Robert Clements, 1st Earl of Leitrim (1732-1804), succeeded his more famous father, the Rt-Hon. Nathaniel Clements, in 1777, and to large estates and valuable sinecure offices acquired through his father's flair and enterprise. He sat in the Irish House of Commons for Co. Donegal (1765-1768 and 1776-1783) and for the borough of Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim, which was controlled by the family (1768-76). On the strength of his electoral influence, he was created Baron Leitrim of Manor Hamilton, Co. Leitrim, in 1783, and was promoted Viscount Leitrim in 1793 and later Earl of Leitrim in 1795. He supported the Union between Great Britain and Ireland in 1799-1800, in the process quarrelling terminally with his son and heir, Lord Clements, who opposed it.
Lord Leitrim, who was once described as a 'peevish, shy retired man', and on another occasion as giving himself 'most amazing airs', was not a successful politician. His career is of more significance in art-historical terms. On his Grand Tour in 1753-1754, he kept a journal which contains telling comments on 17th Century Italian paintings, and he was painted in Rome by Batoni. Later, in the early 1760s, he was painted by William Hoare of Bath. He built himself, circa 1770, an externally plain but internally more ornate house, Killadoon, Cellbridge, Co. Kildare, probably acting as his own architect. He never moved into the Ranger's Lodge, Phoenix Park, Dublin (the famous house which his father had designed for himself circa 1750 as Ranger) probably because the Park was too public a place for a 'shy, retired man'. He sold it to the government in 1782 and, enormously enlarged, it became the Viceregal Lodge in which Queen Victoria stayed in 1849 and, today, the official residence of the President of Ireland.
Gilbert Stuart came to Ireland in 1787, and returned to the United States in 1793. He painted Lord Leitrim twice. The present portrait would appear to come early in his Irish oeuvre. It conveys something of the sitter's formality and haughtiness, where as the later portrait (in a private collection in Ireland) shows a more relaxed and benign, and an ageing, Lord Leitrim.
We would like to thank Anthony Malcolmson for his assistance with this and the following five entries.