MASSUE, Henri De


Henri de Massue was a French Huguenot soldier and diplomat who served on behalf of the British Crown in the Nine Years’ War and the War of the Spanish Succession, being later rewarded by appointment as the Earl of Galway in Ireland.

Henri de Massue was born in April 1648 in Paris, the son of the Huguenot army general and French diplomat, Henri de Massue, 1st Marquis de Ruvigny who served as French ambassador to England from 1674 to 1677. Young Henri became a soldier and served in the French army with great distinction. This brought him to the attention of King Louis XIV who chose him to carry out secret negotiations with the English King Charles II in 1678. 

Henri succeeded his father as a general of the Huguenots but after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1690 he decided to flee to England, settling in Greenwich. After the death of his brother at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland, he offered his services to the English King William III, who appointed him major-general. Although King Louis XIV had allowed the de Ruvigny family to keep their estates in France after they fled to England, he subsequently confiscated them when he heard Henri had joined William III.

Having distinguished himself in 1691 at the Battle of Aughrim in Ireland against the Irish Jacobite army loyal to James II, he became commander-in-chief in Ireland and then Viscount Galway, receiving from William III estates seized from Jacobites. One estate was in Queen’s County where de Massue founded the colony of Portarlington and persuaded Huguenot refugees to settle there.

He proceeded to fight against the French during the Nine Years’ War but was wounded in 1693. He withdrew to Ireland and having been elevated to Earl of Galway he served as Lord Justice of Ireland from 1697 to 1701, when he retired, feeling unsuited to politics.

But by 1704 he had returned to military duty during the War of the Spanish Succession and fought with success until the Battle of Almansa in Portugal in 1707. Here the English, fighting as part of the Habsburg force, were led by a Frenchman, de Massue, but were beaten by an Englishman, the Duke of Berwick, head of the French Bourbon army!

Having suffered a further defeat against the French in 1709, he retired from military service. After a short period of further service as a lord justice in Ireland in 1715, he retired completely, though by then the estates granted to him in Ireland had been restored to their former owners. He was given a pension by the English Parliament and in 1718 was appointed governor of the original French Hospital (La Providence) in Finsbury, London when it was first founded. Henri de Massue finally retired to Rookley, near Southampton where he died unmarried in September 1720.

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