James Cornwalsh

(1385 - 1441. )

James Cornwalsh, a significant political and legal figure in fifteenth-century Ireland, left an enduring legacy marked by both acclaim and tragedy. In 1426, he was granted the manor of Crumlin, Dublin for eight years.

Born into the esteemed Cornwalsh family, whose roots traced back to Cornwall in the fourteenth century, James emerged as a prominent administrator and staunch supporter of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormond. Cornwalsh’s early career was characterised by a blend of legal and administrative roles. He served as a Justice of the Peace for Wexford and Waterford in 1406 and later assumed the position of Deputy Admiral of Ireland in 1410, under Sir Jenico d’Artois. By 1412, he ascended to the esteemed role of Admiral of Ireland for life, jointly holding the position with Patrick Cotterell.

In 1420, Cornwalsh transitioned into the realm of judiciary, appointed as the Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer, a testament to his legal acumen and political influence. However, his tenure was marred by political rivalries and turmoil. Engaged in the bitter feud between the Ormond and Talbot families, Cornwalsh found himself entangled in disputes with figures such as the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, Sir Laurence Merbury.

The frequent changes in Cornwalsh’s tenure as Chief Baron underscored the tumultuous nature of Irish politics during the period. Despite facing setbacks and suspensions from office, Cornwalsh remained steadfast in his commitment to his duties, serving as a justice in various regions and engaging in diplomatic negotiations with Gaelic Irish communities.

Tragically, Cornwalsh’s life was cut short in 1441, the result of a violent feud over the possession of Baggotrath Castle near Dublin. Ambushed and murdered while holding the Michaelmas assizes, Cornwalsh fell victim to the machinations of his adversaries, including William Fitzwilliam and his wife Ismaye, descendants of Sir Edward Perrers, the former owner of the castle.

The aftermath of Cornwalsh’s murder highlighted the breakdown of law and order in fifteenth-century Ireland. Despite public outcry and accusations of wrongdoing, Fitzwilliam and Ismaye were soon pardoned for their role in the crime, signaling a troubling trend of impunity and violence among the ruling class.

Cornwalsh’s tragic demise reverberated through his family’s lineage, with his son John inheriting his position as Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer. The legacy of James Cornwalsh serves as a poignant reminder of the complexities and perils of political power and ambition in medieval Ireland, where feuds and rivalries often overshadowed the pursuit of justice and governance.

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Connection with area: Irish judge who was granted the manor of Crumlin, Dublin for eight years in In 1426.