Donough MacCarthy, Viscount Muskerry, 1594-1665

A leading nobleman on the Confederate Supreme Council, he supported the Marquis of Ormond's efforts to form an alliance with the Royalists.

Donough MacCarthy was the second son of Charles MacCarthy, first Viscount Muskerry, and his wife Margaret, daughter of Donough O'Brien, Earl of Thomond. Following the death of his elder brother Cormac, Donough became heir to large estates in the province of Munster, which he inherited as the second Viscount Muskerry when his father died in 1640. Around 1641, Muskerry married Eleanor, the daughter of Thomas Butler, Viscount Thurles, and the sister of James Butler, Earl (later Marquis) of Ormond.

Muskerry was among the Catholic Irish noblemen who presented grievances to King Charles I in 1640, but on the outbreak of the Irish Uprising in October 1641, he protected Protestant refugees from the fury of the Catholic insurgents. Muskerry joined the rebellion in March 1642, claiming that it was the only means of preserving the Catholic church in Ireland, the King's prerogative and the rights of the Irish nobility. In collaboration with Garret Barry, a veteran of the Spanish army of Flanders, Muskerry took command of the insurgents in Munster. Although Barry and Muskerry campaigned successfully during the spring of 1642, they were decisively defeated by Lord Inchiquin at the battle of Liscarrol in August.

Muskerry was a member of the Supreme Council of the Confederate Assembly and led a delegation to Oxford in March 1644 to negotiate with the King. In exchange for an Irish army to serve the King in England, the Confederates wanted freedom for the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland and an independent Irish parliament. However, the negotiations proved unsuccessful. Muskerry's delegation was dismissed in May 1644 and negotiations with the Confederates were handed over to his brother-in-law the Marquis of Ormond. Muskerry supported Ormond's attempts to secure a treaty between the Royalists and Confederates, and he opposed the hardline "clerical" faction led by Archbishop Rinuccini.

Early in 1648, Muskerry was among the agents sent to Paris by the Confederate Supreme Council to negotiate with the Royalist court-in-exile. He returned to Ireland with the Marquis of Ormond and fully supported the Second Ormond Peace, signed in January 1649, which secured an alliance of Royalists and Confederates against the English Parliamentarians. During Cromwell's invasion of Ireland, Muskerry held Munster for the Confederates. In July 1651, he was decisively defeated by Lord Broghill at the battle of Knocknaclashy, the last pitched battle of the Confederate War. Muskerry remained in Munster until June 1652 when he finally surrendered his stronghold of Ross Castle in County Kerry and fled to France.

Muskerry was one of the Irish leaders condemned to death under the draconian Act of Settlement passed by the Westminster Parliament in August 1652. He returned to Ireland late in 1653 to face trial for being an accessory to murder during the early months of the Irish Uprising, stating that he could not live honourably with the accusation hanging over him. He was acquitted but was tried again in February 1654 for alleged involvement in Royalist conspiracies. After a second acquittal, Muskerry returned to the Continent. Charles II created him Earl of Clancarty in 1658.

Thanks to his friendship with the Marquis of Ormond and his proven loyalty to the Stuarts, Clancarty recovered all his estates in Munster after the Restoration in 1660. He died in London in August 1665.


S.R. Gardiner, History of the Great Civil War vol. i , (London 1888)

Jane Ohlmeyer, Donough MacCarthy, first earl of Clancarty, Oxford DNB, 2004