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This is part of the booklet "The Last King, Donal IX MacCarthy Mór, King of Desmond and the Two Munsters, 1558-1596". The Last King
Donal IX MacCarthy Mór, King of Desmond and the Two Munsters, 1558-1596
J. J. MacCarthy
The booklet is web published here by permission of The MacCarthy Clan Society, Kanturk, Co. Cork.

Donal IX MacCarthy Mór "He was a man eminent and of great power in Munster" (Camden's description of King Donal IX MacCarthy Mór in the Annals of Queen Elizabeth)

King Donal IX MacCarthy Mór was the last reigning King of Desmond and Titular King of the Two Munsters (1558-1596).  He is reputed to have been extravagant and with a fondness for drink.  However, he was a wise and strong leader of Desmond in a difficult era and protected his territory with diplomacy rather than force.  Nicholas Browne noted in 1597 that 'these Irish septs (MacCarthys) are of greater force and strength than they were these three hundred years'.  Donal IX was a Gaelic poet of considerable merit.  One of these poems, 'Aisling-thruagh do mhear meisi' (A sorrowful vision has deceived me) was a poem of sixteen verses; another, 'Och an och! a Mhuire bu de' (Alas! Alas! O benign Mary), was a religious poem of forty verses.

King Donal's reign coincided with that of the English Queen, Elizabeth Tudor.  Ireland was at that time sub-divided into several autonomous states, and there was no central leadership.  Many of these domains were riven by internal disputes.  Althought the threat posed by Tudor England was both insidious and potent, the Irish lords and chiefs, more concerned with bitter internecine struggles, permitted the menace to take root.

Donal IX was the second son of Donal VIII (Donal an Druiminin).  He had one older brother Tadgh, and two sisters, Eveleen and Catherine.  He was predeceased by Tadgh.  Eveleen ('Eveleen of the Eyes of Splendour') had married Conor O'Brien, the Earl of Thomond.  The other princess, Catherine, had married Finghin MacCarthy Reagh, uncle of the famous Florence MacCarthy who later married Donal IX's daughter Ellen (Elena).  Donal IX also had an illegitimate brother Donogh.  King Donal IX was married to Honora Fitzgerald.  She was the daughter of James Fitzjohn Fitzgerald, 13th Earl of Desmond.  Her mother was Fitzgerald's second wife, Maud.  Maud was the only daughter of Moelrony MacShane O'Carrol, Lord of Elye, and his wife Margaret O'Brien of Thomond.  The 13th Earl of Desmond's first wife had been Joan Roche, mother of Gerald, the 14th Earl of Desmond.  Honora was the mother of Tadgh and Ellen, Donal IX's only legitimate children.  Sir William Herbert in a letter dated 1588 wrote:

"Onora (Honora) Countess of Clancare, was wife, sister and daughter of an Earl, ever of very modest and good demeanour, though matched with one most disorderly and dissolute."

Donal IX had several illegitimate children.  Three of these were his sons, Donal, Dermod, and Eoghan.  Donal (the Base Son) was a particular favourite and, under the terms of his father's will, received Castle Lough and other lands.

The Extent of His Territory; Dues Owed by Vassals
When Donal IX became King of Desmond in 1558, he was the master of a vast territory which extended over much of Co. Cork, and taking in large part of Co. Kerry.  His jurisdiction an dominion consisted of at least fourteen 'countries'.  These were the Lordships of Duhallow, Muskerry, O'Sullivan Mór, O'Sullivan Bear, O'Donoghue Mór, Coshmang, Kerslawny, MacGillycuddy, MacFineen, Clan Donogh Roe, O'Donoghue Glan, Clan Dermod, Clan Lawras and Loughlegh.  These countries were administered by different Eoghanachta clans and later branches of the MacCarthy dynasty.  Each country had its own chief lord, vassal lords and freeholders.  All owed allegiance to MacCarthy Mór.  He had the right to confirm the cheifs and lords in office by the bestowing of the white wand or sceptre, the symbol of authority.  In certain countries he could also claim the Rising Out, i.e. the call to arms, of all the fighting men, and the right to billet gallowglasses (heavily armed foot soldiers).  In addition to these exactions, he had other fees and duties from each country, which came to £194 per annum altogether.  In 1565, Donal IX was taken to England and coerced by Queen Elizabeth into accepting the inferior title of Earl of Clancare.  He had been accompanied by Owen O'Sullivan Bear who was forced to accept the title of Knight.  At Donal's insistence, all rents and services owed to him out of O'Sullivan Bear's Country were recorded.  This record gives an insight into the tributes owed to an Irish king by his under chief:

"He (O'Sullivan Bear) should pay all such rents and services as were due to the said Donal Earl of Clancare.  These services were as follows: 1. Upon proper notice given he was to aid him (Donal IX) with all his strength and to be Marshall of his forces; 2. He was to raise 5 Kerns or Gallowglasses for each arable plowland, or instead thereof, to pay MacCarthy Mór a beef or six shillings and eight pence, of which he was to have his choice; 3. For every ship that came to fish or trade in O'Sullivan's harbours, he was to pay MacCarthy Mór half a crown."

In addition Donal IX was 'to have all kinds of wares and merchandises' brought in by ship to these ports at the same price as O'Sullivan Bear.  O'Sullivan Bear had to provide MacCarthy Mór and his retinue with lodging and food at Dunboye Castle, 'with a competent number there to attend upon his person', for at least two days and nights per year.  He also had to provide fodder for the horses kept at Pallis and to provide Donal 'with convenient sustenance for his greyhounds, hounds, and spaniels', and wages for his huntsmen.  Donal also had chief rents 'issuing out of Barrett's Country, by the City of Cork', Killaha Abbey, Ballinskelligs, and Church lands in Beare, all of which came to £23 per annum.  These were considerable sums of money at that time, though inadequate for a leader of MacCarthy Mór's status and financial obligations.  He was responsible for the administration and security of his domain, along with the upkeep of his several castles and his retinue.  MacCarthy Mór also held demesne or personal lands in Magunihy, Iveragh, at Pallis (The Palace), Ballycarbery Castle, Castle Lough, and Muckross Abbey, all of which came to approximately 60 ploughlands.  He also held demesne lands in O'Sullivan Bear's Country, Muskerry and Dunhallow.  Now, if the ruling family of a vassal clan became extinct, then all of its territories and rights reverted to the paramount or supreme chief.  In this manner, Donal IX also had possession of the Lord of Coshmang's Country (84 ploughlands), O'Donoghue's Country (45 ploughlands), and Clan Lawras O'Sullivan Country (32 ploughlands).

Sir Warham St. Leger writing to the Lords of the Privy Council in 1588 reported:

"All his (King Donal IX) lands and territories lie in the Counties of Desmond and Cork and some parts in the County of Kerry.  The most part of his land is waste and uninhabited, which hath grown partly by the calamities of the late wars, partly by the exactions he had used upon his tenants."

In this last part St. Leger is being disingenuous.  In fact, for eight months in 1580, Munster and in particular Cork and Kerry bore the brunt of Tudor barbarity.  In 1580, as a consequence of the Second Desmond Rebellion, Munster had been most savagely and notoriously laid waste by the Lord Justice, William Pelham, and Butler of Ormonde.  This was nor mere tribal incursion, but a determined policy of genocide.  In March 1580, Pelham and Ormonde met up in Clonmel and prepared to march south to make Munster, as Pelham put it, 'as bare a country as ever Spaniard set his foot in'.  Ormonde himself estimated that 10,000 people had been exterminated by sword and rope at the end of the campaign.  Among the ghastly sights to be seen for months afterwards were the great oak trees festooned with the rotting corpses of Pelham's victims.  This slaughter, along with the attendant famine, had decimated the population.  Edward Fenton, travelling from Cork to Limerick in 1581, noted the emptiness of the countryside.  He was soon to discover that the fields and meadows were covered in the decomposing remains of animals and people.  Sir Nicholas White was also shocked by Pelham's legacy.  He wrote: "Her Majesty had many countries forsaken of people but well stocked with hares."  The hares had increased rapidly in the absence of other animals.  In fact, so plentiful had they become, that, when the Elizabethan soldiers needed a respite from slaughtering the inhabitants of Munster, they indulged in hare coursing, which became their favourite past-time.  Following this devastation of the people, the crops, and livestock, Munster had become a barren, depopulated wasteland.  Therefore, it was not surprising that MacCarthy Mór's territory was for the most part 'waste and uninhabited'.

As well as these depredations, Donal IX MacCarthy Mór had to withstand the defection of some of his most powerful septs.  The most prominent of these was Muskerry.  According to Warham St. Leger in his Tract of 1588:

"The Lords of this Country (Muskerry), by taking Letters Patent of the Kings of England, have exempted themselves from him (Donal IX), as they affirm."

MacCarthy Mór's power depended on his ability to collect the rents, land-taxes, and other dues owed to him by his vassal lords.  The enforcement of these rights was determined by the number of armed men that he could muster from his own immediate followers.  The territories that were ruled directly by MacCarthy Mór were relatively small.  Desmond itself consisted of three baronies, Magunihy, Iveragh, Dunkerron, and half the barony of Glanerought, which took in Kerry south of the Maine River, and the old baronies of Bere and Bantry in West Cork.  During the repression of the Gaelic chiefs by Elizabeth, Donal had refused to have this territory incorporated into the newly created County Kerry, and it was known as the 'County of Desmond'.  In 1606, ten years after Donal had died, Bere and Bantry were assigned to County Cork, with the rest of the territory going to County Kerry.  Some of the vassal Lords, such as MacCarthy of Muskerry and O'Sullivan Mór, were equal in power to Donal IX, their paramount chief.  Thus the greater part of MacCarthy territory was under the direct rule of strong and independant under chiefs, so that during Elizabeth Tudor's reign King Donal IX only exercised nominal power over those vassals.  This prevented him from effectively opposing the Tudor advance in Munster.  O'Neill had successfully turned back the Tudor tide that was threatening to engulf Tyrone because, as suzerain, he ruled a larger territory than any of his under chiefs.  The shortfall in revenues, allied with the defection of powerful vassals, fettered King Donal IX in his attempt to rule his kingdom.  Professor W. Butler precisely summarieses this difficulty:

"It is in the numerous sub-divisions of the clan of MacCarthy itself, and in the fact that they were overshadowed by several of their nominal vassals, that we must seek the real reasons of the small part played in Tudor times by the MacCarthy More."

Despite these difficulties, Donal IX MacCarthy Mór was a prominent member of the Desmond Confederation of 1569-1572, a league formed for the defence of Ireland and the faith by James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald, cousin of Earl Gerald Fitzgerald of Desmond.  The Earldom of Desmond took in the territory of the Munster Fitzgeralds, and was distinct from the Kingdom of Desmond to which it was adjacent and of which Donal IX was king.  Much of the Fitzgerald lands had been wrested from the MacCarthy clan during earlier centuries, and this had led to bitterness and tension between the two factions.  However, there were blood ties between the two families due to intermarriage, and Donal IX was married to a sister of the Earl of Desmond.  The Mayor and Corporation of Waterford complained to Sir William Cecil in 1569:

"The chieftains of this rebellion (the Desmond Confederation) are James Fitzmaurice, called Captain of the Geraldines, and MacCarthy More, who refuses the new titles of Earl, and is offended with any one that calleth him Earl of Clancar.  These and other rebels have forced Kinsale to compound."

Therefore on his return from England, Donal IX had rejected the title of 'Earl of Clancare' which had been bestowed on him by Elizabeth Tudor, and reverted to the more important status of MacCarthy Mór.  A few years later, in 1579, the Tudor forces under Captain Maltby inflicted a serious defeat on Sir John Fitzgerald of Desmond at Monaster and one of Donal IX's illegitimate sons was slain.  Sir William Stanley, who had been in the battle, wrote that 'these rebels came as resolutely to fight as the best soldiers of Europe could'.  It was said that Earl Gerald greatly influenced Donal IX against the Tudor government.  In February 1580, at the start of the Second Desmond Rebellion, the captain of a Spanish ship witnessed Donal IX and Earl Gerald participate in a long ceremony at Castleisland.  Kneeling side by side before the priest, Dr. Sanders, 'having a mass-book under their feet and with a cloth spread over their heads', Donal and Gerald swore to support each other.  Commencing in March 1580, as described already, Pelham and Butler ravaged Munster in eight months.  Carrigafoyle fortress and the Desmond stronghold of Askeaton both fell.  Spanish help had been insufficient and there had been no aid from the Pope.  Earl Gerald was held responsible for these disasters by his allies.  Donal IX shrewdly realised that there was more to be lost than to be gained in the expedition.  Perceiving that Earl Gerald's campaign was useless and its leader incompetent, he marched on Cork to surrender, taking with him his great vassal clans.  Gerald continued the campaign for another three years, enduring great hardship and privation.  He was murdered at Glenagenty in 1583.  At the end of the campaign, the Geraldines lost everything.  Their lands were confiscated and divided among the settlers.  Donal IX, however, had preserved the territory of Clan Carthy.

The Loss of a Son
In 1565, Donal IX was abducted by David Roche, Lord Fermoy, and taken as a prisoner to England.  As mentioned already, he was coerced by Elizabeth Tudor and her agents into accepting the title 'Earl of Clancare' (Clancarthy).  Much has been made of this apparent renunciation of the kingship by Donal, and this is discussed in detail by Count Clandermond in 'She Engaged Him to Surrender Into Her Hands His Kingdom of Desmond' in this book.  It is clear that Donal, a wily prisoner of Elizabeth, accepted this ersatz title in order to secure his release.  Immediately on his return to his kingdom he reverted to his original status, that of MacCarthy Mór.  Elizabeth had extracted an agreement from him that, if he should die without 'legitimate male issue of his body', his lands would devolve onto her.  As Donal had one legitimate son, Tadgh of Valentia, he must have felt safe in this agreement.  He also knew that the powerful Clan Carthy, who under Irish Law were the actual owners of the territory, would prevent the Tudor sovereign from enforcing this extortion.  In this he was correct, as after his death in 1596 his lands were retained by his daughter Ellen and her husband Florence MacCarthy Reagh.  In 1770, one of their descendants, Charles MacCarthy, actually willed the ancient MacCarthy Mór lands away from his MacCarthy cousins, leaving them instead to his mother's people, the Herberts of Muckross, descendants of an English settler.  Although Donal IX had felt secure in having an heir in Tadgh of Valentia, he did not appreciate the deviousness of Elizabeth's agents in Ireland.  Tadgh was taken as a hostage by them in 1578 in order to extort his father's co-oporation.  He was sent to Dublin.  In a letter dated 23rd May 1583, Donal IX wrote to Elizabeth Tudor seeking the release of his son, and referring to the fact that his wife was being held as a hostage in Cork and had been there for two years.  Following the death in 1583 of his uncle, Earl Gerald of Desmond, the boy was sent to England for a time.  He was sent back again to Dublin Castle for education in the English ways.  He managed to escape from Dublin with the help of a William Barry and made his way to France, where he died some time before July 1, 1588.  The circumstances of this escape are murky and shrouded in mystery, as are the details of young Tadgh's death.  The last direct legitimate descendant in the male line of the reigning branch of the Royal House of MacCarthy Mór had died an obscure and unrecorded death in an alien land.  Following the early death of his son and heir, Donal IX sought solace from excessive spending and lavish entertainments.  Don Philip O'Sullivan Bear has remarked upon these 'sumptuous banquets', 'magnificent entertainments' and 'lavish expenses'.

With Tadgh's death, and in accordance with the conditions extorted from Donal IX, Elizabeth Tudor stood to gain vast tracts of MacCarthy lands.  This huge acreage would pass to English settlers, either as payment for service to the crown, or at a small rent.  An inquisition dated July 1st, 1588, stated:

"The Earl of Clan Kertie that now is, who is without issue male; he hath only one daughter.  After the Earl's decease his countrie is in Her Magestie to dispose."

There were many people with an interest in the early death of the young Tadgh MacCarthy of Valentia.  Indeed, before Chrismans 1588, Sir W. Herbert wrote to the Queen's Secretary, Walsingham:

"I mean to take 6000 acres within the County of Kerry, and am desirous to have other 6000 acres in the County of Desmond, after the Earl of Glincar's death," and also "I may thre have Castle Logh, the Pallace, and Ballicarbry, with 6000 acres around them, I write rather thus timely, if not out of time, least some other should first make means and suit for them."

Valentine Browne, another settler, and Herbert's rival, also coveted the MacCarthy Mór's estates.

The Marriage of a Princess
Following Tadgh of Valentia's death, the betrothal of his sister, Ellen, interested many prominent settlers in Munster.  Valentine Browne, who as we have seen coveted MacCarthy Mór's estates, sought to have her married to his son, Nicholas.  Now, Donal IX was severely short of revenue due not only to a tendency for lavish entertaining, but also to his involvement in various rebellions, and the devastation of his dominions by Pelham and Ormonde in 1580.  Thus he had mortgaged some of his property to Sir Valentine Browne and knew the gentleman very well.  This financial transaction (lending money on a mortgage) was a favourite device of some astute settlers since it enabled them to get a foothold on the property of the clans.  However, Valentine Browne recovered neither money nor property during Donal IX' life-time.  Sir Valentine pressed the suitability of his son as a candidate for Ellen's hand, and a marriage contract was drawn up and signed by Donal IX.  The Brownes then applied for the Queen's consent to the marriage.  However, the chieftains of the various septs of the House of MacCarthy Mór were enraged by the proposed marriage of the royal Ellen to the son of a mere English settler, and made their opposition to this inferior match clear.  Indeed, both Ellen and her mother objected to the match.  Sir Warham St. Leger afterwards wrote:

"The countess and young lady came unto me and divers of the gentlemen of the country, to acquaint me with their discontentment."

Donal IX travelled to the court of Elizabeth, probably to avoid the wrath of the clan, but more likely to meet a young nobleman, Florence MacCarthy Reagh, who was present at court, and who was favoured by the Queen.  Countess Honora MacCarthy later stated that Donal IX wished that his daughter should join him in England, and failing that, she should marry Florence MacCarthy.  Shortly after Donal's arrival at court, Florence left and returned to Munster.  A few days later, Florence had married Ellen, heiress to Donal IX, in a secret mid-night ceremony at Muckross Abbey.  Mass was said by the officiating priest, and only the Countess Honora MacCarthy and The O'Sullivan Mór were present.  This event precipitated much consternation amoung Elizabeth's officials in Ireland.  In a letter dated May 14, 1588, to the Lords of the Privy Council, Sir Warham St. Leger wrote:

"Florence, alias Fineen MacCarthy, hath lately espoused the only daughter and child legitimate of the Earl of ClanCarty, by a cunning practice contrived between the Countess (Donal IX's wife), mother to the said child, and the said Fineen, without her husband's consent."  He continued:  "For my own part, I do think in my conscience it is a secret practice between the Earl and his wife; and the matter concluded in England before Fineen's coming thence, intending thereby to prevent the bestowing of her (Ellen) by Her Highness' directions."  Later in the letter he states:  "It (the marriage) was very secretly done; and after the solemnizing thereof (they thinking that it should not be known), they sent letters to overtake a messenger lately sent from hence to the Earl of Clancarty, who should have been stayed if he had not gone to the sea".

Donal IX had no intention of permitting his daughter to marry Nicholas Browne, despite the marriage contract!  A flurry of letters descended on the Lords of the Privy Council over the following months.  On December 7th, 1588, Sir Warham St. Leger wrote from Cork:

"And cheifly if the marriage of Florence MacCarthy may be undone, and she (Ellen) married to some English gentleman by the Queen's appointment; whereby her father may be (by him that shall marry her) directed to govern his country according to the laws of this realm, which is the dangerest country for foreign invasion to attempt, that appertaineth to this realm."

By this St. Leger meant to divorce Ellen from Florence, and marry her to an English settler who would ensure her father's loyalty.  Ellen, who was about eighteen years of age, had been removed to Cork by the President of Munster and was in the custody of a 'merchant of the town', while Florence had been taken to Dublin.  In February 1589, a messenger from Dublin slipped into Cork with a secret message from Florence to Ellen.  The courier returned to Dublin, and the following day, Friday, 'late towards night, about the shutting of the gates', Ellen and her lady's maid slipped outside the walls of Cork.  Outside the gates of the city an acquaintance of Florence, Bryan of the Cards, named for his ability at card-playing, awaited her, and she was spirited away into the gathering dusk.  Ellen was not seen again for two years, by which time she had reached her majority, and could not be forced to divorce Florence.  Detention in Dublin did not prevent Florence from arranging the escape of his bride.  By this action he forfeited a fine castle where there was a 'great store of orient pearls', all of which he had entered as recognisance for Ellen's safty in Cork.  Florence was sent from Dublin to England, where he was detained until 1598.  Ellen's mother, honora, along with MacFinnan MacCarthy had been taken into custody at the fortress of Castlemaine by Tom Springe, Constable of Castlemaine, relative of Sir Valentine Browne, and one of the 'principal men of Countie Kerrie'.  Sir W. Herbert, fearing for Honora's health, wrote to Sir F. Walsingham, the Queen's Secretary, seeking her release from Castlemaine Fortress and into his custody at his own house.  There was also the fear that, should Countess Honora die in captivity, Donal IX might remarry and produce another legitimate heir.  Part of this letter dated July 12, 1588, dealt with the problem of Donal the Base Son:

"Since this marriage (of Ellen) I understand of another in hand no less dangerous, between Sir Owen O'Sullivan's daughter, being the Lord of Berehaven, and one Donal MacCarthy, the Earl of Clancare's base son, whom the inhabitants of Desmond much affect (favour)."  The letter reports that the Base Son was "shunning all officers, and standing upon his guard with some few followers, though doing no other harm," and that "he will in time breed some trouble, for in the first descents Bastardy is no impediment, and he is a person both willing and able to do mischief.

King Donal IX, either because he was too powerful, or because of the marriage contract with Valentine Browne, was unmolested.

Donal the Base Son
Donal the Base Son was especially favoured by his father.  He was a courageous soldier, and had escaped from prison to spend many months as an outlaw, living rough with a band of followers on the wild mountains and glens of Kerry.  He was the terror of the local settlers and launched many raids on them and their property.

The English officials dubbed him the 'Munster Robin Hood'.  He had a special dislike for Nicholas Browne, who suffered most from these attacks.  In October 1588 Valentine Browne wrote to Walsingham that:

"Donal MacCarthy, the Earl's bastard, is gone to the woods, and lyeth as an outlaw, resorting continually to the MacCarthys of Carbery, and is there secretly supported."

In 1594 Donal was still regarded as an outlaw, and it was recorded that:

"His rebellious actions have troubled this quiet state chiefly of the English inhabitants in Kerry, and have brought many subjects to their end with loss of their blood."

Donal IX supported his son in these actions and provided him with a base from which he could sally forth on his expeditions against the settlers.  Indeed, Donal IX undertook a similar mission in 1589, when he ejected Alexander Clarke, and English settler, from the lands of Clan Donnel Roe.  Clarke undertook to argue with Donal IX, 'reproving him for his presumptuous dealing, in dispossessing him out of the Queen's lands'.  Donal answered Clarke saying that if he and his company did not quit the land that he "would cut them in pieces."  Donal then ordered his followers to kill the man, which they would have done, only Clarke escaped because he was on horse-back and armed with a pistol.

In the spring of 1599, more than two years after the death of Donal IX, the Earl of Essex arrived in Dublin with a large army.  He marched south to Munster dispersing the rebels before him.  As the Earl marched, he passed through a narrow ravine surrounded by dense woodland in Laoighis.  There he was ambushed and routed by Donal, the O'Mores, and the Geraldines.  The ravine became known as Bearna na Cleitidhe, the 'Pass of the Plumes', from the number of plumed English helmets scattered around.  The Lake Hotel, Killarney, is built in the grounds of the ruined Castlelough Castle.  In 1867 there was a feather-bed preserved there which was reputed to have been made from the plumes collected at the Pass of the Plumes by order of Donal.  Essex retreated over six days of incessant battle. Don Philip O'Sullivan Bear records that 'Essex was chased, with incredible losses, by Donal and the Geraldines out of Munster'.

Donal the Base Son was a very strong leader and brave soldier.  After his father's death, he adopted the title of MacCarthy Mór with the backing of Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, and joined him in open rebellion against the Tudor queen.  Donal retired from warfare around 1605 and lived quietly at Castlelough Castle.  His last recorded descendant was a James MacCarthy who settled in America during the nineteenth century.

In his final years Donal IX lived quietly and devoted himself to his poetry and religion.  On October 17th, 1595 Geoffry Fenton dispatched a letter to Lord Burghley on a ship leaving Kinsale.  He wrote:

"The Earl of Clancare, who is McCarthy More, is so poor, and sickly as there is no reckonin to be made of him, or his name."

In the winter of 1596 the ailing king finally passed away.  The Annals of the Four Masters, in a mean paragraph, record the death of the last King of Desmond, the descendant of illustrious ancestors and the possessor of a noble and ancient pedigree:

"MacCarthy Mór died; namely Donnell, the son of Donnell, son of Cormac Ladhrach, son of Teige; and, although he was usually styled MacCarthy Mór, he had bee honourably created Earl by order of the Sovereign of England.  There was no male heir who could be installed in his place (nor any heir), except one daughter (Ellen), who was the wife of the son of MacCarthy Reagh, i.e. Fineen; and all thought that he was the heir of the desceased MacCarthy, i.e., Donnell."

King Donal IX MacCarthy Mór was interred in Muckross Abbey and his tombstone with coat of arms still exists there.

Donal IX left no legitimate male heirs.  There were, however, three main contenders for the title of MacCarthy Mór.  These were Donal the Base Son; Florence MacCarthy Reagh who was married to Ellen (heiress to Donal IX); and Dermot MacDonogh MacCarthy, Lord of Duhallow.  The last two did not belong to the royal derbhfine, or family of princes, from which the candidate for MacCarthy Mór was selected by tanistry, and had no valid claim to the title.  For a time the title of MacCarthy Mór alternated between Donal the Base Son and Florence MacCarthy.  However, the ancient Kingdom of Desmond had died with King Donal IX MacCarthy Mór.

I am a ghost upon your path,
A wasting breath,
But you must know one word of truth               
Gives a ghost breath.
In language beyond learning's touch
Passion can teach.
Speak in that speech beyond reproach
The body's speech.
(Donal IX MacCarthy Mór)

Arms, King Donal IX Tombstone, Muckross Abbey, Killarney
Arms, King Donal IX Tombstone, Muckross Abbey, Killarney



  1. Berleth, R., The Twilight Lords.  Published by Barnes and Noble Books, New York, 1994.
  2. Butler, W., 'The Divisions of South Munster Under the Tudors.'  In: Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, Vo. III, No. 28, April 1897.
  3. Butler, F. T., Gleanings From Irish History.  Published by Longmans, Green and Co., London, 1925.
  4. Cusack, M. F., A History of the City and County of Cork.  Published by Kenmare Publications, Kenmare, 1875.
  5. MacCarthy Glas, D., The Life and Letters of Florence MacCarthy Mór.  Published by Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer.  London, 1867.
  6. McCarthy, S. T., The MacCarthys of Munster.  Published by The Dundalgan Press, Dundalk, 1922.
  7. Ms.:  Généalogie de la Royale et Sérénissime Maison de MacCarthy, 1760.  The private collection of the MacCarthy Mór.
  8. O'Sullivan Bear, Don Philip, Ireland Under Elizabeth (A History of Ireland in the Reign of Elizabeth).  Translated and edited by M. J. Byrne from the Compendium of the History of Catholic Ireland (Lisbon, 1621).  Published by Sealy, Bryers, and Walker, Dublin, 1903.

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