By Royal Command

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The central entrance on the north front of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin, a building begun in 1680 to the design of Sir William Robinson. The previous year Arthur Forbes, 1st Earl of Granard and Marshal of the Garrisons of Ireland, had visited Paris and seen the newly-completed Invalides. He proposed to Charles II that a similar military hospital for elderly or disabled veterans be built in Dublin and the king duly commanded that this should be (work on its equivalent in Chelsea started two years later). The foundation stone was laid by then-Viceroy James Ormond, 1st Duke of Ormond and it is his coat of arms that can be seen above the doorway’s segmental pediment flanked by Corinthian pilasters. As Christine Casey has observed, the impact of this classical building on what was still essentially a mediaeval city must have been enormous: ‘It was such a sight that in 1684 a rule was introduced forbidding residents to accept gratuities from visitors who came to see it.’ Currently undergoing structural repair, since 1990 the Royal Hospital has housed the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

8 comments on “By Royal Command

  1. Michael Thompson says:

    When did it cease to function as a military almshouse? What a pity we do not have Kilmainham pensioners in jolly uniforms seen about the capital.

    The chapel of the Royal Hospital is one of only two churches in Ireland dedicated under the patronage of King Charles the Martyr. The other, the Parish Church of Hollymount County Mayo in the diocese of Tuam, is also now disused

    • The Royal Hospital ceased to perform its original function in the aftermath of Independence when, as you can imagine, ex-British soldiers were not terribly popular. It is a pity also that the chapel is not still in use for services. I did not know about the church in County Mayo, so thank you for that information.

  2. Michael Thompson says:

    Thank you. Indeed this I had assumed but I imagine there must have been some definitive act to dissolve the institution. Surely it did not simply dwindle away? I wonder how long it continued to function under the new polity? All good wishes.

    • Hmm, I shall have to undertake some research on the matter and revert to you….

      • I came across this in Dublin Historical Record, 1965:
        “The Royal Hospital continued its useful work unruffled by untoward occurrences until 1916 and again in 1920 but continued down to 1927, when the last pensioners were transferred to Chelsea and thus ended the third phase after a period of nearly two hundred and fifty years of charitable administration.”

  3. Not just his coat of arms; according to a 1923 article on the building of the hospital,
    “the first stone of the building was laid by the Duke of Ormonde on 29th April, 1680. The stone bore Ormonde’s name, with date, and is described as ‘the lowermost one on the north west coin of the north west flanker.'”

    A treasure hunt when there is time…!

  4. Michael Thompson says:

    Many thanks to you both.

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