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The Boyle Family Monument

May 26, 2016  Posted in: Cathedral History


The huge monument at the West end of the Cathedral was erected in 1632 by Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork, for himself, his wife and family.

In his diary he records under the date 3rd June 1630 that “I this day perfected my covenants with Edmond Tingham of Chapple Isolde, stone-cutter, for erecting a Tombe for myself, my wife, her father and mother, her grandfather and grandmother, in St Patrick’s Church in Dublin, for which I am to be of no other charges for all materials, carvings, painting and gilding, and finishing thereof by 24th July 1631 than the payment of £300 sterling”. The tomb was designed by Alban Leverett, Athlone Pursuivant-at-Arms who was paid 40 shillings “for drawing the modull of my dear wife’s tombe”.

The Boyle Monument

The monument was completed in 1632 and erected against the East wall of the choir. On the 13th December of that year Lord Cork paid Tingham £300. Lord Cork’s wife, Catherine, daughter of Sir Geoffry Fenton, died in February 1629. She was interred in the family vault behind the altar between the quire and Lady Chapel. By 1632, the tomb was in place over the graves of Catherine, her grandfather Dean Weston and her father.

The size and position of the monument caused great offence to many, including Lord Deputy Wentworth and the Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud, and despite support from the Archbishops of Dublin and Armagh, they had it removed and boxed in 1634. It was later re-erected against the South Wall of the Chancel. This so infuriated the Earl that he is said to have played a part in the eventual execution of Wentworth who he hated, but in truth, he would have had little influence on the verdict, though he did appear as an important witness and thoroughly approved of the condemnation and execution.

The monument having fallen into decay was repaired by Jonathan Swift and in the course of the work some alterations were made from the original design. Much was lost, including allegorical figures, coronets and even a few junior family members. It was removed to its present position at the West end in 1863.

Figures in the Monument


The monument consists of four tiers and in the top one is the recumbent figure of Catherine’s grandfather. Robert Weston was the third son of John Weston of Lichfield, Staffordshire and Cecilia, sister of the 4th Earl of Westmoreland. He was educated at Oxford University, being a Fellow of All souls College in 1536 and Dean of Law in 1538. He attained a Bachelor of Civil Law the same year, eventually becoming a Doctor of Civil Law in 1556. From 1546 to 1549 he was Principal of Broadgates Hall. A successful ecclesiastical lawyer, he served as Chancellor of Exeter 1551-3, Lichfield 1564, and was Dean of the Arches 1559-67.

He had already been MP for Exeter in 1553 and for Lichfield 1558-9. In 1567 he was appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland, but because the salary was inadequate, the Queen made him Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, and also in 1570 Dean of Wells. As a conscientious churchman, Weston was unhappy about these appointments, but, despite being a layman, he became the effective leader of the Church of Ireland. As Chancellor, he was undistinguished and not very energetic, but respected for his honesty. He died on the 20th May 1573.

The next tier contains effigies of:


Sir Geoffrey was born in 1539, son of Henry Fenton of Fenton, Nottinghamshire and Cecily Beaumont. He followed a literary career until 1580, mainly producing translations. His first work, “Certain Tragical Discourses” was a translations of tales by Bandello written in 1567, while living in Paris, and more followed, the final and most ambitious being a translation of the Italian historian Guicciardini’s “La Historia d’Italia” in 1579, dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I.

Through the favour of Lord Burghley, Elizabeth’s Chief Minister and Secretary of State, he was appointed joint Secretary of State (with John Chaloner) to the new Lord Deputy of Ireland, Lord Grey de Wilton, and thus became a colleague of the poet Edmund Spenser. When Chaloner died in 1581, Fenton became sole Secretary. A zealous protestant, he worked against the “diabolical secte” of Rome, and urged the assassination of the Crown’s most dangerous subjects. In 1584 he was ordered by the Lord Chancellors, Archbishop Adam Loftus and Sir Henry Wallop to torture the Roman Catholic bishop of Cashel, Dermot O’Hurley. This awful torture was carried out in Dublin Castle and this and the subsequent execution made O’Hurley a martyr in Ireland.

He had difficulties with Sir John Perrot, the Lord Deputy as his policies ran counter to Burghley’s, though he supported the Plantation of Munster, and in 1587 Perrot had him arrested over a small debt and imprisoned in the Marshalsea. He was released on the Queen’s instructions, and after Sir William FitzWilliam replaced Perrot in February 1588, he was knighted the following year. When FitzWilliam devised a plot to discredit Perrot, Fenton was the chief investigator and spent 1590-1 in London as Chief Commissioner at the trial at which Perrot was convicted of Treason.

As a reward Fenton was made Surveyor General in 1591. In the 1590s rebellions he sought a peaceful negotiation, but was compromised by his involvement with Burghley and his advice was ignored, being at odds with the Castle and London. He was, however, in the 1590s one of the most prominent and influential policy makers in the kingdom.

Hostile to the Scots, he was suspicious of King James, and his post was in danger, but in 1604 it was confirmed for life, albeit sharing it with Sir Richard Coke. He did contrive to serve actively under Sir Arthur Chicester, though he opposed his plans for the Plantation of Ulster, arguing that Chicester was too lenient. He married Alice, daughter of Dr Robert Preston on the death of her first husband, Dr Hugh Brady, Bishop of Meath in 1584, and they had a son, William and a daughter Catherine, who married the 1st Earl of Cork, thus making Fenton the grandfather of Robert Boyle. Sir Geoffrey Fenton died on 24th October 1608. Lady Alice died on the 20th May 1631.

The Earl and his wife are depicted in the monument in their robes and coronets, surrounded by their children. Known as the “Great Earl”, Richard Boyle was born on the 3rd October 1566 in Canterbury, Kent, 2nd son of Roger Boyle of Herefordshire and his wife Joan Naylor of Canterbury. He was educated at first locally at Faversham, then entering Corpus Christi College Cambridge in 1583. He studied law at the Middle Temple and became clerk to Sir Richard Manwood, Chief Baron of the Exchequer.

With little chance of advancement, he sought employment in Ireland and by 1590 he was Deputy Escheator in Ireland, a post that entailed upholding the crown’s claims to land. Boyle took full advantage of a notoriously corrupt system, and acquired considerable land round Co Clare and in Connaught. In 1595 he married Joan Apsley, who on the death of her brother became co-heiress of a large property in Limerick. Because her brother had died by suicide, the land should have been forfeit to the crown, but Boyle concealed the fact and got both a wife and the property. When she died in 1598 Boyle became the sole owner.

Subject to attacks by Sir Henry Wallop, who was extremely jealous of Boyle and accused him of being a Roman Catholic and having close relations with the King of Spain, he was imprisoned and forced to defend himself in the Star Chamber. He was examined before the Privy Council, the Queen herself being present, and he so impressed her that not only was he acquitted, but he completely routed Wallop and was returned to Ireland as Clerk of the Munster Council, enjoying the favour of the President, Sir George Carew. Boyle carried the news of the victory of the Crown forces at Kinsale to Queen Elizabeth in December 1601. Knighted in 1603, made a member of the Irish Privy Council in 1613, he became Baron Boyle in the Irish Peerage in 1616 before finally being elevated to the Earldom of Cork in 1620.

When he married his second wife Catherine, the daughter of the Secretary of State Sir Geoffrey Fenton, her dowry bought the vast estates of Sir Walter Raleigh in Cork, making him one of the biggest landowners in the country. One of the most powerful people in Ireland, he was appointed a Lord Justice on the 26th October 1629, in conjunction with his son-in-law, Viscount Loftus, Lord High treasurer on the 9th November 1631 and while not an English peer, sat “by His Majesty’s Grace” in the House of Lords.

However, the appointment of Sir Thomas Wentworth, Lord Strafford, as Lord Deputy in 1633 brought an end to his power and influence. He was deprived of the greater part of his Youghal revenues, and there was also the matter of his humiliation by Wentworth over the tomb in St Patrick’s. He appeared as a witness at Wentworth’s trial for treason, though he took no part in the prosecution, but fully agreed with the verdict and execution. The Earl died on the 15th September 1643 and was buried in St Mary’s Collegiate Church, Youghal, where there is a similar, but much smaller monument.


Robert Boyle

On the ground floor is a statue of the youngest son and the 14th child of the Earl of Cork and Lady Catherine. Born at Lismore Castle on the 23rd January 1627, he was a founder member of the Royal Society in 1660.

He published his law relating to the pressure and volume of gas, known as “Boyle’s Law” in 1662. This became so significant to the study of the subject that Boyle is now known as the “Father of Modern Chemistry”.

He died on the 31st December 1691 and was buried in the churchyard of St Martin-in-the Fields, London.


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