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Massue de Ruvigny, Henri de, earl of Galway, and marquess of Ruvigny in the French nobilitylocked

  • Harman Murtagh

Henri de Massue de Ruvigny, earl of Galway, and marquess of Ruvigny in the French nobility (1648–1720)

by John Simon, pubd c. 1704 (after Philip de Graves)

Massue de Ruvigny, Henri de, earl of Galway, and marquess of Ruvigny in the French nobility (1648–1720), Huguenot leader, army officer, and diplomat, was born in Paris, probably in the Faubourg St Germain, on 9 April 1648, the eldest son of five surviving children of Henri de Massue, first marquess of Ruvigny (1599/1610–1689), general, diplomat, and deputy general of the Huguenots to Louis XIV, and his wife, Marie (d. 1698), daughter of Pierre Tallemand and Marie de Rambouillet.

From France to England: soldier and diplomat

As a young man Ruvigny served in the French army, first under Schomberg in Portugal, where he was present at the siege of Fort de la Garda, and then under Turenne on the Rhine. In 1674 he was granted a pension for his distinguished service, and by 1677 had achieved the rank of colonel and command of a regiment. In 1678 Louis XIV sent him to England on a successful diplomatic mission aimed at reaching an accommodation with the earl of Shaftesbury and the parliamentary opposition to preserve English neutrality in the final phase of the third Dutch war. In 1679 he left the army and succeeded his father as deputy general of the Huguenots. Thereafter he worked diligently on behalf of the Huguenots at the French court, although there was some criticism that he was the too compliant protégé of the marquess of Seignelay, whose interests he sought to gratify. The revocation of the edict of Nantes in 1685 and subsequent severe persecution of protestants in France undermined his position, and at the end of the year he emigrated to England with his father and younger brother Pierre, seigneur de la Caillemotte. The family did not, however, at that stage forfeit their property in France, and received the special privilege of being allowed to take with them whatever personal goods they chose.

Ruvigny's father, a former French ambassador to England and related through his sister to the whig family of Russell, dukes of Bedford, had prudently obtained letters of naturalization as an English subject in 1680. He settled at Greenwich and became one of the most important of the refugees' leaders in England. Before his death in July 1689 he was influential in the formation of four Huguenot regiments to serve William of Orange. Command of one of the infantry regiments went to la Caillemotte, who was killed in Ireland at the battle of the Boyne. Ruvigny himself had initially avoided military service against France in order to preserve his title to the extensive family estates in Picardy and Champagne. In January 1691, however, he accepted a major-general's appointment with the Williamite army in Ireland and was given the vacant command of Schomberg's cavalry regiment. In June he was present at the siege of Athlone, where he was one of those to advocate the hazardous assault across the river which ultimately won the town for William. At the closely fought battle of Aughrim in co. Galway on 12 July he turned the tide in favour of the Williamites by achieving a vital breakthrough on the right wing, where he led a force of cavalry, including some of his own regiment, along a narrow causeway near Aughrim Castle into the heart of the enemy position. The Jacobite resistance crumbled as a consequence, and in the ensuing collapse James's army suffered as many as 7000 casualties. On the battlefield Ginckel, the Williamite commander, publicly embraced Ruvigny in gratitude for his conduct and courage in helping to win the decisive victory of the war. Subsequently he took part in the second siege of Limerick, where he commanded the cavalry force which crossed the Shannon to cover the Jacobite cavalry in Clare. He played a role in the preliminary contacts which led to the negotiation of the Jacobite surrender, and later took part in the victory celebrations in Dublin before crossing to England in November.

On 3 March 1692 Ruvigny was created Baron Portarlington and Viscount Galway in reward for his military services, made an Irish privy councillor, and sent back to Ireland as commander-in-chief of the forces there in succession to Ginckel. However, in response to the French invasion threat he was called back to England, where he was appointed second-in-command of a proposed expedition against St Malo and spent much of the year at Portsmouth until the project was abandoned. He returned to Ireland in January 1693, departing again the following April to join William's army in Flanders. In July he played an important role at the battle of Landen, covering William's retreat by defending the bridge at Neerhespen against the entire French cavalry. He was slightly wounded in the engagement and made prisoner, but soon afterwards freed by his magnanimous French captors, who thereby preserved him from a traitor's fate.

In December 1693 Galway was promoted lieutenant-general and appointed to command the British forces in Savoy. On 14 February 1694 he was given the additional appointment of envoy-extraordinary to Victor Amadeus, duke of Savoy. He brought with him a considerable sum of money for the relief of the Vaudois and the French protestant refugees, and persuaded Victor Amadeus to allow the Vaudois limited toleration. War had ruined the Savoyard economy, and he sought to promote commercial links, especially in textiles, with England. Despite the high hopes of the allies, very little was achieved on the military front in 1694 except the capture of Fort San Giorgio. The duplicitous Victor Amadeus completely deceived Galway as to his trustworthiness. He was secretly in touch with the French, who in 1695 surrendered Casale to him after a token siege. He would not agree to Galway's proposals for combining with the English navy to attack Toulon and Nice, and in 1696 he made a separate peace with France and withdrew from the war. Having declined to accept a gift from Victor Amadeus, Galway retired into the Milanese with the English contingent before rejoining William in Flanders in October.

Lord justice of Ireland and Huguenot champion

In 1697 Galway was appointed one of the lords justices of Ireland, an office he retained until 1701. His French nationality prevented him from being made lord lieutenant, but the absence or indolence of his colleagues made him effective head of the Irish administration. On 12 May 1697 he was advanced to the earldom of Galway and given a grant of £3000 per year out of the forfeited estates of Ireland. His achievements in Ireland included the establishment of a system of discipline and regulations for the army together with an extensive programme of barrack building. He was trusted and liked by William for his frankness and spirit, and repaid the confidence with total loyalty. Although labelled a whig, he had neither the tone nor the temper of a partisan in British politics. The forfeiture of his French estates led him to write to William in 1692, reminding him of a promise that he should get something of the order of £25,000 in compensation for his loss. As a result he was given possession of the 36,000 acre Portarlington estate of the outlawed Jacobite Sir Patrick Trant. This was made an absolute title in 1696. Thus Ireland was effectively his home in the 1690s. He liked Dublin and praised the plentiful crops and fine fish.

Galway, throughout his life, used his wealth and influence on behalf of the exiled Huguenots. Described as 'their head, their friend, their refuge, their advocate, their support [and] their protector' (Agnew, Protestant Exiles from France, 1.162), effectively he continued to act as their deputy general, working tirelessly to improve their general position and to lobby on behalf of individuals. In England he maintained his father's practice of dispensing hospitality and bounty to Huguenot supplicants who crowded his house from early in the morning. In 1689 he paid for the release of Huguenot slaves from Algiers, and in 1696 was known to be maintaining eighty refugees in Switzerland. As early as 1692 he was planning a French colony in Ireland. He spent much of his brief visit that year viewing suitable locations and settling refugees, including half-pay officers and their families. In 1693 he was involved in an abortive scheme to establish a French university at Kilkenny, and in 1694 he discussed the possibility of settlement in Ireland with the leaders of the exiled Waldenses in Switzerland.

Following Galway's return to Ireland in 1697 the settlement of the French proceeded in earnest, especially when the Huguenot regiments, including his own, were brought there for disbandment in 1698 after the treaty of Ryswick. He helped secure pensions for 120 officers and settled 500 French people on his Portarlington estate, financing the construction there of two churches, two schools, and more than a hundred houses. His vision did much in the 1690s to establish Ireland as a fit haven for Huguenot refugees. Almost a score of settlements, large and small, were established, and the number of Huguenots in the kingdom was greatly increased. He is said to have paid for the grandsons of Viscount Clanmaliere, a previous owner of Portarlington, to be educated at Eton College and to have promised to restore them to their family lands if they converted to the protestant religion. He complained that his expenditure and a reduction in his emoluments had left him virtually penniless, and in 1700 he lost his Portarlington estates when William's land grants in Ireland were cancelled by the Act of Resumption. It was even mooted that as a foreigner he might be precluded from serving in the army. William wrote to Galway of his grief over the matter, and compensated him with a general's appointment in the Dutch forces and command of his prized regiment of Dutch footguards, which he held until 1711.

Galway's term of office as a lord justice coincided with the enactment by the Irish parliament of the first of the notorious anti-Catholic laws and its ratification of only a severely mutilated version of the 1691 treaty of Limerick. Then, and since, the suggestion has been made that these measures were Galway's revenge. He seems, however, to have been motivated throughout by the government's need to placate the Irish parliament rather than by any personal spleen. In part the contemporary criticism was undoubtedly founded on the genuine, if perhaps mistaken, suspicions of the exiled Irish Catholics and their supporters. An element of ‘black propaganda’, emanating from the French court, may also have been involved, motivated by Louis's vindictive determination to thwart any attempt by Galway to recover his estates in France under the private clauses of the treaty of Ryswick. In May 1698 William's close adviser the earl of Portland made representations to Louis at Versailles about a possible restoration, but to no avail, and Galway's French estates were eventually granted to Cardinal Polignac. Louis also persuaded President d'Harlay to betray a private trust covering moneys which he held for the Ruvigny family. An even more sinister explanation was Louis's need to discredit Galway in Catholic circles before the disclosure of damaging information Galway had acquired in Savoy relating to Louis's complicity in Jacobite plans to have William assassinated.

Galway left Ireland in 1701, and in July accompanied the earl of Marlborough to Holland, where he met William at Het Loo and was sent on an unsuccessful diplomatic mission to detach the elector of Cologne from alliance with France. Next he returned to England to negotiate on William's behalf with lords Somers and Sunderland to gain their support for the coming war. William's death found him without public or military employment in Britain, but with an annual pension of £1000. He retired to the manor house of Rookley in Hampshire, which he evidently leased because of its proximity to Stratton House, the residence of Rachel, Lady Russell, his kinswoman and friend.

The Peninsular War

In July 1704 Galway was called out of retirement by Queen Anne, given £10,000, promoted general, and sent with 4000 reinforcements to take command of the English forces in Portugal. He arrived at Lisbon on 10 August, where he found the Portuguese army to be of poor quality and ill paid, the clergy hostile to protestants, and the politicians corrupted by French bribes. An early offensive against Ciudad Rodrigo was undertaken, although he counselled against it because of the deficiency in supplies. His view was vindicated when lack of provisions forced the army to retreat. During the winter he reinforced Gibraltar and busied himself in preparing his forces for the 1705 campaign. There were a number of councils of war with the quarrelsome and incompetent earl of Peterborough, who had arrived with a fleet to take command of the allied forces in Spain. Eventually it was decided that Peterborough, accompanied by Archduke Charles, the Habsburg claimant to the Spanish throne, would attack Barcelona, while Galway and the Portuguese under Las Minas invaded Estramadura. His plan for an immediate attack on Badajoz was postponed until Valencia d'Alcántara and Albuquerque had been reduced, and only on 2 October was the siege of Badajoz opened. While he was supervising the erection of a battery, a cannon shot from the fortress carried off his right arm a little below the elbow. His injury forced him to withdraw, and the siege was raised. Marshal de Tessé, the French commander, allowed him a pass to go to Olivenza for his recovery and sent his own physicians to attend him there. During his convalescence he received sympathetic letters of gratitude for his service from both the king of Portugal and Queen Anne. He later learned to write with his left hand.

Encouraged by Peterborough's capture of Barcelona, Galway resumed his command in the spring of 1706, mounting a fresh offensive with the 25,000 men at his disposal to take advantage of the French preoccupation with Catalonia. Although physically so weak that he had to be lifted into the saddle, he conducted a vigorous and successful campaign. The numerically weaker Hispano-French forces under the duke of Berwick were driven back, and were powerless to prevent the capture of Alcántara and Ciudad Rodrigo. After some delay the reluctant Portuguese were persuaded to continue the offensive towards Madrid, which was occupied without resistance in the name of King Charles on 27 June. The event occasioned much public rejoicing when news of it reached England. It had less impact in Spain, because most of the Spanish grandees had already left the city, and Peterborough and Charles, despite repeated requests from Galway, failed to put in an appearance in the capital. While the allies delayed, Berwick was reinforced and given time to mobilize Spanish support. On 6 August French troops reoccupied Madrid, which Galway had vacated finally to join Peterborough and Charles at Guadalajara. The meeting of the allied leaders was marked by recriminations. Galway's generous proposal that Peterborough should assume overall command of their united forces was rejected by the other generals. After spending a month at Chinchón, the allies withdrew to winter quarters in Valencia.

Galway sought to be recalled to England, but instead in February 1707 orders came appointing him commander of all the British forces in Spain while Peterborough was summoned home. Reinforced from England, but without the Catalan and German troops which were brought north by Charles to garrison Catalonia and Aragon, he planned a fresh attack on Madrid. However, to consolidate the security of Valencia, he delayed the offensive to reduce first the potential French bases in Murcia. Meanwhile Berwick, having received substantial reinforcements from France under the duc d'Orléans, opened his own offensive in Murcia. Galway, mistakenly believing that the French reinforcements had yet to arrive, advanced on 25 April against Berwick's position outside Almanza, only to find that his army was heavily outnumbered. The left wing gave way before the French and the Portuguese cavalry on the right fled from the field leaving the infantry to be massacred or made prisoner. Galway himself behaved courageously, but he lost direction of the battle when severely wounded by a sabre cut to the face, which cost him the sight of his right eye. He managed to leave the field, but his army was virtually destroyed. Although the war was to drag on for several years, Almanza was probably the decisive engagement which ensured that the throne of Spain would go to the French claimant.

In the immediate aftermath of the battle Aragon, Murcia, and Valencia fell to the French, while Galway concentrated on the defence of Catalonia, where he displayed considerable energy in reorganizing the remnants of his broken infantry into five battalions and raising four more of Catalans. However, he was powerless to prevent the fall of Lérida in November. He became the focus of growing criticism in England over the set-backs in the peninsula, and in December he was replaced by James Stanhope as commander of the British in Spain. Debilitated by his war wounds, deafness, and gout, he had long sought to be recalled. Instead, as a mark of the government's approbation, he was sent as envoy to Lisbon and resumed command of the English forces in Portugal. He had little influence with King Pedro, the new Portuguese monarch, who was pro-French and was only kept in the allied alliance by his fear of the English fleet. Apart from diplomatic duties he was largely inactive in 1708. In 1709 he participated in a fresh offensive in Estramadura, which was ended on 17 May by a sharp reverse on the banks of the Caya, during which his horse was killed beneath him and he narrowly escaped capture. The defeat was largely caused by the rashness of the Portuguese commander, but the set-back renewed criticism of Galway in England, and in 1710, much to his relief, he was finally recalled, arriving at Falmouth on 21 October.

Ireland again, retirement, and death

A month later, despite the fall of the Godolphin and Marlborough faction with whom Galway was associated, he was kindly received at St James's Palace by Queen Anne on 18 November. In January 1711, however, the management of the disastrous Peninsular War was the subject of several acrimonious debates in the House of Lords. He and Peterborough gave conflicting accounts, and although Marlborough defended Galway's conduct, for entirely political reasons the house, by sixty-eight votes to forty-eight, chose to believe Peterborough and voted to censure him. He then retired to Rookley, where he remained until 1715, when he was summoned from retirement to serve once more as a lord justice of Ireland with the young duke of Grafton. His appointment was probably intended to preserve the military security of Ireland at the time of the Jacobite rising in Scotland. He landed with Grafton at Dublin on 1 November, and found the Irish parliament and establishment totally loyal. His plan to improve the legal position of the presbyterians was thwarted by the bishops in the House of Lords, but it was some compensation that parliament granted him a military pension of £500 per year. He was recalled in January 1716, when he retired for the final time to Rookley. In 1718 he was named as first governor in the charter establishing the French Hospital in London. His mind remained clear to the end of his life. On 3 September 1720 he died at the age of seventy-two, while visiting Lady Russell at Stratton House, and was buried three days later in nearby Micheldever churchyard. Ruvigny was unmarried and left no immediate family, so that at his death all his honours both French and English became extinct. Under his will, after legacies of £12,670 mainly to Huguenot charities, the residue of his estate went to Lady Russell.

Although the many failures and vicissitudes of Galway's career suggest that his abilities were limited, contemporaries generally held him in high esteem. In France, as a young man, the writer Benoit judged him 'handsome in person, and mentally he was affable, sagacious and intelligent, brave without temerity, prudent without meanness, agreeable to the king, beloved by all the court, and on excellent terms with His Majesty's ministers … his merits procured him neither enemies nor detractors' (Agnew, Henri de Ruvigny, Earl of Galway, 33). In later life the whig bishop Burnet thought him 'one of the finest gentlemen in the army, with a head fitted for the cabinet as well as the camp; is very modest, vigilant and sincere, without pride or affectation; wears his own hair [and] is plain in his dress and manners' (GEC, Peerage). This assessment provoked the partisan and probably unfair response of the tory dean Swift that he was 'a deceitful, hypocritical, factious knave, [and] a damnable hypocrite of no religion' (GEC, Peerage).


  • D. C. A. Agnew, Henri de Ruvigny, earl of Galway: a filial memoir, with a prefatory life of his father, le marquis de Ruvigny (1864)
  • D. C. A. Agnew, Protestant exiles from France in the reign of Louis XIV, or, The Huguenot refugees and their descendants in Great Britain and Ireland, 2nd edn, 1 (1871), 144–219
  • C. E. J. Caldicott, H. Gough, and J.-P. Pittion, eds., The Huguenots and Ireland: anatomy of an emigration (1987), 205–54, 297–320
  • C. Petrie, The marshal duke of Berwick (1953), 162–219
  • G. Story, A continuation of the impartial history of the wars of Ireland (1693)
  • J. G. Simms, The Williamite confiscation in Ireland, 1690–1703 (1956), 61–2, 68, 86–9, 139, 112–13
  • CSP dom., 1685; 1697–1702
  • C. Dalton, ed., English army lists and commission registers, 1661–1714, 6 vols. (1892–1904), vols. 3, 5–6
  • C. Reid and F. Waddington, eds., Mémoires inédits de Dumont de Bostaquet, gentilhomme, Normand (1864)
  • K. Danaher and J. G. Simms, eds., The Danish force in Ireland 1690–1691 (1962), 112, 122–3, 128, 134
  • G. Symcox, Victor Amadeus II: absolutism in the Savoyard state 1675–1730 (1983), 106–17
  • T. Murdoch, The quiet conquest: the Huguenots 1685 to 1985 (1985), 81–2
  • A. D. Francis, The first Peninsular War, 1702–1703 (1975)


  • BL, corresp., Egerton MS 891
  • Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, letters
  • BL, letters to William Blathwayt, Add. MS 19771
  • BL, letters to John Ellis, Add. MSS 28056–28057
  • BL, letters to Lord Godolphin, Add. MSS 28879–28885
  • BL, corresp. with Lord Lexington, Add. MS 46583
  • CAC Cam., letters to Thomas Erle
  • CKS, corresp. with James Stanhope
  • CUL, letters to Sir Robert Walpole
  • Longleat House, Wiltshire, corresp. with Matthew Prior
  • Northants. RO, corresp. with duke of Shrewsbury
  • TCD, corresp. with William King
  • TNA: PRO, state papers, Savoy and Sardinia, no. 31
  • U. Nott. L., corresp. with first Earl Portland
  • U. Nott. L., letters to Lady Russell and corresp. with the monarch
  • UCL, letters to Jacques Muysson
  • Yale U., Beinecke L., letters to William Blathwayt, etc.


  • J. Simon, mezzotint, pubd 1704 (after P. de Graves), BM, NPG [see illus.]
  • oils (in middle age), Corsham Court, Wiltshire; repro. in E. Black, Kings in conflict: Ireland in the 1690s (1990)
  • oils, Corsham Court, Wiltshire

Wealth at Death

legacies of £12,670 and undisclosed residue: Agnew, Henri de Ruvigny, 33

G. E. C. [G. E. Cokayne], , 8 vols. (1887–98); new edn, ed. V. Gibbs & others, 14 vols. in 15 (1910–98); microprint repr. (1982) and (1987)