Murrough O'Brien, 6th Baron and Earl of Inchiquin

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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O'Brien, Murrough, 6th Baron and Earl of Inchiquin, known as "Murrough-an-tothaine" (the Incendiary), was born about 1618. His grandfather perished at the Erne, in 1597, fighting for the English against Hugh O'Donnell. His father died while he was a minor, and Murrough did not enter into the enjoyment of his estates until 1636. Inchiquin served for some years in the Spanish army, and returning home in 1639, took his seat among the peers. He early attracted the notice of Strafford; he was commended by Charles I. for his loyalty; and in April 1640 was appointed Vice-President of Munster, under Sir William St. Leger, his father-in-law.

On the breaking out of the War of 1641-'52, he distinguished himself against the Confederates at Rathgogan and Ballyhay, near Charleville. On 13th April 1642, he defended Cork with great ability, and soon afterwards the entire civil and military administration of Munster devolved upon him. On 2nd September 1642, with 2,000 foot and 400 horse, he defeated Mountgarret and a superior force at the battle of Liscarroll. The Irish on this occasion lost 800 men besides their ordnance, colours, and baggage.

After the armistice of September 1643, Inchiquin was enabled to despatch five regiments for the service of the King. Subsequently he proceeded to Oxford to solicit the post of President of Munster; but finding that reports had been circulated to his disadvantage, and that Charles was prejudiced against him, he returned to Ireland, "determined to assert his own importance, and prove the value of those services to which little regard had been paid." In 1644 he appears to have put himself under the protection of the Parliament, and to have received from it the appointment he coveted. He joined Lord Broghill in the campaign of 1645, driving out the Catholic inhabitants of Cork, Youghal, and Kinsale, burning their houses, and confiscating their goods.

The satisfaction of the Catholic Irish at Rinuccini's entrance into Kilkenny, the autumn of the same year, was damped by the news that Lord Inchiquin had taken Bunratty Castle from his relative the Earl of Thomond. The Supreme Council immediately transferred Inchiquin's title to his younger brother, who still sided with them, and next summer an expedition was sent under Lord Muskerry to retake Bunratty, which was defended by MacAdam, a Parliamentary officer, and by a fleet under Admiral Penn. After a vigorous defence, MacAdam was killed, and the garrison capitulated, being permitted to join Inchiquin at Cork. In 1647, at the head of 5,000 foot and 500 horse, Inchiquin successively reduced Cappoquin, Dromore, Dungarvan, Cahir, Fethard, and Cashel. In the assault of Cashel frightful atrocities were committed. In November he routed Taaffe's army of 8,500 men, with great slaughter, at Knocknanuss, near Mallow.

Upon receipt of the news of this victory, Parliament voted £10,000 for the support of the army in Ireland, and sent a present of £1,000 to Inchiquin himself. After this a misunderstanding arose between Lord Lisle, the Parliamentary Lord-Lieutenant, and Inchiquin, ending in an abortive impeachment of the latter in Parliament. Inchiquin now turned again towards his royalist friends, and commenced a correspondence with Ormond, and Parliament, apprised of his designs, sent a force to blockade Cork, Kinsale, and Youghal. On 29th September 1648, Ormond arrived at Cork, Inchiquin and his army received him with all honour, and the Confederation resigned their power into his hands. On the news of the King's death next January, Ormond marched to Dublin and encamped at Finglas; while Inchiquin with a body of dragoons, secured Drogheda after a short siege. On the 15th July he invested Dundalk, and Monk, in command of the place was forced by his soldiers to surrender.

Inchiquin took no part in the unsuccessful operations for the recovery of Dublin from the Parliamentarians, and the charge that a secret understanding existed between him and Jones, Governor of Dublin, appears to be without foundation. Ormond and Inchiquin were quite unable to withstand the advance of Cromwell's victorious arms, and on 11th December 1650, accompanied by many royalist officers, he embarked at Galway for France. Lord Inchiquin served in the French army for several years, was made Viceroy of Catalonia, and fought in the Netherlands. In 1654 he was created Earl of Inchiquin by Prince Charles. On one occasion, within sight of Lisbon, he and his son were taken prisoners by Algerine pirates, and he was not released until, strangely enough, the English Council of State intervened on his behalf. In 1662 he served in the Portuguese army against Spain.

The notices of his remaining years are few and comparatively unimportant. After the Restoration, he was appointed Vice-President of Munster. He was awarded £8,000 for the losses he had suffered in the royalist cause, and his estates (consisting of 39,961 acres in Clare, 1,138 in Limerick, 312 in Tipperary, and 15,565 in Cork) were restored to him. He died 9th September 1674, aged 56, and was buried by his own directions in Limerick Cathedral. "By the Catholics he has been described as the relentless persecutor of themselves and their religion... The republicans.. and the Independents denounced him as one whose sole aim was self-aggrandizement, and they instance as justifying these charges, his frequent change of sides... It must not be forgotten, in weighing the charges advanced against Inchiquin by the Catholic party, that foreign agency had been employed to stir up the Catholic subjects of Charles to resist his authority, and to oppose any peace that did not embrace concessions which it was out of the power of the King to grant... Inchiquin was well aware from his correspondents in the Council of Kilkenny, that the Nuncio meditated, and went so far as to propose, to confer the kingdom upon either the Pope or the Grand Duke of Tuscany."

On the death of his descendant James, 3rd Marquis, 7th Earl, and 12th Baron, in 1855, the earldom became extinct; but the barony of Inchiquin devolved on Sir Lucius O'Brien, Bart.

Sources

54. Burke, Sir Bernard: Peerage and Baronetage.

263. O'Briens, Historical Memoir of the: John O'Donoghue. Dublin, 1860.

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