BOYLE, Richard, 2nd Visct. Shannon [I] (c.1675-1740), of Shannon Park, co. Cork

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1708 - 1710
1710 - 27 Jan. 1711
25 July 1712 - 1715
5 Apr. 1715 - 1722
6 Nov. 1722 - 1734

Family and Education

b. c.1675, 1st s. of Richard Boyle (1st s. d.v.p. of Francis Boyle, 1st Visct. Shannon [I], of Shannon Park) by Elizabeth, da. of Sir John Ponsonby of Bessborough, co. Kilkenny.  educ. Oxf. Univ. DCL 1695.  m. (1) c.6 June 1704, Mary (d. 1714), illegit. da. of Charles Sackville†, 6th Earl of Dorset, wid. of his 2nd cos. Lionel Boyle*, 3rd Earl of Orrery [I], s.p.; (2) Jan. 1721, Grace (d. 1755), da. and h. of John Senhouse of Netherhall, Cumb., 1da.  suc. gdfa. as 2nd Visct. Apr. 1699.1

Offices Held

Cornet, 2 tp. Horse Gds. 1693, guidon and maj. 1696–Feb. 1702; col. of Marines Feb. 1702–Jan. 1715; brig.-gen. 1704, maj.-gen. 1708; jt. comptroller for clothing the army 1708; dep. gov. Dover Castle 1709; lt.-gen. 1710; col. 25 Ft. Jan. 1715–June 1721; lt.-gen. [I] 1716, c.-in-c. [I] 1720–d.; col. 6 Drag. June 1721–Mar. 1727, 4 tp. Life Gds. Mar. 1727–d.; PC [I] 1721–d.; ld. justice [I] 1722–3, 1724; gen. 1735, f.m. 1739; gov. Portsmouth 1737–d., Sheerness.2

Freeman, Cork 1722.3


Very much the poor relation of his grand Boyle cousins, Boyle inherited an estate of only £1,000 a year, and was, therefore, condemned to earn his living. His long and distinguished military career began, appropriately, with service as a volunteer at the battle of the Boyne. As a young guards officer in the Nine Years’ War he saw action at Landen in 1693, but his first notable exploit occurred during the Cadiz expedition of 1702 when, in his capacity as colonel of a newly raised regiment of marines, he led the grenadiers in storming the fortifications at Vigo. He was then despatched to England with the news of the destruction of the French and Spanish fleets, for which he was rewarded by Queen Anne with a gratuity of £1,000. A similar experience awaited him three years later, as he again brought home tidings of a triumph in Spain, this time the taking of Barcelona, receiving another gratuity. Promotion, however, came more slowly. His political views may have been too Whiggish for the taste of Queen Anne’s first ministry, and in January 1703 there was talk of his participation in a scandalous episode in St. James’s Church, Piccadilly, both of which may have contributed to his lack of advancement after Vigo and an unsubstantiated rumour that he would lose his regiment. Prospects improved with the increasing Whig preponderance in government, and his own easier access to ministerial circles, through his brief membership of the Kit-Cat Club and marriage into the influential Sackville family. In 1708 he obtained a major-general’s commission and a seat in Parliament for Arundel, the latter probably on the recommendation of the Earl of Scarbrough, a retired army officer and fellow Kit-Catter. Boyle’s election was reckoned by the Earl of Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) as a ‘gain’ for the Whigs, and he was also classed as a Whig in a list of early 1708. He voted in 1709 in favour of the naturalization of the Palatines, and, having survived a contest and a petition at Arundel when he was obliged to seek re-election on accepting the deputy governorship of Dover Castle, was ‘blacklisted’ in 1710 as one who had supported the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. He was not, however, a dedicated parliamentarian, placing his professional duty above his responsibilities as a Member: no speech of his is recorded, nor was he in this period named to any of the major committees. In 1708 he had pestered the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) with his wish to return to Spain, and in 1710 he was entrusted with the leadership of the secret, and ultimately abortive, expedition to attack French Canada. Abandoning Arundel in the 1710 general election, since Scarbrough was no longer in a position to nominate both Members there, he was returned instead for Hythe, through the intercession of his brother-in-law Dorset, the lord warden of the Cinque Ports, and was classed as a Whig in the ‘Hanover list’ of this Parliament. Ousted on petition, he regained the seat at a by-election in 1712, and although voting as a Whig against the French commerce bill on 18 June 1713, retained both his regiment and his place in Parliament throughout the lifetime of the Tory administration. Under the Hanoverians his career flourished, both in England and in his native Ireland, where he was for many years commander-in-chief.4

Boyle died on 20 Dec. 1740, and was buried at Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, where he had purchased a substantial estate. He was commemorated in a splendid monument by Roubiliac, which portrayed him in full fig above an inscription of surpassing grandiloquence:

By emulation excited to be a soldier, by enterprise ennobled as an officer, by experience matured into a commander, his birth adding lustre to his pretensions, his pretensions authorized by his merit, promoted swiftly, not undeservedly, to the command of various corps of foot, horse and horse-guards, and to the successive ranks of general officer during a long and continued peace, he attained by royal regard and just favour what he was ambitious to achieve by service.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Cottrell-Dormer mss at Rousham, Caesar mss misc. ‘list of births, deaths, marriages’.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1696, p. 33; Boyer, Anne Annals, vii. 42; ix. 415; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 270; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxx. 562; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1720–8, p. 83; 1739–41, p. 598.
  • 3. Cork Corp. Council Bk. ed. Caulfield, 478.
  • 4. Cork: Hist. and Soc. ed. O’Flanagan and Buttimer, 321; Boyer, i. 126–7, 137; iv. 199; Luttrell, v. 233, 249; HMC 12th Rep. IX, 95; Cal. Treas. Bks. xx. 506; xxiv. 573; Herts. RO, Panshanger mss D/EP F30, p. 15; J. Caulfield, Mems. Kit-Cat Club, 131; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 1067, 1448; G. Wilks, Barons of Cinque Ports, 92–93; HMC Portland, x. 70.
  • 5. Gent. Mag. 1740, p. 622; Manning and Bray, Surr. ii. 772.