James Touchet, 3rd Earl of Castlehaven, c.1612-84

Anglo-Irish nobleman with a scandalous family background, he fought for both the Confederates and the Royalists

Portrait of James Touchet, 3rd Earl of CastlehavenJames Touchet was the eldest son of Mervyn Touchet, second Earl of Castlehaven, and his first wife Elizabeth Barnham, a London heiress. In 1628, James was married to Elizabeth Brydges, his stepsister from his father's second marriage to Anne Brydges, née Stanley, daughter of the fifth Earl of Derby. Elizabeth was only twelve years old at the time of the marriage. In 1631, Mervyn Touchet was brought to trial before the House of Lords on charges of gross sexual misconduct against Lady Anne and others. James was a key witness against his father, who was condemned to death and beheaded on 31 May 1631. James succeeded to the Irish earldom of Castlehaven, but most of his father's estates in England were taken over by Lord Cottington and others.

Castlehaven began his military career in the European wars. He was commanded to attend King Charles I on the outbreak of the Bishops' Wars in 1639 then returned to the Continent after the Pacification of Berwick and witnessed Owen Roe O'Neill's surrender of Arras to the French in the summer of 1640. Castlehaven was back in Ireland attending to his estates when the Irish Uprising broke out in October 1641. Although he went to Dublin to offer his services in suppressing the rebellion, the Lords-Justices Sir William Parsons and Sir John Borlase suspected his motives as he was a Roman Catholic and indicted him for high treason in May 1642. He escaped from custody in September and went to Kilkenny, the capital of the newly-declared Catholic Confederacy.

Despite the suspicions of some Confederates that his escape was engineered and that he was a government agent, Castlehaven was appointed lieutenant-general of horse in the Leinster army commanded by Thomas Preston. During late 1642 and early 1643, Castlehaven supported Preston's campaign to capture government forts in Leinster. On 18 March, he commanded the cavalry at the Confederate defeat at the battle of Ross, but was victorious at Athy the following month when he defeated a detachment sent to relieve the siege of Ballynekill Castle. Later in the spring, Castlehaven was sent to Munster where he defeated and captured Lord Inchiquin's lieutenant Sir Charles Vavasour at Cloghlea in County Cork on 4 June.

In the summer of 1644, Castlehaven was appointed commander of a force of 6,000 foot and 600 horse sent into Ulster to join forces with the army of Owen Roe O'Neill against the Ulster Scots, who refused to accept the one-year Cessation of Arms. Reluctant to risk a pitched battle when the Scots advanced, Castlehaven withdrew to the stronghold of Charlemont Fort and the two forces faced one another in a seven-week stand-off. The expedition ended in mutual recrimination between Castlehaven and O'Neill when their supplies ran out, though Castlehaven claimed that he had successfully pinned down Scottish forces in Ulster and prevented any threat to the other three provinces.

After campaigning against Lord Inchiquin in Munster during 1645, Castlehaven supported the First Ormond Peace (1646) and unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Archbishop Rinuccini and his followers to accept it. With the failure of the treaty, Castlehaven continued to support the Marquis of Ormond during his negotiations with the Westminster Parliament, which resulted in the surrender of Dublin to the Parliamentarians in 1647.

After the surrender of Dublin, Castlehaven left Ireland and went to France. He joined the company of exiled Royalists commanded by Prince Rupert and fought at the siege of Landrécy, then attended Queen Henrietta Maria and the Prince of Wales in Paris. In October 1648, Castlehaven accompanied Ormond on his return to Ireland. With the signing of the Second Ormond Peace in January 1649, Castlehaven was appointed lieutenant-general of the combined Irish-Royalist army. He joined forces with Lord Taafe and Lord Inchiquin to drive the renegade Owen Roe O'Neill out of Leinster then rejoined Ormond in time to participate in the disastrous defeat at the battle of Rathmines in August 1649.

In 1650, Castlehaven was appointed commander-in-chief in Leinster, but he could do little to prevent the relentless advance of the New Model Army under Cromwell and Ireton. After Ormond's departure from Ireland and the appointment of the Marquis of Clanricarde as lord-deputy, Castlehaven took command of Irish forces in Munster and Clare. He attempted to hold the line of the River Shannon but his forces were scattered during Ireton's advance into Connacht in 1651.

Castlehaven left Ireland and took service with the Prince de Condé in the war of the Fronde. He fought in various campaigns during the 1650s and was present at the battle of the Dunes in 1658. He continued his military career after the Restoration, serving as a volunteer in several naval actions during the Second Anglo-Dutch War and as an infantry commander in the Spanish service. Castlehaven died at Kilcash in County Tipperary in 1684. He was succeeded as fourth Earl of Castlehaven by his brother Mervyn.


Robert Dunlop, James Touchet, Baron Audley of Hely, 3rd Earl of Castlehaven, DNB 1898

Sean Kelsey, James Touchet, 3rd Earl of Castlehaven, Oxford DNB, 2004


The Earl of Castlehaven's Memoirs Google Books