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Henry Boyle

(c. 1684—1764) speaker of the Irish House of Commons


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(1684–1764), the greatest of the undertakers. A grandson of the 1st earl of Orrery, he inherited an estate at Castlemartyr, Co. Cork, and entered parliament in 1707 as a protégé of Alan Brodrick. On Brodrick's death Boyle became leader of his Munster-based following, by then in opposition. In 1733 the government accepted his election as speaker, and after some initial friction he established himself as principal undertaker. When his dominance was challenged by the Ponsonby family and Archbishop Stone, he initiated the money bill dispute. Opinions differ as to how far Boyle cynically manipulated popular patriotism, and how far events, and more enthusiastic allies, carried him beyond his initial carefully calculated show of strength. Either way his acceptance in 1756 of a pension of £30,000 a year for 31 years, and the title of earl of Shannon, in exchange for resigning the speakership, caused bitter public disillusion among those who had come to see him as a champion of the Irish interest. Though now sharing power with the Ponsonbys, Shannon remained until his death the head of a leading political interest.

From The Oxford Companion to Irish History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: European History.


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