In a talk I gave at Adare (December 2011) on the subject of the Earls of Desmond I traced the slow demise of the earldom from the great-grandfather of the “Rebel” Earl. There is a good general sense among Munster readers of the extent of the destruction wrought by the final suppression of the Desmonds, but few realise that their demise happened in a number of stages over the preceding generations.
In the two “rebellions”, beginning 1568 and 1579, the (English) loyalism of the McCarthy Muskerry is noteworthy, also the uneasy neutrality of the McCarthy Mór (Killarney). McCarthy Mór, who had been raised to the earldom of Clancar by the Queen, was in rebellion in 1568 but made an abject submission. It is noteworthy also that the FitzMaurices (Barons Lixnaw) turned out with the Rebel Earl – as did the Imokilly FitzGeralds around Castlemartyr and Ballymaloe (though not Cloyne); the FitzGerald lineage of Dromana (on the Blackwater) stayed at home having previously (1565) aided Butler to defeat the Earl at Affane, in Waterford. The Earl’s half-brother Thomas of Conna (who should have inherited the earldom but that the “Rebel” father divorced his mother) played an ambiguous part: in the 1568 rebellion he seemed to play both sides; in the second rebellion he stayed out. The O’Briens of Pubblebrien (barony on the road to Askeaton/Rathkeale from Limerick City) stayed at home also, though in 1536, in Henry VIII’s revolution against the Pope, they were staunch rebels against Henry and allies of the then Earl of Desmond.
Catherine of Dromana, the famous Old Countess (pictured), married Earl Thomas (the Bald), and in 1529 he consigned that part of the Earl’s estate to her family. In early 1569 (a few years after Affane) the Queen raised Sir Maurice to Baron, then Viscount, Dromana, ensuring his support for the Crown and Butler against Desmond.
Folklore has the phrase To the Bend of the Road with the MacCarthys, to the End of the World with the FitzGeralds. I think you can see why: the Anglo-Irish families were more rebel than the Gaelic. The Anglo-Irish Roche, of Fermoy, and Barry, of Castlelyons and Buttevant, should be included with the Earl, for they took his side in the Rebellions.
After the Rebellions the Lixnaws were rehabilitated: I guess the monarchy wished to split the participants and do something to encourage rapprochement. Peerages and new charters were scattered like confetti by King James I. Fate took a hand also. The Muskerry (County Cork) MacCarthys retained their lordships but the death and exile of heirs interfered with the continuation of the line. The heir of McCarthy Mór (Killarney) died; the estate devolved on his sister who married the famous Florence MacCarthy of Carbery, who spent decades in the Tower of London, his father-in-law meanwhile mortgaging the Molahiffe district to Valentine Browne.
The “Rebel” Earl, on the other hand, left a large family: the blood of that unfortunate and unstable man coursed in the veins of the Viscounts Clare (O’Brien), who gave us the hero of Fontenoy against the English in 1745, and from them in the veins of the FitzGeralds, Knights of Kerry; also in the veins of the Barons Kerry (Lixnaw) – a sister of the “Rebel” becoming their ancestor, i.e. ancestor of all the Shelburne/Lansdownes. Indeed it is a remarkable fact that nearly all of the Protestant elite families of Kerry in the eighteenth century were able to boast his blood line, even the Dennys of Tralee becoming connected after the marriage of Judge Day’s daughter to Denny in 1795, the Judge’s mother being Lucy FitzGerald of the family of the Knights of Kerry. It was a far more integrated society than people today imagine.