The Third Earl of Portarlington and the Order of St Patrick


The Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick was instituted in 1783 by King George III as a gesture of goodwill towards Ireland and as a means of rewarding political support in the Irish parliament. It was made available only to Irish peers who had rendered distinguished services, and in 1833 the number of Knights was limited to twenty-two. Members of the Royal Family could also be appointed to the Order, but a Knight of St Patrick was generally chosen by the other Knights, and the Sovereign would assent to their selection.


The 3rd Earl of Portarlington was appointed a Knight in 1879; his investiture took place in St Patrick’s Hall in Dublin Castle, and the Irish Times of 10th February reported the occasion in colourful detail. The Lord Lieutenant, in proposing the new Knight’s health, said, “He has known how to conquer the rugged hearts of his tenantry, and to win (their) confidence and esteem ... he is possessed of large estates in this country (that) he has redeemed at the cost of his English property, and has preferred the wilder and more necessitous part of his inheritance.... Lord Portarlington has a warm heart, true to Ireland – a heart that never made an enemy nor forgot a friend.”


The insignia of the Order is particularly decorative, with a sky-blue sash and robes. The Earl of Portarlington’s robes were made by Messrs Robinson and Steele, tailors, of Dawson Street in Dublin, who also supplied his badge which consisted of a shamrock with three crowns on its leaves and placed on the red cross of St Patrick.


Ernest Augustus I of Hanover

in the Order’s robes




The Order discontinued after 1922, and at present there are no members of the Order of St Patrick – the last member, the Duke of Gloucester, died in 1974. It has occasionally been suggested that the Order should be revived to honour those who have distinguished themselves in the field of Anglo-Irish relations.


The Chapel of the Order was originally in St Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin, where the knights’ helms and crests can still be seen. In Dublin Castle, St Patrick’s Hall became the ceremonial home of the Order in 1881: this is the room in which the inauguration of the President of Ireland usually takes place.


The insignia – a star and badge made of rubies, diamonds and emeralds, and known as the Irish Crown Jewels - gained notoriety in 1907, when they were stolen shortly before the Irish visit of King Edward VII. In spite of international advertising and thorough investigation by the police at the time, they have never been recovered.



The Irish Crown Jewels

(Image from Wikipedia)