Sir Randal MacDonnell, 2nd Earl of Antrim

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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MacDonnell, Randal, 2nd Earl and Marquis of Antrim, son of preceding, is stated to have been born 9th June 1609. "Being bred in the Highland way, he wore neither hat, cap, nor shoe, nor stocking, till seven or eight years old." He travelled on the Continent, was well received at court, and in 1635 married the beautiful and accomplished widow of the Duke of Buckingham, who thereupon returned to Catholicism, which she had renounced on her first marriage. On the breaking out of the war in Scotland he was appointed by Charles I. one of his lieutenants and commissioners in the Highlands and Islands. In June 1640 he took his seat in the Irish House of Lords, and continued to reside in Dublin until the War of 1641-'52 broke out. For a time he avoided engaging in the war, and endeavoured to prevent or alleviate the sufferings to which others were exposed thereby. At the siege of Coleraine he induced his kinsman, Alaster MacColl, to permit the inhabitants to graze their cattle within three miles of the town.

In 1642, on the plea that some of his tenants had been engaged in the war, Monro seized his person and plundered Dunluce. The Earl was incarcerated in Carrickfergus Castle from June to December. He escaped by a simple but ingenious stratagem: "Having obtained the General's pass for a sick man, two of his servants carried him in a bed, as sick, to the shore, and got him boated to Carlisle, whence he went to York." Next summer he returned to Ireland on a mission from Charles, was again taken by Monro, and again escaped. In January 1643 he entered into an arrangement with Montrose to recruit troops in Ulster and the Highlands for the King's service, and in July sent over Alaster MacColl with 1,500 men, principally his own tenantry. This force contributed to the victories of Montrose, and Antrim was rewarded for his zeal by a marquisate, dated from Oxford, 26th January 1644.

Until the end of 1646 he laboured strenuously to sustain his little Irish army in Scotland. From 1646 to 1649 he was in almost constant opposition to Ormond's Irish policy; for which he is severely criticised by Carte. His wife shared his unsettled and distressing life, and died at Waterford in November 1649. The Cromwellian settlement deprived him of his estates for a time. In 1653 he married his second wife, Rose, daughter of Sir Henry O'Neill of Shane's Castle.

From 1660 to 1665 was a most anxious period. After the Restoration every influence was exercised by Sir Charles Coote, Sir John Clotworthy, and their friends, to prevent his estates being returned to him. False reports were circulated concerning his action towards Charles I., and it was not until after the most protracted proceedings that, in July 1666, he was restored to the possession of 87,086 acres in Dunluce and Glenarm. His latter days passed in peace. Time and the chances of war had rendered the Castle of Dunluce unsuited for a residence (although, indeed, Archbishop Plunket speaks of spending a few days with him there in February 1671), and the Marquis built a new mansion hard by, named Ballymagarry House; this he used as a summer residence, while Shane's Castle was a more suitable abode in winter.

He died at Ballymagarry, 3rd February 1682, aged 72, and was buried in state in the family vault at Bonamargy. The leaden coffin in which his remains were enclosed has been long since stripped of its oaken covering; it bears inscriptions in Irish, English, and Latin. An interesting note regarding the present condition of the burying place of Bonamargy, where rest the remains of Sorley Boy and several of his descendants, will be found in Notes and Queries, 1st Series. The title is still extant in the person of the 11th Earl, "the representative of that Irish prince Colla Uais, whose name is so distinctly and inseparably associated with the history of ancient Ulster."[224] Glenarm Castle, the principal residence of the family, was re-edified and put in its present condition in 1825.

Sources

224. MacDonnells of Antrim, Historical Account: Rev. George Hill. Belfast, 1873.

254. Notes and Queries. London, 1850-'78.
O'Callaghan, John C., see No. 186.

271. Ormond, Duke of, Life 1610-'88: Thomas A. Carte, M.A. 6 vols. Oxford, 1851.

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