The King’s House

Imagine ears pressed to the walls of the King’s House at Chapelizod and the sounds of history seeping through - deep regal tones in an otherwise hushed silence, the march of military boots, the play cries of children, the clink of crystal in a grand dining room and the weeping of the bereaved.

When it pleased King Charles ll to fashion the Phoenix Park as an aristocratic pleasure ground, the nearby house, which was built in 1620, was acquired for the crown of England and Ireland in 1663. Immediately, a programme of refurbishment commenced under the direction of Mr. William Dodson. The errant builder, who liked to pay subcontractors 30 shillings while receiving 100 for the same work, was later criticised for doing little in the house ‘proportionate to the expense’. When ready, the house provided a welcome retreat from the damp bleakness of Dublin Castle, the ‘unwholesome’ official residence of Ireland’s viceroys. The grounds, which swept down to the Liffey, were much admired and the produce of the well stocked kitchen garden much praised, most especially the asparagus. Many viceroys resided here including the dynastic Butler clan: James, 1st Duke of Ormonde and his son and deputy, Thomas, Earl of Ossory. Ossory’s mother preferred the family seat at Kilkenny for the children, perhaps because of the death of his brother’s wife, Lady Mary Stewart, in the house in July 1688.

The house became the King’s Court on occasion. It is said that James ll spent some time here before the Battle of the Boyne. His son in law, William of Orange, triumphant in the battle, spent some days here afterwards and thus the name became the King’s House.

From the ‘Court at Chapelizod’ came three royal proclamations. One wished the King’s subjects to observe a day of humiliation and prayer for ‘the future progress of our arms and a speedy enjoyment of peace and quietness in the land’. William was much pleased by the majestic setting of the house and ordered the gardens to be laid out in the Dutch style, making an allowance of £120 a year on the civil list for their upkeep. His promises to return were never fulfilled. And so the house continued to serve the viceroys of Ireland until they no longer saw fit to even be in residence on Irish soil, preferring in many cases to be at the centre of court and parliamentary intrigue in London. Various Lord Justices then took up residence and even attempted some improvements - a pigeon house was added by Lord Galway. The Duke of Dorset held a sparkling court there in the 1730s - a last hurrah for the King’s House. Having declined even further the house served for sixty years as a residence for the officers of ‘his Majesty’s Regiment of Artillery’ for a number of years from 1760.

It was sold by the government in 1832 and was later destroyed by fire.

by Annette Black, Wicklow
Published on 24th August 2013