Becoming Viscount Powerscourt

The Lords Powerscourt were also Viscounts—above Baron but below Earl in ranking. The first Lord Powerscourt, Richard Wingfield, was ennobled in 1618 and became 1st Viscount Powerscourt. His citation mentioned that he was a beloved and faithful soldier of Elizabeth I, who had made him Marshal of Ireland in 1600. Richard was involved in the Nine Years War, fighting in Tyrone and at the Battle of Kinsale, and was rewarded in 1609 with about 45,000 acres at Powerscourt for his soldierly deeds here and on the continent, along with estates in Wexford and Tyrone.* Richard died in 1634 without “male issue” so the Viscount title went with him. A cousin, Ffolliott picked up the title first Viscount Powerscourt of the second creation in 1664 from Charles II (who had recently regained the throne after Cromwell threw a wobbler for a few years), but he again died without an heir. And so it wasn’t until 1743, that Richard, grandson of Ffolliot’s cousin, picked up the title from George II, and become 1st Viscount Powerscourt of the third creation. Richard had rebuilt Powerscourt House to be the magnificent Palladian mansion in the 1730s. The town clock in the village (1843) commemorates the centenary of this creation. It is from this Richard that all the Viscount Powerscourts are descended (brothers or sons). The current Viscount is Niall, 10th Viscount Powerscourt.

What does it take to become a Viscount? Well, it usually means a King (or Queen) saying something like this about you and your family:**

As honours and dignities are the proper and just reward to persons, who have eminently merited from their King and country, and as a continuance of those honours in their name and family is an incitement to their posterity to persevere in the practice or those virtues, that ennobled their ancestors. And whereas we bear in our royal mind a remembrance of the great and faithful services performed for our royal predecessors by Richard Wingfield, Knt., late Lord Viscount of Powerscourt, who being by our late royal predecessor Elizabeth, Queen of England, appointed Mareschal of her army, in this kingdom under the then Lord Mountjoy, did defeat and disperse at Kingsale the troops of the Earl Tyrone and the other rebels associated with him.  And when, after the suppression of the rebellion of the aforesaid Earl of Tyrone, and the establishment of a general peace through this Kingdom, the notorious rebel O Dogherty had burn’d the then new city of Derry, and raised great disturbances in the province of Ulster, he, the above mentioned Mareschal with a small number of forces, conquered and flew the said O Dogherty in open battle, and dispersed all his adherents and after these services in time of war, the said Mareschal being twice appointed one of the L. J. and chief governors of our kingdom of Ireland, was no less eminent for his ability and services in the administration of the public government in times of peace. And, as upon the death of the said Richard Wingfield, late Mareschal and Lord Viscount of Powerscourt without issue male whereby the said honour and title of Powerscourt was extinct ; our late royal predecessor King Charles II bearing in his royal remembrance the above mentioned services of the said Mareschal and Viscount of Powerscourt and being desirous to transmit the memory of the same to posterity was pleated to create Folliott Wingfield, late of Powerscourt in the county of Wicklow Esq., cousin and heir of the said Mareschal a peer of this kingdom, by the name of Folliott Wingfield, Lord Viscount of Powerscourt; and as the said Ffolliott Lord Viscount of Powerscourt is deceased without issue male, whereby the said title and honour of Lord Viscount of Powerscourt is again become extinct; and as we have the same desire with our royal predecessors, to preserve the remembrance of good and faithful services done to them and ourselves; and as we are satisfied in our princely judgment that Richard Wingfield of Powerscourt , Esq., cousin and heir to the said Richard Wingfield, Viscount of Powerscourt, Mareschal of Ireland, and to the said Folliott Wingfield, Lord Viscount of Powerscourt is a person, who, besides his noble descent, and his possessing the Estates of his said ancestors, hath, by his own abilities and services in Parliament, rendered himself to be no less regarded by his country, than his constant and hearty Attachment and fidelity to ourselves and our government have made him acceptable to us, and worthy to sustain the honours enjoyed by his illustrious ancestors. Know ye therefore &c. (Rot. Anno. 17. Geo. II. 3. p. f.)


*Wingfields also had several estates in the west of Ireland – see the Landed Estate Database.

**From The peerage of Ireland: or, A genealogical history of the present nobility of that kingdom, John Lodge and Mervyn Archdall, 1789. (Preamble for Richard, 1st Viscount of the third creation).