Mary Fleming O’Gara in pursuit of her marriage settlement

Published in The Corran Herald Ballymote Heritage Group Issue No. 45 2012/2013

Maura O’Gara-O’Riordan

Lady Mary Fleming was the daughter of Randal Lord Slane. Her first husband, Captain Richard Fleming of Stahalmock, Co. Meath, was a supporter of James II and was killed during the siege of Derry on 4 June 16891. They had two children: James, who died young, and a daughter, Bridget, who survived and married. Mary Fleming was a young widow when she was married for the second time, to Colonel Oliver O’Gara, late of Moygara and Coolavin, in the year 1690 or 1691. They went on to spend over thirty years in exile in France and had a large family. Although Mary’s first marriage to Richard Fleming had been short-lived, after a lapse of many years, she took legal action to secure her entitlements to land income from the union, a course that would lead to her case being presented in the houses of parliament in both London and Dublin.

     Mary’s third son, Charles, assisted her in pursuing her case. Charles was born in France. His baptism on the 6 July 1699 is recorded in the Registers of l’Eglise Royale in St. Germain-en-Laye 2. There was one sponsor at Charles’s christening: ‘the very noble and powerful Prince, James II, King’, who signed himself, ‘Jacques Roi’. James II was the last Roman Catholic king of Scotland, England and Ireland. The royal chapel stood close to the palace of Saint-Germain,3 the residence of the Stuart court in exile in the western suburbs of Paris.

      On the death of her first husband, Richard Fleming in 1689, Mary had been attainted for high treason. Before her second marriage, to Oliver O’Gara, he had also been attainted for the same offence. Following the defeat of the army of James II in 1691, Oliver and Mary went to France in the winter of 1691/2 along with many other followers of James and settled in St. Germain. Between 1692 and 1708 the eleven children who were born to the couple were baptised in St. Germain but not all survived beyond childhood. Some records for the careers of John, Oliver, Charles and Joseph, the four sons who reached adulthood, are extant. No records have been located for the three O’Gara daughters.

     Oliver O’Gara continued with his military career in France for some years and by the spring of 1718 both he and his wife were in receipt of small pensions. Mary was receiving a pension of 25 livres per month from Queen Mary of Modena, widow of James II. The note which accompanied the pension record reads: Wife of Colonel Olliver O’Gara, who commanded the Queen’s Regiment of Dragoons in France. She is sister to my Lord Slane who lost a considerable estate for his loyalty. She has a son unprovided for. Her husband has a Pension, as Reformed Colonel in the Court of France 4.  

     The son in question could only have been Joseph, born in 1708, as two of Mary’s older sons, John and Oliver, had commenced their military careers in the Irish Brigades in France, and Charles had very likely commenced his employment in the house of Lorraine by 1718. The Lord Slane referred to above was Christopher Fleming, one of Mary’s half-brothers from her father’s second marriage, who sat in the Irish Parliament of James II, as did his future brother-in-law, Oliver O’Gara. Christopher, who was also attainted following the defeat of the Jacobites, went to France and joined a regiment of foot in the French service. However, he retired with the rank of colonel in 1703 to give his allegiance to Anne, Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland.5 The youngest daughter of James II and a Protestant, Anne became queen on the death of her brother-in-law, William III. She ruled from 1702 to 1714. Christopher Fleming conformed to the Protestant religion some time before January 1706 6 and was restored to his peerage, but not to his estates, by an Act of Parliament in 1708.7

     In 1720 8 – after living in France for nearly thirty years – Mary and Oliver O’Gara submitted a memorial through the office of the Duke of Liria seeking the restoration of title to lands in Ireland. No documents have been discovered to suggest that earlier memorials existed. The involvement of the Duke of Liria with Colonel Oliver and Mary O’Gara’s case is no surprise as both the duke and his father were named in a number of documents in connection with the Colonel and his family. The title Duke of Liria and Jérica was bestowed on James Fitzjames 1st Duke of Berwick, the natural born son of James II, in 1707, a title which he ceded to his son, also named James Fitzjames in 1716. [Edward Corp, The Stuarts in Italy 1719–1766 (Cambridge, 2011), p. 391.] Therefore the Duke of Liria who was promoting the case of Oliver and Mary O’Gara was the 2nd Duke.

   James Fitzjames, the natural-born son of James II, held the title of Duke of Liria along with several other titles. His father had created him James, Duke of Berwick, Earl of Tinmouth and Baron Bosworth in 1687. Philip V of Spain created him first Duke of Liria and Jérica, and Lieutenant of Aragon in 1707; Louis XIV created him Duke of Fitz-James in the peerage of France in 1710. The Spanish and French titles were given to James as a result of his success as leader of the Franco– Spanish army at the battle of Almansa in 1707.

     On 15 December 1694 the duke signed himself ‘Berwick’ as baptismal sponsor to James Oliver, second-born son of Oliver and Mary O’Gara. Some years later Oliver and Mary’s eldest son John, who was a captain in the duke’s regiment in 1715, received a reference from the duke, who signed himself ‘Count of Tinmouth Berwick’ and who described John O’Gara as ‘a gallant man and good officer’.9 In 1722 when John’s name was put forward for the award of the Spanish knighthood of Santiago the duke, described as a brigadier in Spanish service, signed as a sponsor for John using the title ‘Duke of Liria’.10 It appears that the duke used his English titles up to at least 1715 but by 1720, when Mary’s memorial was recorded in his office, he was signing with his Spanish title. This document in the Duke of Liria’s office was described as ‘A memorial in behalf of Collonel Oliver O Gara and Mary his wife, one of the Daughters of Randal late Lord – Baron of Slane’.11

     It is not clear to whom the memorial was submitted but the recommendation was that ‘This person must apply to Court of Revenue in Ireland’. Details of Mary’s claim are given in the following extract: Mrs OGara on the death of her first husband wch happened in the year 1689, became intitled to Lands in Ireland, then of the value of 200 pounds a year, wch had been settled on her for the Term of her life as a Jointure on her first marriage. After her intermarriage with Collonell O Gara, she and the Collonell were indicted and outlawed in Ireland by the management & Contrivance of her first husband’s Relations; who for about twenty nine years last past have taken the Rents and profits of the said Jointure Lands, and absolutely refused to give any thing thereout to the Collonel or his Lady, on pretence that they may hereafter be accountable to the Crown for the profits.

     A further extract refers to one of Mary’s sons: ‘Mr. O Gara the ladies Son and heir apparent is ready to make out the title of the Crown to the said fforfeited Lands, and the mean profits thereof for many years; and humbly hopes that in so hard a case he will meet with due Encouragement’. The ‘Mr. O Gara the ladies Son and heir apparent’ referred to in the 1720 document can be identified as Charles, who was involved in Mary’s affairs for some years prior to 1728.12

In a later, undated – and more lengthy – memorial,13 much of the text of the 1720 document is included but with additional information and a stronger sense of urgency. An approximate date of 1722/23 can be suggested for the second memorial as it is clearly stated that Mary’s in-laws had enjoyed the rent from her jointure for about thirty-two years whereas the memorial noted in 1720 gave a benefit for about twenty-nine years to her in-laws from her jointure land. A major difference in the additional text is that the second memorial is a direct appeal from Mary O’Gara to the highest authority, the king, with a request to have an Act of Parliament passed in the House of Commons ‘enabling certain Trustees on yr Pet[itione]r ’s behalf to recover the sd Jointure Lands’. A further point of difference is the statement that the then Mary Fleming was outlawed before her second marriage to Colonel Oliver O’Gara: waived or outlawed for high treason on Acct of the late War in Ireland, by the name of Mary Fleming late of Monaghan Widow, being then under the Age of 21 years soon after whose death, and she afterwards married Coll O Gara who was also outlawed for high treason on the same Acct.

     The question arises as to why Mary Fleming O’Gara took action to restore her rights to land in Ireland after such a lapse of time. Living conditions in St. Germain appear to have deteriorated considerably for Oliver and Mary in the three years between the preparation of the two memorials, as attention is drawn to their plight ‘That yr said Petr ’s present Indigent Circumstances render her an object of your Majestie’s great Goodness & Compassion’. Mary also refers to ‘Mrs Baggott’s Case’ which is listed in ‘Reversal of the outlawry of Elianor Bagot’ in 1708 (7 Anne) but does not mention her half-brother’s case.

     A further development in the case appears in correspondence dated 25 February 1725/26 between John Carteret, the lord lieutenant of Ireland, and the duke of Newcastle:14 In my letter of the 14th of May last I had the honour to represent to your Grace that Several persons of distinction here were alarmed at the bringing in of a Bill into the House of Commons in England for reversing the Outlawry of the Honourable Mary O Gara wife of Oliver O Gara Esq. which Bill was afterwards dropd. Fresh Applications having been made to me upon that Subject, I herewith transmit to your Grace a memorial relating to the Case of Mary O Gara vs. and the Copy of an Address of the House of Commons of Ireland to His Majesty dated 7th December 1717 refered to in the said memorial, and desire that you will please to lay this matter before His Majesty.

    Carteret is reminding the duke of Newcastle of an address which was made to the king in 171715 imploring him not to grant permission to reverse any outlawries of the Irish who were found guilty of treason in the rebellions of 1641 or 1688. Carteret states that Mary’s bill was dropped but according to the new memorial16 which he had received and was now submitting – an appeal not to pass the Bill on behalf of the Protestants of Ireland – a further memorial had been presented on behalf of Mary. The said Mary hath not been heard of in these Kingdoms for these thirty five yeares past and is now in France or in other parts beyond the Seas with her said husband Oliver but – the said Mary pretending that she is intitled to a joynture on part of the Estate of the Sd. Richd. Fleming by vertue of some dormant settlemt. which hath not been heard of in Forty years hath lately given notices that she will apply to the parliamt. of Great Brittain for an Act of Parliamt. to reverse her said Outlawry: Or to enable her to sue for her said joynture tho her said husband Oliver be yet alive and under the Attainder for high treason. 17

    The assertion that Mary O’Gara had ‘not been heard of’ for thirty-five years needs clarification. Although she may not have been physically present in Ireland during this period, documentary evidence in pursuit of her case connects her to the country from at least 1720.18

     In the memorial, there is a reference to Oliver O’Gara being alive at the time the memorial was submitted in February 1725/6. If Oliver was alive on that date then he must have died shortly afterwards. In the bill instigated by Mary that was passed into law in 1726, she was described as a widow: ‘A Bill to enable Mary O’Gara, Widow, to sue for her jointure-lands’, 1726 (13 Geo. 1), Case 31.19 However, given that another memorial would have had to be prepared following his death, causing some time to pass before the case was heard, a date early in 1726 is the more likely for Oliver’s death.

     Mary returned to Ireland shortly after the 1726 Act was passed in the British parliament, and continued with the task she had set herself. She presented her bill to: ‘his Majestys High Court of Chancery in Ireland against Michael Fleming Esqr. & against others partys debts in sd Act as well as for recovery of ye Arrears of her sd Joyntures…’

     A Deed of Assignment dated 26 December 1728 and a Memorial to the Deed were signed by Mary O’Gara and were delivered to the Deputy Register under ‘O’Gara to Barnewall et al.,’ on 8 January 1728/9.20 In the deed, Mary empowered her first cousin, Sir George Barnewall, fourth Baronet of Crickstown, Co. Meath and John Brown (who may have been John Browne, Mary’s cousin through a Barnewall/Bellew connection) to act on her behalf if necessary to fulfil all the legal requirements resulting from the anticipated financial outcome of her case against her brother-in-law, Michael Fleming of Stahalmock. One extract details how she would like the money to be distributed: after payment of ye sd Marys Debts pay unto her beloved son Charles O’Gara out of ye sd Arrears ye sum of one thousand six hundred pounds in Discharge & Satisfaction for the money by him Advanced for sd Mary in obtaining sd Act of Parliamt.

      A further extract gives a list of all other persons whom Mary would like to benefit from her anticipated financial situation: shall pay thereto overall sums thereinafter mentioned to ye respective persons therein named that is to say ye sum of one hundred & thirty pounds to such person or persons as ye sd Mary shall Direct or Appoint to the sd Marys Grandchild ye Honble Ann Plunkett ye sum of fifty pounds Ster to Mary Berford the sd Mary O'Garas kinswoman the sum of thirty pounds Ster and to her kinsman Richard Berford Gent his Exrs Admint or Assigns the sum of five hundred pounds Ster And as to the residue of ye sd Arrears to the furtherence so that they ye sd Sr George Barnewall & John Brown & ye survivor his Exrs & Admrs Shall Dispose & pay ye sums in manner following one fourth thereof to the sd Marys Eldest Son John O’Gara, one other fourth part to ye sd Marys Second Son Oliver O'Gara, one other fourth part to her third Son ye sd Charles O'Gara & the remaining fourth part thereof to Joseph O’Gara the sd Marys fourth & youngest Son and to his Exrs Admts & Assignes of such Son & Sons respectively as to their respective shares.

      The Honorable Ann Plunkett, Mary’s granddaughter, was the eldest daughter of Bridget Fleming and Randal Plunkett, eleventh Baron of Dunsany. Bridget Fleming was Mary’s daughter from her first marriage, born two months before her father Richard was killed at the siege Derry in 1689. It is possible that Bridget remained in Ireland with some relatives when her mother Mary and her new husband Oliver O’Gara went to France as exiles in the winter of 1691/2. When Bridget was twenty-two years old she married Randal, Lord Dunsany as his second wife in 1711.21 The couple had a family of two boys and four girls. The present Randal, twenty-first Baron of Dunsany, is a descendant of Bridget Fleming and Randal.

     Mary took up residence as a parlour boarder with the Dominican sisters in Channel Row, Dublin 22 at an unknown date between April 1726 and April 1729. 23 She remained there until her death in the winter of 1741/2 (she signed her will on 4 November 1741 24). In 1717, six Dominican sisters who had been evicted from their Galway convent, received permission from the Archbishop of Dublin to take possession of a former convent building in Channel Row. A community of Benedictine sisters had abandoned the building some years earlier due to political pressure from the government of William III. Mary’s first cousin – Mother Mary Bellew (daughter of Sir Patrick Bellew and Elizabeth Barnewall) – was the prioress between 1717 and 1726. She was succeeded by Mother Julia Browne, also understood to have been a relative of Mary’s. As the Penal Laws were being enforced at this time the sisters dressed in secular clothes and were referred to as ‘Mrs’. For their livelihood the sisters took in boarders who rented accommodation on a short or longterm basis. Adult permanent dwellers were referred to as ‘parlour boarders’. The sisters also ran a school for Catholic women. Among the students listed in 1728 were two daughters of Lord Dunsany who would have been grandchildren of Mary O’Gara; one of these girls was Ann Plunkett who had been named in Mary’s deed. With perhaps one or two exceptions, all categories of occupants came from the privileged classes. Names listed in the account books were mainly Anglo-Irish, but also contained surnames of the former leading Gaelic families.

     Mary’s financial affairs with reference to her accommodation at Channel Row were recorded by the sisters, where the entries were noted in the name of ‘Mrs’or ‘Mistress O’Gara’. Extracts from the account books taken in isolation appear rather vague to the casual observer, but no doubt were quite clear to the nuns who signed the books each month.

     Mrs. O’Gara signed for a £50.00 bond between 1726 and 1729. She made a number of payments during 1730, 1731 and 1732 but in April 1732, she is recorded as having a debt of sixty-two pounds. By February 1733, she had acquired a servant and two years later in May 1735 debts due had amounted to one hundred and thirty-four pounds, five shillings. By April 1738 her debts had reached two hundred and thirtynine pounds.25

     It is evident from the mounting debts revealed in her accounts at Channel Row that Mary’s legal affairs had continued for many years before a settlement with her Flemings connection was reached. A thirty-two page report was printed in Dublin in 1736 with the title: ‘An ACT for the Relief of the Protestant Creditors and Lessees of Sir John Fleming, Knight, Deceased, and of Michael Fleming, Esquire, only Son of the said Sir John Fleming; and for effectually executing certain Articles of Agreement entered into between the said Michael Fleming and Mary O’Gara, Widow’.26 Mary’s situation is explained in some of the following extracts where she had to settle for less than was owed to her: And whereas several Suites, both at Law and in Equity, were commenced and prosecuted in the Kingdom of Ireland for Recovery of her said Joynture and the said Mesne Rates thereof against the said Michael Fleming, and the said Mary O'Gara obtained a Decree to account in the High Court of Chancery, in Ireland against the said Michael; but the said several suites being likely to be of long Continuance and very expensive the said Michael Fleming and the said Mary O’Gara entered into Articles of Agreement, whereby the said Michael Fleming agreed to pay into the said Mary O’Gara and her Assignes Four thousand Pounds Sterling, in full Satisfaction of the said Mesne Profits of the said Joynture Lands, to the first Day of May, One thousand seven hundred and thirty four; and that he the said Michael Fleming should yearly and every year during the Life of the said Mary O’Gara, pay unto her Two hundred Pounds per Annum by way of Rent Charge, payable half-yearly, from the said first of May, One thousand seven hundred and thirty four. 27

      Mary’s difficult situation as a creditor of Michael Fleming is further explained: And whereas the said Mary O’Gara is by means of the said Suites reduced to extream Wants, and the said Creditors and Lessees are very uneasy to the said Michael, and threaten to confine him and sue him for Breaches of Covenants. And whereas the said Michael Fleming stands indebted unto the said Mary O’Gara, or unto her Assignee Charles O’Gara, Esquire, her Son, who hath been at the Expence of maintaining the said Mary procuring the said recited Act, and prosecuting the said several Suites, in the Sum of Four thousand Pounds. 28

     Five pages of the report are given to lists of the people who had gone to the Court of Common Pleas or another such institution to get a judgment against John and Michael Fleming, who held joint responsibility up to 1714, and afterwards against Michael Fleming only. Debts of about £5,340 had accumulated from about 1700. It was agreed that a number of townlands would be sold to clear Michael’s debts: shall within the Space of five Years, from the first Day of May One thousand seven hundred and thirty six, by publick Cant, sell or mortgage a sufficient Part of the said Lands and Premises in them sovested; and out of the Money arising by such Sale or Mortgage, in the first Place pay unto the said Mary O'Gara, or her Assignes, the Sum of Four thousand Pounds and Interest for the same, at the Rate of Five per Centum per Annum from the Date of the said Articles; 29

      Despite her success in establishing her rights as the widow of Richard Fleming, the accounts of the Dominican convent in Channel Row do not indicate any significant increase in Mary Fleming O’Gara’s income throughout the 1730s. The Flemings had accumulated huge debts, and many other creditors had secured judgments against them. The sale of land to discharge these debts, including those owed to Mary, would take several years to complete.

     The records show that parlour boarders with a servant paid £7-10-0 a quarter for food and lodging in 1741. An inventory of the items in her room dated 10 May 1735 suggests that Mary lived in comfortable surroundings. The furniture and effects included a red canopy bed, two pairs of red window curtains, an easy chair and several rush chairs, and two oak folding tables. The room contained a grate fender with irons, and she also had a dressing glass and a pair of brass candlesticks with a brass snuffer.

     In Channel Row, Mary had the company of family members. Her daughter, Bridget Plunkett, Lady Dowager Dunsany, also became a parlour boarder at the convent for some months from 1st September to 1st December 1741 and a further quarter’s payment was made in February 1742 but the date of her stay there is not recorded. Mary’s two if not three granddaughters, Ann and Jane Plunkett and Ellis (Alice), received their education as boarders in Channel Row between 1728 and 1743. Visitors to Channel Row during the penal years included priests and bishops. It is possible that Oliver O’Gara’s two cousins, Bernard and Michael O’Gara, who studied in Paris, visited Mary. They both served as Archbishops of Tuam during the Penal Law years: Bernard 1724 - 1740, Michael 1740 - 1749.

      Mary Fleming O’Gara died in Channel Row in the winter of 1741/2. In her will, dated 4 November 1741, she left £100:0:0 to Katherine Cruise, a Dominican sister at the convent, and £10:0:0 to her servant, Hellen Plunkett. She appointed Denis Daly of Raford, Co. Galway her executor. The witnesses were Jo. Fergus and Thady McDonagh.30 As Mary’s daughter Bridget was lodging at Channel Row at the date on which Mary made her will it is possible that she was also present there around the time of her mother’s death in the winter of 1741/2.


1 J. T. Gilbert, A Jacobite Narrative of the War in Ireland, 1688-1691 (1892), p. 77.

2 C. E. Lart, Jacobite Extracts, Registers of St. Germain-en-laye, 2 vols (London, 1910-12); vol. i, p. 74.

3 E. Corp, A Court in Exile (Cambridge, 2004), p. 81.

4 Personal communication with Edward Corp, Professor of British History, University of Toulouse, France, September 2006.

5 The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England, S.P, 34/28 C490887.

6 The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England, S.P, 89/19 C490887.

7 British Private Statutes 1707 – 1800, (7 Anne).

8 The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England, S.P. 63/379 Scan – 0066.tif.

9 Micros 112 NP/377 exp. 5854, MM Santiago, Archivo Historico Nacional, Madrid; Walsh (ed.) Spanish Knights of Irish Origin, p. 6.

10 Micros 112 NP/377 exp. 5854, MM Santiago, Archivo Historico Nacional, Madrid; Walsh (ed.) Spanish Knights of Irish Origin, p. 6. 8

11 The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England, S.P. 63/379 Scan – 0066.tif.

12 O’Gara to Barnewall et al., Registry of Deeds, Dublin, no. 39572, book 57, p. 527

13 Petition of Mary O’Gara for a clause in a Bill to recover a Jointure, Cambridge University Library, Ch(H) Political Papers, 80, 363.

14 The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England, S.P. 63/387 Scan – 0079.tif

15 The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England, S.P. 63/387 Scan – 0084-5.tif

16 The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England, S.P. 63/387 Scan – 0081-2.tif

17 The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England, S.P. 63/387 Scan – 0081-2.tif

18 The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England, S.P. 63/379 Scan – 0066.tif.

19 A Bill to enable Mary O’Gara, Widow, to sue for her jointure-lands, Parliamentary Archives, Mary O’Gara, George I, c31 (1726–7) pp 365–7; O’Gara/Fleming, National Library of Ireland, LO 2391, p. 7.

20 O’Gara to Barnewall et al., Registry of Deeds, Dublin, no. 39572, book 57, p. 527

21 Lodge Peerage, vol. vi, p. 211

22 (A.H.N. Madrid, Alcantara, exp. 1085) folio 36v.

23 Unpublished material in the Archives of the Dominican Sisters at St. Mary’s, Rectory Green, D. 7, by permission of the late Sr. Terence O’Keeffe.

24 Evidence on the Slane claim of Peerage, 20 July 1831, National Archives CO 1004, pp 2-3.

25 Unpublished material in the Archives of the Dominican Sisters at St. Mary’s, Rectory Green, D. 7, by permission of the late Sr. Terence O’Keeffe.

26 Act-Fleming/O’Gara widow, NLI, LO 2391, (Dublin 1736).

27 Act-Fleming/O’Gara widow, NLI, LO 2391, (Dublin 1736), pp10-11.

28 Act-Fleming/O’Gara widow, NLI, LO 2391, (Dublin 1736), pp 12-13.

29 Act-Fleming/O’Gara widow, NLI, LO 2391, (Dublin 1736), p. 22.

30 National Archives of Ireland CO 1004 Part 3