Biography – John Keating

KEATING, JOHN (ft. 1680), Irish judge, was son of Maurice Keating of Narraghmore, co. Kildare. He was a protestant. On 22 Jan. 1661-2 he was deputy-clerk in the Irish House of Lords, and received a gratuity of 300l. for his ‘diligence and expedition’ (Cal. Treasury Papers, i. 5). He was admitted to the bar in Ireland in 1662-3; was employed as agent or advocate there for James, duke of York (cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. pt. iii. p. 219), and enjoyed the confidence of the Duke of Ormonde. In May 1679 Keating was appointed chief justice of the court of common pleas in Ireland; purposely, it was said, to try the Earl of Tyrone, who was indicted immediately afterwards for treasonable communication with the French (ib.) He was continued in office by James II, who appointed him a privy councillor in Ireland, and included him among the burgesses of Swords, co. Dublin, in a new charter granted to that town. Henry Hyde, second earl of Clarendon, who was lord-lieutenant through l686, found in Keating a useful adviser. He joined Clarendon in resisting the attempt of Tyrconnel, then commander-in-chief, to give the Roman catholics supremacy in the Irish government. But despite their disagreements Tyrconnel judged Keating to be both an ‘honest and wise man,’ and one who ‘understood the country as well as anybody’ (Clarendon Corresp. p. 526). In May 1686 Keating suggested to Clarendon a renewal of the commission of grace in order to remedy defects in titles to land. That, he said, ‘would settle the kingdom,’ and he drew up a paper on the subject, in which he also pointed to the decay of inland trade and the need of remedial measures. If the judges, he added, were appointed commissioners for dealing with these matters, he and his colleagues ought to act without additional salary. Clarendon, who approved such proposals, wrote at the time to Rochester of Keating’s ability and loyalty, and stated that he was suspected of no evil except a too generous regard for the interests of the native Irish. In July Keating repeated his advice, but when he was summoned to a conference with Tyrconnel in August, he announced that it was in his opinion too late to substitute a commissionfor a parliament. In the two following years Keating’s efforts to moderate the encroachments of Roman Catholicism in the Irish government were hampered by the introduction of two Roman catholic colleagues into his own court. The arrival in Ireland of the news of James II’s abdication was followed by a serious outbreak of lawlessness, which Keating sought to repress while on circuit in the winter of 1688-9. Writing to friends in England in January 1689 he pointed out that if troops were not sent from England into Ireland ‘Tyrconnel would let loose forty thousand of his myrmidons to eat up the protestants’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. pt. vi. pp. 138-9). As soon as James II reached Dublin, in March 1689, he dismissed Keating from the Irish privy council, and in the following September he and other protestants were, according to Luttrell, committed by the Jacobites to prison in Dublin (Brief Relation, i. 587). He is said to have communicated with
William III’s government after the battle of the Boyne in July 1690, but he was none the less, Luttrell reports, indicted of high treason as a Jacobite by William III’s advisers in the Dublin court of king’s bench in December 1690 (ib. ii. 137). In January 1690-1 his post of chief justice was conferred on Sir Richard Pyne. No later reference to Keating is known.

[Archives of King’s Inns, Dublin ; Carte’s Life of Ormonde ; State Tracts, 1705 ; Life of James II, 1816 ; Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th and 9th Reps. ; Jacobite Narrative of War in Ireland, 1688-91, Dublin, 1892 ; Macanlay’s Hist.]

Source: Lee, Sidney [Editor], Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. XXX. Johnes – Kenneth, published 1892 by MacMillan and Co., New York & Smith, Elder, & Col, London, pp. 275-6. Available via

2 Replies to “Biography – John Keating”

  1. I am trying to sort out the Narraghmore Keatings. There is a Maurice who died in 1683 (brother of John Keating, Lord Chief Justice), and he had a son named Maurice. Is the the Maurice Keating who was M.P. for Kildare in 1725, or was there another generation in between them? Maurice Keating is also listed as M.P. in 1768. Again, my question is which one is this? And which Maurice Keating is the father of Juliana Keating (among others)? Were Catherine (later Wesley) and Anne Keating (later Carr) Juliana’s sisters or aunts?
    Thanks for any clarification that anyone can provide.

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