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Carlingford papers

Call Number: OSB MSS 5

Scope and Contents

The Carlingford Papers consist of correspondence and diplomatic and other papers of the Earls of Carlingford and other members of the Carlingford family. They document, chiefly, Charles II's activities during his years in exile and the mission of Theobald Taaffe, 1st Earl of Carlingford, as Envoy to Emperor Leopold I and the Prince-Bishop of Munster. Various papers of his sons, Nicholas and Francis, also are included in the collection. The Carlingford Papers span the years 1651-1764 but the bulk of the material covers the periods 1657-59 and 1665-67.

Series I, Charles II Letters to Theobald Taaffe, 2nd Viscount Taaffe , contains letters written by the exiled king to Taaffe, his friend and companion, during the period 1655-60. The letters, unsigned but concluded with a cipher, provide a rare insight into Charles' personality.

Series II, Theobald Taaffe Papers , (2nd Viscount Taaffe and 1st Earl of Carlingford) contains letters and diplomatic papers relating to Carlingford's embassy, his correspondence with the Prince-Bishop of Munster and with other English envoys such as Henry Coventry in Stockholm, Sir William Temple in Brussels, Sir William Swan in Hamburg, Lord Sandwich in Madrid and with Lord Arlington, Secretary of State. Other items concern German princes, including Ernst Augustus, Elector of Hanover, and Georg Wilhelm, Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg.

Series III, Later Carlingford Papers , contains a letter to Nicholas Taaffe, 3rd Viscount Taaffe and 2nd Earl, from several Irish noblemen concerning his father's death, letters from Francis Taaffe, 3rd Earl of Carlingford, to his father and others describing the political and military situation in Europe, c. 1670-84, and a letter from the King of Portugal to the Emperor of Germany concerning Nicholas, 6th Viscount Taaffe.

Series IV, Curatorial Files, contains supplementary material from the curator's files related to the Carlingford Papers which may be of interest to researchers. These include Timothy Crist's published transcriptions of the letters from Charles II to the Earl of Carlingford, catalogue descriptions of other letters of Charles II, articles concerning the provenance of the Charles II letters to Carlingford by Timothy Crist and Stephen Parks, and other secondary source material related to the Restoration period.


  • 1651 - 1764
  • Majority of material found within 1657 - 1667


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Carlingford Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase, 1969.


1.25 Linear Feet (5 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The Carlingford papers contain correspondence and diplomatic and other papers, mostly relating to Theobald Taaffe, 1st Earl of Carlingford. 24 letters signed in cipher from Charles II to Carlingford document the King's personal and political activities in the last years of his exile; other correspondence and papers concern Carlingford's diplomatic mission during the second Anglo-Dutch War, including letters by Henry Bennet, Earl of Arlington, Sir William Swan, and Sir William Temple. Other family papers include a letter concerning Carlingford's death and letters by Francis Taaffe, 3rd Earl of Carlingford, describing his military service with the Duke of Lorraine's regiment during the 1670s and 1680s.


Theobald Taaffe (d. 1677), a Catholic Irish loyalist, was the son of John, lst Viscount Taaffe by his wife, Anne, daughter of Sir Theobald Dillon, first raised to the peerage in 1642. During the English civil war, he joined the Catholic Confederation and participated in negotiations between Irish Confed- erates and the party led by James Butler, Earl of Ormond. He served as commander of the Irish forces in Munster (1647) and Master of the Ordinance (1649). In 1650, he was sent to the Continent to negotiate with Charles IV, Duke of Lorraine, for assistance to the king's followers in Ireland.

During the 1650's, Taaffe remained on the Continent, serving the exiled Charles II as informal counselor and boon companion, described by Charles II as "one of the best Dancers in the Country, and is the chief man at all the Balls" (Crist, p. 10).

Taaffe's personality, and his Catholicism, made him a useful representative of the king in both personal and diplomatic affairs. He served as a liaison between Charles II and several of his mistresses, in particular, Lucy Walter. He also met with various Catholic leaders such as Don Alonzo de Cardenas, the Duke of Lorraine, the count of Neuburg and the Papal Nuncio, among others.

After the Restoration, Charles II rewarded Taaffe for his years of loyal service, granting him an annuity of eight hundred pounds and restoring him to his estates in Ireland. On 26 June 1661, Taaffe was created 1st Earl of Carlingford in the Irish peerage.

Carlingford's final diplomatic mission took place during the second Anglo Dutch War (1665-67). In 1665, he was sent as Envoy-Extraordinary from Charles II to Leopold I, Emperor of Germany, and the prince-bishop of Munster in order to gain support for the English cause against the Dutch. He replaced Sir William Temple, who had no taste for the kind of sociability expected in German courts. Carlingford, on the other hand, was known as "a fattey man and a good Drinker, which is a condition very necessary in banquetts, where he is every day" (Lachs, p. 64). His mission, however, was not a success. The Venetian ambassador complained that Carlingford "in no way corresponded to the greatness of the occasion," being "destitute of the knowledge and ability required for such transactions" (Crist, p. 12). After he returned to England, Carlingford retired from public life. He died on 31 December 1677.

Carlingford married, first, Mary, daughter of Sir Nicholas White of Leixlip, county Kildare; and, secondly, Anne, daughter of Sir William Pershall. By his first wife he had three sons and a daughter: Nicholas, 2nd Earl, who served in the Spanish army and fell at the Boyne in 1691; Francis, 3rd Earl, page to emperors Ferdinand III and Leopold I and, later, an Austrian field-marshal; and John (d. 1689).

For additional biographical information see: Timothy Crist, ed., Charles II to Lord Taaffe: Letters in Exile (Rampant Lions Press: Cambridge, 1974) and Phyllis S. Lachs, The Diplomatic Corps under Charles II and James II (Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1965)

Guide to the Carlingford Papers
by Beinecke Staff
October 1994
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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