Bernard Burke.

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S^ittssttuties of ifamiUes,









I ^51



%\n littU M%m,


is insaihi,



Sept. 26th, 1859.





The Percys . . . .


The Nevilles ...


Else and Fall of the Cromwells


The Bairds of Gartsherrie


Kirkpatrick of Closeburne


Anstruther of Anstruther .


Macdonell of Glengarry .


The Princess of Connemara


The Doom of Buckingham


The Eoyal Stuarts ...


The House of Albany


Earls of Strath erne and Menteith .


Lindsay of Edzell .


St. Clair of Eoslyn ....


Stewart of Craigiehall .



Gargrave and Eeresby




VicissiTTJDES OF FAMILIES — Continued.


A Dethroned Monarch ....


The O'Neills


MaeCarthy More


The Maguires of Tempo ....


The Fall of Desmond , . . . .




Hungerford, the Spendthrift . . . .


Sir Edward Castleton, Bt. . . .


Lady Koche . . . • ■ •


Theodore Palaeologus


Landmarks of Genealogy ....


The Double Sojourn of Genius at Beaconsfield


Recollections of English Counties


Heraldry .......


The Geraldines



The " vicissitudes of great families^^ form a curious chapter
in the general history of mankind ; in fact, the interest
attaching to individual fortunes is of a more human cha-
racter, and excites more of human sympathy, than that
which belongs to the fate of kingdoms. But such details
are seldom to be found close at hand. They lie for the
most part scattered about in unread chronicles and private
papers, overwhelmed, buried, as it were, under the dryness
or the weight of the superincumbent materials, from
which they must be disinterred, and the dust swept off,
before they can be fitly presented to the public at large.
The absence of such epitomizing aids may be considered
as one reason for these domestic stories having excited so
little general notice. Another cause must, no doubt, be
sought in the multitude of subjects that press upon the
reader's time and attention, from every side, leaving but a
narrow space for the development of any particular study.
The history even of kingdoms has, in the course of ages,
grown to a size so monstrous, that a lifetime is scarcely
sufficient to grapple with it. Every day we are more and



more compelled to take refuge in abridgment, omitting all
minor details, and recording only the salient portions of
events, though even then, it may be said, that nearly as
much of every reader's time is employed in forgetting as
in learning. As, however, in spite of all this, books go
on flooding the world with the rapidity of a winter torrent,
there appears to be no valid reason why a few drops from
the sourch from which I am about to draw should not be
thrown into the general rush of waters. They wall hardly
cause the stream to overflow. Besides, dropping all meta-
phor, the decline and fall of illustrious houses is a subject
that cannot fail to amuse those who delight in " moving
accidents by land and flood," while to minds of another
cast it may supply something more solid than mere
amusement. That spirit of emulation and perseverance,
which so mainly contributes to success, may be awakened
by the example of greatness built up from the lowest
gi'ounds by well-directed energy, while pride may derive a
no less useful lesson from seeing how little stability there
is in the highest gifts of fortune, and that family trees,
like all other trees, must eventually perish, the question
being only one of time. Truly does Dr. Borlase remark, that
" the most lasting houses have their seasons, more or
less, of a certain constitutional strength : they have their
spring, and summer sunshine glare, their wane, dechne, and
death." What race in Europe surpassed in royal position,
personal achievement, and romantic adventure, our own
Plantagenets— equally wise as valiant, and no less re-
nowned in the Cabinet than in the Field ? But let us look
back only so far as the year 1637, and we shall find the


great-great grandson of Margaret Plantagenet, herself the
daughter and heiress of George, Duke of Clarence, following
the cobbler's craft at Newport, a little town in Shropshire !
Nor is this the only branch from the tree of royalty that
has dwarfed and withered. If we were to closely investi-
gate the fortunes of the many inheritors of the royal arms,
it would soon be shown that, in sober truth,

** The aspiring blood of Lancaster
Had sunk into the ground ;"

aye, and deeply too. The princely stream flows through
very humble veins. Among the lineal descendants of
Edmund of Woodstock, Earl of Kent, sixth son of Ed-
ward I., King of England, entitled to quarter the royal
arms, occur a butcher, and a toll gatherer; the first,
a Mr. Joseph Smart, of Hales Owen ; the latter, a Mr,
George Wilmot, keeper of the turnpike gate at Cooper's
Bank, near Dudley. Then, again, among the descendants
of Thomas Plantagenet, Duke of Gloucester, fifth son of
Edward III., we discover Mr. Stephen James Penny, the
late sexton at Saint George's, Hanover Square — a strange
descent, from sword and sceptre to the spade and the
pickaxe !

In the ranks of the unennobled aristocracy, time has
eff'ected wondrous changes. The most stately and gor-
geous houses have crumbled under its withering touch.
Let us cast our eye on what county we please in England,
and the same view will present itself. Few, very few, of
those old historic names that once held paramount sway,
and adorned by their brilliancy a particular locality, still
exist in a male descendant. It has been asserted, I know

B 2


not exactly with what truth, that in Herefordshire, a
county peculiarly rich in ancient families, there are but
two or three county gentlemen who can show a male de-
scent from the proprietors recorded in the Visitations. In
the North, these genealogical vicissitudes have been has-
tened by the influence of commercial success, which has
done so much to uproot the old proprietary of the soil,
that one marvels how, in Lancashire, and the West Riding
of Yorkshire, such families as Towneley, Hulton, Gerard,
Blackburne, Blundell, Trafford, Ramsden, Tempest, and
Wentworth, " have stood against the waves and weathers
of time." Others, of no less fame and fortune, have
passed altogether away, and others have dwindled from
then proud estate to beggary and want :

" Eversse domus tristes reliquiae."

It has often been remarked, that the more distant a
county is from London, the more lasting are its old fami-
lies. The merchant's or manufacturer's gold tends to
displace the ancient aristocracy; but its action is most
generally felt within a limited circle round the metropolis,
or the great city wherein its accumulation has been made.
The aim of the prosperous trader is to fix himself on some
estate in his own immediate neighbourhood. Thus" it is
that few old resident families are to be found in Middle-
sex, Surrey, or Essex ; while in Northumberland, Cheshire,
Shropshire, Devon, and Cornwall— all remote from London
— many a stem is still flourishing, planted in the Planta-
genet times. Quaint old EuUer is not altogether of my
way of thinking. Here are his own words :

'^It is the observation of Vitruvius, alleged and ap-


proved by Master Camden, that northern men advancing
southward cannot endure the heat, but their strength
melteth away, and is dissolved, whilst southern people re-
moving northward, are not only not subject to sickness
through the change of place, but are the more confirmed in
their strength and health. Sure I am that northern gentry
transplanted into the south by marriage, purchance, or
otherwise, do languish and fade away within few genera-
tions; whereas southern men, on the like occasions, re-
moving northward, acquire a settlement in their estates with
long continuance. Some peevish natures (delighting to
comment all things in the worst sense) impute this to the
position of their country, as secured from sale by their
distance from London (the staple place of pleasure), whilst
I would willingly behold it as the effect and reward of
their discreet thrift and moderate expense.^^

This is a curious subject, and I may be pardoned for
giving another extract from the same agreeable author : —

" The fable is sufficiently known of the contest betwixt
the wind and the sun, which first should force the tra-
veller to put off his clothes. The wind made him wrap
them the closer about him; whilst the heat of the sun
soon made him to part with them. This is moralized in
onr English gentry. Such who live southward near
London (which, for the lustre thereof, I may fitly call the
sun of our nation), in the warmth of wealth, and plenty of
pleasures, quickly strip and disrobe themselves of their
estates and inheritance ; w^hilst the gentry living in this
north country on the confines of Scotland, in the wind of
war (daily alarmed with their blustering enemies) buckel


their estates (as their armour) the closer unto them ; and
since have no less thriftily defended their patrimony in
peace than formerly valiantly maintained it in war/'

It must not be imagined for a moment that such al-
ternations of fortune are confined to England. North
of the Tweed, the same results occur. Scotland has
had her full share of family vicissitudes. Her na-
tional and civil wars, her rehgious strifes, and her
chivalric devotion to the feeling of loyalty, produced in
many instances disastrous consequences. The royal house
of Stuart affords in itself so many striking examples,
that I shall have to devote a whole chapter to it.
During the Usurpation, Anne, Duchess of Hamilton, the
proudest, and richest, and best born heiress in Scotland,
was at one time so reduced in circumstances as to be de-
pendent for her daily subsistence on the industry of a
young companion and friend, Miss Maxwell, of Calder-
wood, who was an expert sempstress, and maintained
herself and her ruined mistress by the produce of her
needle. Better times, however, came, and the Duchess,
restored to her lost estate, rewarded her preserver with
the gift of Craignethan Castle, in Lanarkshire, which, after
Miss Maxwell's marriage to a Mr. Hay, gave designation
to the respectable Scottish family of Hay of Craignethan.
But we need not travel so far back. Not very long ago,
indeed, within the memory of many still alive, Ur-
quhart, laird of Burdsyards, a scion of the famous family
of Urquhart of Cromarty, after passing many years as an
officer in a distinguished regiment, and mixing in the first
society of London and Edinburgh, was necessitated, by his


extravagance, to sell his estate, sank, step by step, to the
lowest depth of misery, and came at last a wandering beggar
to his own door — or rather to that door which had once
been his own.

A somewhat similar story is told of a Scottish peer.
Eraser of Kirkhill relates that he saw John, Earl of Tra-
quair, the cousin and courtier of King James VI., " begging
in the streets of Edinburgh, in the year 1661. He
was" — (these are Eraser's own words) — "in an antique
garb, and wore a broad old hat, short cloak, and pannier's
breeches, and I contributed, in my quarters in the Can-
nongate, towards his relief. We gave him a noble. He was
standing with his hat off. The Master of Lovatt, Cul-
brockie, Glenmoriston, and myself, were there, and he
received the piece of money from my hand as humbly and
thankfully as the poorest supplicant."

Across the Irish channel, the story is even more signi-
ficant. There is, perhaps, no part of the world where
such violent and almost incessant internal convulsions
have disorganised society, and overturned all social
happiness and prosperity, as in Ireland. The attentive
reader of Irish history rises from his studies wearied with
the record of perpetual wars. From the earliest period of
its history until within our own memory, that fine country
was the scene of civil discord, and for more than ten cen-
turies it can scarcely be said to have enjoyed fifty con-
secutive years of calm. As a necessary consequence, the
Irish annals present a series of the most striking vicissi-
tudes ; and there is scarcely a family or a seat that has
not shared deeply in those feverish changes and calamities.


An Insh. "Peerage" gives a very inadequate account
of the royal and noble blood of Ireland. But few of the
Milesian races hare found their way into the peerage,*
though some still inherit a portion of their ancient posses-
sions J and it is in the Austrian, French, or Spanish ser\ice,t

* The only Mflesian families, granted Peerages by the soTe-
reigns of England, hare been the O'lS'eills, earls of Tyrone, and
barons of Dungannon, and, in modem times, viscounts and earl
O'Neill, in Antrim ; the O'Donnells, earls of Tyrconnel ; the
MacDonells, earls of Antrim, who were Scots of Irish descent ;
the Magiiires, barons of Enniskillen : the Magenisses, yiscounts
of Iveagh, in the comity of Down; the O'Haras, barons of
Tyrawly, in Mayo ; the O'Dalys, barons of Dansandle, in
Galway ; the O'Malones, barons of Sunderhn, in "Westmeath ;
the O'CarroUs, barons of Ely, in the King's County and co.
Tipperary ; Kavanagh of Carlow, baron of Ballyane far life ;
the MacGHpatricks, or Fitzpatricks, barons of Crowran in Kil-
kenny, and earls of Upper Ossory in the Queen's County ; the
O'Dempseys, viscounts of Clanmalier and barons of Philipstown,
in the King's and Queen's Counties ; the O'Briens of Clare and
Limerick, earls and marquesses of Thomond, earls of Inchiquin,
viscounts of Clare, &c.; the MacCarthys of Cork and Kerry,
earls of Clancare and Clancarty, and viscounts of Muskerry and
Mountcashell ; the O'CaUaghans of Cork and Tipperary, vis-
counts Lismore, in "Waterford ; the O 'Quins of Clare, barons
of Adare, and earls of Dunraven, in Limerick, and the O'Gradyg
of Clare and Limerick, viscounts Guillamore.

t The army list of Austria exhibits a long roll of officers of
Irish ancestry : — The First Aide-de-Camp to the Emperor is
^Maximilian, Count O'Donnell, and the Senior Field Marshal, Laval,
Count, and Prince liugent, K.C.B., on whom the Emperor of
Austria conferred the Order of the Golden Fleece, transmitting the
very ribbon worn by Kadetzky. Among the Field Marshals Lieu-
tenant are Simon Fitzgerald, Colonel 6th Chasseurs ; Felix Count
Moyna, and Constantine, Baron Herbert of Eathkeale ; and
among the Major-Generals, Peter Yon MulhoUand and Ambrose
O'Ferrali. Ilie catalogue of Colonels includes Count Albert


among tlie middle -classes, or, perchance, in the mud- walled
cabins of the Irish peasant, that search should be made for
the real representatives of the ancient reguli. The territories
of most of the old princes, and the lordships of very many
of the old chieftains, are now enjoyed by the descendants of
Henry the Second's barons, of the knights and gentlemen
of Elizabeth and James, of the shrewd countrymen of the
latter monarch, of the staid soldiers of Cromwell, and of the
troopers of Wilham III. A Psalter of Tara and an Irish
'* Peerage*' have little in common ; still, the descendants of
some of the aboriginal royal races hold their own* even to

Kugent (eldest son of the Field Marshal), Daniel O'Connor of
Kerry, Count Charles Taaffe (Viscount Taaffe, in the peerage of
Ireland), &c. &c.

France has also a formidable array of officers of Irish descent.
First and foremost are the gallant Marshal MacMahon Due de
Magenta, and his equally distinguished companion in arms, Mar-
shal Tsiel, both sprung from Milesian ancestry, the one, a descen-
dant of the MacMahons, Lords of Corca Baiscinn, co. Clare,
sprung from the famous Bryan Boru, King of Munster ; the other,
a scion of the royal and illustrious O'^Xeills. I have seen a very
interesting letter of Marshal ^N^iel's, addressed to a kinsman in
Ireland, Mr. Charles H. O'^N'eill, Barrister, of Dublin, in which
the gallant officer refers with no inconsiderable pride to his Mile-
sian ancestry. Among the officers of the Cuirassiers of the Im-
perial Guard, lately serving in Italy, is Lucius O'Brien, the lineal
descendant of the O'Briens of Munfin, co. of "Wexford, a branch
of the once royal O'Briens.

In Eussian history, De Lacy and O'Eorke are as famous as
they were in the Irish annals ; and in Spain, O'DonneU, Ma-
gennis (Conde de Iveagh), Sarsfield, O'^XeiU, and O'Eeilly, have
not forfeited their old renown.

* A valuable, and probably unique collection of the Eentals
of the various estates sold in the Encumbered Estates' Court,
has been made by Joseph Burke, Esq., of FitzwiUiam Place,


this day. Kavanagh of Borris, in the county of Carlow,
male representative of MacMurrough, King of Leinster,
retains a splendid estate in the very heart of MacMur-
rough's kingdom ; Mr. O'Neill of Shane's Castle, the heir
general of the Kings of Ulster, has succeeded to full
30,000 acres of the old Clanaboy principality, stretching
for miles along the banks of Loughneagh ; and it was
only within the last two years that the vast Thomond
property passed from the regally derived O'Briens.
Many of the descendants of the minor dynasts could pro-
bably be discovered under the frieze coats of the peasants ;
and a genealogical enquirer might trace in the sunburnt
mendicant the representative of the O'Rorkes, the O'Reillys,
the O'Ryans, or the O'Sullivans, who were of fame

" Ere the emerald gem of the western world
Was set in the crown of a stranger."

Ireland is, indeed, the Tadmor in the desert of family
vicissitude : time out of mind it has been the prey of the
spoiler. Strongbow, Cromwell, and William III. spared

Dublin, Barrister-at-Law, so long associated with the administra-
tion of the Poor Law in Ireland. These Rentals may be consi-
dered the fullest history of Irish landed property ever brought
together. They contain a description of the lands under sale,
the tenants' names, descriptions of the demesnes, and frequently'
views of the mansion houses, with maps and local statistics, much
more important than the particulars of sales at Chichester House
under the direction of the Court of Claims.

Mr. Burke has also collected reports of the sales, the names of
the purchasers, and the amount of purchase money : — in fine,
this collection is, I believe, the sole perfect series of papers con-
nected with the Encumbered Estates' Court. The Court itself
does not possess so complete a set, and I doubt if the British
Museum possess any.


few of the aboriginal lords of the soil, and the recent
alienation of property, under the Encumbered Estates'
Court, has eflPected a fearful revolution amongst the landed
gentlemen of English descent. Confiscation, civil war,
and legal transfer have torn asunder those associations
between " the local habitation and the name,'' which have
for centuries wound round each other. The gentry of
Ireland are now, in many cases, dispossessed ; new man-
ners and new men are filling the land, and the old time-
honoured houses are passing rapidly away. Whoever
collects instances of fallen families, some thirty years hence,
will have a fruitful field to gather in. No one will gain-
say the beneficial influence the Encumbered Estates' Court
has exercised in a national point of view, or fail to trace
to its introduction into Ireland the dawn of the prosperity
which is now shining on that most improving of countries.
That it has worked infinite public good is undeniable ; but
it is equally certain, that the general benefit has been
eff'ected at the cost of much individual misery. The
condition of the country is increased by it, as the
state of a boat's crew, tempest-tossed, with only a slen-
der basket of provisions, is improved by some of the
unhappy sufferers being^ thrown overboard and drowned.
But the relatives of the doomed cannot but lament, and
even the unconnected spectators of such stern and sharp
justice cannot remain unconcerned. No cases of vicissi-
tudes would be so pathetic, no episodes of decadence so
lamentable as those that could be told, in connection with
the transfer of land in Ireland ; but the wounds are too
fresh, and the ruin too recent, for me to enter on so pain-


ful a theme. Many a well-born gentleman — torn from his
patrimony — has sought and found on the hospitable
shores of Australia and America^ the shelter and happi-
ness denied to him in the land of his birth ; while some I
might mention, who stayed at home in the vain hope of
retrieving the past, or who were too old to enter on a new
career, ended their days in the Poor House. What story of
fiction is more striking than that of Mr. D'Arcy, of Kiltul-
lagh and Clifden Castle, in the county of Galway, who,
after the ruinous sale of his estates, took orders and
became a missionary in the very district which used to be
his own ; or, what more marvellous instance of the de-
preciation of property, than in the sale of Castle Hyde,
in the county of Cork, the inheritance of Mr. Hyde, a
scion of the Clarendon Hydes, and cousin of the Duke of
Devonshire, who was deprived of his fine old place in
the worst times of the famine ?

One tale only of those tragic times I will in a future
page venture to relate, and that will be the story of the
heiress of Connemara. I can do so, as no one remains
alive to whom the narrative will bring a pang.


^t |n'i:p.

"Now tlie Percy's crescent is set in blood."

Old Ballad. '

The Percys and the Nevilles held almost regal sway in
Northumberland and Durham. " The two great Princes
of the North were Northumberland at Alnwick, and West-
moreland at Raby Castle." Yet, how strikingly unfortu-
nate were the Percys during the reign of the Tudors, and,
indeed, long before ! Sprung from the marriage of Josce-
line of Lovaine, (son of Godfrey Barbatus, Duke of Lower
Brabant, and brother of Adeliza, second Queen of Henry I.)
with Agnes de Percy, daughter and eventual heiress of
William, third Lord Percy, this illustrious and eminently
historical family is conspicuous alike for its achievements
and its sufferings. Henry, first Earl of Northumberland,
was slain at Bramham Moor, and his brother. Sir Thomas
Percy, K.G., the early companion in arms of the Black
Prince, and subsequently the renowned Earl of Worcester,
was beheaded in 1402. The first EarPs son, the gallant
" Hotspur," the best captain of a martial epoch, had al-
ready fallen at Shrewsbury. Henry, second Earl of Nor-
thumberland (Hotspur^s son), passed his youth, attainted
and despoiled of estate, an exile in Scotland ; subsequently
restored by Henry V., he returned to England, and, true


to the tradition of his race, achieved martial fame, and
found a soldier's death at the battle of St. Alban's. In the
same wars, his two sons. Sir Thomas Percy Lord Egre-
mont, and Sir Ralph Percy, were also both killed ; Egre-
mont at Northampton, and his brother at Hedgeley Moor.
None were more chivalrously true to the Lancastrian cause
than the Percys. " I have saved the bird in my bosom \"
that is, " my faith to my king," were the last words of the
dying Sir Ralph.

The next and third possessor of the title, Henry, Earl
of Northumberland, the husband of the great heiress of
Poynings, was slain at Towton in 1461, still on the side of
the Red Rose; and his son, Henry, the fourth Earl, endea-
vouring to enforce one of King Henry VII/s taxes, was
murdered by a mob at Thirsk, in 1480.* Henry, the fifth
Earl, died a natural death, but his second son. Sir Thomas

Online LibraryBernard BurkeVicissitudes of families : and other essays → online text (page 1 of 29)