In time long past, little corners of Ireland were ruled by chiefs, kings, earls, and other nobles whose ancient dominion came to an end with the Tudor conquests of the 1500s. But, writes author Peter Ellis, the royal bloodlines continued to flow in faraway lands, the forgotten victims of "the ruthless colonial policy of an unsympathetic alien power."
With the Flight of the Wild Geese, when many nobles abandoned the island, the hereditary aristocracy of Ireland lost power and, with time, was forgotten at home. Today, emerging from exile in places like Austria and Asturias, claimants to long-abandoned titles are now popping up everywhere, and the Irish government has been obliging some of them with "courtesy recognition"--an anachronism, many Irish object, in a democratic era. Surveying the surviving nobility, Ellis examines their claims and, in the process, addresses what he rightly calls "a much-neglected area of Irish history": the blue-blood past of the MacGillycuddys, Maguires, O'Brien's, and other storied families. Heraldry buffs, royalty watchers, and claimants to long-lost thrones will find much of interest in Ellis's wanderings through the island's unhappy history. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
Celtic scholar Ellis traces the history and culture of old Ireland through the family trees of the dynasties that ruled there for 2,000 years (before the 16th-century English Tudor conquests) in this densely written and carefully researched volume. Though Henry VIII successfully sought to "utterly abolish" the family titles, today the modern descendants of ancient royalty claim their Gaelic titles and are given "courtesy recognition" by the Irish state. Ellis's account of the years after Henry's occupation is a gloomy one: only by renouncing their titles and swearing to speak English, for example, could the Irish nobility reclaim stolen lands. While the bulk of the book traces the bloodlines of the grand families of the four Irish provinces Munster, Connacht, Ulster and Leinster the best part occupies but a brief chapter near the end. In "The MacCarthy M¢r Affair," shoddy investigative work by the Chief Herald's Office (part of the Republic's government) and the Genealogical Office allowed Terence McCarthy, a member of a working-class family from Belfast, to be named Chief of the McCarthy Clan. It's a delicious case of fraud that reads like potential movie plot, and a standout story amidst thousands of years of Irish lore. Photos.
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