This family deduces its descent from
SIR VALENTINE BROWNE, Knight, of Croft, Lincolnshire, treasurer of the town of Berwick; auditor of the exchequer in England; and constituted Auditor-General of Ireland, in the reigns of EDWARD VI and QUEEN MARY.
He died in 1567, leaving issue
THE RT HON SIR VALENTINE BROWNE, his heir, who, in 1583, received instruction, jointly with Sir Henry Wallop, for the survey of several escheated lands in Ireland.
He was subsequently sworn of the Privy Council, and represented County Sligo in parliament in 1583. In the same year, Sir Valentine purchased from Donald, Earl of Clancare, all the lands, manors, etc in counties Kerry and Cork, which had been in the possession of Teige Dermot MacCormac and Rorie Donoghoemore.Sir Valentine married Thomasine, sister of the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, Sir Nicholas Bacon, and had two sons; the second of whom,
SIR NICHOLAS BROWNE, Knight, of Ross, County Kerry, died in 1616 and was succeeded by his eldest son,
VALENTINE BROWNE, who was created a baronet in 1622.
Sir Valentine, after his father's decease, presented a petition to JAMES I, praying an abatement of the yearly rent reserved on the estate which he held from the Crown, as an undertaker, at the annual sum of £113 6s 8d, in regard of the small profit he made of it, being set out in the most barren and remote part of County Kerry; which request was complied with, and he received a confirmation, by patent, of all his lands at a reduced rent.Sir Valentine married Elizabeth, fifth daughter of Gerald, Earl of Kildare, and was succeeded by his grandson,
SIR VALENTINE, 3rd Baronet (1638-94); who was sworn of the Privy Council of King JAMES II, and created by that monarch, subsequently to his abdication, in 1689, Baron Castlerosse and Viscount Kenmare.
His lordship, who was colonel of infantry in the army of King James, forfeited his estates by his inviolable fidelity to that unfortunate monarch.
He wedded Jane, only daughter and heir of Sir Nicholas Plunket, and niece of Lucas, Earl of Fingall, and had five sons and four daughters.
He was succeeded by his eldest son,
SIR NICHOLAS, 4th Baronet (called 2nd Viscount); an officer of rank in the service of King James, and attainted in consequence.
His lordship espoused, in 1664, Helen, eldest daughter and co-heir of Thomas Brown, by whom he obtained a very considerable fortune, but which, with his own estates, became forfeited for his life.
The Crown, however, allowed his lady a rent-charge of £400 per year for the maintenance of herself and her children.
His lordship died in 1720, leaving four daughters and his son and successor,
SIR VALENTINE, 5th Baronet (called 3rd Viscount) (1695-1736), who continued outlawed by the attainder of his father and grandfather.
He married, in 1720, Honora, second daughter of Colonel Thomas Butler, and great-grandniece of James, Duke of Ormonde, by whom he had issue, Thomas, his successor, and two daughters.
His lordship espoused secondly, in 1735, Mary, Dowager Countess of Fingall, by whom he left a posthumous daughter, Mary Frances.
He was succeeded by his only son,
SIR THOMAS, 6th Baronet (called 4th Viscount) (1726-95), who wedded, in 1750, Anne, only daughter of Thomas Cooke, of Painstown, County Carlow, by whom he had a son and a daughter, Catherine, married to Count de Durfort-Civrac.
His lordship was succeeded by his son,
SIR VALENTINE, 7th Baronet (called 5th Viscount) (1754-1812), who was created (the viscountcy of JAMES II never having been acknowledged in law), in 1798, Baron Castlerosse and Viscount Kenmare.
In 1800, Lord Kenmare was further advanced to the dignity of an earldom, as EARL OF KENMARE.
His lordship married firstly, in 1777, Charlotte, daughter of Henry, 11th Viscount Dillon, by whom he had an only daughter, Charlotte.
The 1st Earl wedded secondly, in 1785, Mary, eldest daughter of Michael Aylmer, of Lyons, County Kildare, by whom he had issue,
VALENTINE, his successor;
The 5th Earl was the last Lord-Lieutenant of County Kerry, from 1905 until 1922.
The original Kenmare House (above) was built in 1726, after the estates were recovered by Sir Valentine Browne, 5th Baronet and 3rd Viscount Kenmare in the Jacobite peerage.
It was a grandiose structure with the characteristics of a French château, perhaps influenced by the Brownes' time spent exiled in France with King James the Second.
Lord Kenmare designed the house himself: It was two stories high and had dormered attics and steep, slated roofs.
There were thirteen bays in front of the house, with three bays on each side of the centre breaking forward. A servant’s wing was added around 1775.
In 1861 Valentine, Lord Castlerosse, played host to Queen Victoria at Killarney.
During the visit of the Queen to Kenmare House, Her Majesty chose the site of Killarney House, a vast Victorian-Tudor mansion, which was the successor to Kenmare House.
The 4th Earl of Kenmare decided to build a new mansion (above), on a hillside with spectacular views of Lough Leane in 1872.
The old house was demolished and an Elizabethan-Revival manor house erected on a more elevated site. The cost was well over £100,000.
This house was supposed to have been instigated by Lady Kenmare (Gertrude Thynne, granddaughter of Thomas Thynne, 2nd Marquess of Bath) and inspired by Lord Bath's genuinely Elizabethan seat, Longleat in Wiltshire (which is not red-brick).
It was not unusual for the descendants of Elizabethan or Jacobean settlers in Ireland to assert their comparative antiquity in this period by building "Jacobethan" houses.
The house, which in addition to its other defects apparently did not sit happily in the landscape as it had many gables and oriels.
The interior was panelled and hung with Spanish leather.
It was considered to be one of the finest mansions in Ireland.
Alas, it was burnt twice: once, in 1879, just after its completion; and again, and finally, in November, 1913.
It was never rebuilt.
Instead, the stable block of the older Kenmare House was converted for family use.
Killarney House and the Browne estate in Kerry were donated by Mrs Grosvenor (niece of 7th Earl) to form Killarney National Park.
The Victorian mansion was demolished in 1872 by the 4th Earl, when it was accidentally destroyed by fire in 1913 and never rebuilt; instead, the stable block was converted into the present Kenmare House.
In 1866, King Leopold II of Belgium visited the Kenmares at Killarney.
Sir Edwin Lutyens (the architect for Lady Kenmare's brother, the 3rd Lord Revelstoke, at Lambay Castle on Lambay Island, County Dublin, advised Lord Kenmare to build the new Kenmare House.
This Kenmare House was later abandoned and sold when a new Kenmare House was built.
This new manor was confusingly constructed on the site of the former Killarney House by Mrs Beatrice Grosvenor in 1956.
Less than twenty years later, in 1974, the house was replaced.
This last Kenmare House was built on the Killorglin Road, beside the Killarney golf course and the Castlerosse Hotel.
The sale of Kenmare House in 1985 to Denis P Kelleher effectively marked the end of the Kenmare family's proprietary connection with Killarney, after 450 years.
First published in August, 2011. Kenmare arms courtesy of European Heraldry.