O'Brien dynasty

The O'Brien dynasty (Classical Irish: Ua Briain; Modern Irish: Ó Briain [oː ˈbʲɾʲiənʲ]; genitive Uí Bhriain [iː ˈvʲɾʲiənʲ]) is a royal and noble house founded in the 10th century by Brian Boru of the Dál gCais or Dalcassians. After becoming King of Munster, through conquest he established himself as Ard Rí na hÉireann (High King of Ireland). Brian's descendants thus carried the name Ó Briain, continuing to rule the Kingdom of Munster until the 12th century where their territory had shrunk to the Kingdom of Thomond which they would hold for just under five centuries.

O'Brien
Ó Briain
O'Brien Arms.svg
Arms of O'Brien
Parent houseDál gCais
CountryKingdom of Munster, Kingdom of Thomond
FounderBrian Boru
Current headConor O'Brien, Prince of Thomond and 18th Baron Inchiquin
Final rulerMurrough O'Brien, King of Thomond
Titles

In total, four Ó Briains ruled in Munster, and two held the High Kingship of Ireland (with opposition). After the partition of Munster into Thomond and the MacCarthy Kingdom of Desmond by Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair in the 12th century, the dynasty would go on to provide around thirty monarchs of Thomond until 1542.

During part of this period in the late 13th century they had a rivalry with the Norman de Clare house, disputing the throne of Thomond. The last Ó Briain to reign in Thomond was Murrough Ó Briain who surrendered his sovereignty to the new Kingdom of Ireland under Henry VIII of the House of Tudor, becoming instead Earl of Thomond and maintaining a role in governance. Today the head carries the title of Prince of Thomond, and depending on succession sometimes also Baron Inchiquin.

Throughout the time that the Ó Briains ruled in medieval Ireland, the system of tanistry was used to decide succession, rather than primogeniture used by much of feudal Europe. The system in effect was a dynastic monarchy but family-elected and aristocratic, in the sense that the royal family chose the most suitable male candidate from close paternal relations—roydammna (those of kingly material) rather than the crown automatically passing to the eldest son. This sometimes led to bitter quarrels and in-family warring. Since 1542, the head of the Ó Briain house adopted primogeniture to decide succession of noble titles instead.

Naming conventionsEdit

Male Daughter Wife (Long) Wife (Short)
Ó Briain Ní Bhriain Bean Uí Bhriain Uí Bhriain

BackgroundEdit

The Ó Brian emerged as chiefs of the Dál gCais tribe from the south-west of Ireland — a cohesive set of septs, related by blood, all claiming descent in tradition from a common ancestor of Cas, sixth in descent from Cormac Cas.[1] In the Annals of the Four Masters, the father of Cormac Cas was said to be Oilioll Olum, who was according to tradition King of Munster and King of Leinster in the 3rd century.[1] Such a connection would have meant that the tribe held kinship with the Eoghanachta who had dominated Munster since the earliest times.[2] While founder mythologies were very common in antiquity and the medieval world, such a connection is generally regarded as fanciful and politically motivated in the context of the rise to prominence of the Dalcassians.[2]

Instead, academic histories generally accept the Dalcassians as being the Déisi Tuaisceart, after adopting a new name — first recorded under their newly adopted name under the year 934 in the Annals of Inisfallen.[2] The Déisi, a people whose name means literally vassals, were originally located where today is Waterford, south Tipperary and Limerick;[3] the O'Rahilly's historical model counts them as ethnically Érainn.

The sept split into the Déisi Muman who continued to hold territory in Waterford and Tipperary, while the west Déisi controlled areas either side of the River Shannon.[3] During the 8th century, the latter was further divided into the Déisi Deiscirt and the Déisi Tuaisceart who would become the Dalcassians.[2][4] Prehistoric ancestors of the Déisi Tuisceart and Dál gCais may have been a once prominent Érainn people called the Mairtine.[5]

It was during this century that the tribe annexed to Munster the area today known as Clare and made it their home. Taken from the weakened Uí Fiachrach Aidhne it had previously been part of Connacht but was renamed Thomond (Tuamhain, meaning North Munster). After gaining influence over other tribes in the area such as the Corcu Mruad and Corcu Baiscinn, the Dalcassians were able to crown Cennétig mac Lorcáin as King of Thomond, he died in 951.[4] His son Mathgamain mac Cennétig was to expand their territory further according to the Annals of Ulster; capturing the Rock of Cashel capital of the Eoghanachta, the Dalcassians became Kings of Cashel and Munster over their previous overlords for the first time in history.[2]

Mathgamain along with his younger brother Brian Boru began military campaigns such as the Battle of Sulcoit, against the Norse Vikings of the settlement Limerick, ruled by Ivar. The Dalcassians were successful, plundering spoils of jewels, gold and silver, saddles, finding "soft, youthful, bright girls, booming silk-clad women and active well-formed boys".[2][6] The males fit for war were executed at Saingel, while the rest were taken as slaves.[6]

Through much of his reign Mathgamain was competing with his Eoghanachta rival Máel Muad mac Brain.[4] Mathgamain was only defeated in the end by a piece of treachery; he believed he was attending a friendly meeting, but was betrayed at Donnubán mac Cathail's house, handed over to his enemies and executed in 976.[7] The crown of Munster was briefly back in the hands of the Eoghanachta for two years until Brian Boru had thoroughly avenged his brother,[8] with the defeat and slaying of Máel Muad in the Battle of Belach Lechta.

Rise of Brian BoruEdit

 
Brian Boru, High King.

The following year Brian came to blows with the Norsemen of Limerick at Scattery Island where a monastery was located. Whilst all parties were Christians, when their king Ivar and his sons took refuge in the monastery, Brian desecrated it and killed them in the sanctuary; the Vikings of Limerick had earlier killed Brian's mother.[9]

Following this the Dalcassians came into conflict with those responsible for the death of Mathgamain, the Eoghanachta represented by Donovan and Molloy. A message was sent to Molloy, where Boru's son Murrough would challenge him in single combat; eventually the Battle of Belach Lechta took place where Molloy along with 1200 of his soldiers were slain. Donovan was destroyed together with Aralt, his brother-in-law and Ivar's remaining son, newly elected king of the Danes and Foreigners of Munster, in Donovan's fortress of Cathair Cuan, which Brian razed. With this Brian Boru was now the King of Munster.[6]

Brian's rise did not go unnoticed, however; Máel Sechnaill II from the Clann Cholmáin sept of the Uí Néill, as reigning king of Mide and High King of Ireland marched an army down to Munster to send a warning to the Dalcassians. His army cut down the tree of Magh Adhair, which was sacred to the Dalcassians as it was used as their site of royal inaugurations. This sparked a conflict between Máel Sechnaill and Brian, the object of both men to be recognised as High King.

A treaty would eventually be reached between Máel Sechnaill and Brian which split the areas of influence in Ireland between them. Brian gained control over a large portion of the island's south including Dublin. The peace didn't last long as Brian used the newly acquired forces of Dublin and Leinster to spearhead an attack against Máel Sechnaill which ended in their defeat and forced Brian to reconsider pressing any further North.

The war dragged on but Brian would eventually force Máel Sechnaill to accept his authority when northern branch of the Uí Néill clan refused to support him. Despite his fall in position Máel Sechnaill would become one of Brian's most important allies. Eventually the northern Uí Néill branch would accept Brian's rule as well, unusually for the time this was done peacefully, their submission to Brian was negotiated by the clergy rather than forced in battle.

With the most powerful Kings in Ireland now accepting Brian as the High King it was a much easier task for Brian to force the remaining Kings to submit to his rule and though it may have been tenuous he eventually was acknowledged as High King by all the rulers in Ireland.[10]

O'Brien dynastyEdit

Brian's descendants, the Ua Briain would provide a further three High Kings of Ireland and exercised supremacy in Munster until Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair, taking advantage of war between brothers Diarmait and former High-King Muircheartach, invaded Munster and split it in two in the Treaty of Glanmire (1118) granting Thomond to the sons of Diarmait Ua Briain and Desmond to the leading sept of the dispossessed Eoganacht, the Mac Cárthaigh dynasty. After the death of Domnall Mór Ua Briain, a claimant to the Kingship of Munster, they further retreated beyond the Shannon into the area of modern County Clare in the wake of the Norman Invasion. In 1276 King Edward II granted all of Thomond to Thomas de Clare, taking advantage of the feuding between Clann Taidhg and Clann Briain (whom de Clare supported). The de Clares failed in conquering Thomond and were decisively defeated in the Battle of Dysert O'Dea in 1318, thus the Kingdom of Thomond remained outside of foreign control for a further 200 years.[11]

In 1543 Murchadh Carrach Ó Briain, agreed to surrender his Gaelic Royalty to King Henry VIII and accepted the titles Earl of Thomond and Baron Inchiquin. At his death in 1551 the Earldom passed to his nephew Donough by special remainder and the title Baron Inchiquin passed to his male heirs through his son Dermot. The Earldom went extinct at the death of Henry O'Brien, 8th Earl of Thomond, the next heir would have been a descendant of Daniel O'Brien, 3rd Viscount Clare who was attainded in 1691, so the title became forfeit. However, Charles O'Brien, 6th Viscount Clare, a Jacobite exile used the title Earl of Thomond, as did his son, who died childless in 1774. At the death of James O'Brien, 3rd Marquess of Thomond, the title Baron Inchiquin passed to a distant cousin and descendant of Murrough, Sir Lucius O'Brien, 5th Baronet and was passed down to his descendants.

Family TreeEdit

Key:

O'Brien Dynasty
 
934-942[note 1]
Lorcáin
 
942-951
Cinnéidigh
 
951-953
Lachtna
 
953-970
King of Munster
970-976
Mathgamain
 
976-978
King of Munster
978-1002
High King of Ireland
1002-1014
Brian
Bórumha

Ua Briain
 
1014-1025
High King of Ireland
1025-1063
Donnchad
Tadhg
died 1023
 
King of Munster
1063-1068
Murchad
 
King of Munster
1068-1072
King of Dublin
1072

High King of Ireland
1072-1086
Toirdhealbhach
 
King of Munster
1086
Tadhg
King of Dublin
1075-1086

King of Munster
1086-1101
1115-1118
(disputed)
High King of Ireland
1101-1114
 
1118-1119
Muircheartach
 
King of Munster
1114-1115
1115-1118
(disputed)
Diarmaid
King of the Isles
1111-1112
 
1115
Domhnall
 
1119-1138
King of Munster
1138-1142
(claimant)
Conchubhar
na Cathrach
King of Munster
1142–1151
(claimant)

 
1154-1165
Toirdhealbhach
 
1151-1154
Tadhg
 
1157
Conchubhar
 
Muircheartach
 
King of Munster
1167-1168
(claimant)

Muircheartach
 
King of Munster
1168-1194
(claimant)

Domhnall Mór
 
Diarmaid
 
1194
Muircheartach
Dall
 
1198
Conchubhar
Ruadh
 
1198-1242
Donnchadh
Cairbreach
 
 
1242-1268
Conchubhar
na Siudane
Tadhg
Cael Uisce

died v.p 1259
Clann Tadhg
 
1268-1276
Brian Ruadh
Clann Briain
 
1276-1306
Toirdhealbhach Mór
DonnchadhDomhnaill
 
1306-1311
Donnchadh
 
1317-1343
Muircheartach
 
1350–1360
Diarmaid
 
1311-1313
Diarmaid
 
1313-1317
Donnchadh
 
1343-1350
Brian Bán
 
1360–1369
Mathgamain
Maonmhaighe
 
1375–1398
(claimant)
Toirdhealbhach
Maol
 
1369–1400
Brian
Sreamhach
 
1400-1426
Conchubhar
 
1426–1438
Tadhg
an Glemore
 
1438-1444
Mathgamain
Dall
 
1444-1459
Toirdhealbhach
Bóg
 
1459-1461
(claimant)
Donnchadh
 
1459-1466
Tadhg
an Chomhaid
 
1466-1496
Conchubhar
na Srona
 
1496-1498
Toirdhealbhach
Óg
 
1498-1528
Toirdhealbhach
Donn
 
1528–1539
Conchubhar
 
1539–1543
Last King of Thomond
 
1st Earl of Thomond
1543–1551
 
1st Baron Inchiquin
1543–1551
Murchadh
Carrach
 
Donough
2nd Earl of Thomond[note 2]
1551-1553
 
Dermot
2nd Baron Inchiquin
1551–1557
Donough
died 1582
 
Connor
3rd Earl of Thomond
1553-1581
 
Murrough
3rd Baron Inchiquin
1557–1573
Connor
died 1603
 
Donough
4th Earl of Thomond
1581-1624
 
Daniel
1st Viscount Clare
1662-1663
 
Murrough
4th Baron Inchiquin
1573–1597
Donough
died 1634
 
Henry
5th Earl of Thomond
1624-1639
 
Barnabas
6th Earl of Thomond
1639-1657
 
Connor
2nd Viscount Clare
1663-1670
 
Dermot
5th Baron Inchiquin
1597–1624
Connor
died 1651
 
Henry
7th Earl of Thomond
1657-1691
 
Daniel
3rd Viscount Clare
1670-1691
 
Murrough
6th Baron Inchiquin
1624–1674
1st Earl of Inchiquin
1654–1674
Donough
1st Baronet of Leameneh
1686-1717
Henry Horatio
Lord Ibrackan
died v.p 1690
 
Daniel
4th Viscount Clare
1691-1693
 
Charles
5th Viscount Clare
1693-1706
 
William
2nd Earl of Inchiquin
7th Baron of Inchiquin
1674–1692
Lucius
died v.p 1717
 
Henry
8th Earl of Thomond
1691-1741
 
Charles
6th Viscount Clare
1706-1761
9th Earl of Thomond
(titular)
1741-1761
 
William
3rd Earl of Inchiquin
8th Baron of Inchiquin
1692–1719
Edward
2nd Baronet of Leameneh
1717-1765
 
Charles
7th Viscount Clare
10th Earl of Thomond
(titular)
1761-1774
 
William
4th Earl of Inchiquin
9th Baron of Inchiquin
1719–1777
James
died 1771
Lucius Henry
3rd Baronet of Leameneh
1765-1795
 
Murrough
5th Earl of Inchiquin
10th Baron of Inchiquin
1777–1808
1st Marquess of Thomond
1800-1808
Edward Dominic
died 1801
Edward
4th Baronet of Leameneh
1795-1837
 
William
2nd Marquess of Thomond
6th Earl of Inchiquin
11th Baron of Inchiquin
1808-1846
 
James
3rd Marquess of Thomond
7th Earl of Inchiquin
12th Baron of Inchiquin
1846-1855
 
Lucius
5th Baronet of Leameneh
1837-1855
13th Baron Inchiquin
1855-1872
 
Edward Donogh
14th Baron Inchiquin
1872-1900
 
Lucius William
15th Baron Inchiquin
1900-1929
Murrough
died 1934
 
Donough Edward Foster
16th Baron Inchiquin
1929-1968
 
Phaedrig Lucius Ambrose
17th Baron Inchiquin
1968-1982
Fionn Myles Maryons
died 1977
Murrough Richard
died 2000
 
Conor Myles John
18th Baron Inchiquin
1982-present
Conor John Anthony
heir apparent

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Deduced from:
    • The An Leabhar Muimhneach king list which states that Lorcáin succeeded Reabachán Mac Mothla.
    • The death date of Reabachán Mac Mothla being 934 (as stated in annals).
    • The death date of Lorcáin as given in O'Harts Pedigrees (942 AD).
  2. ^ Via special remainder from his uncle.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

FootnotesEdit

  1. ^ a b O'Dugan, The Kings of the Race of Eibhear, 9.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Duffy, Medieval Ireland, 121.
  3. ^ a b Fitzpatrick, Royal Inauguration in Gaelic Ireland C. 1100-1600, 36.
  4. ^ a b c Koch, Celtic Culture, 554.
  5. ^ Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, "Ireland, 400-800", in Dáibhí Ó Cróinín (ed.), A New History of Ireland (Volume 1): Prehistoric and Early Ireland. Oxford University Press. 2005. p. 222
  6. ^ a b c Frances Cusack, Ireland, 294.
  7. ^ Corbishley, The Young Oxford History of Britain & Ireland, 82.
  8. ^ Lydon, The Making of Ireland, 31.
  9. ^ Fitzroy Foster, The Oxford History of Ireland, 37.
  10. ^ Bryne, Irish Kings and High Kings,
  11. ^ The Normans in Thomond, Joe Power http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/history/norman.htm Archived 25 January 2019 at the Wayback Machine

BibliographyEdit

  • Cusack, Mary Frances (1868). Ireland. Plain Label Books. ISBN 1-60303-630-X.
  • Corbishley, Mike (1998). The Young Oxford History of Britain & Ireland. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-910466-2.
  • Laffan, Thomas (1911). Tipperary Families : Being The Hearth Money Records for 1665-1667. James Duffy & Co.
  • Lydon, James F (1998). The Making of Ireland. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-01348-8.
  • O'Dugan, John (1999). The Kings of the Race of Eibhear. Gryfons Publishers & Distributors. ISBN 0-9654220-6-2.
  • Fitzroy Foster, Robert (2001). The Oxford History of Ireland. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280202-X.
  • Fitzpatrick, Elizabeth (2004). Royal Inauguration in Gaelic Ireland C. 1100-1600. Boydell Press. ISBN 1-84383-090-6.
  • Duffy, Seán (2005). Medieval Ireland. CRC Press. ISBN 0-415-94052-4.
  • Koch, John T (2006). Celtic Culture. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-85109-440-7.
  • Bryne, FJ (2001). Irish Kings and High Kings. Four Courts Press. ISBN 1-85182-196-1.

External linksEdit