Meet the founding members of the King family
Sir John King
General of the Elizabethan Army
It was during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and James I that extensive Protestant English Settlements (Plantations) took place. In the period that became known as the Ascendancy, grants of land were made to English settlers in recognition of services rendered to the Crown, usually in a military capacity.
This was largely at the expense of old Irish princes and chieftains.
In 1603 Sir John King and Sir John Bingley were given joint lease of Boyle Abbey and surrounding lands. Lands previously controlled by the MacDermott Clan, local Gaelic chieftains.
Sir John King’s main residence was in Dublin, but he built a ‘great castle’ in Boyle in 1607. By 1618 he had obtained an outright grant to the Abbey and its 4127 acres.
Sir John continued to grow in power and influence over the coming years and was granted sizable lands in Dublin and throughout Ireland. He was made a Privy Counsellor, became a Member of Parliament for Roscommon and was appointed Muster General.
Sir Robert King
Sir John King was succeeded by his son, Robert, a firm supporter of Cromwell.
Sir Robert King became a Member of the Cromwellian Parliament and is recorded as being responsible for raising the siege of Elphin. Whilst his main residence was in Dublin, he built a house on the site of the present King House.
He was succeeded by his son John in 1657.
John King (Baron Kingston)
The King family’s fortune increased further when John King married Catherine Fenton, heir to a vast estate in Munster in 1658.
In 1660 John King was created Baron Kingston for services to the Crown.
Inheritance of the Munster estate and service to Charles II in England occupied John King and he arranged for his brother (Robert King) to manage the Boyle House, giving him considerable lands in the area including the Rockingham grounds.
John King was succeeded by his son, also named Robert, in 1676. Robert would inherit the title of Baron Kingston and the family estates.
Robert King (Baron Kingston)
Robert King was a supporter of the cause of protestant William III at a time when the majority of English families in Sligo, Roscommon and Leitrim supported the cause of catholic James II. This resulted in the family being involved in a number of military conflicts.
As Robert King was unable to father children, in due course the King family estates and titles were to be inherited by his brother Jack King. However, Jack had brought scandal to the family, eloping to France with a servant from the Boyle house.
Jack King had since been accepted by the French Court and high society in France. The protestant King family were gravely concerned that Jack’s loyalties would now lie with the Pope should James II come to the throne. The family took legal action to disinherit Jack and Robert King changed his will to favour his uncle (Robert King).
Jack’s loyalties did in fact lie with James II and, supported by Catholic circles, he launched a successful legal action against the King family. He was granted the Munster estate and the title of Baron Kingston on Robert’s death.
The Boyle estate, however, remained the property of Robert’s uncle, as did the title of Baronet (an honour that entitles the holder to use the pre-fix of ‘Sir’).
With the accession of William III to the throne, Jack King, now a man of considerable wealth and power, returned his loyalties to the new king and the protestant faith. He did not pursue ownership of the Boyle estates and on Robert King’s death the estates and titles were passed to his uncle (Robert King), who was in turn succeeded by his son Henry King.
Sir Henry King
In 1720 Sir Henry King began the build of King House.
The original King home in Boyle was destroyed by fire in 1720 and Sir Henry King immediately began the re-build of the beautiful house that stands today. It is not confirmed which architect he engaged, but is likely to have been either Sir Edward Pearce or William Halfpenny.
Sir Henry King was the MP for Boyle and County Roscommon for 30 years. He married the sister of the Viscount Powerscourt in 1722 and had three sons and four daughters.
Robert King (Baron Kingsborough)
Sir Henry King was succeeded by his eldest son Robert, who was later made Baron Kingsborough for political services.
As he died in 1755 without an heir, King House, the Boyle estate and lands Robert held in his own right were to be inherited by his younger brother Edward. However, whilst Edward was traveling in France a new will was declared to be found, favouring the youngest brother Henry.
After a four year legal battle the estates were distributed between Edward, his children and Henry.
Edward King (Earl of Kingston)
Edward King was an immensely ambitious man, and having secured the Boyle estates, he set his sights on being re-granted the peerage of Baron Kingston.
The title currently lay with Jack King’s son James and on his death, Edward King successfully brought the title of Baron Kingston to the Boyle family.
Edward King no longer viewed King House as grand enough for a man of his wealth and power. Whilst both large and impressive it was surrounded by inns and merchants. He began the ambitious build of a second mansion, Kingston Hall, on the Rockingham Estate (today known as Lough Key Forest Park).
Edward’s relentless social climb, was rewarded in 1767 when he became Viscount Kingsborough, followed by the title of Earl of Kingston in 1768.
He orchestrated prosperous marriages for his children. At the young age of just 16 his eldest son, Robert, would marry Caroline Fitzgerald, great granddaughter of Jack King and heir to the Mitchelstown estate. His eldest daughter married Laurance Parsons Harman, who later became Earl of Rosse.
Kingston Hall was finished in 1771 and the family moved the following spring. Initially King House was maintained as a second residence, but following a fire in 1778 the King’s no longer used it.
King House was bought in 1795 by the British Army.