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Loftus Family Vault
Dr. Dudley (1619-1695) and Frances Loftus (1629-1691) 

Dudley Loftus was born into a bustling family of seventeen siblings and countless cousins in his great- grandfather’s estate of Rathfarnham Castle.  Dudley, however, stood out in this crowd as a remarkable prodigy with an unique facility for languages.  Having graduated from Trinity College at the age of 18, his father sent him up to Oxford where he received great acclaim as a linguist.  His reputation as an orientalist was unrivalled in his lifetime and he was set to travel to the exotic East but the traumas of 1641 brought him back to Dublin to defend Rathfarnham Castle as generations before had done.  Inevitably he was drawn into politics: four times an MP, Vicar General of Ireland and Judge of the Prerogative Court of Ireland, Senior Master of Chancery, Dudley became instrumental in brokering a settlement between England and the Irish in 1647.  Despite effectively being incarcerated in the Castle for most of that terrible decade, he never disconnected himself from his circle of academics and philosophers.  He continued to translate seminal texts from Ethiopic, Armenian, Syriac, Hebrew, Arabic, Persian and many other languages (including Welsh) into Latin, as well as publishing pamphlets on critical judgments of the day.  As is so often the case with men of genius, Dudley possessed eccentric human weaknesses that were to colour his life with controversy.  He had a predilection for pomp, arranging the consecration of the Twelve Bishops in St Patrick’s Church with all the pageantry that surrounded the event in 1660. This tall lumbering man also had a fatal affection for fashionable society, most especially for beautiful women.  He published many controversial pamphlets, frequently declaiming his many tortuous affairs for public scrutiny.  It was these weaknesses that probably prompted Archbishop Marsh to say of Dudley that ”he never knew so much Learning in the Keeping of a Fool”.  Despite his criticism of the man, Abp. Marsh was able to collect the substantial volume of Dudley's collected manuscripts and constructed a public Library next to St. Patrick’s cathedral, where many of his manuscripts can be seen today.  Dudley’s long suffering wife Frances (née Nangle), died mysteriously at the age of 62 “on the Blind Key”, interred two days later in the family vault.  Dudley himself survived her by five years, succumbing yet again to his weakness by marrying again aged 76 only a year before his death.  Dudley was interred in the family vault precisely one hundred years after the vault was first commissioned to take his great-grandmother, leaving a rich scholastic legacy behind him but no physical portrait.  The only image we have was the one painted by the ribald tongue of Jonathan Swift: “Let him be hailed amongst the junior fellows, with his short feet and rhinoceros nose …..Because of his looks and eloquence we name him Ulysses; for Ulysses was not handsome but he had the gift of tongues.-

No Tartar is more fair, no Athenian better hung,

Sol varnish’d o’er his face, and Mercury his tongue.

For his height let us salute him as Ajax, for his scrawniness as Tithonus, for his shaking head as the palsied Priam, for his swiftness as Achilles and finally (for his giant shanks), as the Colossus”.

Nicholas Loftus (1635?est-1708)
There were three Nicholas Loftus’es who were living at this time, all of them descended from Sir Dudley Loftus and Anne Bagenal.  It is thought that the Nicholas registered here, entombed in the family vault, was the son of Samuel Loftus and Mary Bagenal, a kinswoman of her mother-in-law.  Samuel died some time before his forty-fifth birthday, predeceasing his mother Anne, who did not want to see her grand-child Nicholas Loftus unprovided for.  It seems that Nicholas himself died a bachelor, possibly in his seventies, and was buried in the family vault on the 7th April, 1708.
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Jane Loftus (??-1728) 
The last person recorded as being buried in the family vault shared her name with the first, 133 years after she had been laid to rest.  Jane Loftus died at the stately age of 84, the widow of Robert Gorges.  She was the youngest daughter of Colonel Sir Arthur Loftus, whom she was to join in the vault half a century later.  It is unknown whether she had any issue and like so many women is lost to posterity but for her place of burial. Much of what we know about the life of Dr. Dudley Loftus comes from Jane’s husband Robert, who was given the task of writing the great man’s biography, as he clearly had no time himself.

Recorded Memory 

Records of precisely who was buried in the family vault are dispersed through a variety of disparate manuscripts, publications and websites.   The four most important publications only are listed below in the bibliography, which covers records of all of those entombed in the family vault.  There is a remarkable degree of agreement between the various texts, despite the occasional dispute.  Having compiled the information over a number of years, the indications are that the record is probably incomplete. Sadly, it appears that St. Patrick’s Cathedral itself has no original register to verify the published data.  For the time being, then, twenty-seven individuals are recorded as being buried in the Loftus family vault.  As usual when the past leaves such an incomplete record of itself, more questions are raised than answered.  As a virtual testimonial that one day may become more tangible, it is intended that this site will become augmented and updated by the contributions of others.  If you have more information about the lesser-known individuals remembered briefly here, then please contact  If you have had the tenacity and interest to have read this far, then it would be appropriate here to thank those who made it possible to put this page together.  They include Simon Loftus, Dione Venables, Mandy Pemberton, Mark Fitzgerald and the staff of St. Patrick’s and, of course, Duane Loftus.

Guy Loftus, October 2001

Lee, S, 1893, “Dictionary of National Biography”, [ed. Sidney Lee vol XXXIV, London  Smith Elder & co, Waterloo Place, 1893 pp 73-77]

Prestwick, J, 1783 “Origin and Etymology of the Loftus Family” [unpublished family manuscript (probably Herald’s commission)].

Price, CHP, 1907  “St. Patrick’s, Dublin, The Registers of Baptism, Marriages and Burials in the Collegiate and Cathedral Church from 1677-1800” [Vol. 2, publ. Parish Register’s Society of Dublin, ed. JH Barnard]

Ware, J, 1739, “The Whole Works of - Sir James Ware concerning Ireland, revised & improved” [Vol I p. 94-95, 1739]

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