Robert le Poer
Francis Elrington Ball, in his definitive study of the pre-1921 Irish judiciary, says nothing of Robert's ancestry. Other sources state that he was a younger son of Arnold le Poer, Seneschal of Kilkenny (died 1331). Arnold was one of the commanders of the army of Edward II which defeated the invasion of Ireland by Edward Bruce, the younger brother of Robert the Bruce. He became a figure of considerable power in his native county, but his career was destroyed by the Kilkenny Witchcraft Trials. Arnold's support for the alleged leader of the local coven of witches, his relative Alice Kyteler, gained him the enmity of Richard de Ledrede, Bishop of Ossory, who was the prime mover behind the Trials. Arnold made what was in hindsight the serious mistake of having the Bishop arrested and imprisoned. The Bishop quickly secured his release, and Arnold in his turn was arrested on charges of heresy. He died in Dublin Castle in 1328 while awaiting trial.
There seems no reason to doubt this account of Robert's parentage, although it may seem surprising that if he was Arnold's son, his career was not damaged by Arnold's downfall – indeed Arnold's arrest coincided roughly with Robert's appointment as Treasurer. Possibly his appointment marked a decline in the influence of Ledrede, who was English by birth and bitterly unpopular with most of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, and even with his clerical colleagues, including the Archbishop of Dublin, Alexander de Bicknor.
Robert as a young man was in the service of John Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings and went with him to Gascony in 1307. The connection with the Hastings family continued, and by 1322 he was their bailiff in Ireland. He became parish priest of Lutterworth, Leicestershire in 1318, and of Adderley, Shropshire the following year. In the 1320s he also had a living in County Carlow.
His first Crown office was as Chamberlain of North Wales in 1323; in 1327 he became Treasurer of Ireland. In 1331 he was appointed Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer and at the same time held the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer of Ireland. In 1335 he was superseded as Chief Baron, but remained an ordinary Baron of the Exchequer. In 1338 he served briefly as a judge of the Court of Common Pleas (Ireland); the following year he was reappointed Chief Baron and remained in that office until his death.
- The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921 John Murray London 1926 Vol.I pp.71-72
- Redmond, Gabriel Historical memoir of the Family of Poher, Poer or Power Dublin 1891 p.11
- Otway-Ruthven, A.J. History of Medieval Ireland Reprinted Barnes and Noble 1993 p.245
- Neary, Anne The Origins and Character of the Kilkenny Witchcraft Trial 1324 (1983) Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy Vol.83C p.333-350
- Ball Judges in Ireland p.71
- Ball p.72