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Erin's Blood Royal: the Noble Gaelic Dynasties of Ireland Hardcover – December 31, 1999

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave; Revised edition (December 31, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312230494
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312230494
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,203,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

It may come as a shock to some that Ireland still has nineteen documented native "royal" families, probably because the island's ruling dynasties were suppressed nearly five centuries ago by the imperialist Tudors. The conquest of Ireland was followed by the Flight of the Wild Geese, in which much of the Irish aristocracy fled to other Catholic countries (notably France and Spain) and was largely forgotten at home. The government of today's Ireland, however, has been granting courtesy titles to claimants who can prove their descents. Ellis is a noted scholar and popular writer in the area of Celtic studies and history and this enabled him to be "invited in" by the heads of the families to examine their claims. Each of these is "the chief of the name" -- though some also hold other Gaelic titles, such as Conor O'Brien, "The O'Brien," who also is hereditary Prince of Thomond (as well as being a baronet and Baron Inchiquin in the Peerage of Ireland under the UK). They generally have more money (based on land ownership) and education than average, and their influence in Irish culture can be considerable. The author does a very creditable job of outlining the lineage and political history of each of these families, each in its own chapter, as well as the modern-day activities of the chiefs in regaining their social positions. Following the publication of the first edition, a scandal erupted around Terence McCarthy, recognized as The McCarthy Mor, who turned out to be a complete fraud, and that episode, which badly damaged the credibility of the chiefs of Ireland, is also recounted in detail in this edition. An articulate, informative, and very well written book.
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Erin's Blood Royal: The Gaelic Noble Dynasties Of Ireland by Celtic scholar Peter Berresford Ellis is a stately and informative study of the Irish aristocracies that ruled Ireland until Henry VIII forced them to obey the English crown. Individual chapters relate the sagas of numerous Gaelic noble families, including O'Carroll, O'Connor, McCarthy, Maguire, O'Grady and many more. A highly recommended contribution to Irish Studies supplemental reading lists and reference collections, Erin's Blood Royal is an articulate and impressive account of the family branches whose descendants live in Ireland, Great Britain, America, and many other nations throughout the world today.
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This is an interesting read despite the overlapping and otherwise confusing lineages. Ellis provides ample texture and tangential history to flesh out the timelines. Following the royal lines brings focus to a lot of the loose ends and myths that have plagued my grasp of Irish history. However, this is the first time in a long time that I find a text so frequently crippled with typos and proofreading errors. The publisher, Palgrave, has not served the author well, perhaps, in hastily revising the earlier text following disclosure of the MacCarthy Mor fraud.
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