Honora Burke

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Lady Honora Burke (1674–1698), styled at different times as Honora Sarsfield, Countess of Lucan and Honora FitzJames, Duchess of Berwick, was an Irish aristocrat of the late seventeenth century.


Honora was the daughter of William Burke, 7th Earl of Clanricarde and Lady Helen MacCarty. The Burkes (originally De Burgh) were an Hiberno-Normans family long-established in western Ireland while her mother, daughter of Donough MacCarty, 1st Earl of Clancarty, was part of the traditional Gaelic aristocracy. Honora Burke was born at her father's estate at Portumna Castle in County Galway and was raised as a Roman Catholic. She was often referred to as Honora de Bugh during this period.


On 9 January 1689 in Portumna Abbey she took part in an apparently arranged marriage to Patrick Sarsfield, whom she had probably first met some time earlier in the year. Sarsfield was an experienced soldier now serving in the Irish Army of James II during the Williamite War in Ireland.

Sarsfield rose rapidly to become one of the dominant leaders of the Jacobite movement in Ireland, noted in particular for his raid on King William's artillery train shortly before the Siege of Limerick (1690). Following the defeat at the Battle of Aughrim and the surrender of Limerick following a second siege in 1691, Sarsfield led the defeated Irish Army to France to continue serving the exiled James II an event known as the Flight of the Wild Geese. Honora had probably left for France a year earlier with other Jacobite ladies.[1] Following a failed plan to invade England in 1692, Patrick Sarsfield was killed at the Battle of Landen the following year.

The widowed Honora, now living at the Jacobite court-in-exile at Saint-Germain near Paris, met and fell in love with James FitzJames, 1st Duke of Berwick. Berwick was the illegitimate son of James II and Arabella Churchill, and took up a military career at an early age. He had served alongside Sarsfield in Ireland. They married on 26 March 1695. The King was not overjoyed at the marriage, as he had wanted his son to make a grander match with that might assist the Jacobite cause.[2]

She died at the age of twenty four on 16 January 1698 of consumption, leaving her husband in "great grief".[3]


Her first marriage with Sarsfield produced two children. Their son was James Sarsfield, 2nd Earl of Lucan, who succeeded his father after his death, but held no formal rank in the Peerage of Ireland. As an adult he took part in Jacobite activities such as the planned 1719 Jacobite Rising in Ireland, but died of natural causes shortly afterwards.[4]

It is occasionally suggested that the Catalina Sarsfield who married a German adventurer who briefly established himself as King Theodore of Corsica, was a daughter of Honora and her first husband. In fact she came from a different branch of the Sarsfield family from County Limerick and was born in Nantes to David Sarsfield, a distant cousin of Patrick.

With Berwick she produced a son James Fitz-James Stuart, 2nd Duke of Berwick, who served in the Spanish Army and founded a powerful dynasty in the country.


  1. ^ Wauchope p.122
  2. ^ Wauchope p.299-300
  3. ^ Wauchope p.300
  4. ^ Wauchope p.300


  • Wauchope, Piers. Patrick Sarsfield and the Williamite War. Irish Academic Press, 1992.