Arthur CHICHESTER

(1st B. Chichester of Belfast)

Born: Feb / May 1563, Raleigh, Devonshire, England

Died: 19 Feb 1624/5

Buried: Carrickfergus

Father: John CHICHESTER (Sir Knight)

Mother: Gertrude COURTENAY

Married: Lettice PERROT


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Second son of Sir John Chichester of Raleigh, Devonshire, by Gertrude, daughter of Sir William Courtenay of Powderham, educated at Exeter College, Oxford.

He commanded a ship against the Spanish Armada in 1588, and is said to have served under Sir Francis Drake in his expedition of 1595. Having seen further service abroad, he was sent to Ireland at the end of 1598, and was appointed by Robert Devereaux, 2  Earl of Essex to the governorship of Carrickfergus. When Essex returned to England, Chichester rendered valuable service under Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, in the war against the rebellious Earl of Tyrone, and in 1601 Mountjoy recommended him to Robert Cecil in terms of the highest praise as the fittest person to be entrusted with the government of Ulster.

On 5 Oct 1604 Chichester was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland. He announced his policy in a proclamation wherein he abolished the semi-feudal rights of the native Irish chieftains, substituting for them fixed dues, while their tenants were to become dependent `wholly and immediately upon his majesty. Tyrone and other Irish clan chieftains resented this summary interference with their ancient social organization, and their rnsistance was strengthened by the ill-advised measures against the Roman Catholics which Chichester was compelled to take by the orders of the English ministers. He himself was moderate and enlightened in his views on this matter, and it was through his influence that the harshness of the anti-Catholic policy was relaxed in 1607. Meantime his difficulties with the Irish tribal leaders remained unsolved. But in 1607, by `the flight of the Earls, he was relieved of the presence of the two formidable Ulster chieftains, the earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell. Chichester’s policy for dealing with the situation thus created was to divide the lands of the fugitive earls among Irishmen of standing and character; but the plantation of Ulster as actually carried out was much less favourable and just to the native population than the lord-deputy desired.

In 1613 Chichester was raised to the peerage as Baron Chichester of Belfast, and in the following year he went to England to give an account of the state of Ireland. On his return to Ireland he again attemp led to moderate the persecuting policy against the Irish Catholics which he was instructed to enforce; and although he was to some extent successful, it was probably owing to his opposition to this policy that he was recalled in Nov 1614. King James I, however, told him `You may rest assured that you do leave that place with our very good grace and acceptation of your services; and he was given the post of lord-treasurer of Ireland. After living in retirement for some years, Chichester was employed abroad in 1622; in the following year he became a member of the privy council.

He died 19 Feb 1625 and was buried at Carrickfergus.

Lord Chichester married Lettice, daughter of Sir John Perrot and widow of Walter Vaughan of Golden Grove. He had no children, and his title became extinct at his death. The heir to his estates was his brother Sir Edward Chichester, governor of Carrickfergus, who in 1625 was created Baron Chichester of Belfast and Viscount Chichester of Carrickfergus. This nobleman’s eldest son Arthur(b. 1606 - d. 1675), who distinguished himself as Colonel Chichester in the suppression of the rebellion of 1641, was created Earl of Donegall in 1647, and was succeeded in his titles by his nephew, whose great-grandson, Arthur, 5th earl of Donegall, was created Baron Fisherwick in the peerage of Great Britain (the other family titles being in the peerage of Ireland) in 1790, and Earl of Belfast and Marquess of Donegall in the peerage of Ireland in 1791. The present Marquess of Donegall is his descendant.

Bibliography:

S. R. Gardiner in DiCt. Nat. Biog. and History of England, 1603—1642 (London, 1883)

Fynes Moryson, History of Ireland.

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