Sir Charles Coote, 2nd Baronet, Earl of Mountrath, c.1610-61
A commander of Protestant forces in Ulster, he sided with Parliament aganist the King and defeated the last Confederate field army at the battle of Scariffhollis
Coote was the eldest son of Sir Charles Coote of Coote Castle, County Roscommon, one of the leading Protestant "New English" settlers in Ireland. He was knighted in 1626 and supported his father's work as provost-marshal of Connacht. In 1640, Coote was elected MP for Leitrim in the Irish Parliament.
When the Irish Uprising broke out in October 1641, Coote defended his family estates in Connacht while his father joined the Earl of Ormond's forces at Dublin. He succeeded as second baronet when his father was killed at Trim in May 1642; he was also nominated to succeed him as provost-marshal. However, Coote was driven from Connacht by Confederate forces in February 1643 and joined a delegation to Oxford, which tried unsuccessfully to persuade King Charles to send supplies and reinforcements to western Ireland.
Coote opposed the Cessation of Arms agreed between the Royalists and the Confederates in September 1643. He joined another delegation of Irish Protestants to the King in April 1644, which demanded a repudiation of the Cessation, the confiscation of the estates of rebels, and other anti-Catholic measures. When the King rejected these demands, Coote went to London and declared for Parliament.
Coote spent a year in London with other prominent Irish Protestants advising Parliament on Irish affairs. He was appointed president of Connacht by Parliament in February 1645 and returned to Ireland in May. Joining forces with the Lagan Army of western Ulster, Coote recaptured Sligo from the Confederates and advanced into Connacht, but his successful campaign in western Ireland was brought to an abrupt end in June 1646 with the defeat of Major-General Monro's British army by Owen Roe O'Neill at the battle of Benburb. With O'Neill triumphant in Ulster, Coote withdrew to Belfast, where a shortage of supplies forced him to remain on the defensive.
In 1648, Parliament appointed Coote governor of Londonderry. He supported the establishment of the Commonwealth following the execution of King Charles and held Londonderry for Parliament, which brought him into conflict with his former allies in the Lagan Army who denounced the regicide. In March 1649, the Lagan forces besieged Londonderry. Coote doggedly defended the city for five months until the siege was broken by Owen Roe O'Neill's Ulster army in a temporary alliance with the Parliamentarians.
When Oliver Cromwell led the New Model Army's invasion of Ireland in August 1649, Coote marched eastwards against the Royalists in Ulster. He captured Coleraine in mid-September and massacred the defenders. Shortly afterwards, Coote joined forces with the detachment sent into Ulster by Cromwell under the command of Colonel Venables. Early in December, Coote and Venables routed the Royalists under Sir George Monro near Lisburn, allowing Coote to occupy Carrickfergus, where he drove the Scottish garrison and their families out into the winter cold. Monro surrendered Enniskillen to Coote in March 1650 and returned to Scotland.
In May 1650, the Confederates launched an offensive into northern Ulster. The Ulster Confederates were led by Bishop MacMohan, who took command after the death of Owen Roe O'Neill. Heavily outnumbered, Coote was obliged to retreat towards Londonderry and await reinforcements from units of the New Model Army. Finally, Coote advanced against the Confederates and defeated MacMahon at the battle of Scarriffhollis in County Donegal on 21 June 1650. Coote's victory destroyed the last Confederate field army. He secured Ulster for the Commonwealth by capturing Charlemont Fort in mid-August. In 1651, Coote advanced into Connacht where he co-operated with Henry Ireton, who was appointed Parliament's Lord-Deputy in Ireland after Cromwell was recalled to England. In June, the Confederate garrison at Athlone surrendered to Coote while Ireton besieged Limerick. Coote accepted the surrender of Major-General Thomas Preston at Galway, the last major Confederate stronghold, in May 1652.
With the ending of the Confederate War, Parliament confirmed Coote's appointment as President of Connacht. He remained an important figure in the administration of Ireland throughout the Protectorate in association with Lord Broghill and Henry Cromwell. After the fall of the Protectorate, Coote supported the interim Irish Convention and came to regard the return of the monarchy as the best option for stability in Ireland. In February 1660, Coote arrested Sir Hardress Waller after he attempted to seize Dublin Castle on behalf of the republicans. He also arrested the regicide lawyer John Cook and sent him a prisoner to London. In the same month, Coote sent a representative to Charles II in the Netherlands and received an acknowledgement of his support from the King. After the Restoration, Coote was re-appointed President of Connacht and created first Earl of Mountrath. He died from smallpox at Dublin in December 1661.
T.F. Henderson, Sir Charles Coote, earl of Mountrath , DNB 1887
Patrick Little, Sir Charles Coote, first earl of Mountrath, Oxford DNB, 2004
James Scott Wheeler, Cromwell in Ireland, (New York 1999)