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MASONIC BIOGRAPHIES
FAMOUS FREEMASONS
1ST EARL OF ROSSE
Right Hon. RICHARD (PARSONS), 1st EARL OF ROSSE, G.M, in 1725 and 1730; of Bellamont, Co. Dublin, was only surviving son of Richard, lst Viscount Rosse, born, in January, 1702-3, when yet a minor, he succeeded as second Viscount. He was grandson of Sir William Parsons, 2nd Baronet, by Katherine, eldest daughter of Arthur, 2nd Viscount Ranelagh, by Katherine, the attached sister of Robert Boyle the Philosopher, and one of the eight daughters of the Great Earl of Cork. He was great-great-grandson of Sir William Parsons, 1st Baronet, the eldest son of James Parsons of Leicestershire, by Catherine, sister to Sir Geoffrey Fenton, Qqeen Elizabeth’s trusted Secretary of State for Ireland, whose only daughter, Catherine Fenton, was second wife to the Great Earl of Cork—and thus we see the ties between the families of Parsons and Boyle drawn still closer. Sir William Parsons, who came into Ireland in the reign of Queen Elizabeth to assist his uncle, Sir Geoffrey Fenton, was created a Baronet in 1620, became one of the Lords Justices of Ireland, was for a time Lord President of Munster, and, it is said, his connexion with Richard, Earl of Cork, added greatly to his influence. The Great Earl by his will, after leaving legacies to his honoured cousin the Lord justice Parsons, desired him that, as he had been his credible and constant friend, he would extend his love and care to his children to defend them from oppression and labour to keep them in love and unity: and so it was Sir William Parsons became guardian to the young Robert Boyle, afterwards to become one of our greatest Philosophers. We give these details as evidence of the close ties that existed between the families, and, while we cannot produce evidence for it, it is quite possible that our first G.M. was not by any means the first of his kindred to be made a Freemason in Ireland. On the maternal side Lord Rosse was related to a brilliant coterie. His mother, Elizabeth, and her two sisters, Frances (who inherited all her mother’s beauty), wife to Henry, 8th Viscount Dillon, and Mary, wife to Nicholas, 3rd Viscount Barnewall of Kingsland, well known in Ireland as "The Three Viscountesses," were daughters of Sir George, Comte de Hamilton, a Maréchal-du-Camp of France, and nieces of Anthony Hamilton, a Lieut.-General in the service of France, and well known as the author of "Mémoires du Comte de Grammont," the latter being the husband of Anthony’s sister, Elizabeth "la belle Hamilton," one of the most brilliant ornaments of the court of Charles II. Much might be written about Lord Rosse’s grandmother, "la belle Jennings, Duchess of Tyrconnel," elder sister to Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough,* the favourite of Queen Anne. "There is a charm and romance—a story of vicissitude," says Sir Bernard Burke (in his "Reminiscences") "clinging to the biography of Fanny Jennings," for, adds he, "Fairest among the fair was Frances jennings. . . . . Even in her extreme youth tongues ran riot in her praise, and, long ere she had reached womanhood, she was the pride of all circles and the idol of her own." The story of her queer adventure as an orange-girl, as told in the "Mémoires du Comte de Grammont," and in Pepys’s Diary, is well known. She was wooed by Richard Talbot, Duke of Tyrconnel, King james’s famotis, general and Lord Deputy of Ireland 1686 to 1692, but she preferred to become wife to Sir George, Comte de Hamilton—the Comte, however, having died in 1676 she married her old love in 1679. "It was during the Duchess’s reign in Ireland (for such it might be called) that she married her three daughters, by Hamilton, to three of the leading men in that Country" (Burke’s "Reminiscences") ; and it was one day at the close of her reign she greeted King James when that monarch, having fled from the field of the Boyne, before the fate of the day was decided, and who, arriving at Dublin Castle, met her Grace as he was ascending the stairs: "Your countrymen, the Irish, Madam," said he, "can run well." "Not quite so well as your Majesty," retorted Lady Tyrconnel, "for I see you have won the race." Another story relates how, when the war was over, she was for a time in such straits she eked out a living in London as a flower girl. Her sad eventful life came to a close at her house, near the Phoenix Park, Dublin, on 6th March, 1730-31, aged 82, when "'Tis said her Grace left near a Million of Money, which mostly now is possess'd by the Right Hon. the Lord Rosse, her Grace’s Grandson, to the general joy of the Citizens, that Nobleman having been formerly one of their greatest benefactors." (Dublin Weekly Journal, 13th March, 1730-31.) Lord Rosse, who entered Oxford 15th May, 1713, aged 17, and was on 16th June, 1718, created Earl of Rosse, d. 26th June, 1741, He m. firstly, in 1714, Mary (d. in 1718) eldest dau. of Lord William Paulet; and secondly, in 1719, Frances, dau. of Thomas Claxton of Dublin, and niece of Captain Edward Lovet Pearce the architect of the Irish House of Commons. She m. secondly, in 1754, Lord Chancellor Robert, Lord Newport, afterwards Viscount Jocelyn. By his first wife he left an only surviving son, Richard, 2nd and last Earl of Rosse of this creation, and an only dau., Elizabeth, who d. unm.
* Sarah’s youngest daughter, Lady Mary Churchill, a cousin-german to Lord Rosse’s mother, was wife to the Duke of Montagu, G.M. of England in 1721. Sarah’s grandson, too, Charles, 5th Earl of Sunderland and subsequently 3rd Duke of Marlborough and a second cousin to Lord Rosse, was made a Mason in the Lodge which met at the Horn Tavern, London, on 2nd January, 1729-30, on which occasion there were present: James Lord Kingston (then G.M. of England), and the Duke of Montagu and the Earl of Inchiquin, former Grand Masters of England. (Dickson’s Dublin Intelligence, 13th January, 1729-30.) Sir Thomas Prendergast, Bart., first S.G.W. of Ireland, was initiated in the same Lodge in March, 1723-24.

Source: History of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Ireland, John Heron Lepper and Philip Crossle. vol i. Dublin : Lodge of Research. CC , 1925 542p. p. 130-132.

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