The Plunket Coat of Arms

From The Dublin Penny Journal, Volume 1, Number 46, May 11, 1833


SIR--Every one who contributes to the stock of historic material, by copying inscriptions or making sketches of the remains of by-gone ages, is entitled to the gratitude of his fellow men; and it is the duty of every lover of his country, to rescue from destruction any remains which throw a light on the acts of the olden time. Your ingenious correspondent, R. Armstrong, by the interesting sketch given in your 37th number, page 293, has placed in safety the memorial of a nobleman's marriage, which might be valuable in a legal, as well as a literary point of view; and he will not be offended at my correcting the erroneous conjectures into which he has fallen respecting the import of the arms sculptured on the stone, which have nothing whatever to do with the city of Dublin.

The arms represented are those of Christopher, Lord of Howth, who died 24th October, 1589, and of Elizabeth Plunket, his first wife, who was the daughter of Sir John Plunket, of Bewley, in the County of Louth. The arms on the sinister, or wife's side, are those of Plunket --sable, a bend, and in sinister chief a tower, argent; the letter C is the initial of Christopher, and E, of Elizabeth. This lady died many years before her husband, but was the mother of his children. By his second wife he had no issue.

It may not be unacceptable to state a few facts respecting the singular and somewhat odd changes which, in the lapse of ages, take place even in family arms, from accidental circumstances, so as even to render them totally different from what they originally were.

I have in my possession a copy of a very old MS. of the arms of the ancient families of Ireland, in which the arms of the Plunkets of Beaulieu, the head branch of that noble family, are represented as sable, a bend of lozenges argent, which are the arms of the ancient Plonkenets of England and Normandy: and Camden, who in his Britannia, mentions the Plunkets among the ancient families of Ireland, states that they bore the bend of lozenges for arms, as the old Plonkenets of England.

In the fifteenth century, Christopher Plunket, third son of Christopher, the first Lord Killeen, married the daughter and sole heir of Richard, third Earl of Kildare and Baron of Ophaley, by Anne, daughter and eventual sole heir of Sir Nicholas de Castlemartin Jere, of Dunsany, Croskyle, Dangen, &c. &c.; and having obtained the Castlemartin estate by this marriage, his son Richard Plunket, the second Lord Dunsany, quartered the arms of Castlemartin with his own, as in the margin. In process of time this marriage with the Castlemartins became forgotten, and although the arms, as here depicted, are emblazoned in the oldest books of heraldry of Ireland, the family know not why they bear the tower in their arms.

Some ancient stone fixed on the front, probably, of the castle of Dunsany, became defaced, and the divisions of the shield and the lozenges obliterated, so as to represent the bend as between two castles, and the arms as one field only, as in the margin; and thus the arms of Plunket appear in another sketch in an old MS. in my possession.

Time again interferes, and produces another change, by defacing the lower castle, and thus produced the arms of the Plunkets as now borne--Sa: a bend, and in chief sinister a tower, argent.

It is also a remarkable fact, that this bearing has been adopted by all the branches of the Plunkets, as well those descended from the family of Dunsany, as the Beaulieus, Louths, Killeens, (now Fingal,) &c. &c., whereas not one of them has the smallest pretension to quarter the arms of Castlemartin, and their adoption of the tower was altogether an assumption through inadvertence.