Randal MacDonnell, 1st Earl of Antrim
Randal Macsorley MacDonnell, 1st Earl of Antrim (died 10 December 1636) was called "Arranach" in Irish/Scottish Gaelic (meaning "of Arran") having been fostered in the Gaelic manner on the Scottish island of Arran.
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He was fourth son of Sorley Boy MacDonnell, and of Mary, daughter of Conn O'Neill, 1st Earl of Tyrone. He succeeded on the death of his brother Sir James MacDonnell in April 1601 to the lordship of the Glynns and Route in Ireland.
In 1597, he gave offence to government by assisting Sir James to fortify Dunluce Castle and took part in the defeat which the MacDonnells inflicted that year upon Sir John Chichester and the garrison of Carrickfergus. He joined O'Neill in his rebellion, and accompanied him on his expedition into Munster early in 1600, but, becoming by his brother's death head of his house, and foreseeing the failure of the rebellion, he in August 1602 made a timely submission to the lord deputy, Lord Mountjoy, at Tullaghoge, offering to serve against O'Neill in Fermanagh with five hundred foot and forty horse at his own expense. His example exercised a good effect in the north, and he was knighted by Lord Mountjoy.
On the accession of James I, MacDonnell, on 28 May 1603, received a grant of the entire district of the Route and the Glynns, extending from Lame to Coleraine, and containing 333,907 acres. To this in the following year was added the island of Rathlin. In 1606, Dunluce Castle, the priory of Coleraine, three-parts of the fishing of the river Bann, the castle of Olderfleet (Larne), and all lands belonging to the dioceses of Down and Connor were for different reasons excepted out of his grant; but on 21 June 1615 Dunluce Castle was restored to him. His fourth part of the fishing of the Bann, which he regarded as 'the best stay of his living,' involved him in a long and profitless controversy with Mr. Hamilton, afterwards Lord Clandeboye. In 1607, probably on account of his old connection with O'Neill, and because he had about 1604 married O'Neill's daughter Elice, he was charged by Lord Howth with being concerned in the events which culminated in the flight of the two northern earls. He appeared voluntarily before the lord deputy, denied the truth of the charge, and experienced no further trouble.
His prudent conduct was not approved by his kinsmen, and part of the 1614 conspiracy was to depose him in favour of Alexander, son of his elder brother James. But it strengthened his influence at court, and having by his judicious conduct in the matter of the Londoners' plantation at Coleraine, and the zeal with which he strove to civilise his own country, effaced all memory of his early conduct, he was, on 29 June 1618, created Viscount Dunluce. Shortly afterwards he was admitted a privy councillor, appointed lord-lieutenant of the county of Antrim, placed in command of a regiment, and on 12 December 1620 advanced to the earldom of Antrim.
Like his father and the MacDonnells generally, he was a Roman catholic. In 1621, he was charged, on the information of a certain Alexander Boyd, with harbouring priests in his house. He at once confessed his fault, promised never to fall into the like error again, and was graciously pardoned, but compelled to pay the reward due to Boyd for his information against him. On seeking a confirmation of his estates under the commission of grace in 1629, he was opposed by Cahil O'Hara of Kildrome, who claimed certain lands included in the original grant, and either by course of law or from dictates of prudence O'Hara's claims were allowed. During his declining years, Antrim suffered from dropsy. He sat in parliament on the first day of sessions 1634, but was excused from further attendance. In January 1635, he concluded a bargain with James Campbell, lord Cantire, afterwards earl of Irvine, for the purchase of the lordship of Cantire, originally in the possession of the MacDonnells, but they haa been expelled in 1607. The arrangement was opposed by the Lord of Lome, and Antrim's death intervening the matter sank for a time into abeyance.
He died at Dunluce on 10 December 1636, and was buried in the vault he had built at Bunnamairge in 1621. Shortly before his death he completed the castle at Glenarm.
Prior to his marriage, MacDonnell was the father of three sons, all of whom were probably illegitimate. One, known as Morrisne or Maurice MacDonnell, was hanged at Coleraine in 1643 for his share in the rebellion of 1641 ; another, Francis Macdonnell, O.S.F., was an ecclesiastic, and the third was James.
By his wife Aellis, Elice, or Alice, third daughter of Hugh O'Neill, he had two sons, Randal MacDonnell created Marquis of Antrim, who got the baronies of Dunluce and Kilconway with the castle of Dunluce, and Alexander, who succeeded to the earldom and the barony of Glenarm, and six daughters, to each of whom he bequeathed £2,800, viz. Anne, who was married first to Christopher Nugent, viscount Delvin, and secondly to William Fleming, nineteenth baron Slane; Mary, who was married first to Lucas, second viscount Dillon, and secondly to Oliver Plunket, sixth lord Louth ; Sarah, who was married first to Neal Oge O'Neill of Killelagh, in co. Antrim, secondly to Sir Charles O'Conor Sligo, and thirdly to Donal MacCarthy Mor; Catherine, who was married to Edward Plunket of Castlecor, co. Meath; Rose, who was married to Colonel Lord George Gordon, brother of the Duke of Sutherland, who came to Ulster in 1642 as an officer in Major-general Monro's army, and to whose assistance the Marquis of Antrim owed his escape from prison at Carrickfergus in 1643; and Alice.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Dunlop, Robert (1893). "MacDonnell, Randal (d.1636)". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography 35. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Brady/Ohlmeyer, British Interventions in Early Modern Ireland, Cambridge University Press, 2010, ISBN 9781139442541