James Kelly. Sir Richard Musgrave, 1746–1818: Ultra-Protestant Ideologue. [Review]

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Most people who actually knew the Irish baronet Sir Richard Musgrave would probably agree with James Kelly's observation that he was “a somewhat dysfunctional human being” (p. 38). Already in his youth he was described as an “odd eccentric man”; the Irish Chief Secretary Thomas Orde dismissed him as “a very whimsical man”; and his wife, Lady Deborah Cavendish, deemed him “half mad by nature” and “the most unfeeling and abominable of fanatics” (it was an unhappy marriage, which ended in divorce). His distinctive rigidity and uncompromising conservatism was mocked by the contemporary raconteur Sir Jonah Barrington, who noted that Musgrave was “generally in his senses,” “except on the abstract topics of politics, religion, martial law, his wife, the pope, the pretender, the Jesuits, Napper Tandy, and the whipping-post.” Though his political career was rather unimpressive, definitely when compared to others in his social circle, such as Sir Edward Newenham (who is the subject of a previous, equally superb, study by Kelly), recent research is increasingly making a case for Musgrave's central importance for the history of Anglo-Irish loyalism and even for the ideological development of British conservatism. The extent of this claim, which is put forward with authority in this study, needs to be qualified with caution.
Original languageEnglish GB
Pages (from-to)1214-1215
Number of pages2
JournalAmerican Historical Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2010


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