1670, Patrick Archer asks for help to settle a dispute over land in Ireland

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1670s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, Patricke Archer, merchant. SP 29/272 f. 57 (1670).

To the Kings most excellent majestie

The humble peticion of Patricke Archer merchant

Most humbly sheweth that whereas your sacred majestie was graciously pleased at the most humble peticion of your peticioner, and upon the humble recommendacion of the right honourable Sir Orlando Bridgeman knight and baronet your majesties Lord Keeper of the great seale of England (both hereunto annexed) by your majesties gracious letters dated the 28th of May last past, directed to his excellency the Earle of Ossory then your majesties Lord Deputy of Ireland to give order for the putting in execucion a decree made in your majesties High Court of Chancery of this kingdome against John Preston esquier by putting and quieting your petitioner in the possession of some lands in the said decree mencioned, or otherwise that the said Preston should be sent into this kingdome to answer his contempt to your majesties High Court of Chancery heere; yet so it is (may it please your sacred majestie) that your petitioner hath not as yet received any fruit or benefitt, of the said decree, or of your majesties said gracious letter and direccions for the due execucion thereof and your majestie having now appointed the right honourable the Lord Roberts lord lieutenant generall and governour generall in your said kingdome

Your peticioner most humbly prayes that your majestie would be graciously pleased in pursuance of your majesties said former letter to give order unto your said lord lieutenant to send the said John Preston forthwith into England, heere to answer his contempt and disobedience to the said decree; that so the proceedings of your majesties high court of justice in this kingdome may not be eluded by the obstinacy and refractorinesse of any of your majesties subjects dwelling in any other of your majesties kingdomes or dominions.

And your petitioner as in duty bound shall ever pray etc.

[Paratext:] The humble peticion of Patricke Archer

Report by Judy Warner

In this petition, Patrick Archer claimed he had a previous petition to have a case heard against John Preston, who had taken lands in Ireland from Archer. The previous decision was that Preston should come to England to answer the charge. This he had failed to do. Archer thus sought a direction from the King to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to bring Preston to England to answer the charges.

Historical background

Although there was a parliament with a House of Commons and a House of Lords, the real power in seventeenth century Ireland lay with the Lord Deputy of Ireland who was appointed by the king of England to govern the country. Its Parliament only met when he required it to and when new laws or taxes needed to be enacted.

Besides that, great tracts of land had been settled by royal instigation by Scottish and English protestants in both the northern parts of the country and in what became known as the “Pale” around Dublin. “Settled” meant wresting land from its original Catholic owners, thus creating grounds for future conflict. During the English Civil Wars, the Irish Catholics reclaimed a lot of these lands, but these were again claimed by the English when Cromwell took on the reconquest of Ireland. With the restoration of Charles II, some of the confiscations were restored but on the whole, the Cromwellian reacquisitions held.[1] This, then, is the legal and social position that this petition is set against.

Sir Orlando Bridgeman Baronet of Great Lever (1606–1674)

Sir Orlando Bridgeman was, as the petition indicates, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. This meant he had physical custody of the Great Seal of England. Such an office was usually held by a peer and was entirely in the king’s gift. Bridgeman was a lawyer, a law jurist and a politician. He had participated in the trial of the regicides in 1660. As such he represented an extremely highly placed supporter for Patrick Archer’s petition.[2]

Thomas Butler, 6th Earl of Ossory (1634-1680)

The next character noted in this petition was another very well-placed individual. He had been born in Ireland in Kilkenny Castle, but on the death of his parents was brought up in England as a Protestant. Before his appointment as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland he had been involved in military engagements in Ireland for Charles I, had fled to France following the execution of the king, and then suffered the confiscation of all his Irish lands during the Commonwealth. With the Restoration, he gained only some of these back.

In 1661 he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and was sent there to, among other things, oversee and manage the settlement of lands. He was possibly just about in post at the time of the receipt of the first petition dated 28th May. However, Ossory was about to fall foul of jealous intrigue back in London stirred up by the Duke of Buckingham, who had the ear of the King. Ossory was recalled and lost his position as Lord Lieutenant on 1 May 1669.[3]

Lord Robartes, 1st Earl of Radnor (1606-1685)

Our third character is a rather different individual. His family’s wealth came from trading in tin, wood and gorse in the West Country and the baronetcy was purchased in 1625 for £10,000. John Robartes was more of a Calvinist then a member of the Church of England and sided with the Parliamentarians because he felt that Charles I was being misled by bad advisers. In the Civil war however, he fought on the King’s side. During the days of the Commonwealth he kept very quiet on his Cornish estates. With the restoration he returned to public life, with influence amongst the Presbyterians, and he regarded Lord Clarendon with extreme disapproval. He in turn described Robartes as ‘A man of more than ordinary parts, well versed in the knowledge of the law, and esteemed of integrity, not to be corrupted by money. But he was a sullen, morose man, intolerably proud, and had one manner as inconvenient as small vices, which made him hard to live with’. Pepys also attacked him for his incompetence, dilatoriness, arrogance and bad temper.

He had been given the Lord Lieutenant’s position first in 1661 but refused to go. However, in May 1669 he was offered the post again and went this time, only to be recalled less than a year later in February 1670 having proved yet again that he was unequal to the task.[4]

Patrick Archer (1615-1686)

The Archers seem to have two branches of the family in Ireland, where they can trace their ancestry back to medieval times. One branch based in Kilkenny held property there and at one time built a castle at Archerstown, Tipperary. There are also Archers in Co Wicklow who occupied a number of farming estates.

Patrick Archer is more likely to have belonged to the Kilkenny Archers. He is recorded as bringing an action in the Irish Court of Chancery for the recovery of lands at Riverstown and Castletown (Meath) which is actually some distance from Archerstown. This is perhaps the 1669 petition mentioned in the 1670 one. Patrick’s son John subsequently settled at Riverstown and Patrick’s will record him as being from Riverstown.[5]

Whatever happened to the first petition alluded to in May 1669 is not clear, but as its arrival would have coincided with the end of Lord Ossory’s tenure in the post of Lord Lieutenant, and the actual paperwork may have arrived after he had left, it is possible that it was overlooked at the time.

The subsequent petition then seems to have had the misfortune to cross over the time of the ineffective occupancy of Lord Robartes in office. The petition is dated 8 January 1670. Any granting of the petition would then have had to reach Ireland and Robartes himself was out of office by February 1670.

Archer had all the right people lined up on his side and the Kilkenny connection with the Ossory family could have also seemed propitious. Who John Preston was and where the actual properties in question lay is unfortunately not indicated.


[1] ‘History of Ireland’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Ireland_(1536%E2%80%931691)

[2] ‘Sir Orlando Bridgeman’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Orlando_Bridgeman,_1st_Baronet,_of_Great_Lever

[3] Library of Ireland, Thomas Butler: https://www.libraryireland.com/biography/ThomasButlerEarlofOssory.php

‘Thomas Butler’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Butler,_6th_Earl_of_Ossory

[4] http://www.lordrobartes.com/; ‘John Robartes’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Robartes,_1st_Earl_of_Radnor.

[5] Landed Families of Ireland: https://landedfamilies.blogspot.com/search?q=Patrick+Archer.

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reign of Charles II, 1660-1685’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.