 Feb. 1627 created Baron Broghill. At the age of fifteen he entered Trinity College, Dublin (Budgell, Memoirs of the Boyles, p. 34), and according to Wood (Athenæ, ed. Bliss, iii. 1200) he also received some of his academical education in Oxon. After concluding his university career he spent some years on the continent, chiefly in France and Italy, under a governor, Mr. Markham. Soon after his return to England, he was entrusted by the Earl of Northumberland with the command of his troop in the Scotch expedition. On his marriage to Lady Margaret Howard, third daughter of the Earl of Suffolk, he set out for Ireland, arriving 23 Oct. 1641, on the very day that the great rebellion broke out. When the Earl of Cork summoned his retainers, Lord Broghill was appointed to a troop of horse, with which he joined the Lord President St. Leger. It was only Broghill's acuteness that prevented St. Leger from believing the representations of Lord Muskerry, the leader of the Irish rebels, that he was acting on the authority of a commission from the king. Under the Earl of Cork he took part in the defence of Lismore, and he held a command at the battle of Liscarrol, 3 Sept. 1642. When the Marquis of Ormonde resigned his authority to the parliamentary commissioners in 1647, Lord Broghill, though a zealous royalist, continued to serve under them until the execution of the king. Immediately on receipt of the news he went over to England, where he lived for some time in strict retirement at Marston, Somersetshire. At last, however, he determined to make a strenuous attempt to retrieve his own fortunes and the royal cause, and, on the pretence of visiting a German spa for the sake of his health, resolved to seek an interview with Charles II on the continent, with a view to concoct measures to aid in his restoration. With this purpose he arrived in London, having meanwhile made application to the Earl of Warwick for a pass, only communicating his real design to certain royalists in whom he had perfect confidence. While waiting the result of his application, he was surprised by a message from Oliver Cromwell of his intention to call on him at his lodgings. Cromwell at once informed him that the council were completely cognisant of the real character of his designs, and that but for his interposition he would already have been clapped up in the Tower (Morrice, Memoirs of the Earl of Orrery, p. 11). Broghill thanked Cromwell warmly for his kindness, and asked his advice as to what he should do, whereupon Cromwell offered him a general's command in the war against the Irish. No oaths or obligations were to be laid on him except a promise on his word of honour faithfully to assist to the best of his power in subduing Ireland. Broghill, according to his biographer, asked for time to consider this large offer, but Cromwell brusquely answered that he must decide on the instant; and, finding that no subterfuges could any longer be made use of, he gave his consent.
The extraordinary bargain is a striking proof both of Cromwell's knowledge of men and of his consciousness of the immense difficulty of the task he had in hand in Ireland. The trust placed by him in Broghill's steadfastness and abilities was fully justified by the result. By whatever motives he may have been actuated, there can be no doubt that Broghill strained every nerve to make the cause of the parliament in Ireland triumphant. Indeed but for his assistance Cromwell's enterprise might have been attended with almost fatal disasters. With the commission of master of ordnance, Broghill immediately proceeded to Bristol, where he embarked for Ireland. Such was his influence in Munster that he soon found himself at the head of a troop of horse manned by gentlemen of property, and 1,500 well-appointed infantry, many of whom had deserted from Lord Inchiquin. After joining Cromwell at Wexford, he was left by him at Mallow, with about six or seven hundred horse and four or five hundred foot, to protect the interests of the parliament in Munster, and distinguished himself by the capture of two strong garrisons (Carlyle, Cromwell, Letter cxix.). This vigorous procedure greatly contributed to drive the enemy into Kilkenny, where they shortly afterwards surrendered. Cromwell then proceeded to Clonmel, and Broghill was ordered to attack a body of Irish under the titular bishop of Ross, who were marching to its relief. This force he met at Macroom 10 May 1650, and totally defeated, taking the bishop prisoner. While preparing to pursue the defeated enemy he received a message from Cromwell, whose troops had been decimated by sickness and the sallies of the enemy, to join him with the utmost haste; and on his arrival Clonmel was taken after a desperate struggle. Cromwell, whose presence in Scotland had been for some time urgently required, now left the task of completing the subjugation of Ireland in the hands of Ireton, whom Broghill joined at the siege of Limerick. News having reached the besiegers that preparations were being made for its relief, Broghill was sent with a strong detachment to disperse any bodies of troops that might be gathering for this purpose. By a rapid march he intercepted a strong force under Lord Muskerry, advancing to join the army raised by the pope's nuncio, and so completely routed them that all attempts to relieve Limerick were abandoned.
On the conclusion of the war Broghill remained in Munster to keep the province in subjection, with Youghal for his headquarters (Morrice, 19). While the war was proceeding he had been put in possession of as much of Lord Muskerry's estates as amounted to 1,000l. a year, until the country in which his estate was situated was freed from the enemy (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1649-50, p. 473), and at its close Blarney Castle, with lands adjoining it to the annual value of 1,000l., was bestowed upon him, the bill after long delay in parliament receiving the assent of Cromwell in 1657 (Commons' Journal). Ireton, who had been so suspicious of Broghill's intentions as to advise that he should ‘be cut off,’ died from exposure at Limerick, and Cromwell, who throughout the war had relied implicitly on Broghill's good faith, gradually received him into his special confidence. Broghill, on his part, realising that the royal cause was for the time hopeless, devoted all his energies to make the rule of Cromwell a success. Actuated at first by motives of self-interest, he latterly conceived for Cromwell strong admiration and esteem. In Cromwell's parliament which met in 1654 he sat as member for Cork, and on the list of the parliament of 1656 his name appears as member both for Cork and Edinburgh. His representation of the latter city is accounted for by the fact that this year he was sent as lord president of the council to Scotland. That he remained in Scotland only one year was due not to any failure to satisfy either the Scots or Cromwell, but simply to the condition he made on accepting office, that he should not be required to hold it for more than a year. According to Robert Baillie he ‘gained more on the affections of the people than all the English that ever were among us’ (Journals, iii. 315). After his return to England he formed one of a special council whom the Protector was in the habit of consulting on matters of prime importance (Whitelocke, Memorials, 656). He was also a member of the House of Lords, nominated by Cromwell in December 1657 (Parl. Hist. iii. 1518). It was chiefly at his instance that the parliament resolved to recommend Cromwell to adopt the title of king (Ludlow, Memoirs, 247), and he was one of the committee appointed to discuss the matter with Cromwell (Monarchy asserted to be the best, most ancient, and legall form of government, in a conference held at Whitehall with Oliver Lord Cromwell and a Committee of Parliament, 1660, reprinted in the State Letters of the Earl of Orrery, 1742). Probably it was after the failure of this negotiation that he brought before Cromwell the remarkable proposal for a marriage between Cromwell's daughter Frances and Charles II (Morrice, Memoirs of the Earl of Orrery, 21). After the death of Oliver he did his utmost to consolidate the government of his son Richard, who consulted him in his chief difficulties, but failed to profit sufficiently by his advice. Convinced at last that the cause of Richard was hopeless, he passed over to Ireland, and obtaining from the commissioners the command in Munster, he, along with Sir Charles Coote, president of Connaught, secured Ireland for the king. His letter inviting Charles to land at Cork actually reached him before the first communication of Monk, but the steps taken by Monk in England rendered the landing of Charles in Ireland unnecessary. In the Convention parliament and in that of 1661 Broghill sat for Arundel; on 5 Sept. 1660 he was created Earl of Orrery. About the close of the year he was appointed one of the lord justices of Ireland, and it was he who drew up the act of settlement for that kingdom. On the retirement of Lord Clarendon, the lord high chancellor, he was offered the great seals, but, from considerations of health, declined them. He continued for the most part to reside in Ireland in discharge of his duties as lord president of Munster, and in this capacity was successful in defeating the attempt of the Duke of Beaufort, admiral of France, to land at Kinsale. The presidency of Munster he, however, resigned in 1668 on account of disagreements with the Duke of Ormonde, lord-lieutenant. Shortly afterwards he was on 25 Nov. impeached in the House of Commons for ‘raising of moneys by his own authority upon his majesty's subjects; defrauding the king's subjects of their estates,’ but the king by commission on 11 Dec. suddenly put a stop to the proceedings by proroguing both houses to 14 Feb. (Impeachment of the Earl of Orrery, Parl. Hist. iv. 434-40), and no further attempt was made against him. He died from an attack of gout 16 Oct. 1679. He was buried at Youghal. He left two sons and five daughters.
The Earl of Orrery was the reputed author of an anonymous pamphlet ‘Irish Colours displayed, in a reply of an English Protestant to a letter of an Irish Roman Catholic,’ 1662. The ‘Irish Roman Catholic’ was Father Peter Welsh, who replied to it by ‘Irish Colours folded.’ Both were addressed to the Duke of Ormonde. That Orrery was the author of the pamphlet is not impossible, but the statement is unsupported by proof. It is probable, therefore, that it has been confounded with another reply to the same letter professedly written by him and entitled ‘An Answer to a scandalous letter lately printed and subscribed by Peter Welsh, Procurator to the Sec. and Reg. Popish Priests of Ireland.’ This pamphlet has for sub-title ‘A full Discovery of the Treachery of the Irish rebels and the beginning of the rebellion there. Necessary to be considered by all adventurers and other persons estated in that kingdom.’ Both the letter of Welsh and this reply to it have been reprinted in the ‘State Letters of Roger Boyle, Earl of Orrery,’ 1742. In 1654 he published in six volumes the first part of a romance, ‘Parthenissa,’ a complete edition of which appeared in three volumes in 1665 and in 1677. The writer of the notice of Orrery in the ‘Biographia Britannica’ attributes the neglect of the romance to its remaining unfinished, but finished it certainly was, and if it had not been, its tediousness would not have been relieved by adding to its length. More substantial merit attaches to his ‘Treatise of the Art of War,’ 1677, dedicated to the king. He claims for it the distinction of being the first ‘Entire Treatise on the Art of War written in our language,’ and the quality of comprehensiveness cannot be denied to it, treating as it does of the ‘choice and educating of the soldiery; the arming of the soldiery; the disciplining of the soldiery; the ordering of the garrisons; the marching of an army; the camping of an army within a line or intrenchment; and battles.’ The treatise is of undoubted interest as indicating the condition of the art at the close of the Cromwellian wars, and, like his political pamphlet, is written in a terse and effective style.
Not content to excel as a statesman and a general, Orrery devoted some of his leisure to the cultivation of poetry; but if Dryden is to be believed, the hours he chose for the recreation were not the most auspicious. ‘The muses,’ he says, ‘have seldom employed your thoughts but when some violent fit of gout has snatched you from affairs of state, and, like the priestess of Apollo, you never come to deliver your oracles but unwillingly and in torment’ (Dedication prefixed to The Rivals). Commenting on this, Walpole remarked that the gout was a ‘very impotent muse.’ Like his relative Richard, second earl of Burlington, Orrery was on terms of intimate friendship with many eminent men of letters¾among others Davenant, Dryden, and Cowley. Besides several dramas he was the author of ‘A Poem on his Majesty's happy Restoration,’ which he presented to the king, but which was never printed; ‘A Poem on the Death of Abraham Cowley,’ 1677, printed in a ‘Collection of Poems’ by various authors, 1701, 3rd edition, 1716, republished in Budgell's ‘Memoirs of the Family of the Boyles,’ and prefixed by Dr. Sprat to his edition of Cowley's works; ‘The Dream’¾in which the genius of France is introduced endeavouring to persuade Charles II to become dependent on Louis XIV¾presented to the king, but never printed, and now lost; and ‘Poems on most of the Festivals of the Church,’ 1681. Several of the tragedies of Orrery attained a certain success in their day. They are written in rhyme with an easy flowing diction, and, if somewhat bombastic and extravagant in sentiment, are not without effective situations, and manifest considerable command of pathos. The earliest of his plays performed was ‘Henry V,’ at Lincoln's Inn Fields, as is proved by the reference of Pepys, under date 13 Aug. 1664. He then saw it acted, and he makes a later reference, under date 28 Sept. of the same year, to ‘The General’ as ‘Lord Broghill's second play.’ Downes asserts that ‘Henry V’ was not brought out till 1667, when the theatre was reopened, but it was then only revived, and was performed ten nights successively. The play was published in 1668. It is doubtful if Orrery was the author of ‘The General’¾at least there is no proof of his having acknowledged it. ‘Mustapha, the Son of Solyman the Magnificent,’ was brought out at Lincoln's Inn Fields 3 April 1665, and played before their majesties at court 20 Oct. 1666 (Evelyn). ‘The Black Prince,’ published 1669, and played for the first time at the king's house 19 Oct. 1667 (Pepys), was not very successful, the reading of a letter actually causing the audience to hiss. ‘Tryphon,’ a tragedy, published in 1672, and acted at Lincoln's Inn Fields 8 Dec. 1668, met with some applause, but showed a lack of invention, resembling his other tragedies too closely in its construction. These four tragedies were published together in 1690, and now form vol. i. of his ‘Dramatic Works.’ Of Orrery's two comedies, ‘Guzman’ and ‘Mr. Anthony,’ ‘the former,’ according to Downes, ‘took very well, the latter but indifferent.’ Pepys, who pronounced ‘Guzman’ to be ‘very ordinary,’ mentions it as produced anonymously 16 April 1669. It was published posthumously in 1693. ‘Mr. Anthony’ was published in 1690, but is not included in the ‘Dramatic Works.’ Two tragedies of Orrery's were published posthumously, ‘Herod the Great,’ in 1694, along with his four early tragedies and the comedy ‘Guzman;’ and ‘Altemira’ in 1702, in which year it was put upon the stage by his grandson Charles Boyle. The ‘Complete Dramatic Works of the Earl of Orrery,’ including all his plays with the exception of ‘Mr. Anthony,’ appeared in 1743. The Earl of Orrery is the reputed author of ‘English Adventures, by a Person of Honour,’ 1676, entered in the catalogue of the Huth Library.
State Letters of Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of Orrery, containing a series of correspondence between the Duke of Ormonde and his lordship, from the Restoration to the year 1668, together with some other letters and pieces of a different kind, particularly the Life of the Earl of Orrery by the Rev. Mr. Thomas Morrice, his lordship's chaplain, 1742;
Budgell's Memoirs of the Boyles, 34-93;
Earl of Orrery's Letter Book whilst Governor of Munster (1644-49), Add. MS. 25287;
Letters to Sir John Malet, Add. MS. 32095, ff. 109-188;
Clarendon's History of the Rebellion;
Oldmixon's History of the Stuarts;
Carte's Life of Ormonde;
Cal. State Papers (Dom.), especially during the Protectorate;
Ware's Writers of Ireland (Harris), iii. 177;
Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iii. 1200-1;
Walpole's Royal and Noble Authors (Park), v. 191-7;
Genest's History of the Stage;
Biog. Brit. (Kippis), ii. 479-92;
Lodge's Irish Peerage (1789), i. 178-192
Contributor: T. F. H. [Thomas Finlayson Henderson]