Getting there: the generation game

This Poo Beresford continues to hang in the air, bear down on my mind, and burden my conscience, as it has now for a couple of weeks. I tried sneaking up on it, through the start of the Plantation of Ulster. Now I’ll try to move on and up the line of descent.

What I hope will show is how the Beresfords climbed the social ladder, with a speed and success that outran the other planters.

The pain now arriving at platform one …

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Don’t rush past the map of newly-minted County Londonderry, by Thomas Raven (and there’s one of greater definition on-line here). It shows how the twelve great liveried companies found themselves lumbered with swathes of countryside, about which they had little knowledge, but which they were committed to pacify and populate.

So, in 1610 two thrusting chancers arrived as the advance party: John Rowley and Tristram Beresford. The former was the overseer at Derry, deputed by the Goldsmiths; the latter by the Clothworkers at Coleraine. On paper, it might seem Rowley had the better prospects … but watch and learn.

A bit of begatting

And Tristram Beresford (about 1574-1666) begat Sir Tristram Beresford, 1st Baronet of Coleraine.

baronetsAnd Sir Tristram Beresford (?-1673) married Anne Rowley, daughter of aforesaid John. He thereby begat a son (Randal) and two daughters. He was MP for the County of Londonderry in the Irish Parliament in 1634, 1656-58 and 1661-1666. By his second marriage to Sarah Sackville he begat a further three sons and three daughters. The baronetage dates from 1665.

And Sir Randal Beresford (?-1681), 2nd Baronet of Coleraine, married Catherine Annesley, daughter of Francis Annesley, 1st Viscount Valentia.

Pause for thought: Annesley was an intimate of Lord Deputy Chichester (who was, in turn, no great fan of the Ulster Planation — in large part because he was not a prime beneficiary). So: two generations on, the Kentish Beresfords are in close proximity with the on-the-spot rulers of Ireland, who via Annesley have control of the Irish exchequer.

And Sir Randal, with Catherine, begat Tristram, the third baronet, two other sons, and two daughters.

And Sir Tristram Beresford (1669-1701), 3rd Baronet of Coleraine, married the eccentric Nichola Sophia Hamilton (she had all kinds of spiritual traumas with the Earl of Tyrone), daughter of the Baron Hamilton of Glenawly, and by her begat four daughters and a single son. This Sir Tristram was “out” with the Williamites, attainted by James II, and “restored” after the Glorious Revolution. He knew which side his bread was buttered; and we might notice how the Beresfords are now, most assuredly, in good odour and deep with the Ascendancy … and with the Whigs now running the show in Westminster.

If you were with me in that preceding paragraph, you’ll have notice that the bold Sir Tristram pegged it, aged just 32. His heir, Sir Marcus Beresford (1694-1763) now the 4th baronet, was still barely an infant. His “guardians” were the Viscount and then Viscountess Dungannon (i.e. the Trevor family). I’m feeling the urge to post on how the Dungannon title was rapidly resurrected after Marcus Trevor’s death (8th November 1706): and it bodes to be on the salacious side.

Anyway, back to the begatting.

tyroneAnd Sir Marcus Beresford, 4th Baronet of Coleraine, scored all the jackpots. Barely of age, he became MP for Coleraine: though Lodge’s  Peerage of Ireland (page 302) puts it, somewhat drily (long ∬s and all):

… before he attained his full age, was cho∫en to parliament for the borough of Coleraine, which he continued to repre∫ent, until K. George I was plea∫ed to advance him to the peerage by privy ∫eal, dated at St Jame∫’s 11 June, and by patent at Dublin 4 November 1720.

In 1717 he married Lady Catharine Power, the only child and heiress of the last and 8th Earl of Tyrone.

The Powers descended from the Anglo-Normans who arrived with Strongbow. The surname “Power” was anglicised from “le Poer”, and now was as good a moment to revert to the Frenchified, poncified form. From the “le Poer” side, the match with a warranted Williamite (now Hanoverian) Whig happily expunged any hang-over from the messy business involving the execution (for being a Jacobite colonel) of the 6th Earl.

The bold Sir Marcus, now making his mark in London society and being a bit of a weighty number in Anglo-Irish politics, deserved his Hanoverian  silver balls and ermine — so, on 4th November 1720, he was advanced to Earl of Tyrone, Viscount Tyrone, and Baron Beresford. And all that before his 27th year was completed.

And the Earl of Tyrone, with the Baroness-le-Poer-in-her-own-right, begat three sons, who all died young, before the fourth, George de la Poer Beresford (born January 1735) would survive and inherit. A fifth, John, followed the money, became a barrister, a commissioner of the revenue, MP for Waterford and member of both UK and Irish Privy Councils. As well as taster of wines for the port of Dublin. A seventh son (#6 also died an infant) went into the church, became Bishop of Ossory and spawned a total of ten sons and six daughters.

And Sir George de la Poer Beresford succeeded to the Earldom, 4th April 1763. His first appointment was as Governor and Keeper of the Customs of Waterford (that’s the de la Poor connection). He took his place as a member of the Irish Privy Council and became a knight of the Order of St Patrick. All of that signified he was a heavy hitter, at the apex of the Irish Ascendancy.

Troubled times

Let’s lift our eyes from Irish simplicities, where the divisions (and opportunities for divide-and-rule) were clearly defined. Things across the water were complicated by the accession of George III and the congealing of the British parliamentary two-party system. Basil Williams, for the Oxford History of England, had it like this:

On 25 October 1760 the old king, George II, died. A choleric, obstinate little man with violent prejudices and a great sense of his own importance … For the last six years of his reign he was bewildered by the intrigues and incompetence of Newcastle and still more by the masterful assuredness of Pitt. But, though vastly preferring his gemültlich little electorate [Hanover], where he had no worries and everybody was deferential, he was a good constitutional king in always recognizing, after much preliminary blustering, his own limitations and the necessity of acceptin[g] the advice of ministers supported by ‘that d____d House of Commons’…

The new king, George III, in his first public act showed his anxiety for peace and his antagonism to Pitt’s bellicose humour. In his declaration to the privy council on his accession he spoke of ‘this bloody and expensive war’, softened down, it is true, on Pitt’s demand, in the published version, to ‘expensive but just and necessary war’. [pages 367-368]

So the diplomatic card-game began, with Pitt holding the trumps (not just the Canadian and Caribbean conquest, but even Belle Île, a fraction of France itself) but marked cards (the French negotiator was Castelnau, who had been one of Newcastle bought informants).

With the Peace of Paris, Bute and Fox departed the political arena. Fox had run the national exchequer as an adjunct to his own; and it would take twenty years to settle scores. Grenville was a clean skin, but prickly about his reputation, and suspected — with reason — that Bute had open channels to the king. Grenville attempted to impose himself, and crack down: Wilkes was the prime target. While Greville was stabilising the national finances, the partisan cleavage was widening.

A bit more begatting

For the Beresfords (now Poer Beresfords) to rise higher, George de la Poer Beresford needed a good political marriage. He found it in Elizabeth Monck, daughter of Henry Monck and Lady Anne-Isabella Bentinck (herself daughter of the Duke of Portland). Note those surnames: the Poor Beresfords had chosen sides in the developing political trench-fighting. The marriage produced four sons and four daughters.

Thus we arrive at Poo Beresford and his equally-remarkable brother: neither of whom were legitimate. But that’s another story …

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Filed under History, Ireland, Irish politics, Northern Ireland

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