Robert Clements, 1st Earl of Leitrim 1732-1804
While Nathaniel Clements died without acquiring the title he craved, he had laid effective groundwork for his son Robert.
Robert was more political than his father and set his sights on gaining an earldom. The records show that he expended considerable effort on petitioning for the title and eventually succeeded through a combination of skilled political manoeuvring, social positioning and sheer persistence.
One of his first tasks after finally gaining the earldom, was to design the family Coat of Arms.
In his mid-twenties, Robert took over the management of his father's new estates in Leitrim. Although he did not live on the estate, he used it as a springboard to establish his political career.
In 1759 he was appointed High Sheriff of Leitrim, and gave his address as Lough Rynn, Mohill - the first official recording of the name.
He went on to be elected as Member of Parliament for Dunleck, Cavan and Leitrim successively between 1761 and 1767 and was appointed Governor of Leitrim in November 1777.
As well as carving a political career, Robert took care to establish himself in other important areas. Over the years, he took on a succession of roles: Controller of Customs - which he held for 46 years until his death; Ranger of Phoenix Park 1777-87 and Searcher, Packer & Gauger, Port of Dublin in 1787. In each role, he created connections and established relationships with influencers in Government and society.
His marriage in 1765 to Elizabeth Sandford of Maynooth helped him gain social acceptance and respectability. She also brought him further estates in County Kildare, where the couple eventually settled.
Application for peerage
But by the 1780s, after 50 years of focused positioning and persistent petitioning for a peerage, Robert had little to show for his efforts. In 1783, he wrote that he had suffered ignominiously at the hands of successive Government officials and believed himself to be `ill-used'. With his track record of public service, Robert had been certain that he would be awarded a seat on the Privy Council, and he had had repeated assurances from the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Buckingham that his application would be recommended `very particularly'. The seat, however, was given to another. But in April that year, Robert saw some progress: he was made Baron Leitrim of Manor Hamilton.
Robert was not satisfied: after all those years of faithful service to the Government, he thought he deserved more. In 1784, having returned the Lord Lieutenant's secretary for his borough, he applied for advancement in the peerage. His application was not well received. Thomas Orde, Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant said, `I shall preach with great energy against making any Irish peers on this side of the water. The enclosed letter from Lord Leitrim is in a style of menace which must not be allowed to succeed.'
Robert submitted that he had brought more supporters to the Government `without the smallest favour granted them' and thought he would surely win the King's favour after increasing the army presence in County Cavan - at considerable personal expense.
This latter was recognised with an appointment to the role of Commissioner of the Revenue. The role however, lasted only a year. In a fit of pique, Robert declined to be compensated with the offer of an annual pension of £600. Instead, he demonstrated his continued support for succeeding Lord Lieutenants, doggedly petitioning each one with his application to be granted a higher title.
In the end, he had to wait ten years before being made a Viscount and two years later, in 1795, was finally rewarded with the title Earl of Leitrim. The final recognition had come after he played a key role in ensuring the successful election of the Lord Lieutenant's Secretary to Parliament.
One of Robert's first accomplishments as Earl of Leitrim was to create the family seal. The motto he selected was Patriis Virtutibus: By Hereditary Virtues.
Robert died at the age of 79, satisfied with his life's work. In his later years, he tied himself less to the influencers of the day, and allowed his personal views to dictate his allegiances. At the end, he was a strong supporter of the Union of Great Britain and Ireland.