John Meade, 1st Earl of Clanwilliam
John Meade, 1st Earl of Clanwilliam (21 April 1744 – 19 October 1800) was an Irish nobleman, known as Sir John Meade, 4th Baronet until 1766. Elevated to the Irish peerage, his debauchery and reckless spending led him to sell the family estate.
The son of Sir Richard Meade, 3rd Baronet, he was born a few days before his father's death. He inherited a baronetcy and estates worth about £10,000 per year, in Cork, Kilkenny, and Tipperary. He was returned as Member of Parliament for Banagher in 1764.
In 1765, he married Theodosia Magill, a wealthy heiress with estates in Gilford and Rathfriland, County Down worth £4,000 per year. The marriage settlement provided her with a jointure of £3,500 per year should she survive Meade, of which £2,500 was to be charged to his Tipperary estates. On 17 November 1766, he was created Viscount Clanwilliam and Baron Gilford, and entered the Irish House of Lords.
The couple had five sons and five daughters:
- Richard Meade, 2nd Earl of Clanwilliam (1766–1805)
- Lady Anne Meade (24 April 1768 – 1826), married William Whaley, second son of Richard Chapell Whaley, in 1788
- Lady Catherine Meade (7 October 1770 – 17 February 1793), married Richard Wingfield, 4th Viscount Powerscourt in 1789
- Hon. Robert Meade (1772–1852)
- Lady Theodosia Sarah Frances Meade (1773 – 13 December 1853), married John Cradock, 1st Baron Howden
- Hon. John Meade (c.1775–1849)
- Hon. & Ven. Pierce Meade (1776 – 22 November 1835), archdeacon of Dromore, married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Percy and had issue
- Ens. Hon. Edward Meade (d. 8 March 1801), educated at Wadham College, Oxford, 40th Regiment of Foot, killed at the Battle of Abukir, posthumously promoted lieutenant in the 23rd Regiment of Foot
- Lady Melosina Adelaide Meade (d. 26 March 1866), married John Brabazon, 10th Earl of Meath
- Lady Maria Rose Arabella Sarah Meade (1782 – 7 February 1876)
The Clanwilliams were extravagant spenders, the Viscount dissipating large sums on horseracing, gambling, and keeping mistresses. (In 1779, Horace Walpole repeated a rumor, almost certainly exaggerated, that Clanwilliam had arranged the murder of one of his romantic rivals.) His elevation in the peerage as Earl Clanwilliam on 20 July 1776 probably exacerbated matters, encouraging acts of ostentation like keeping open house at his townhouse (now part of Newman House) on St Stephen's Green, Dublin. Around 1783, the Clanwilliams' personal property was seized and auctioned; by 1787, his debts had grown to over £72,135. Clanwilliam was forced to sell and mortgage his Cork and Kilkenny estates to pay off the debts; they were also charged with providing marriage portions for his daughters Anne and Catherine in 1788 and 1789. As these estates had provided maintenance for his eldest son Lord Gilford, Gilford was given £1,700 per year from the Tipperary and Down estates instead.
The debt still stood at £31,327 in 1791, and grew to £46,251 in 1795. Clanwilliam found himself obliged to begin liquidating the Tipperary estate in 1793, a process that continued until 1805, at the cost of providing portions for his remaining younger children. Gilford's consent was needed to break the entail, but as he had contracted debts of his own and married the Bohemian, Roman Catholic, noblewoman Countess Caroline Thun without the approval of his parents in October 1793, he was in no position to obstruct them. He was granted a small provision from his mother's Down estates and left to live in Vienna. In fact, the resettlement of the family estates that ensued was largely to the benefit of the Countess, at the expense of the Earl and Lord Gilford.
By September 1800, Clanwilliam suffered badly from dropsy and left his wife at Gill Hall, on the Gilford estate, for his mistress and his Dublin townhouse. He died there on 19 October, having, in the words of his grandson, the 3rd Earl of Clanwilliam, "dissipated, to the last guinea, the Meade estates in Cork and Tipperary".
- Malcolmson, Anthony (1999). "A Woman Scorned?: Theodosia, Countess of Clanwilliam (1743-1817)". Ulster Genealogical Review.
|Parliament of Ireland|
|Member of Parliament for Banagher
With: Peter Holmes
| Succeeded by|
|Peerage of Ireland|
|New creation||Earl of Clanwilliam
| Succeeded by|
|Baronetage of Ireland|
| Succeeded by|