Hugh Boulter
Archbishop of Armagh
Primate of All Ireland
Bp Hugh Boulter.jpg
Appointed31 August 1724
In office1724–1742
PredecessorThomas Lindsay
SuccessorJohn Hoadly
Consecration15 November 1719
by William Wake
Personal details
Born(1672-01-04)4 January 1672
Died27 September 1742(1742-09-27) (aged 70)
London, England
BuriedWestminster Abbey[1]
SpouseElizabeth Savage
Previous post(s)Bishop of Bristol (1719–1724)
EducationMerchant Taylors' School
Alma materChrist Church, Oxford
Magdalen College, Oxford

Hugh Boulter (4 January 1672 – 27 September 1742) was the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, the Primate of All Ireland, from 1724 until his death. He also served as the chaplain to George I from 1719.

Background and education

Boulter was born in London, son of John Boulter, described as a man of "good reputation and estate", and was educated at Merchant Taylors' School before attending Christ Church, Oxford. However, after only a year at Christ Church, he transferred to Magdalen College.[2]


Hugh Boulter, mezzotint by John Brooks after Francis Bindon.
Hugh Boulter, mezzotint by John Brooks after Francis Bindon.

After leaving the university in 1700 Boulter served as a chaplain to several prominent individuals, including Sir Charles Hedges, the Secretary of State for the North, and Thomas Tenison, the Archbishop of Canterbury, before being awarded his D.D. in 1708.

After spending seven years working as a rector, Boulter was appointed as the archdeacon of Surrey in 1715. In 1719 Boulter was announced as the successor to George Smalridge as both the Dean of Christ Church and as the Bishop of Bristol. Boulter was controversially offered the primacy of the Church of Ireland in 1724, William King, who as Archbishop of Dublin was the natural successor to the title, being passed over due to his opposition to the Toleration Act, although the official reason was his age. King showed his bitter disappointment at being passed over by refusing to stand in Boulter's presence. As Archbishop of Armagh Boulter was a keen supporter of the so-called English interest, and supported the policy of filling all top judicial, political, and ecclesiastical posts in Ireland with Englishmen in order to maintain English power in the country, a position that made him unpopular in Ireland. As Archbishop of Armagh, Boulter served as one of the Lord Justices eight times between 1726 and 1742.[3]

He did not always get his own way on judicial appointments: the Dublin-born John Rogerson (1676-1741) was made Lord Chief Justice of Ireland in 1727, over strong objections from Boulter, who apart from the question of nationality, disliked him personally. His failure has been explained by the fact that no English judge was willing to take the position (in addition Richardson was a very rich man, and no doubt supplied financial inducements).

His policy was to leave the Roman Catholics in Ireland subjected to penal legislation. By a statute enacted through Boulter's influence, Catholics were excluded from the legal profession and disqualified from holding offices connected with the administration of law. Under another act passed through Boulter's exertions, they were deprived of the right of voting at elections for members of parliament or magistrates—the sole constitutional right which they had been allowed to exercise.[1] His actions were often viewed with suspicion by the people of Ireland, including Jonathan Swift.

When the harvest failed in 1729 in Ulster he bought food and supplied it to the region.[citation needed] He did much good work in trying to alleviate the Great Irish Famine (1740-1741).

In 1731 he submitted the findings of the Inquiry into Illegal Popish Schools by the House of Lords, which was set up "to prevent the growth of Popery, and to secure this Kingdom from any dangers from the great Number of Papists in this Nation".[4] He supported the setting up of the charter school system, "to teach the children of the papists the English tongue, and the principles of the Christian religion", as long as they converted to Protestantism. In 1731 George II was petitioned for a charter to set up these schools, which was granted in 1733.[5] Boulter contributed £400 towards the construction of a charter school for girls at Santry, Dublin.[6]

He was responsible for forcing through a bill that revalued the price of gold in 1738, to the benefit of the poor.


  1. ^ a b c Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1886). "Boulter, Hugh" . Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 6. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  2. ^ Bludworth-Brakell Pages 142–170 Alumni Oxonienses 1500–1714
  3. ^ J.G. Simms, "Chief Governors: (B) 1534–1800", in T.W. Moody, F.X. Martin and F.J. Byrne (eds), A New History of Ireland, Vol. IX: Maps, Genealogies, Lists (A Companion to Irish History, Part II), pages 492–493.
  4. ^ Reports, P.R.O., Ireland, (i) Printed. Lot 50 ; No. 5 : (2) MS. Lot 72 ; Nos. 90, 91, 100, 105, 113, 131, 132, 133, 136, 160, 161, 162, 163, 170, 171, 181, 209, 211, 212, 226.
  5. ^ Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, in Letters written by his Excellency, Hugh Boulter, D.D., Lord Primate of Ireland, to several Ministers of State in England, and some others. Dublin, 1770.
  6. ^ John D'Alton: History of the County of Dublin, 1835, p. 259
Academic offices Preceded byGeorge Smalridge Dean of Christ Church, Oxford 1719–1724 Succeeded byWilliam Bradshaw Church of England titles Preceded byGeorge Smalridge Bishop of Bristol 1719–1724 Succeeded byWilliam Bradshaw Church of Ireland titles Preceded byThomas Lindsay Archbishop of Armagh 1724–1742 Succeeded byJohn Hoadly