Sir Richard Wingfield (died on 9 September 1634) was an army officer, military administrator and the son of Sir Richard Wingfield, Governor of Portsmouth and Christiana Fitzwilliam, daughter of Sir William Fitzwilliam of Milton, Northamptonshire and sister of Sir William Fitzwilliam, Lord Deputy of Ireland.
Sir Richard was trained from his youth as a soldier and first saw active service under his Uncle Sir William Fitzwilliam in Ireland. From 1580-587 he held the post of Deputy to the Vice-Treasurer of Ireland, Sir Henry Wallop. On 9th May 1584 he was specially appointed to make enquiry of all bishops and other spiritual person who had obtained any benefice without paying the first-fruits since the second year of the queen, and to compound or proceed against them or their executors…retaining half the profits for himself.
After 1586, Sir Richard served for sometime under Sir John Norreys in the Netherlands, where he was promoted to Captain. In 1589, Sir Richard took part in the expedition to Portugal, and in 1591 accompanied Sir John Norreys into Brittany to assist Henry IV of France against the forces of the Catholic League.
Sir Richard returned to Ireland in 1594. During the Nine Years’ War, also known as Tyrone’s Rebellion, that took place in Ireland from 1593 to 1603 and was fought between the forces of Gaelic Irish chieftains Hugh O’Neill of Tir Eoghain, Hugh Roe O’Donnell of Tir Chonaill and their allies against English rule in Ireland. Sir Richard distinguished himself in the ensuing conflict. On 4th September 1595, Sir Richard was wounded in the left elbow by a musket shot during a skirmish with Hugh O’Neill, 3rd Earl of Tyrone’s forces between Armagh and Newry. For his bravery and service he was knighted in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin on 9th November 1595 by William Russell, Lord Deputy of Ireland.
Having recovered quickly from his wounds, Sir Richard, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel joined Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex and Master of the Horse on an expedition to the city of Cadiz, Spain. On 13th June 1596, the Anglo-Dutch fleet departed from Plymouth, England. At the time, Cadiz was one of the principal Spanish ports and point of departure for the Spanish treasurer fleet for New Spain. On 30th June 1596 in the morning, the Anglo-Dutch fleet could be seen from Cadiz, but was unable at first to enter the bay due to bad weather. Once the weather improved in the early morning hours the Anglo-Dutch fleet and Spanish fleet commenced an intense artillery barrage. By the late afternoon, the English’s advance forces were able to take control of the city of Cadiz. The English and Dutch troops sacked and burned the city. On 15th July 1596 the Anglo-Dutch fleet left Cadiz Bay, taking hostages and other items of possession. The sacking of Cadiz is considered one of the worst Spanish defeats in the course of the Anglo-Spanish War.
Sir Richard returned to Ireland in 1600, serving initially under Walter Butler, 11th Earl of Ormond. On 29th March 1600, Sir Richard was appointed Knight Marshal of the Queen Elizabeth’s Troops in Ireland, and was given a retinue of fifty horseman and a company of foot-soldiers. In addition, the Queen named him one of her Privy Councillors. The following story was told to Mervyn Edward Wingfield, 7th Viscount Powerscourt, by his great-uncle The Hon. Rev. William Wingfield, as a family tradition:
“Sir Richard Wingfield returned to the Court of Queen Elizabeth after the wars in Ireland, and when the Queen received him she said, ‘Well, Sir Richard, what is to be the reward for your service?’ Sir Richard bowed low and replied, ‘The scarf which your Majesty wears round your neck will be sufficient reward for me.‘”
The above portrait is of Sir Richard, at the age 73 in 1618 in an embroidered doublet, white collar and Queen Elizabeth’s scarf over his shoulder, signed C.J. (Cornelis Janssens van Ceulen).
In 1601, Sir Richard was sent by the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Charles Blount, 8th Baron Mountjoy into Leix (County Laois) to prosecute Richard Tyrrell, Lord of Fartullagh, a barony in south Westmeath and his adherents, and was afterwards dispatched from Kilkenny to draw forces out of the Pale to assist in the Siege of Kinsale, which took place from 2 October 1601 to 2 January 1602. The siege was the ultimate battle in England’s conquest of Gaelic Ireland and was at the climax of the Nine Years War – a campaign by Hugh O’Neill, Hugh Roe O’Donnell and other Irish Lords against English rule. The Gaelic Irish chieftains were further supported by a Spanish army led by General Don Juan del Aguila, who was to sent Ireland by Philip III of Spain. The Siege of Kinsale was successfully carried out by Lord Deputy Mountjoy, when Kinsale was surrendered by Don Juan del Anquila on 2 January 1602. The Articles of Capitulations between the Lord Deputy of Ireland and Council and Don Juan del Anquila was signed by Sir Richard Wingfield, along with George Carew, Lieutenant-General of the Ordnance, Donogh O’Brien, 4th Earl of Thomond, Richard Burke, 4th Earl of Clanricard, Robert Gardiner, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, George Bouchier, and Richard Levison.
On 20th April 1603, James I and VI of England, Ireland and Scotland reappointed Sir Richard’s position as Marshal and named him a Privy Councillor.
In 1608, Sir Richard was instrumental in suppressing the raising of Sir Cahir O’Doherty who was the last Gaelic Lord of Inishowen in northwest Ireland. Sir Richard and Sir Oliver Lambert were sent from Dublin on 1st May 1608 with an army to suppress the uprising. During the battle Sir Richard killed Sir Cahir O’Doherty, captured Castle Doe and dispersed the rebellious rebels. Sir Richard was rewarded on 29th June 1609 with a grant of the district of Fercullen, Wicklow, containing the ancient de la Poer estate of Powerscourt. Fercullen comprised a district five miles in length, and four in breadth and erected into a manor on the 26th May 1611.
In the County of Wexford Sir Richard had many lands granted to him. These were erected into the manor of Wingfield, together with which he received 800 acres for a demesne, and the right to hold a fair at Armagh on the 24th April each year. Also, on 3 December 1610, Sir Richard had a grant of the castle and lands of Benburb, in the county of Tyrone, containing 2000 acres, which were erected into the manor of Benburb.
Sir Richard represented Downpatrick in the parliament begun in 1613. In March 1614 he was appointed a Lord Justice, jointly with Thomas Jones, Archbishop of Dublin.
On 1 February 1618 (patent 19th February ) 1618, Sir Richard Wingfield was elevated to the Peerage of Ireland as Viscount Powerscourt.
On 30 September 1619, Sir Richard was appointed a commissioner for the plantation of Longford and Ely O’Carroll, and was again Lord Justice. On 15th July 1624, Sir Richard was appointed one of the Commissioners and Keepers of the Peace in the provinces of Leinster and Ulster during Lord Deputy Falkland’s absence, while he was engaged in overseeing the settlement of the plantation of Ulster.
In later life, Sir Richard married Frances Cromwell, daughter of William Rugge Esq. of Felmingham in Norfolk, and widow of Edward, 3rd Baron Cromwell of Oakham in the county of Rutland, who died 24 September 1607, and was buried in Down Abbey, and whose son Thomas was the 1st Lord Ardglass.
Sir Richard’s Will is dated 30th November 1631. He died without issue on 9th September 1634, when the title of Viscount Powerscourt became extinct, and the estate devolved on his cousin and next male heir Sir Edward Wingfield.
Wingfield, Mervyn Edward, 7th Viscount Powerscourt, ed., Muniments of the Ancient Saxon family of Wingfield (privately printed, London, 1894), Wingfield Family Society, Durham, North Carolina, (1987)
Dunlop, Robert, Wingfield, Richard, Viscount Powerscourt (d. 1634)’, rev. Judith Hudson Barry, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/29740, [accessed 12 November 2017]
Shaw, W. A.; Burtchaell, G.D., The Knights of England: A Complete Record from the Earliest Times to the Present Day of the Knights of All the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland and Ireland, and of Knights Bachelors Vol. 2., Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood, Sherratt and Hughes, London, (1906)