Thursday, 26 May 2016

Killeen Castle

THE EARLS OF FINGALL WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY MEATH, WITH 9,589 ACRES

This noble family was of Danish origin, but its settlement in Ireland is so remote that nothing certain can be ascertained as to the precise period.

So early as the 11th century, we find

JOHN PLUNKETT, of Beaulieu, County Meath, the constant residence of the elder branch of his descendants.

The successor at Beaulieu at the beginning of the 13th century,

JOHN PLUNKETT, living at the time of HENRY III, had two sons,
John, ancestor of the BARONS LOUTH;
RICHARD, of whom hereafter.
RICHARD PLUNKETT, of Rathregan, County Meath, who, with his son and heir, RICHARD PLUNKETT, by royal writs of parliamentary summons, was summoned to, and sat in, the parliaments and council of 1374; the one as a baron, and the other "de consilio regis".

To the same parliament and council was also summoned as a baron "Waltero de Cusake Militi", Lord of Killeen, whose heir general afterwards, as wife of Christopher Plunkett, was previously thought to have first brought the dignity of a parliamentary barony into this branch of the Plunkett family, but how erroneously may best be seen by reference to the writs of summons during the reign of EDWARD III, before alluded to.

The younger Richard Plunkett was father of

SIR CHRISTOPHER PLUNKETT, Knight.

This gentleman, as a recompense for the services he had rendered in the wars of Ireland, and as an indemnity for the expenses he had incurred, had a grant of a sum of money from HENRY VI, in 1426; before which time he was sheriff of Meath; and in 1432, was deputy to Sir Thomas Stanley, knight, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

Sir Christopher was created, ca 1426, BARON KILLEEN.

He married, in 1403, Joan, only daughter and heir of Sir Lucas Cusack, Knight, Lord of Killeen, Dunsany, and Gerardstown, County Meath, and became, in her right, proprietor of the Barony of Killeen.

He was succeeded by his son and heir,

CHRISTOPHER, 2nd Baron (who, in an act of parliament during the reign of HENRY VI was called "Christofre Plunkett le puisne Seigneur de Killeen").

This feudal Lord wedded twice: firstly, to Genet, daughter of Bellew, of Bellewstown; by whom he had two sons.

He espoused secondly, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Wells, LORD CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND, by whom he had a daughter and two sons.

Sir Christopher died in 1462, and was succeeded by his elder son,

CHRISTOPHER PLUNKETT, 3rd Baron (1440-c1469); who had summons to parliament in 1463.

His lordship died without issue, and was succeeded by his brother,

EDMOND, 4th Baron (c1450-1510), who had a son and heir,

JOHN, 5th Baron, who was sworn of the privy council of HENRY VIII, and was found by inquisition to have had four sons,
Patrick, dsp;
CHRISTOPHER, heir to his brother;
Henry;
James.
The eldest son,

PATRICK, 6th Baron (1521-c1526), was succeeded by his brother,

CHRISTOPHER, 7th Baron, who succeeded to the titles and estates.

His lordship was an active and gallant nobleman, who discharged many high functions and commissions under the royal authority.

He sat in the parliament of 1509, and having married the granddaughter of the 8th Baron Slane, left issue, three daughters, his co-heirs,
Maude, m 3rd Baron Louth;
Catherine, m David Sutton;
Margaret, m Nicholas Aylmer.
He died about 1567, and was succeeded by his brother,

JAMES, 8th Baron (c1542-95), whose inheritance of the ancient family dignity was not opposed or questioned by the daughters, co-heirs of his deceased brother, and he took his place in the House of Lords in 1585.

In 1589, he enfeoffed trustees in his family estates, and was succeeded at his decease by his son and heir,

CHRISTOPHER, 9th Baron (1564-1613), who, when aged 31, sat in the parliament of 1613; and dying soon afterwards, was succeeded by his eldest son,

LUKE, 10th Baron, styled Lucas More.

This nobleman had a large grant of territory in 1613, and was created EARL OF FINGALL in 1628, JAMES I precluding the honour by a most flattering letter beginning thus:-
That having received good testimonies of the virtuous and many good parts of his right trusty and well-beloved subject, the lord Baron Killeen, being one of the ancient nobility of Ireland, His Majesty was pleased ...
The titles became extinct on the death of the 12th Earl.


KILLEEN CASTLE, near Dunsany, County Meath, is said originally to have been a Norman fortification, built for the de Lacy magnates, and held from 1172 by the Cusack family, beginning with Geoffrey de Cusack.

The castle was then held from 1399 by successors by marriage (to Lady Joan de Cusack), the Plunketts.

Killeen Castle was originally built by Geoffrey de Cusack around 1181. The date is carved above the doorway.

The castle fell into disrepair in the late 17th century, was leased out, and was not restored until around 1779, when parts of the demesne were landscaped and some of the estate features were added.


Significant reworking was carried out from 1803-13 under the supervision of Francis Johnston, and in 1841, much of the castle was demolished and rebuilt (using much existing material) by the 9th Earl of Fingall, in the style of a small Windsor Castle.

The two towers added have the dates 1181 and 1841 inscribed, and at the time of completion, it was claimed that Killeen had 365 windows.

The 12th and last Earl sold Killeen Castle and Estate, in 1951, to Sir Victor Sassoon.

Lord Fingall remained as manager of the stud farm established near the castle.

In 1953, Lord and Lady Fingall moved to a contemporary house built in the grounds, and most of the house contents were sold.

Sassoon died in 1961 and his heirs sold the estate on in 1963, to the French art dealer and racehorse owner, Daniel Wildenstein.

Lord Fingall moved from the estate to Corballis on the Dunsany estate, then The Commons.

He died in 1984 and is buried at Dunsany Church.

In 1978, the castle and estate were sold to the advertiser Basil Brindley, who continued the stud farm operation.

In 1981, the castle was burnt out in an arson attack, being left abandoned for many years.

The lands and buildings were sold again in 1989, to Christopher Slattery.

In 1997, Snowbury Ltd purchased the castle and its grounds, with a vision to create the estate that exists today.

Fingall arms courtesy of European Heraldry.    First published in April, 2012.

1 comment :

Linda Stoltz said...

Thanks for info, I enjoyed reading it. My paternal grandmother was a Plunkett.