Chichester, Arthur, Lord Chichester of Belfast 1563-1625, lord deputy of Ireland, was the second son of Sir John Chichester of Rawleigh, near Barnstaple, by his wife Gertrude, daughter of Sir William Courteney of Powderham. The date of his birth can be assigned to the end of May 1563, from the statement in his father's inquisitio post mortem (court of wards), that he was five years and a half when his father died on 30 Nov. 1568. He was educated at Exeter College, Oxford, matriculating on 15 March 1583. According to a tradition preserved by Grainger (Biog. Hist. i. 395) he fled to Ireland, having robbed one of Queen Elizabeth's purveyors, who were but little better than robbers themselves. If the lad retook what he held the purveyor to have unjustly seized, no moral depravity is to be inferred from the action. Our knowledge of the remainder of Chichester's early career is almost entirely derived from an account of his life written by Sir Faithful Fortescue (printed for private circulation by Lord Clermont), who derived his information from his own father, who was a companion of Chichester in his attack on the purveyor, and who shared in his subsequent flight to Ireland.
In Ireland—to give the main points of Fortescue's story—the two young men stayed with Sir George Bourchier, another Devonshire man. Having obtained the queen's pardon, Chichester was made captain, under Lord Sheffield, of one of the queen's best ships in the fight with the Armada in 1588. In 1595 he commanded one of the queen's ships with five hundred men in Drake's last expedition. In 1596 he was a volunteer in the Cadiz voyage, when Essex gave him a company in the place of a captain who had been killed. In 1597 he was sergeant-major-general of the force sent under Sir Thomas Baskerville to the assistance of Henry IV, and was wounded at the siege of Amiens and subsequently knighted by the king. He afterwards served as a captain in the Low Countries, and was in garrison at Ostend when Sir Robert Cecil picked him out for employment in Ireland, and sent him thither in command of a regiment of twelve hundred men.
One or two points require notice in the preceding story. Fortescue speaks of the young Chichester staying with Bourchier, who was then master of the ordnance in Ireland, and as afterwards fighting against the Armada. Bourchier, however, was not master of the ordnance till 1592, but this attribution of a later office out of date is only what may be expected in a memoir written in a subsequent generation. Again, though Fortescue speaks of Chichester as commanding a ship in Drake's last voyage, his name is not mentioned in the narrative of that voyage in Hakluyt (iii. 583), and it does not occur in the list of captains given by Monson (Churchill, Collection of Voyages, iii. 182). It must, however, be remembered that Fortescue had already spoken of Chichester as captain under Lord Sheffield in the fight with the Armada, so that he uses the term as applicable to a subordinate position. Further, there is reason to conjecture that Chichester was employed in a military command in Drake's voyage. On that occasion the whole military force was commanded by Sir Thomas Baskerville [qv.], and two years later Chichester was sergeant-major-general, or third in command of the army under the same Baskerville—a sudden leap from the command of a company at Cadiz, which is most easily accounted for by the supposition that Baskerville knew his man from experience, an experience which can hardly have been acquired except in Drake's expedition. With respect to the approximate dates of the later occurrences mentioned, the siege of Amiens occupied the summer of 1597, coming to an end 15-25 Sept. According to Fortescue, Chichester arrived in Dublin a second time when Loftus and Gardiner were lords justices, that is to say, at some time between 16 Nov. 1597 and 15 April 1599, and probably much nearer to the latter date than to the former.
To continue Fortescue's account, Chichester was sent with his regiment to Drogheda. When Essex arrived, hearing much in praise of Sir A. Chichester, and, it may be added, having known something of him at Cadiz, he went to review his regiment. So well had Chichester's men been drilled, that Essex, in the excitement of the moment, thought fit to charge the pikemen at the head of the cavalry. Chichester took the matter seriously, and repulsed the horsemen as if they had been enemies. The earl had to wheel about with a scratch inflicted on his person by one of the pikemen.
The occurrence to which this anecdote refers must have taken place in the first days after Essex's arrival at Dublin. In his despatch of 28 April the earl announced that he had appointed Chichester to be governor of Carrickfergus and the adjacent country. When Essex, baffled and discontented, made his desperate return to England, he singled out Chichester for the post of sergeant-major-general of the English army in Ireland. On 14 Nov. Chichester wrote to Cecil expressing his preference for his old post of danger at Carrickfergus. This enemy, he declared, can never be beaten but by dwelling and lodging near him, and in his own country. Journeys are consumptions of men more hurting ourselves than those we seek to offend. Having thus foreshadowed the tactics which, in the hands of Mountjoy, proved ultimately successful, and having the good word of his superiors as a thoroughly efficient officer, he was allowed, some time after Mountjoy's arrival, to have his way, and on 22 May 1600 he again wrote from Carrickfergus, though he was subsequently again made major-general when the war, being carried on in Ulster, enabled him to attend to the duties of the post without abandoning active service (Fortescue, 13). In June he was obliged to visit England on private business, when he carried with him a letter from Mountjoy to Cecil, commending him to the secretary in the warmest terms as being the ablest and most unselfish of her majesty's servants in Ireland.
On 21 Oct. Chichester was back in Ireland. He took a subordinate but active part in the war of extermination which was being waged against Tyrone and his adherents in the north. His letters show him ready to deal fairly and mercifully with all, Irish or English, who supported the queen's cause, but with his heart hardened against rebels. On 2 Oct. 1601 Mountjoy repeated his good opinion of the governor of Carrickfergus: You must make, he wrote to Cecil, one governor of all Ulster, and the fittest man that can be chosen in England or Ireland is Sir Arthur Chichester.
Of any sympathy with the Irish character there is no trace in Chichester's letters. Like every Englishman of that day, he had no other recipe for Irish misery than the enforced adoption of English habits. We follow, he wrote on 5 Oct., a painful, toilsome, hazardous, and unprofitable war, by which the queen will never reap what is expected until the nation be wholly destroyed or so subjected as to take a new impression of laws and religion, being now the most treacherous infidels of the world, and we have too mild spirits and good consciences to be their masters. He is a well-governed and wary gentleman whom their villany doth not deceive. Our honesty, bounty, clemency, and justice make them not any way assured to us; neither doth the actions of one of their own nation, though it be the murder of father, brother, or friend, make them longer enemies than until some small gift or buying [?] be given unto the wronged party. With these sentiments Chichester had nothing but commendation to bestow on Mountjoy's mode of carrying on the war. I wish, he wrote on 14 March 1602, the rebels and their countries in all parts of Ireland like these, where they starve miserably, and eat dogs, mares, and garrons where they can get them. No course — will cut the throat of the grand traitors, subject his limbs, and bring the country into quiet, but famine, which is well begun, and will daily increase. When they are down, it must be good laws, severe punishment, abolishing their ceremonies and customs in religion, and lordlike Irish government, keeping them without arms more than what shall be necessary for the defence of the honest, and some port-towns erected upon these northern harbours that must bridle them, and keep them in perpetual obedience.
The first part of this programme Chichester was for some time longer actively employed in carrying out. A plot which he seems to have favoured in December 1602 for the murder of Tyrone would, were it successful, at least bring to an end the wholesale starvation of Tyrone's followers (Sir G. Fenton to Cecil, 14 Dec. 1602, State Papers, Ireland). Irish rebels were in those days regarded, like foxes in England, as noxious beasts to whom no law was to be allowed. The war, however, if war it is to be named, was brought to an end shortly before Elizabeth's death without Tyrone's murder. On 19 April 1603, shortly after the accession of James, Chichester was admitted to the Irish privy council, and on 15 Oct. 1604 he was called on—no doubt through the influence of Mountjoy, who was now earl of Devonshire, and James's chief adviser on Irish affairs—to carry out the second part of his programme as lord deputy of Ireland.
On 3 Feb. 1605 Chichester entered upon the duties of his new office. Three proclamations gave evidence of the spirit in which he intended to govern. On 20 Feb. he revoked by one of them the greater number of the existing commissions for the execution of martial law, and by another he directed, with certain special exceptions, the disarmament of the population. Of greater importance was the third, issued on 11 March, in which, after promising to protect the poor, the new lord deputy abolished the loose payments exacted by the Irish chiefs, and declared the tenants to be free and immediate subjects of his majesty, to depend wholly and immediately upon his majesty — and not upon any other inferior lord or lords, and that they may and shall from henceforth rest assured that no person or persons whatever, by reason of any chiefry or seignory, or by colour of any custom, use, or prescription, hath, or ought to have, any interest in the bodies or goods of them, or any of them. On the other hand, the tenants were to pay to their lords such respects and duties as belong and appertain unto the said lords, according to their several degrees and callings, due and allowed unto them by the laws of the realm.
Chichester's proclamation has been objected to in modern times as subverting too rapidly one organisation before there was time to replace it by another. Such an objection was not likely to occur to an Englishman in the seventeenth century, and the plan of the lord deputy was at least better than an attempt to rule by force alone, and was based on the hope that the hearts of the bulk of the Irish people might be gained by attention to their material interests. In his visit to Ulster in the summer of 1605, where the Irish customs were most difficult to eradicate, he attempted to win over the chiefs to the new order of things by inducing them to create freeholders—that is to say, to content themselves with fixed payments in the place of uncertain ones. Some of them gave way, but as it was a question not merely of the material interests of the chief, but also of his political position, Chichester's plan failed to meet with general assent among them. Tyrone especially resented all interference with his tribal independence.
Such an experiment could only be carried out with any prospect of success, if the sentiments of the people, and especially their religious sentiments, had been left unassailed. In those days religion and politics were closely intertwined, and Chichester, impelled by James, found himself embarked on an attempt to lessen the influence of the Roman catholic church in Ireland. A Roman catholic judge was removed from the bench, and the Dublin aldermen who refused to attend the protestant service were fined by the Castle chamber, a court which answered to the Star-chamber in England. An attempt was made to enforce upon poorer Roman catholics the payment of the shilling fine for absence from church. The spirit aroused by these harsh measures told on Chichester, whose mind was always open to practical difficulties. In these matters of bringing men to church, he wrote on 1 Dec. 1606, I have dealt as tenderly as I might, knowing well that men's consciences must be won and persuaded by time, conference, and instructions, which the aged here will hardly admit, and therefore our hope must be in the education of the youth; and yet we must labour daily, otherwise all will turn to barbarous ignorance and contempt. I am not violent therein, albeit I wish reformation, and will study and endeavour it all I may, which, I think, sorts better with his majesty's ends than to deal with violence and like a puritan in this kind. In the summer of 1607 Chichester's advice was taken, and the persecution was relaxed. The lord deputy did his best to walk in the better way which he preferred, by recommending for ecclesiastical benefices as they fell vacant persons of good life and conversation, more important, as he observed, in such a country, than depth of learning and judgment, and he urged on the translation of the common prayer-book into Irish, taking an active part in dispersing it through the country, as soon as the work was accomplished in 1608.
The difficulty of bringing the north of Ireland into order was still formidable. Chichester again visited Ulster in 1606, but the irritation of Tyrone and Tyrconnell at the course which events were taking was a standing obstacle in his way. A dispute had arisen between Tyrone and one of his dependents, O'Cahan. In May 1607 O'Cahan appealed to Chichester. The contending parties were summoned before the lord deputy. Tyrone, unable to brook this sign of his subordination to the crown, snatched from O'Cahan's hands the papers which he was reading in the presence of the representative of the king, and tore them up before his face. On this, apparently with the consent of both parties, Tyrone and O'Cahan were summoned to England that their case might be decided by James in person. Tyrone, if he had seriously given his consent to the plan, was soon frightened, believing that he would be thrown into the Tower as soon as he landed in England. He therefore resolved to fly to the king of Spain for protection, and on 25 Sept. he, together with Tyrconnell, left Ireland for ever.
On 17 Sept. Chichester sketched a plan for the future settlement of Ulster, on the lines which he had adopted in his proclamation on the subject of Irish tenancies. The fugitive earls having forfeited their right, every native Irishman of note or good desert was to receive his share of the land thus placed at the disposal of the crown. Only when the natives had been satisfied was the remainder to be made over to English and Scottish colonists to whom the surplus lands might be given on condition of building and garrisoning castles on them. The actual plantation of Ulster was carried out on a different principle, and the forfeited country was treated as a sheet of white paper, to be divided between the new settlers and the native Irish as most convenient to the government, and the consequence was that the natives were driven away from their homes and arbitrarily settled in spots which were either inferior to their old habitations, or which, at all events, seemed to them to be inferior.
For all this Chichester was not responsible. He carried out the instructions of the government, and this work, together with the repression of O'Dogherty's rebellion in 1608, occupied some years. On 23 Feb. 1613 he was raised to the Irish peerage as Lord Chichester of Belfast.
One result of the colonisation of Ulster was that it made it possible to summon an Irish parliament in which the representatives of the native Irish should be in a permanent minority. This parliament met in 1613, and at once broke into open discord. The subjects in dispute were referred to the king, and in February 1614 Chichester was summoned to England to give an account of the state of the country. On his return, instructions dated 5 June were issued to him, commanding him to recur to the policy of driving the Irish by persecution into the protestant church. Chichester, however, seems to have had sufficient influence to obtain their practical modification, and some approach was made to an understanding between the Irish Roman catholics and the government. On 22 Aug., however, James ordered the dissolution of parliament. On 29 Nov. Chichester was recalled. Though no reason was publicly assigned for terminating his career as lord deputy, there are reasons for believing that the real motive lay in his opposition to any new attempt to enforce the persecuting laws against the Roman catholics. He was, however, recalled with every show of honour, and was rewarded for his services by the post, more dignified than influential, of lord treasurer of Ireland.
Some years were passed by Chichester in honourable retirement. In 1622 he was sent on a useless mission to the palatinate, to exercise a supervision over the forces employed in favour of the elector palatine, with the view of inducing them to keep the peace while James carried on negotiations. When he arrived in May he found that no one would listen to proposals of peace, and his military eye told him that Frederick's armies were too undisciplined to have a chance against the imperialists. For some months he continued to address remonstrances to both parties to which no attention was paid, and was only relieved from his invidious position after the fall of Heidelberg in September.
Soon after his return, on 31 Dec., Chichester became a member of the English privy council. In January 1624 he incurred Buckingham's displeasure by refusing to vote for a war with Spain without further information than Buckingham had vouchsafed to give (Hacket, Life of Williams, i. 169; Cabala, 197). Nevertheless, he was a member of the council of war which was instituted on 21 April to give military and naval advice on the subject of the coming war. On 19 Feb. 1624-5 (Lodge, Peerage of Ireland, art. Donegal) he died, and was buried at Carrickfergus.
Chichester married Lettice, daughter of Sir John Perrot, and widow of Walter Vaughan, of Golden Grove. He had no children; his brother Edward, father of Arthur Chichester, first earl of Donegal [qv.], was his heir.
The main source of information on Chichester's career after his appointment as governor of Carrickfergus is the correspondence in the Record Office among the State Papers, Ireland, and, for his mission to Germany, the State Papers, Germany. For mention of the war in Ulster at the end of Elizabeth's reign see Fynes Moryson's Hist. of Ireland. More particular references to the principal documents relating to his early career will be found in Gardiner's Hist. of England, 1603-42.
Contributor: S. R. G. [Samuel Rawson Gardiner]