Helen MacCarty

Helen MacCarty (c. 1641 – 1722), also styled Helen FitzGerald and Helen Burke, Countess of Clanricarde, was brought to France by her mother fleeing the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. Her father, the 2nd Earl Muskerry, a leader of the Irish Confederacy, resisted the Cromwellian Conquest of Ireland to the bitter end. She was educated at Port-Royal-des-Champs together with her cousin Elizabeth Hamilton. She married three times. All her children were by her second husband, William Burke, 7th Earl of Clanricarde. She was the mother of Ulick Burke, 1st Viscount Galway, Margaret, Viscountess Iveagh, and Honora Sarsfield.

Helen Burke
Countess of Clanricarde
BornHelen MacCarty
FamilyMacCarthy of Muskerry
FatherDonough MacCarty, 1st Earl of Clancarty
MotherEleanor Butler

Birth and originsEdit

Helen was probably born in the early 1640s,[a] probably at Macroom Castle, County Cork, Ireland, her parents' habitual residence. She was the eldest daughter of Donough MacCarty and his wife Eleanor Butler. At the time of Helen's birth, her father was the Viscount Muskerry. He would later become Earl Clancarty. He belonged to the MacCarthy of Muskerry dynasty, a Gaelic Irish family that descended from the kings of Desmond.[2] Helen's mother was the eldest sister of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond.[3] Her mother's family, the Butler dynasty, was Old English and descended from Theobald Walter, who had been appointed Chief Butler of Ireland by King Henry II in 1177.[4] Helen's parents were both Catholic. They had married before 1641.[5]

Family tree
Helen MacCarty with her three husbands, her parents, and selected relatives.

d. 1641

d. 1619
1st Earl


1st Duke


c. 1633 – 1665
3rd Earl

c. 1633 – 1665
Sir John

d. 1662
d. 1722
7th Earl

d. 1687

c. 1643 – 1694

d. c. 1719


1st Earl


1st Duke

2nd Earl

2nd Duke

XXXDuke of
XXXDukes of
*d.v.p. = predeceased his father (decessit vita patris).
Helen's three husbands: 1st left, 2nd right and 3rd below. Also see the lists of siblings and children in the text.

Helen was one of five children, three boys and two girls.[6]

Irish warsEdit

She was a child while her father, Lord Muskerry, commanded the Confederates' Munster army and fought the Parliamentarians in the Cromwellian Conquest of Ireland. He fought to the bitter end, surrendering Ross Castle near Killarney to Edmund Ludlow on 27 June 1652 and disbanding his 5000-strong army.[13][14] He was allowed to embark to Spain. He lost his estates in 1652 with the Cromwellian Act of Settlement.[15] Arriving in Spain he found that he was not welcome and returned to Ireland in 1653, where he was put on trial for the murder of English settlers in 1642. He was, however, acquitted.[16]


Helen, aged about ten, her mother, her sister Margaret, and her brother Justin had fled to France already some time before the fall of Ross Castle. Her mother lived with her sister Mary, Lady Hamilton, in the convent of the Feuillantines in Paris,[17] and Helen was sent to boarding school at the abbey of Cistercian nuns of Port-Royal-des-Champs, near Versailles, together with her cousin Elizabeth Hamilton. This school had an excellent reputation and was ahead of its time by teaching in French rather than in Latin. She attended this school for seven or eight years.[18][19] The abbey also was a stronghold of Jansenism, a Catholic religious movement that insisted on earnestness and asceticism but which was later declared heretic for its stance on grace and original sin.[20] In 1658 her father was created Earl of Clancarty by Charles II in Brussels, where he was then in exile.[21]

Restoration and first marriageEdit

At the Restoration Helen returned to England and Ireland with her family. Her father recovered his estates in 1660.[22] and was confirmed in their possession in the Act of Settlement 1662. Her brother Charles, Viscount Muskerry, as he was now, attended the court in Whitehall together with his wife, who was ridiculed by Elizabeth Hamilton who had been together with her at school.[23]

She soon married Sir John FitzGerald of Dromana (near Villierstown, in County Waterford), Lord of the Decies, as his second wife. His first wife had been Katherine Power, second daughter of John Power, 5th Baron Power, whom he had married in 1658 and who had died in 1660.[24] He had an only child, Catherine, from that marriage, who would marry and become the mother of John Villiers, 1st Earl Grandison.[25] Helen's first marriage was childless and lasted only one or two years as FitzGerald died in 1662.[1]

In 1665 her brother Charles, Lord Muskerry, was killed during the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665–1667) in the Battle of Lowestoft, a naval engagement with the Dutch.[26]

Second marriageEdit

Her second marriage was to William Burke, 7th Earl of Clanricarde,[27] which brought her the title of Countess of Clanricarde in the Peerage of Ireland.[28] Clanricarde already had sons from a previous marriage, two of whom would succeed him as the 8th[29] and the 9th earls.[30]

William and Helen had four children:[b]

  1. Ulick (1670–1691), created Viscount of Galway and slain at the Battle of Aughrim fighting for the Jacobites[31][b]
  2. Margaret (1673–1744), married first Bryan Magennis, 5th Viscount Iveagh and then Thomas Butler of Garryricken[32][b]
  3. William, died childless[33][b]
  4. Honora (1674–1698), married first Patrick Sarsfield and then the Duke of Berwick[34][35][b]

She seems to have lived at Portumna Castle. At least it is known that her daughter Honora was born there.[34]

Her father, Lord Clancarty, died in London on 4 August 1665.[36] Her husband Clanricarde died in 1687[37] and was succeeded by his son Richard from his first marriage as the 8th Earl of Clanricarde. She was now about 46 years old. In 1689 her brother Justin lost the Battle of Newtownbutler against the Inniskilleners and was taken prisoner.[38] Her son Ulick was killed along with many senior Jacobite officers at the Battle of Aughrim in 1691.[39]

Third marriage, death, and timelineEdit

Helen married again, some time between 1687 and 1700, to Colonel Thomas Burke. The marriage was childless.[40] Her husband died in about 1719 and she died on 15 February 1721 at Kilcash Castle, the house of her daughter, Margaret.[41] Her substantial fortune was the subject of much legal dispute in succeeding generations.[42]


  1. ^ a b For the needs of the timeline, her birth year might be estimated to be 1641, assuming that she was 19 when she married and that this marriage was in 1660, as well as knowing that her 1st husband died in 1662.[1]
  2. ^ a b c d e Lodge by error ignores Clanricarde's second marriage to Helen and lists all the children as born by Lettice Shirley, Clanricarde's first wife.
  3. ^ The date of her 1st marriage is constrained by the Restoration and the death of her 1st husband in 1662.[1]
  1. ^ a b c d e Cokayne 1913, p. 233, line 2: "He [Clanricarde] m. 2ndly Helen, widow of sir John FITZGERALD, of Dromana, co. Waterford (who d. 1662), da. of Donough (MACCARTY), 1st EARL of CLANCARTY [I.] by Eleanor ..."
  2. ^ O'Hart 1892, p. 122: "CORMAC MACCARTY MOR, Prince of Desmond (see the MacCarty Mór Stem, No. 115,) had a second son, Dermod Mór, of Muscry (now Muskerry) who was the ancestor of MacCarthy, lords of Muscry and earls of Clan Carthy."
  3. ^ Lodge 1789b, p. 39, line 33: "Daughter Ellen, married to Donogh, Earl of Clancarthy, and dying in April 1682, AEt. 70, was buried 24 in the Chancel of St. Michan's church."
  4. ^ Debrett 1828, p. 640: "THEOBALD LE BOTELER on whom that office [Chief Butler of Ireland] was conferred by King Henry II., 1177 ..."
  5. ^ Ohlmeyer 2004, p. 107, left column: "... Donough MacCarthy had married by 1641 Eleanor (or Ellen; 1612–1682), the eldest daughter of Thomas Butler, Viscount Thurles, and sister of James, later Duke of Ormond."
  6. ^ Burke 1866, p. 344, right column: Lists children as Charles, Callaghan, Justin, Helen, Margaret.
  7. ^ Cokayne 1926, p. 386: "He [Luke Plunkett] m., before 1666, Margaret, da. of Donough (MACCARTY) EARL OF CLANCARTY [I.], by Eleanor, sister of James (BUTLER) 1ST DUKE OF ORMONDE, and da. of Thomas BUTLER, styled VISCOUNT THURLES."
  8. ^ Cokayne 1913, p. 215, line 13: "He [Charles MacCarty] d. v.p. slain on board 'the Royal Charles' in a sea-fight against the Dutch, 3, and was bur. 22 June 1665 in Westm. abbey."
  9. ^ Cokayne 1913, p. 216, line 6: "CALLAGHAN (MACCARTY) EARL OF CLANCARTY etc [I.], uncle and h., being 2nd s. of the 1st Earl."
  10. ^ Cokayne 1893, p. 390: "THE HON. JUSTIN MACCARTY 3d and yst s. of Donough, 1st EARL of CLANCARTY [I.] by Eleanor, sister of James DUKE of ORMONDE ..."
  11. ^ Murphy 1959, p. 49: "I have been unable to determine the precise date of his birth: the year 1643 is an approximation arrived at ..."
  12. ^ Wauchope 2004, p. 111, left column: "c. 1643 – 1694"
  13. ^ a b Ohlmeyer 2004, p. 107, right column: "he fought on before finally surrendering at Ross Castle (27 June 1652) and fleeing to the continent."
  14. ^ Firth 1894, p. 320, line 10: "Ross in Kerry; where the Lord Muskerry made his principal rendezvous, and which was the only place of strength the Irish had left, except the woods, bogs and mountains ..."
  15. ^ D'Alton 1910, p. 345: "... a long list of distinguished men, more than a hundred in number, were proscribed by name, and excluded from all mercy, among whom were the Lords Ormond, Clanricarde, Castlehaven, Inchiquin, Muskerry ..."
  16. ^ Firth 1894, p. 341: "... the court acquitted him [Donough MacCarty] ..."
  17. ^ Clark 1921, p. 8: "... his [Anthony Hamilton's] mother and his aunt, Lady Muskerry, had apartments at the couvent des Feuillantines in Paris ..."
  18. ^ a b Clark 1921, p. 8, line 16: "Elizabeth was sent with her cousin Helen, Lady Muskerry's daughter, to Port-Royal, where, as she herself was not ashamed to relate many years afterwards, the daughter of a penniless refugee, was charitably received and sheltered during seven or eight years."
  19. ^ Sainte-Beuve 1878, p. 107: "Mesdemoiselles Hamilton et Muskry furent mises à Port-Royal; elles durent y être dès avant 1655."
  20. ^ Pope Alexander VII 1665, pp. 15–16: "C'est dans cette vûë que nous tâchâmes dès la seconde année de notre Pontificat, d'achever de détruire par une Constitution expresse que nous publiâmes à ce dessein, l'heresie de Cornelius Jansenius qui se glissoit principalement en France ..."
  21. ^ Cokayne 1913, p. 215, line 2: "As reward for his services he was by patent dat. at Brussels 27 Nov., 1658, cr. EARL OF CLANCARTY, co. Cork [I.]"
  22. ^ Ohlmeyer 2004, p. 108, left column: "By Charles II's 'gracious declaration' (30 November 1660) Clancarty recovered his extensive Munster patrimony."
  23. ^ Hamilton 1888, p. 143: "Miss Hamilton found time enough to invent to or three little tricks ... for turning into ridicule the vain fools of the court. There were two who were very eminently such: the one was Lady Muskerry ..."
  24. ^ Burke 1879, p. 1301, left column, line 21: "II. Katherine, m. 1658, John FitzGerald, Esq. of Dromana, Lord of the Decies, and d. 1660."
  25. ^ Burke 1866, p. 443, right column, line 13: "Catherine [Power], m. to John Fitzgerald, Esq., whose only dau., Catherine, was mother of John Earl of Grandison."
  26. ^ a b Cokayne 1913, p. 215: "He d. v.p. being slain on board 'the Royal Charles' in a sea-fight against the Dutch, 3, and was bur. 22 June 1665 in Westm. Abbey."
  27. ^ Burke 1866, p. 344, right column, line 46: "Helena m. William, 7th Earl of Clanricarde."
  28. ^ a b Burke 1832, p. 249: "His Lordship [Clanricarde] m. secondly, Ellen, daughter of Donough, Earl of Clancarty and had ULICK ... "
  29. ^ Cokayne 1913, p. 233, line 9: "8. RICHARD (BOURKE), EARL OF CLANRICARDE & [I.], s. and h. by 1st wife. He conformed to the established Church in or before 1681."
  30. ^ Cokayne 1913, p. 234: "9. JOHN (BOURKE), EARL OF CLANRICARDE & [I.], br. and h. male by full blood. He was born 1642 ..."
  31. ^ a b Lodge 1789a, p. 138, line 13: "Ulick, created by privy seal, dated at Whitehall, 9 May, and by patent 2 June 1687, baron of Tyaquin in the co. of Galway, and Viscount of Galway; was a nobleman of true courage and endowed with many good qualities; he commanded a regiment of foot in K. James's army; and in that station was killed at Aghrim, 12 July 1691, being not full 22 years old."
  32. ^ a b Lodge 1789a, p. 138, line 27: "Margaret, born in 1673 and married first in 1689 to Bryan Viscount Magennis, of Iveagh who dying in 1692, she remarried in 1696 with Thomas Butler of Kilcash in the co. of Tipperary, Esq.; where she died his widow, 19 July, 1744."
  33. ^ Lodge 1789a, p. 138, line 26: "William died in his minority in France."
  34. ^ a b c Burke 2005, p. 21: "Honora de Burgh was born c. 1675 at Portumna Castle co. Galway."
  35. ^ Lodge 1789a, p. 138, line 32: "Lady Honora (first married to Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan, who was killed in the battle of Landen, 29 July, 1693, by whom she had one son who died without issue in Flanders, and secondly was married in the chapel of the Castle of St Germains, near Paris, in 1695, to James Fitz-James, Duke of Berwick, Marshal, Duke and Peer of France, eldest natural son of James II. by Arabella, sister to John Churchill Duke of Marlborough, one of the greatest generals in Europe, who was killed at the siege of Philipsburgh, 12 June, 1734, leaving issue by her (who died at Pezenas, a city of Languedoc, in 1698), James-Francis ..."
  36. ^ Cokayne 1913, p. 215, line 6: "He [the 1st Earl] d. in London, 4 Aug. 1665."
  37. ^ a b Cokayne 1913, p. 233, line 5a: "He [Clanricarde] d. Oct. 1687."
  38. ^ a b Webb (1878), p. 304, left column, line 23: "Viscount Mountcashel was miserably defeated at Newtownbutler on 31st July."
  39. ^ a b Boulger 1911, p. 243: "Lord Galway and Lord Dillon (Theobald) were killed."
  40. ^ a b c Cokayne 1913, p. 233, line 5b: "His [Clanricarde's] widow m. 3rdly before 1 Feb. 1699/1700, Thomas BOURKE, who died between 29 May 1718 and 5 Dec. 1720."
  41. ^ a b Flood 2020, p. 128.
  42. ^ Flood 2020, p. 130.
  43. ^ Burke 1949, p. cclxvii, line 9: "… after the decapitation of CHARLES I at Whitehall, 30 Jan. 1649 ..."
  44. ^ Seaward 2004, p. 127, right column: "… he sailed to England and on 29 May [1660] he entered London in triumph."
  45. ^ Seccombe 1893, p. 437, left column, line 16: "He [Donough MacCarty] died in London on 5 Aug. 1665."
  46. ^ Smyth 1839, p. xiii, line 20: "James II. / [Accession] / 6 February, 1685"
  47. ^ Smyth 1839, p. xiii, line 21: "William and Mary / [Accession] / 13 February, 1689"
  48. ^ Smyth 1839, p. xiii, line 22: "Anne / [Accession] / 8 March, 1702"
  49. ^ Smyth 1839, p. xiii, line 23: "George I. / [Accession] / 1 August, 1714"