James Bathe

(1500 - 1570. )

James Bathe (c.1500–1570), a formidable figure in Tudor-era Ireland, left an indelible mark as a distinguished judge and shrewd landowner. Born into the illustrious Bathe family, with roots in County Meath, James rose to prominence as Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer, serving under four successive monarchs and shaping the legal landscape for over three decades. His second wife, Elizabeth Burnell, the widow of Robert Barnewell, meant he inherited and owned Drimnagh Castle where the family lived. He owned extensive tracts of land around Dublin.

Hailing from Beshellstown, Clonalvy, County Meath, James was a scion of a long-established Anglo-Irish lineage, with ancestral ties to Athcarne Castle near Duleek. The Bathes had a storied history, marked by disputed claims to titles such as Baron Louth and a tradition of legal and administrative service to the Crown. James’s pedigree included notable figures like Sir Thomas Bathe, a predecessor in the role of Chief Baron, and John Bathe, Chief Justice of the Irish Common Pleas.

James’s career trajectory mirrored his family’s legacy of public service and legal acumen. Educated at Middle Temple, London, he quickly ascended the ranks, assuming roles such as Master of the Revels in the Temple. His early allegiance to Gerald FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Kildare, garnered both praise and suspicion, particularly during the turbulent times surrounding the rebellion of Silken Thomas.

Despite brushes with controversy and accusations of disloyalty, James navigated the treacherous political landscape with finesse, earning the trust of influential figures like Thomas St. Lawrence, the Attorney General for Ireland. His tenure as Chief Baron, spanning from 1540 until his demise in 1570, was marked by commendations for his service to the Crown, despite occasional criticisms regarding revenue collection and administrative efficiency.

James’s influence extended beyond the courtroom, as he amassed substantial landholdings in Dublin, acquiring properties like Drimnagh Castle through marriage and initiating the construction of Drumcondra Castle. However, his wealth attracted unwanted attention from criminal elements, as evidenced by a burglary at his Drumcondra residence in 1560.

Family ties and alliances further enriched James’s legacy. His marriage to Elizabeth Burnell, widow of Robert Barnewall of Drimnagh Castle, solidified his position as a prominent landowner in the region. Through his offspring, including John Bathe, Attorney General for Ireland, and Jane Bathe, who married Sir Lucas Dillon, James’s influence endured, shaping subsequent generations of legal and political luminaries.

Despite his outward conformity to the Church of Ireland, James’s private adherence to Roman Catholicism hinted at a complex interplay of faith and pragmatism. His tenure as Chief Baron, while marked by moments of infirmity in his later years, left an indelible imprint on Irish jurisprudence and governance, setting a precedent for diligence and integrity in public service.

In death, James Bathe’s legacy lived on through his descendants, who continued to wield influence in Ireland’s legal and political spheres, carrying forward the mantle of honour and service that defined the Bathe lineage for generations to come.

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Connection with area: In 1545 he was residing at Drimnagh Castle, near Dublin, his wife, Elizabeth, being the widow of its late owner, Robert Barnewall