The Family

Scroll down this page to see portraits and read brief biographies of some of the family members associated with Rathfarnham Castle. You may also find the Ely Papers in the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland useful, as well as this family tree graphic (created by Guy Loftus) on the LoftusWeb Family Registry.

Adam Loftus

1533 – 5 April 1605

Adam Loftus was born in Yorkshire to Edward Loftus.

He came to Ireland as chaplain to the Earl of Sussex in 1560. Seven years later, he had risen to become Archbishop of Dublin. By 1581, he was Lord Chancellor of Ireland. In 1592 he was very involved with the establishment of Trinity College Dublin. In 1583, when Chancellor-Archbishop, he was granted lands which had been confiscated from Viscount Baltinglass to the south of Dublin. He built the castle in the portion which was known as ‘Rathfernan’. The castle was ostensibly a military fortress, but was so luxurious a residence that there was much scandalous gossip on how he had paid for it. When writing to Westminister, he described it as ‘my poor house’, however.

He married Jane Purdon, and had twenty children; the twelve who survived infancy were Dudley, Edward, Margaret, Adam, Isabella, Anne, Thomas, Katherine, Martha, Dorothy, Alice, and Jane.

This portrait of Adam Loftus is unattributed. 
Oil on canvas. Trinity College Dublin Art Collections; reproduced by kind permission of the Board of the Trinity College Dublin.

Lucy Loftus (née Brydges)

died 12 July 1689

Lucy Brydges was born to George Brydges, 6th Baron Chandos of Sudeley, and Jane Savage.

She became Lady Loftus, and later Viscountess Lisburne.

She married Adam Loftus, Viscount Lisburne, and had two children; James and Lucy.

This portrait of ‘Mrs Loftus’ is by Sir Peter Lely, and is in the collection at Rathfarnham Castle. Office of Public Works. 




Lucia Wharton (née Loftus)

1670 – 1717

Lucia was the daughter of Lucy Loftus (née Brydges, above) and Adam Loftus, the Viscount of Lisburne. Her brother James died in infancy, and she became the sole heiress to her father, Viscount Lisburne.

She became the Marchioness of Wharton, and this is written on her portrait to the left.

She married Thomas Wharton, 1st Marquess of Wharton, and had three children; Philip, Jane, and Lucy.

This portrait of ‘Lucy, Marchioness of Wharton’ is by Sir Godfrey Kneller, and is now in a private collection (Sotheby’s 2005 sale link).




Thomas Wharton, 1st Marquess of Wharton

August 1648 – 12 April 1715

Thomas Wharton was first married to Anne Lee. Anne died at the age of 26 in 1685; they had had no children together.

He married Lucy Loftus, pictured above. Wharton was famous for both his political prowess and his scandalous lifestyle. He fell in and out of favour with the monarchy, but in 1715 was awarded a number of titles by George I, one of which was the Earl of Rathfarnham.

This portrait of Thomas Wharton is by Sir Godfrey Kneller, and is part of the primary collection on display at the National Portrait Gallery, London. This painting hangs in Room 9. 




Philip Wharton, 1st and last Duke of Wharton

21 December 1698 – 31 May 1731

Philip Wharton was the son of Lucy and Thomas, pictured above. His father died when he was just sixteen. The same year, he eloped with Martha Holmes.

Philip was created a Duke at the age of nineteen, in an attempt by George I to win his support  in the Irish House of Lords. Martha had a child the following year, a boy named Thomas. Thomas died a year later of smallpox. The couple had no further children.

In 1723, Philip Wharton lost all his money in the South Sea Bubble, and sold Rathfarnham Castle to Speaker William Conolly for £62,000.

This portrait of Philip Wharton is by Rosalba Carriera, and is part of the Royal Collection Trust

Nicholas Loftus, 1st Viscount Loftus of Ely

1687 – 31 December 1763

Nicholas Loftus was the father of Henry Loftus (below) and his brother Nicholas Loftus Hume. Their mother was his first wife, Anne Ponsonby.

He did not live at Rathfarnham, since at this time it was under other ownership. It would not come back to the Loftus family until his grandson would purchase it in around 1768. Nicholas Loftus lived at Loftus Hall, Wexford.

This portrait of Nicholas Loftus, 1st Viscount Loftus of Ely is in the collection at Rathfarnham Castle. The image is courtesy of Simon Loftus. 




Nicholas Loftus Hume, 2nd Earl of Ely

1738 – 1769

Nicholas Loftus Hume was the grandson of Nicholas Loftus, 1st Viscount Loftus of Ely, above. His parents were Nicholas Hume-Loftus, 1st Earl of Ely, and Mary Hume.

In 1767, the Loftus family returned to the Castle in the person of the youthful Nicholas Loftus Hume, 2nd Earl of Ely. The subject of a celebrated legal case concerning the soundness of his mind, Nicholas had been a delicate child, whose mother, a wealthy heiress, had died when he was only two years old. He had experienced a harsh and cruel upbringing from his father who kept him in ignorance of his maternal inheritance which he spent himself. Challenged by his mother’s family as to his mental capacity, Nicholas was successfully defended, after his father’s death, by his uncle, Henry Loftus. However, Nicholas died unmarried in 1769 and Henry inherited his nephew’s fortune.

This portrait is of Nicholas Loftus Hume, 2nd Earl of Ely and is attributed to Robert Hunter. The painting is in a private collection, and the image is courtesy of Simon Loftus. 

Henry Loftus

18 November 1709 – 8 May 1783

Henry Loftus was the son of Nicholas Loftus, 1st Viscount Loftus of Ely, and Anne Ponsonby.

In 1767, Nicholas Loftus Hume, 2nd Earl of Ely, purchased Rathfarnham Castle and lands from Bellingham Boyle, and so they were returned to the Loftus family. Two years later, on Nicholas’ death, Henry inherited Rathfarnham and completed its remodelling. By the time Henry died, the castle was renowned for its luxurious interiors.

In 1771, Henry was created Earl of Ely, and in 1783 became a Knight of the Order of St Patrick.

He married Frances Monroe in 1745 and Anne Bonfoy in 1775. He had no children.

This painting shows Henry with his second wife, Anne, and was painted c.1775 by Joshua Reynolds. It hangs today in Upton House, in the care of the National Trust. 

Charles Tottenham Loftus

23 January 1738 – 22 March 1806

Charles Tottenham was the son of Sir John Tottenham and the Hon. Elizabeth Loftus.

In 1783, he took the surname Loftus when he inherited from his uncle, Henry Loftus, 1st Earl of Ely, who is pictured above. Henry was the brother of Charles’ mother Elizabeth.

In 1785, he became Baron Loftus of Loftus Hall in Wexford. In 1794 he became a Knight of the Order of St Patrick. In 1800 he became Marquess of Ely.

He married Jane Myhill, and had two children: John and Robert.

This portrait shows Charles Tottenham, Earl of Ely in fashionable ‘swagger pose’, and was painted by Hugh Douglas Hamilton. It is in the collection at Rathfarnham Castle. The image is copyright National Monuments Service Photographic Unit. 

A portrait of Jane Myhill also forms part of the Rathfarnham Collection. 


Did you know...

… that Rathfarnham Castle is the only house in Ireland where designs by both Sir William Chambers and James ‘Athenian’ Stuart can be viewed in one place?



You can also read about the inhabitants of the Castle in the twentieth century, particularly the Jesuits.

Learn More