The De Lacy Family

De Lacy family crest

(Crest No. 18. Plate 69.)

THE De Lacy family is of Norman origin, having come from Normandy with William the Conqueror, and were Earls of Lincoln in England. Hugh De Lacy, one of the most prominent of the Anglo-Norman invaders, went to Ireland with King Henry the Second, landing at Waterford, October 18, 1171. He was “granted” by that monarch the whole Kingdom of Meath, which belonged to King Murchard O’Melaughlin and his people, and forthwith proceeded to drive out or exterminate the native owners. He erected numerous castles, especially in Meath and Westmeath, as those of Trim, Kells, Ardnorcher, Durrow, etc.

He was appointed lord deputy twice, and wrought vigorously to establish and maintain the English power in Ireland. He plundered the Irish unsparingly, and did not hesitate at any act of injustice calculated to further his aspirations or gratify his ambition. He married, after the death of his first wife, the daughter of Roderic O’Connor, King of Connaught and ex-monarch of Ireland. His descendants were Lords of Meath and Earls of Ulster, and founded many powerful families in Meath, Westmeath, Louth, and Limerick.

De Lacy met with a violent death in 1186. While superintending the erection of a castle at Durrow, in the present Kings County, with a large force of English, he stooped over to direct the operations of the workmen, when a young man named O’Meyey came up behind him, and drawing a battle axe which he had concealed under his cloak, severed De Lacy’s head from his body with a blow, and then disappeared with the fleetness of a deer in a near-by forest.

The instigator of this deed was O’Carnahy (Sinnagh, or “The Fox”), whose territory of Teffia included Durrow, and of which he had been despoiled by De Lacy. The peasantry regarded the killing of De Lacy as a retribution of Providence, as he had thrown down the monastery of St. Columbkille to erect the castle on its site.

De Lacy left two sons by his first wife; Hugh, who succeeded to his father’s possessions and was afterward appointed Lord Deputy and Earl of Ulster, and Walter, Lord of Meath. Neither of them left male heirs. By his second wife, daughter of King Roderic O’Connor, De Lacy left a son, William, who was the ancestor of the three branches of this family, seated at Bruree, Bruff, and Ballingarry, in the County of Limerick—a family that produced a long list of patriots and illustrious characters. According to McFirbus, the famous rebel, Pierce Oge Lacy, of Bruree and Bruff, in the reign of Elizabeth, was the eighteenth in descent from this third son of Hugh De Lacy. From him, also, it is said, the Lynches of Galway are descended.

Of this Limerick branch was the celebrated Field Marshal Peter Lacy of the Russian army. He was born at Killedy, County of Limerick, in 1678, and at the capitulation of Limerick, though only thirteen years of age, was an ensign in Sarsfield’s army in an infantry regiment, of which his uncle, John Lacy, quartermaster-general and brigadier, was colonel. Accompanying the army to France, he was appointed lieutenant in the Regiment of Athlone, Irish Brigade. Having served with Marshal Catinet’s army in Italy, and after the peace of Ryswick, owing to the reduction of the Irish Jacobite force in France, he entered the service of Peter the Great of Russia in 1700. In December, 1708, he distinguished himself while in command of 15,000 men at the assault of Rumna, held by the famous Charles the Twelfth of Sweden.

Field-Marshal Count Peter Lacy of Russia


At the great battle of Pultowa, in 1709, where the power of Sweden was irretrievably broken, Lacy commanded a brigade and materially contributed to that important victory. “It was Marshal Lacy,” says a Russian writer, “who taught the Russians to beat the King of Sweden’s army, and from being the worst, to become some of the best soldiers in Europe. The Russians had been used to fight in a very confused manner, and to discharge their musketry before they had advanced sufficiently near the enemy to do execution. Before the famous battle of Pultowa, in 1709, Marshal Lacy advised the Czar to send orders that every man should reserve his fire until he came within a few yards of the enemy. The consequence was that Charles the Twelfth was totally defeated.”

In 1721 and 1722 Lacy, then lieutenant-general, commanded several expeditions on the Swedish coast with signal success. After the ascension of the Empress Catharine he was made general-in-chief and appointed governor of Livonia. He was engaged in many campaigns against the Turks, and broke their power in the Crimea. Two expeditions for the conquest of the Crimea had failed—that of Lieutenant-General Leontew, in 1735, in which he lost nine thousand of a force of twenty-eight thousand men, and that of Marshal Munich, in 1736, who lost thirty thousand out of an army of fifty-two thousand, and nearly all his horses. Lacy in the following year carried out the enterprise successfully with an army of forty thousand men.

In 1741, war having again broken out with Sweden, Marshal Lacy conducted the campaign. With an army of 17,500 he compelled the surrender of 17,000 Swedes at Helsingfors, and added part of Finland to the Russian Crown. After the conclusion of peace, he retired to his estates at Livonia, where he died in 1751, aged seventy-two years.

Marshal Lacy’s father and two brothers were killed in the French service, and his uncle fell in the battle of Marsaglia, in 1693. Another relative, Maurice Lacy, born in Limerick in 1740, entered the Russian army at the invitation of the marshal, and served against the Turks and under Suwaroff in Italy. Of Marshal Lacy’s sons one entered the Polish-Saxon service, and was created royal chamberlain, field-marshal, and count of the Holy Roman Empire, and another entered the Austrian service, where he rose to the rank of field-marshal, and was created count, royal chamberlain, and Grand Cross Knight of the Military Order of Maria Theresa. Other members of this family won military honors in the service of Spain.