Orrery was (and quite possibly still remains) the name of barony or district within Cork county in Ireland; it has been suggested that name itself is derived from a corruption of the Gaelic word 'foraire', meaning a watch-hill. In the seventeenth century it was this barony of Orrery which gave its name to the title of Earl of Orrery in the Peerage of Ireland. The first holder of the title being Roger Boyle, the third surviving son of Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork.
Thanks to his father's influence and wealth this Roger Boyle was created Baron of Broghill in his own right on the 28th February 1627 a few months shy of his sixth birthday. In his later youth he joined his brothers in support of Charles I when the Civil War broke out in 1642, but after the execution of Charles I in 1649 he withdrew from public life to his estate at Marston in Somerset. He was however later persuaded to assist Oliver Cromwell in his subjugation of Ireland and became one of Cromwell's inner circle of advisors. But after the death of Cromwell in 1658, he soon became of the opinion that the restoration of Charles II was inevitable and left for Ireland where he was instrumental in securing the island for the king. He was therefore much in favour with Charles and on the 5th September 1660 was created the Earl of Orrery. Thereafter he took less interest in political affairs and turned his attention to literature, being the author of at least one novel, as well as poetry and a series of plays.
The 1st Earl died on the 26th October 1679 and was succeeded by his eldest son also named Roger. The 2nd Earl married Mary Sackville, a daughter of Richard Sackville, 5th Earl of Dorset but died on the 29th March 1682 at the age of thirty-five, and the title passed to his twelve year old son Lionel Boyle. As the 3rd Earl, Lionel also married a Mary Sackville, this time an illegitimate daughter of Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset, but he died without issue on the 31st August 1703 at the age of only thirty-three, when the title passed to his younger brother Charles.
The 4th Earl joined the army and was promoted to the rank of Major-General in 1709, fought with some distinction during the War of the Spanish Succession, and later assisted in the negotiations of the Peace of Utrecht. His reward for these services was to be created Baron Boyle of Marston on the 5th September 1711. (Which being a title in the Peerage of Great Britain gave him a seat in the British House of Lords.) He was later suspected of Jacobitism and committed to the Tower of London on the 28th September 1722, but although he remained in captivity for the next six months, he was then released on bail and all charges were eventually being dropped for lack of evidence.
Later described as "one of the literary ornaments of the reign of Queen Anne", the 4th Earl clearly inherited his grandfather's literary interests; he was responsible for a translation of Plutarch's Life of Lysander and was author of at least one play, a comedy entitled As you find it. He was also a patron of the instrument maker George Graham; it was in honour of the 4th Earl that Graham's 'invention' of a mechanical model of the solar system was named an 'orrery'.
The 4th Earl married Elizabeth Cecil daughter of John Cecil, 5th Earl of Exeter but she died on the 12th June 1708, not long after giving birth to their only child, a son named John. Charles himself died on 28th August 1731 and was buried at Westminster Abbey, and was succeeded by this John Boyle as the 5th Earl, who became another of the literary Earls of Orrery, author of Remarks on the Life and Writings of Jonathan Swift and a translation of the Letters of Pliny the Younger.
On the 3rd December 1753, John's cousin Richard Boyle, the last male representative of the senior Boyle line died without male heirs and so John also inherited his great-great-grandfather's title of Earl of Cork.
From that date onwards John adopted the title of 'Earl of Cork and Orrery', a practice which his descendants have consistently followed. Their history is therefore continued under the Earl of Cork, being the most senior of the two earldoms held by the Boyle family.
THE EARLS OF ORRERY
The 5th Earl became known as the Earl of Cork and Orrey in 1753;
see Earl of Cork thereafter.
- The 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica entries for
ROGER BOYLE, 1ST EARL OF ORRERY and CHARLES BOYLE, 4TH EARL OF ORRERY
- Boyle family genealogy at
- The Peerages of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom at http://www.angeltowns.com/town/peerage/Peers.htm
- A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain at www.thepeerage.com
- Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)