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Arthur Chichester


Arthur Chichester

"Arthur Chichester" redirects here. For other uses, see Arthur Chichester (disambiguation).
The Lord Chichester
File:Sir Arthur Chichester.jpg
Born 1563
Pilton, Barnstaple, Devon
Died 19 February 1625

Arthur Chichester, 1st Baron Chichester (May 1563 – 19 February 1625), known between 1596 and 1613 as Sir Arthur Chichester, was an English administrator and soldier, best known as the Lord Deputy of Ireland from 1605 to 1616.

Early life

Chichester's parents were Sir John Chichester (d.1569), and the former Gertrude Courtenay, daughter of Sir William Courtenay, of the Earls of Devon. After attending Exeter College, Oxford, Chichester commanded HMS Larke against the Spanish Armada in 1588. In 1595 he accompanied Sir Francis Drake on his last expedition to the Americas. Later in the Anglo–Spanish War he commanded a company during the 1596 raid on Cádiz, for which he was knighted.[1][2] A year later he was with English forces in France fighting with King Henry IV against the Spanish in Picardy. He was wounded in the shoulder during the Siege of Amiens which was captured from the Spanish. He was Knighted by the French king for his valour.


His career in Ireland began when the Earl of Essex appointed him Governor of Carrickfergus in 1598, upon the death of his brother Sir John Chichester. John Chichester had been killed at the Battle of Carrickfergus the previous year. It is said that John Chichester was decapitated, his head being used as a football by the MacDonnell clan after their victory. James Sorley MacDonnell, commander of the clan's forces at the Battle of Carrickfergus, was poisoned in Dunluce Castle on the orders of Robert Cecil to placate Chichester.[3] During the Nine Years' War Chichester commanded crown troops in Ulster. His tactics included a scorched earth policy. He also encircled O'Neill's forces with garrisons, effectively starving the Earl's troops. In a 1600 letter to Cecil he stated "a million swords will not do them so much harm as one winter's famine". While these tactics were not initially devised by Chichester, he carried them out ruthlessly, gaining a hate-figure status among the Irish.

Following the signing of the Treaty of Mellifont, he succeeded Lord Mountjoy as Lord Deputy of Ireland from 3 February 1605.[4] A year later he married Lettice Perrot, widow successively of Walter Vaughan of Golden Grove, Carmarthenshire, and John Langhorne of St Brides, Pembrokeshire, and daughter of Sir John Perrot, a former Lord Deputy of Ireland. They had a son, Arthur, born 22 September 1606, who was buried in Christ Church, Dublin, on 31 October 1606.[5]

Lord Deputy Chichester saw Irish Catholicism as a major threat to the crown. He oversaw widespread persecution of Catholics, and ordered the execution of two bishops, including the aged and respected Conor O'Devany. His relations with the traditionally Catholic nobility of the Pale, in particular the quarrelsome and turbulent Christopher St Lawrence, 10th Baron Howth, were bad. In Howth's violent feuds with the new English settler families, particularly Thomas Jones, Archbishop of Dublin and his son, and Viscount Moore of Drogheda, Chichester invariably sided against Howth, but was unable to completely break his influence as he was a favourite of James I.

Following the Flight of the Earls in 1607, Chichester was a leading figure during the Plantation of Ulster. Initially he intended that the number of Scottish planters would be small, with native Irish landowners gaining more land. However, after a rebellion in Donegal in 1608, his plans changed and all the native lords lost their land. Most of the land was awarded to wealthy landowners from England and Scotland. However Chichester successfully campaigned to award veterans of the Nine Years' War land as well, funded by the London Livery Companies.

Later life

Chichester was instrumental in the founding and expansion of Belfast, now Northern Ireland's capital. In 1611 he built a castle on the site of an earlier 12th century Norman Motte-and-bailey.[6] In 1613 he was given the title Baron Chichester of Belfast. Ill health in 1614 led to his retirement and his term of office was terminated in February 1616.[5] In his final years he built a mansion in Carrickfergus and served as an ambassador to the Habsburg Empire.

He died from pleurisy in London in 1625. He was buried seven months later in St Nicholas' Church, Carrickfergus. The barony of Chichester became extinct on his death but was revived the same year in favour of his younger brother Edward. Edward's son was also named Arthur Chichester and was the first Earl of Donegall. The family's influence in Belfast is still evident. Several streets are named in their honour, including Donegall Place, site of the Belfast City Hall and the adjacent Chichester Street.



Political offices
Preceded by
Sir George Cary
Lord Deputy of Ireland
Succeeded by
Sir Oliver St John
Peerage of Ireland
New creation Baron Chichester

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