Hilton Park, Clones, County Monaghan, is now a
flagship of the Hidden Ireland group of places to
stay. It also hosts the annual Flat Lake Literary
& Arts Festival every June.
Romantic genealogists trace the origins of the Madden family back to a Milesian prince called Madaidhin (from the Irish madadh for hound or mastiff) whose descendents, the O Madaidhin (O'Madden) or Maddens of Hy-Many, occupied O'Kelly's Country around Lough Ree and Lough Derg in south Roscommon / north Galway. However, the Maddens of Hilton Park first emerge from the mists not as Celtic princes but as tenant farmers and husbandmen of the Lords Saye & Sele of Broughton Castle in the Cotswolds of north Oxfordshire. (1) That said, there is a spirited belief, upheld by J.S.D. Madden of Hilton Park, that the family were actually the descendents of Madaidhin but were ousted from Ireland 'in some war or squabble, fled to England during the late 14th or early 15th century, became Protestant during the reformation and subsequently returned to Ireland around 1600'. (2) The Madden family trace their ancestry to Hugh Mudwyn gentleman, living in Lord Saye & Sele's manor at Bloxham Beauchamp during the reign of Henry VIII. (3) Located three miles south of the market town of Banbury, Bloxham had been a settlement at least since Roman times, as evidenced by a burial ground dating back to the first century AD. The name of the village derives from the Anglo Saxon 'Blocc's Ham', i.e. home of Blocc, from the sixth century when the banks of the brook became a Saxon settlement. Over the course of the 11th - 13th centuries, the village name mutated into Blockesham, Blocchesham and Blokesham, until in 1316 when it was recorded as the now familiar 'Bloxham'. (4) In the 13th century the manor of Bloxham was divided; Lord Saye and Sele now held both halves of the manor, Bloxham Beauchamp and Bloxham Fiennes.
In Hugh Mudwyn's time, Bloxham was celebrated for its excellent school at St. Mary's Church. The village had already benefited from the patronage of the great Cardinal Wolsey who is reputed to have commissioned the 60-metre spire, allegedly the tallest in Oxfordshire. In 1547, Edward VI transferred the living of the church from Westminster Abbey to Eton College, who hold it to this day. The Etonian association had considerable implications as the school in Bloxham provided its pupils with cutting edge education at a time when England was just entering her great Elizabethan Renaissance. Hugh Mudwyn's sister was reputedly married to the Vicar of Bloxham who was also a tutor at Oxford University. Upon Hugh's death, his son Thomas succeeded to the lands at Bloxham Beauchamp. These lands in turn passed to Thomas's son John Madden who died on 23rd May 1635.
John Madden had two sons, Thomas and Robert. The elder son Thomas Madden was to become the Comptroller to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of Strafford, and ancestor of the present Maddens of Hilton Park, formerly Maddenton, at Clones, Co Monaghan. The second son was Robert Madden who settled at Donore, Co Dublin, and married twice. His first wife was Jane, daughter of J. Ward of Kilmarta, Co. Roscommon. Robert's second wife was Joyce Basset, daughter of Edward Basset of Hince, Staffordshire, by whom he was ancestor of the Maddens of Meadesbrook and, in the female line, of Oliver Goldsmith who at this date had just left Trinity and was on tour of Europe, on foot and with a flute. 5.
In the 1750s, Robert's descendent Robert Madden and his wife Frances (nee Bomford) went to live at Meadesbrook, near Frances's brother William Bomford of Cushenstown House. The 1836 survey records of Meadesbrook: "A gentleman's seat, with a small pleasure ground, a garden, an orchard and a pond attached", but this is over 80 years later when "Mrs Madden" was living there. Meadesbrook is still occupied to this day, but the Maddens have left. Frances and Robert Madden had three children. Their daughter Anne was probably born first, soon after the marriage - in June 1774 she married Joseph Rathborne of Ballymore, Co Meath, eldest son of William Rathborne of Dublin. Robert and Frances's eldest son John Madden He was born in 1758, educated at Trinity College Dublin (BA 1781), became a clergyman and died in May 1845 aged 87, his death being reported in the Meath Herald. A Rev John Madden was curate of Garristown, two miles east of Meadesbrook, from 1804 until 1811 when he became Curate of Dunshaughlin This might be Robert and Frances' son except that there is a gap of 20 years between his leaving Trinity in 1781 and his first curacy, this is unlikely and so it is thought that their son must have gone to England and become a clergyman over there since he is not mentioned in the Church of Ireland records. He was living at Meadesbrook in 1803. Robert and Frances's younger son Robert appears to have been a farmer.
It is not clear why the Madden brothers decided to leave Oxfordshire and move to Ireland. It may have simply been on account of bad harvests and over-crowding back at home. Perhaps their education at Bloxham had groomed them for greater success in the earliest days of England's colonial endeavours. In 1599, Thomas married the wealthy heiress Elizabeth, only daughter of William Pettiver (Pettifer) of Middleton Cheney, some 6 miles from Bloxham, in South Northampton. Together they had six sons and two daughters.
By the time Thomas succeeded his father at Bloxham Beauchamp in 1635, he was living at Baggotsrath Castle, once amongst the most splendid addresses in Dublin. Recent occupants of the castle, which occupied the ground now covered by Upper Baggot Street, included Sir Anthony St. Leger, sometime Master of the Rolls, and Sir John King, ancestor of the Earls of Kingston and father to the much-loved friend of John Milton who was drowned in a shipwreck off the coast of Wales in 1837, prompting the poet to wrote his famous lament, 'Lycidas'.
Thomas Madden's post was that of Comptroller of the Household to Thomas Wentworth, subsequently Earl of Strafford, during the latter's' controversial tenure as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1632 - 1639). It certainly gave him a remarkable view upon the events unfolding in the lead up to the English Civil War. The autocratic Yorkshire-born Wentworth was originally been one of Charles I's most vocal opponents but had since come to believe that strong government centralized on Royal power was the only possible way forward. He took up office as Lord Deputy of Ireland in January 1632. It is not clear how or why Thomas Madden secured his lucrative position. Perhaps he was recommended by William Fiennes, Lord Saye & Sele, nicknamed 'Old Subtlety', one of Wentworth's former allies and a leading Parliamentarian. (6) In Ireland, Wentworth soon displayed the harsh, no-nonsense attitude for which he was famed, crushing opposition and forcing the religious policies of Archbishop Laud on the population, both native and settler. The heavy-handed approach inevitably yielded some improvements, strengthening the Royal administration in Ireland by ousting the inefficient and bribing where necessary. Thomas Madden was surely consulted when Wentworth sought to start a new victualling trade with Spain and to promote the manufacture of linen. During Wentworth's seven-year rule, customs duties more than doubled from £25,000 in 1633 to £57,000 by 1638. However, none of this money - nor any of his arbitrary policies - benefited the Irish themselves. The money went straight to the Exchequer, with perhaps a sack or two of gold sovereigns vanishing into the Lord Deputy's private account. Indeed, Wentworth suppressed the trade in cloth 'lest it should be a means to prejudice that staple commodity of England'. Wentworth was loathed by the Irish elite, particularly the influential Earl of Cork, Lord Chancellor Loftus and Lord Mountnorris, who he sentenced to death in order to obtain the resignation of his office, and then pardoned.
The Heraldry Office in Belfast believe Thomas Madden acquired the Clan Madden Coat of Arms in 1635, the year his son John married Elizabeth Waterhouse (see below). This may be considered as an attempt to reinstate the Irish origins of the Madden family, or perhaps it was merely an attempt to blend in with the adopted country. Thomas Madden was elected MP for Dungannon in 1639. That same year, Wentworth was summoned back to England to help defend the King against the increasingly volatile Parliament. In January 1640, Wentworth was created Earl of Strafford. Thomas Madden did not get a chance to congratulate the Earl, nor to enjoy his parliamentary seat for he died on 30th January 1640. In the end, the Earl of Strafford had to be sacrificed in order to sustain the monarchy. He was executed before a crowd of about 200,000 on Tower Hill on May 12, 1641. Following news of his execution, Ireland rose in rebellion. The outbreak of the Irish Rebellion the following year brought Thomas Madden's former residence at Baggotsrath to the forefront of the troubles. The Government stationed their ordnance and transport here, making it a regular target for the horse-raiding hill tribes. During the pivotal Battle of Rathmines in August 1649, the Parliamentary forces of General Michael Jones destroyed the castle. If Ormonde's Royalist forces had secured it, they might have prevented the Parliamentary army from uniting with vital reinforcements and prevented their routing.
Thomas Madden's eldest son John Madden was born in 1598 and became a lawyer. He had residences both at Maddenton (Maddenstown) on the Curragh of Co. Kildare (where Alex and Amelia Raben live today) and in the north of London near the Royal Palace of Enfield. John Madden was one of the Attorneys in Charles I's notorious Star Chamber Court. This prerogative court had initially been established by Henry VII to hear cases of riot and misadministration, although it effectively operated as a censorship board and gave the monarch the power to swiftly and discreetly crush any dissent. The remit was expanded during the reign of James I to include the trial of recusant Catholics for unorthodoxy. Under Charles I, the Court began to concentrate on cases of sedition, effectively enabling it to suppress any opposition to Royal policies. During the eleven year period where Charles I ruled without a Parliament, he used the Court as a Parliamentary substitute. As such, John Madden's role would have been to prosecute all opponents of the King and dissenters, especially Puritans, many of whom fled to New England at this point. One needed to have a thick neck - and a cruel bent - to be an Attorney in such a Court. Punishments frequently included the pillory, whipping and the cutting off of ears. For instance, the publisher 'Freeborn John' Lilburne was flogged on his bare back by a three-pronged whip, then dragged by his hands tied to the rear of an ox cart from Fleet Prison to the pillory at Westminster. He was then forced to stoop in the pillory where he still managed to campaign against his censors, while distributing more unlicensed literature to the crowds. He was then gagged and thrown in prison. At no point was he informed of what he stood charged with. Madden was also presumably involved when, on 17th October 1632, the Court of Star Chamber banned all 'news books' following complaints from Spanish and Austrian diplomats that coverage of the Thirty Years' War in England was unfair. Accounts of the conflict were subsequently printed in Amsterdam and smuggled into England until the ban was lifted six years later. In 1641, the Long Parliament, led by John Pym and inflamed by the severe treatment of Lilburne and other religious dissenters, abolished the Star Chamber with an Act of Parliament. The excesses of the Star Chamber constituted one of the rallying cries for those who eventually executed King Charles. (7)
On 28th February 1635, three months before the death of his grandfather, the younger John Madden married 21-year-old Elizabeth Waterhouse. She was the eldest daughter of Charles Waterhouse of Manor Waterhouse, Co. Fermanagh, by his wife, Ethelreda, a sister of the Ulster planter, Sir Stephen Butler. Elizabeth's aunt Mary Butler was married to the Maddens London neighbour, Dr. Roberts, Rector of Enfield. Ethelreda Butler was born at Stotfold and baptised on 4th June 1579. Her first husband was Michael Hamon, gentleman, of Pirton, near Hitchen in Hertfordshire, son of Thomas Hamon, by whom she had a son and a daughter. (8) After Michael's death, she was married secondly to Charles Waterhouse Snr of Castle Waterhouse, Co. Fermanagh. They had three sons and six daughters but only one son, Charles Jnr, and three daughters, Elizabeth, Anne and Sarah, lived to be married. Charles was the second son of Charles Waterhouse of Baltra, Co. Meath, who married Ursula Andrews, a cousin of Sir Eusebius Andrews. (9) His uncle was Sir Edward Waterhouse of Henden Place, Woodchurch, Kent, the Elizabethan Chancellor of the Exchequer and one of the early backers of the colonial settlements in Virginia and Ireland. In 1580s, Sir Edward, then "Mr. Waterhouse"', went to Ireland as Secretary to Sir John Perrott during his four year tenure as Lord Deputy of Munster from 1584 to 1588. It was during this administration that the great Munster Plantation took place, by which 60,000 acres of land, seized from the rebel Earl of Desmond, were parcelled out to some thirty English undertakers, including Sir Walter Raleigh. Together with Sir Henry Wallop and Lord Justice Sir William Pelham, Edward Waterhouse drew up the original "platt", or proposal, for Queen Elizabeth I and the Privy Council in London, advocating the granting of Munster land to certain great persons of state. Although Edward himself was overlooked in the land redistribution, he held the influential position of overseer of the River Shannon, with two galleys, to impose ordinances and fine offenders. (10) Having missed out on the chance to own land in Munster, Sir Edward subsequently secured land at Carrickfegus in 1585. In 1588, he married Deborah, widow of Martin Harlakenden. Sir Edward died at Henden Place in 1591.
Ethelreda Waterhouse was the second of ten children born to George Butler Esq., of Stotfold, Bedfordshire, following his 1876 marriage to Miss. Dorothy Beckingham, sister (or possibly daughter) of Sir Stephen Beckingham of Toleshunt-Beckingham, Essex. (11) George, who also had property at Tewin in Hertfordshire, was, with Sir Edward Waterhouse, one of the original shareholders of the Virginia Company of London. (12) He died in 1624 and was buried at Stotfold.
Ethelreda's most influential sibling was her younger brother, Sir Stephen Butler, ancestor of the Earls of Landsborough. Born at Stotfold in November 1581, he became one of the first undertakers in Ulster during the reign of James I. He received a grant of some 2,000 acres, called Clonose, in Co. Cavan 'upon which he erected a castle and bawn of great strength'. In 1618, he was able to provide 200 men with very good arms, which he held at the castle, as well as others distributed to his tenants for their security. He could count on a further 135 under-tenants to bring his defence force up to 335 if need be. There were some 40 families on his estate by this point, among them the Waterhouses. Indeed, in his Survey of County Fermanagh for 1619, Nicholas Pynner noted that, within the precinct or barony of Knockninny, Sir Stephen held an estate of 1000 acres from the Scottish grantee George Smallhome, complete with stone house and bawn. The estate was sub-let to three Scotch undertakers, Richard Buckland, Robert Montgomerye and Charles Waterhouse. Under the terms of the plantation grant, Sir Stephen was obliged to combine with the undertakers of the precinct of Loghtee to create and plant a new town. 384 acres of land were set aside for this purpose and lo the town of Belturbet came into existence, complete with its Protestant church. By 1619, according to Pynnar, there were 35 houses in Belturbet, all occupied by English or Scottish tenants, most of whom were tradesmen. Each house had a garden lot and four acres of land, while there were common pasturelands set aside for the cattle.
On the Muster Roll of Co. Fermanagh for 1631, we find Charles Waterhouse Esq listed as one of thirty Undertakers who 'undertook' to settle the Barony de Clankelly in County Fermanagh. The previous year, on 21st April 1630, Charles Waterhouse and 'his heirs and assigns forever' were granted 'the small proportion of Derryanny' in Knockninny. (13) The following August the estate was enlarged include the town and lands of Moorlough. This was historically the land of the Gaelic Maguires, allies of Red Hugh O'Neill, who were dispossessed after the Flight of the Earls in 1607. His estate at Manor Waterhouse comprised 1000 good acres on the old Dublin to Enniskillen road (today a country lane) on the north side of Lough Erne. The deeds say 1000 acres but, as this did not include hill tops, bogs or woods, it was more likely to have been 3000 or even 4000 acres. That particular side of Lough Erne is marked by a maze of small islands, separated by thin water channels, and surrounded by hill steeply rising from the waters edge. By 1882, the estate amounted to 3,974 acres of 'arable, meadow, marsh and flood meadows' with reclaimed bog and turf bog with small streams, lakes and ponds. The annual rent was £2,578. The original dense forests of oak, ash and elm had been cleared and sown with grass. In 1630, Lough Erne would have been the principal highway between the west coast of Ireland, via a short overland route, to the Shannon and the Irish midlands.
When a man undertook to settle in Ulster, he was bound by a covenant to adhere to a large number of conditions. Amongst these was the requirement that they build a country house, perhaps fortified. In Charles's case, he was obliged to convert 400 acres into the manor demesne, as well as two Courts (Leet and Baron) where petty crimes would be punished, and a free warren, park and chase. Although no traces of it survive today, Elizabeth Whitmore believes Charles Waterhouse's castle was something similar to a Scottish tower, surrounded by a defensive fortified stone wall. The outlines of the castle and wall are apparent on a modern map, along with an old stone wall in the corner of the farmyard which may be the remains of a tower. Two long stretches of the old orchard wall remain while the road to the castle, now a farm, is a steep track off a narrow country lane. Charles Waterhouses' role was to administer the estate, organise the agriculture, maintain his tenants and root out criminal activity through his own courts (the Leet and Baron). A typical crime would have been poaching game which was deemed the exclusive preserve of the landowner himself. Another of the Covenant conditions was that a man had to be able to arm and equip a certain number of men at times of Musters. At the Fermanagh Muster of 1631, Charles vouched for 12 armed men on the land. (14) These original tenants lived in houses built close to the castle for purposes of mutual security. Tenants were supposed to be Protestants of all English or lowland Scots origin. However, this condition was often overlooked as there were insufficient number of Protestant labourers around. The original Irish inhabitants, who cost far less to employ, also predominated on the estate, according to Peadar Livingstone's 'The Fermanagh Story'. The nearby village of Rooskey would later become home to two mills, one a tuck mill for beating flax, the other most likely for corn.
Sir Stephen's wife Mary was a daughter of Gervas Brindsley of Brindsley, Co. Nottingham. She bore him three sons and four daughters before his death, aged 60, on 21st April 1639. He was buried in the chancel of Belturbet church. His wife, Lady Mary Butler, subsequently married again to Edward Philpot of Belturbet. His eldest son James succeeded to his Irish estates but died unmarried in 1660, leaving it all to his brother, Stephen, MP for Belturbet 1661 - 1662. On 20th May 1660, three days before Charles II's return from exile, Stephen married Ann Barry, daughter of Sir James Barry, 1st Lord Santry. However, Stephen was dead and buried in Christ Church within less than two years and none of his sons survived adulthood. The Butler estates thus passed to the third brother, Frances Butler, who also succeeded his brother as MP for Belturbet. Frances had fought for the Royalists in the Civil War but was to be among those attainted by James II in 1689 upon which his Irish estates were sequestered (ie: confiscated). His wife Judith was a daughter of the Rt. Hon. Sir Theophilus Jones of Osbertstown, Co. Meath, and bore him five sons and five daughters. Frances was MP for Belturbet again from 1692 to 1699 and died in August 1702, aged 68. He was buried at Belturbet.
Ethelreda's brother Beckingham Butler Esq. of Tewing, Tewingbury, Nottingham, was born in 1580 and married Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of Thomas Pygot, gent. He died in 1632, leaving three sons and three daughters. George Butler, his eldest son, subsequently petitioned against his uncle Sir Stephen Butler for monies lent to him by Beckingham. George married Anne Moyle and died at St. Christopher's leaving an only daughter. There is no record of the other two sons, William and John. Beckingham's eldest daughter, Juliana Butler, was called 'the most beautiful woman in England' and married twice - first to William, son of Sir Edward Thorold of Caringham Hall, Lincolnshire and Cheshunt, Herefordshire, and second to Robert Dewhurst of Cheshurt Nunnery. She died in 19th April 1637. The second daughter Elizabeth was also married twice - first to William Hicks and second to John Brisecor if Coney, Herefordshire. The youngest daughter Eleanor Butler married Edward Briscoe of Theobald's Street, Herefordshire.
Ethelreda's brother George Butler was Rector of Assick near Stratfold, Bedfordshire, and died unmarried.
Another brother Michael Butler married Miss. Penn of Sisesant, Hertfordshire, and had three sons.
Another brother Richard Butler was a woollen draper in London and died unmarried.
The youngest brother Edward was born in 1600, married Anne Fowler and settled in Barbados. He had a son, George, and three daughters, Rose, Mary and Anne. Rose wed David Ramsay of Barbados. Mary was thrice married - to Colonel Edward Chamberlain, George Green of Barbados and Sir John Witham. Anne married Judge John Daniel of Barnados. Their brother George was a London merchant and married Rebecca, daughter of John Vaux of Whipsnet near Dunstable, Bedfordshire, and had two daughters.
As to Ethelreda's three sisters, the eldest was Elizabeth who was married at Stotfold in July 1600 to James Needham, gentleman, of Lichborough, Northampton, and had two sons (George and Daniel) and three daughters (Dorothy, Elizabeth and Mary). Ethelreda's younger sister Mary was married twice - first in 1601 to Thomas Wood of Barmby & Kilwick-Percy near Pocklington, Yorkshire, and second to Dr. Roberts of North Mims, Rector of Enfield. Her only daughter Mary Wood married Sir Edmund Anderson of Broughton, Lincolnshire. Ethelreda's youngest sister Rose, born in 1595, was also married twice - first to Barmys Wood (uncle of Mary's husband, Thomas Wood) and secondly to Sackville Pope of Pursted, Sussex.
On 14th September 1638 Charles Waterhouse is recorded as heading up a Jury of 14 men (including himself) that convened at Enniskillen before Richard Guttridge, Provost of Enniskillen. (15) Later that autumn, Charles died during the Assizes at Enniskillen, apparently while on his knees in church at public prayers. (16) His widow, Ethelreda, survived him less than two years and died close to Shrovetide 1640.
Charles was succeeded at Castle Waterhouse by his third and only surviving son, Charles who was married in 1634 to Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Cope of Blithage / Blittoge in Co. Monaghan. It is believed that Charles Waterhouse Junior and his sons were among the thousands of Ulster planters massacred during the Great Rebellion of 1641. Lodge's Peerage states that Charles himself died that year but that his sons Charles, Cope and Richard merely 'died young' while his firstborn son, Edward Waterhouse, died in 19th August 1638. Tension was clearly escalating for a letter patent from August 1640 had granted Charles the right 'to keep at Castletwaterhouse, for the defence of the manor, five bombards [aka canons], Anglice Callivers or muskets and five pikemen'. The rising began on 23rd October 1641 when local Irish Catholics attacked planters across Fermanagh. By the end of the month, all Fermanagh was in Irish hands except Enniskillen, Lisgode, Monea and Hume's castle at Tully. Many of the planters were slaughtered while sheltering in their castles. Often they were tortured beforehand to reveal the whereabouts of their money and valuables. Those that made it to Enniskillen found conditions so dreadful that many died of disease or starvation. Belturbet was little better. In December, the remnants of Sir Stephen Butler's Protestant settlement, including his widow and her second husband Edward Philpott, were advised to clear out by rebel leaders. The convoy of between 80 and 1500 men, women and children were passing the town of Cavan when rebels attacked, killing many outright and stripping the rest of their remaining clothing and valuables. This was at the height of a particularly brutal winter with severe frosts and snow. By the time, the Belturbet party reached Dublin, most were dead. For those who stayed back in Belturbet, the fate was little better. The rebels hung three men and then drove thirty men, women and children to a bridge where they were pushed off and drowned in the river below. Charles Waterhouse and his sons could have died under any of the above circumstances. In every instance, their death would have been grotesquely unpleasant. (17)
As such, in 1641, the Manor Waterhouse estate passed to Charles's sister, Elizabeth, who had married John Madden six years earlier. Presumably some of the family wealth was distributed to Elizabeth's sisters, Anne, wife of the Rev. Mr Birch of Co. Cavan, and Sarah, wife of Edward Ploiner, gentleman, of Belturbet. Sarah Ploiner died on 14th April 1690 having lost five of her six children in their infancy. Her sole surviving and youngest daughter Mary married Lawrence Bowdett.
John Madden's silver tongue saw him survive life after the Star Chamber and, from 1644 until the outbreak of Civil War in 1649, he served as General Solicitor to the Committee for Parliamentary Sequestrations. In other words, he was a specialist in legally defending the State when it seized property from landowners. He would thus have been particuarly zippy with the terms of the 1627 'Act for the confirmacion of the Subsidies graunted by the Clergie' and the sub-section focusing on the 'Power to Collectors to levy Subsidies by Censures of the Church, and by Sequestration, Distress, &c.' (18) Sequestration of estates was quite common in Charles's reign, particularly those who opposed the King or professed a religion other than that of the Established Church. For example, Sir George Browne's Great Shefford Manor was sequestrated about 1627.
On May 8 1660, the Convention Parliament proclaimed that Charles II had been the lawful monarch since the execution of Charles I in January 1649. Charles returned from exile two weeks later and was crowned at Westminster in April 1661. John Madden did not witness much of the new reign, passing away aged 63 just four months later on 17th August 1661. His widow, Elizabeth Madden (nee Waterhouse) was married secondly to Major John Mitchell, but had no known further children. Elizabeth died in Dublin on 9th February 1671/2.
James FitzGerald, Earl of Kildare, looked up from the letter and wondered aloud, ‘has the Dean completely lost his mind?’ As he read the words again, there could be no doubt that Dean Madden, the Vicar of St. Anne's on Dawson Street, was accusing his Lordship of being a dreadful sinner and imploring him. Everybody knew that Lord Kildare was one of Dean Madden’s most pious and generous parishioners. He was also arguably the most important man in Ireland. Furious, Lord Kildare demanded that the Archbishop of Dublin haul the Dean in for an explanation.
When the Archbishop flung the incriminating letter at his feet, the Dean stuttered that surely it was his duty to urge all sinners to repent. The Archbishop urged the Dean to apologize to his Lordship without delay.
"But how can I?" asked the increasingly confused Dean. "The man is dead".
"What? Lord Kildare dead!? That's impossible!"
"No. Lord Rosse is dead".
It took a little while to unravel the truth. The letter in question had originally been written by Dean Madden and addressed to the Earl of Rosse, who lay dying on Dublin’s Molesworth Street. Lord Rosse, as happy a sinner as ever there was, decided to have some fun before he died. Noting that the Dean has simply addressed the letter to ‘My Lord’, Rosse put the letter into a fresh envelope and instructed a footman to deliver it to Lord Kildare who lived at nearby Leinster House. The ruse worked a treat and Lord Rosse died before anybody worked it out. He was probably laughing as he went.
With thanks to Elizabeth Whitmore, Patrick Madden and John Madden of Hilton Park.