Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery

Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery KT PC FRS (28 July 1674 – 28 August 1731) was an English nobleman, statesman and patron of the sciences.

The Earl of Orrery

Early lifeEdit

The second son of Roger Boyle, 2nd Earl of Orrery, and his wife Lady Mary Sackville (1647–1710), daughter of Richard Sackville, 5th Earl of Dorset, he was born at Little Chelsea, London.[1] He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, and soon distinguished himself by his learning and abilities.


Like the first earl, he was an author, soldier and statesman. He translated Plutarch's life of Lysander, and published an edition of the epistles of Phalaris, which engaged him in the famous controversy with Bentley.[2] He was a member of the Irish Parliament and sat for Charleville between 1695 and 1699. He was three times member for the town of Huntingdon; and on the death of his brother, Lionel, 3rd earl, in 1703, he succeeded to the title.

In 1706, he married Lady Elizabeth Cecil, daughter of John Cecil, 5th Earl of Exeter and Lady Anne Cavendish, at Burghley House. Their son and heir, John, was born the following year.

He entered the army, and in 1709 was raised to the rank of major-general, and sworn one of Her Majesty's Privy Council. He was appointed to the Order of the Thistle and appointed queen's envoy to the states of Brabant and Flanders; and having discharged this trust with ability, he was created an English peer, as Baron Boyle of Marston, in Somerset. He inherited the estate in 1714.

An orrery, a model of the solar system named after the 4th Earl of Orrery

Boyle became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1706. In 1713, under the patronage of Boyle, clockmaker George Graham created the first mechanical solar system model that could demonstrate proportional motion of the planets around the Sun. The device was named the orrery in the Earl's honour.

Charles Boyle received several additional honours in the reign of George I; but having had the misfortune to fall under the suspicion of the government for playing a part in the Jacobite Atterbury Plot, he was committed to the Tower in 1722, where he remained six months, and was then admitted to bail. On a subsequent inquiry he was discharged.[2]

Boyle wrote a comedy, As You Find It, printed in 1703 and later published together with the plays of the first earl.

In 1728, he was listed as one of the subscribers to the Cyclopaedia of Ephraim Chambers.[3]

Later lifeEdit

Boyle died at his house in Westminster in 1731 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. He bequeathed his personal library and collection of scientific instruments to Christ Church Library; the instruments are now on display in the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford.

His son John, the 5th Earl of Orrery, succeeded to the earldom of Cork on the failure of the elder branch of the Boyle family, as earl of Cork and Orrery.


  1. ^ "Boyle, Charles, fourth earl of Orrery (1674–1731)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/3124. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ a b Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Orrery, Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 20 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 329.
  3. ^ List of Subscribers to the Cyclopaedia at


Smith, Lawrence Berkley. Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery, 1674–1731 PhD dissertation, University of Edinburgh, 1994.

External linksEdit

Parliament of Ireland
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Charleville
With: John Ormsby
Succeeded by
Parliament of England
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Huntingdon
With: Francis Wortley Montagu 1701–1702
Anthony Hammond 1702–1705
Succeeded by
Honorary titles
Preceded by Lord Lieutenant of Somerset
Succeeded by
Preceded by Custos Rotulorum of Somerset
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by Earl of Orrery
Succeeded by
Peerage of Great Britain
New creation Baron Boyle of Marston
Succeeded by