House of Burke

The House of Burke (Irish: de Búrca; Latinised to de Burca or de Burgo) is the Irish branch of the Anglo-Norman noble family known as de Burgh. The surname Burke has been associated with Connaught for more than seven centuries.

House of Burke
Arms of the House of de Burgh.svg
Armorial of Burke: Or, a cross gules
CountryKingdom of England
Lordship of Ireland
Kingdom of Ireland
FounderWilliam de Burgh
MottoUng Roy, Ung Foy, Ung Loy
(One King, One Faith, One Law)

The surname derives from the English village of Burgh, Suffolk. The village's name is of Old English origin and means ‘fortified town’.

The first of the family to settle in Ireland was an Anglo-Norman adventurer and knight William de Burgh (c. 1160 – 1206), who arrived in 1185 with Henry II of England. He was the elder brother of Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent, Justiciar of England.[1]

William's descendants include the Anglo-Irish de Burghs (Lords of Connaught, Earls of Ulster, and Earls of Clanricarde).

Family HistoryEdit

Descendants of William de Burgh (d.1206)Edit

The Choir and Tower of Athassel Priory

William de Burgh (d. 1206) received a grant of lands from King John (1189). At John's accession (1199) he was installed in Thomond and became Governor of Limerick. Between 1199 and 1201 he was supporting, in turn, Cathal Carrach and Cathal Crovderg for the native throne, but William was expelled from Limerick (1203) and, lost his Connaught (though not Munster) estates.

Lords of Connaught

William's son, Richard Mór de Burgh, 1st Lord of Connaught (d. 1243), received the land of "Connok" (Connaught) as forfeited by its king, whom he helped to fight (1227). He was Justiciar of Ireland (1228–32). In 1234, he sided with the crown against Richard, Earl Marshal, who fell in battle against him. Richard Mór's eldest son, Sir Richard de Burgh (d.1248) succeeded him, briefly, as Lord of Connaught.

Earls of Ulster

Richard Mór's second son, Walter de Burgh (d. 1271), continued warfare against the native chieftains and added greatly to his vast domains by obtaining, from Prince Edward, a grant of "the county of Ulster" (c. 1255) in consequence of which he was styled later Earl of Ulster.

Walter, 1st Earl of Ulster was succeeded by his son, Richard Óg de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster. In 1286, he ravaged and subdued Connaught, and deposed the chief native king (Bryan O'Neill), substituting how own nominee. He also attacked the native king of Connaught, in favour of that branch of the O'Conors whom his own family supported. He led his forces from Ireland to support Edward I in his Scottish campaigns, and on Edward Bruce's invasion of Ulster (1315), Richard marched against him, but had given his daughter, Elizabeth, in marriage (c.1304) to Robert Bruce (afterwards Robert I, King of Scots). Occasionally summoned to English parliaments, he spent most of his forty years of activity in Ireland, where he was the greatest noble of his day, usually fighting the natives or his Anglo-Norman rivals. The patent roll of 1290 shows that in addition to his lands in Ulster, Connaught and Munster, he held the Isle of Man, but later surrendered it to the king.

Richard, 2nd Earl's grandson and successor was William Donn de Burgh, 3rd Earl of Ulster (d. 1333), son of John de Burgh (d. 1313) and Elizabeth, lady of Clare (d. 1360), sister and co-heir of the last Clare Earl of Hertford (d. 1314). William Donn married Maud of Lancaster (daughter of Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster) and was appointed Lieutenant of Ireland (1331), but was murdered in his 21st year, leaving his only daughter, Elizabeth de Burgh, as the sole heiress not only of the de Burgh possessions but of the vast Clare estates. She was married in childhood to Lionel, 1st Duke of Clarence (third son of Edward III) who was recognized in her right as Earl of Ulster. Their descendant, Edward, 4th Duke of York, ascended the throne in 1461 as Edward IV, since when the Earldom of Ulster has been only held by members of the British Royal Family.

Burke Civil War (1333–38)

Lough Foyle

On the murder of William Donn de Burgh, 3rd Earl of Ulster (1333), his male kinsmen (who had a better right to the succession than his daughter, according to native Irish ideas), adopting Irish names and customs, became virtually native chieftains and succeeded in holding the bulk of the de Burgh territories.

Their two main branches were those of Mac William Uachtar (Upper Mac William) or Clanricarde (in southern Connacht and Galway) and Mac William Íochtar (Lower Mac William) in northern Connacht (Mayo).

Burke/de Burgh of Mac William Uachtar (Earls and Marquesses of Clanricarde)

In 1543, the Mac William Uachtar (Upper Mac William) chief, as Ulick na gCeann "Bourck, alias Makwilliam" surrendered it to Henry VIII, receiving it back to hold, by English custom, as Earl of Clanricarde and Lord Dunkellin. His descendant, Richard, 4th Earl of Clanricarde distinguished himself on the English side in O'Neill's Rebellion and afterwards obtained the English Earldom of St Albans (1628). His son, Ulick, received the Irish Marquessate of Clanricarde (first creation, 1646). His cousin and heir, Richard, 6th Earl of Clanricarde was uncle of Richard, 8th Earl and John, 9th Earl, both of whom fought for James II and paid the penalty for doing so (1691), but the latter was restored (1702), and his great-grandson, Henry, 12th Earl, was created Marquess of Clanricarde (second creation, 1789). He left no son, but his brother, John, 13th Earl was created Earl of Clanricarde (second creation) and the Marquessate was later revived (1825), for John's son, Ulick, 14th and 2nd Earl His heir, Hubert de Burgh-Canning was the 2nd and last Marquess. The Earldom of Clanricarde (second creation) passed by special remainder to the 6th Marquess of Sligo. This family, which changed its name from Bourke to de Burgh (1752) and added that of Canning (1862), owned a vast estate in County Galway.

Bourke of Mac William Íochtar (Viscounts Mayo and Earls of Mayo)

In 1603, the Mac William Íochtar, Tiobóid na Long (Theobald) Bourke (d. 1629), similarly resigned his territory in Mayo, and received it back to hold by English tenure and was later created Viscount Mayo (1627). Miles, 2nd Viscount (d. 1649) and Theobald, 3rd Viscount (d. 1652) suffered at Cromwell's hands, but Theobald, 4th Viscount was restored to his estates (some 50,000 acres) in 1666. The peerage became extinct or dormant on the death of John, 8th Viscount (1767). In 1781, the Mayo man believed to be descended from the line of Mac William Íochtar, John Bourke was created Viscount Mayo and later Earl of Mayo. In 1872, Richard, 6th Earl, Viceroy of India, was murdered in the Andaman Islands.

The baronies of Bourke of Connell (1580) and Bourke of Brittas (1618), both forfeited in 1691, were bestowed on branches of the family which still has representatives in the baronetage and landed gentry of Ireland.

Descendants of Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of KentEdit

The Barons Burgh (or Borough) of Gainsborough (1487–1599) were a Lincolnshire family believed to be descended from Hubert de Burgh (younger son of Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent). Thomas, 3rd Baron was Lord Deputy of Ireland (1597), and his younger brother, Sir John (d.1594), was a distinguished soldier and sailor.


de Burgh Genealogy: Lords of Connacht, Earls of Ulster and Earls of Kent
Walter de Burgh of Burgh Castle, Norfolk
m. Alice
William de Burgh
(d. 1206)
Hubert de Burgh
1st Earl of Kent
(d. before 1243)
Geoffrey de Burgh
Bishop of Ely
(d. 1228)
Thomas de Burgh
Richard Mór / Óge de Burgh
Lord of Connacht
(d. 1242/3)
Hubert de Burgh
Bishop of Limerick
(d. 1250)
William de Burgh
Sheriff of Connacht
Sir Richard de Burgh
Constable of Montgomery Castle
(d. 1248)
Walter de Burgh
Lord of Connacht
1st Earl of Ulster
(d. 1271)
William Óg de Burgh
(d. 1270)
Richard Óg de Burgh
Lord of Connacht
2nd Earl of Ulster
de Burgh/Burkes of Mayo (Mac William Íochtar
de Burgh/Burkes of Galway (Mac William Uachtar /Clanricarde)
Elizabeth de Burgh
m. Robert I of Scotland
John de Burgh
Edmond de Burgh
William Donn de Burgh
Lord of Connacht
3rd Earl of Ulster
de Burgh/Burkes of ClanWilliam
Elizabeth de Burgh
4th Countess of Ulster
m. Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence

See alsoEdit


Burke: People and Places, Eamonn Bourke, 1995. ISBN 0-946130-10-8


  1. ^ C. A. Empey, ‘Burgh, William de (d. 1206)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn, Oxford University Press, 2004

External linksEdit