13 May 2020
By Elaine Murphy
Did you know: There is still an ‘Earl of Cork’? he lives in the UK, and served as a submarine commander in the Royal Navy
The title now has no political power in Ireland, so from a Cork perspective, it’s just an interesting part of history.
The title of the Earl of Cork was created in 1620. Separately, the title of Earl of Orrery was created in 1660. The two titles have been united – held by the same person at the same time – since 1753.
The current Earl of Cork, who is more commonly known as ‘Lord Cork’, sits in the UK House of Lords in Westminster, London. His given name is John Richard Boyle. He is the 15th Earl of Cork and Orrery.
Politically aware readers will know that the House of Lords Act 1999 removed the entitlement of most of the hereditary Peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords so how is a hereditary peer sitting there? It’s because 92 hereditary Peers retain seats thanks to being elected by sitting Peers. Boyle is a Crossbench – which means non party – peer who has sat under this title in the Lords since 19 July 2016. The election leading to this only took place because another Lord ceased to be a member of the House because of non-attendance. The non-attendance provision was created following the passage of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014.
Boyle entered the Royal Navy and graduated from Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. In 1976, as a Lieutenant-Commander, he was given the command of HMS Sealion.
Boyle was first styled as Viscount Dungarvan as a courtesy title from 1995 following his father inheriting the earldoms. In time, he then inherited the title of Earl of Cork and Orrery on the death of his father, John Boyle, the 14th Earl of Cork in November 2003.
The Earldom of Cork was an Irish Peerage, which meant that the holder had a seat in the Irish House of Lords, but that was abolished in the year 1800.
However, like many Irish peers Boyle holds multiple peerages. One of these is Baron Boyle of Marston in the Peerage of Great Britain, and it was this that allowed him to stand in the by-election for the existing House of Lords in London.
In the House of Lords, Boyle is referred to by their most superior titles hence he is known as the Earl of Cork and Orrery despite being elected via his GB barony.
Page 21 of the current Roll of the Peerage states
“BOYLE: Hereditary Baron in the Peerage of the United Kingdon (hereditary peer among the 92 sitting in the House of Lords under the House of Lords Act 1999): John Richard Lord Boyle (customarily styled by superior titles Earl of Cork and Earl of Orrery). Surname: Boyle.”
So, the fact that Lord Cork currently is a member of the Lords is due to a number of different threads of circumstance coming together, it’s an interesting footnote in Irish history.