Lordship of Coshmaing

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Map of 16th century territory of the Lordship of Coshmaing, in present-day Co. Kerry, Ireland. Adapted from: W.F. Butler; "Pedigree and Succession of the House of MacCarthy Mór, With a Map'"; Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland"; Vol. 51, May 1920.[1]

As a republic, Ireland today does not grant or bestow titles of nobility. Yet, many Irish people are very familiar with titles of English derivation continuing in use by Irish citizens. These include persons styled as Duke, Viscount, Baron, etc. However, in the past 20 – 30 years, some groups (e.g., the Standing Council of Irish Chiefs and Chieftains – the SCICC), in attempting to raise awareness of, and cultural identification with, historic Gaelic Ireland, have made the public aware that Irish titles have existed for millennia, and continue to exist today, usually as family inheritances. There are Irishmen seated on the SCICC who are accurately and legitimately styled as Prince and Lord. Within the Gaelic nobility of Ireland, however, these titles were regarded as secondary, as the highest prestige belonged to the Gaelic title of Chief of the Name.

These titles no longer attach to any territories. They are honorifics, or, in legal parlance, "incorporeal hereditaments." Any lands which historically related to any given title, have long since become simply footnotes in the history of the title. In some cases, historically provable Gaelic-Irish titles which resided (as incorporeal hereditaments) within the patrimony of Gaelic-Irish royal houses have been re-granted in modern times, in instances where the male line of the original title-holder(s) became extinct.


The Lordship of Coshmaing (also spelled variously as "Cosmaigne," "Coshmang," "Cois Mainge," etc.) was created in the 14th century when the King of Desmond, Cormac MacCarthy Mór (d. 1359), granted an appanage[2] to his third son, Eoghan. (NB: His second son, Diarmud, was granted the appanage of the Lordship of Muskerry.) Thus established the family/sept of Sliocht Eoghan (Owen) Mór of Coshmaing, which was located in today's County Kerry, Ireland, Barony of Magunihy, Province of Munster (see map).

Butler described the inception of Coshmaing thusly: "...Eoghan was given the lordship of Coshmaing. This district stretched from the modern boundary of Cork across the northern and western parts of the barony of Magunihy to close to Castlemaine....";[3] and, "The area of Coshmaing according to the Lambeth Survey was twenty-three quarters and a half and a third of a quarter.... Sir William Herbert estimates the area of Coshmaing at 88 ploughlands, and an inquisition of 1634 gives it as 105 ploughlands."[4]

"Coshmaing was a frontier district, forming a barrier between the lands of the Geraldines and the rest of the Kerry lands of the MacCarthys. In the same way Muskerry formed a frontier barrier to the east,, and Duhallow to the north-east against the foreigner." [5]


As a "frontier" district, Coshmaing served as a buffer between the MacCarthy territories of Desmond (MacCarthys Mór, MacCarthy Reaghs of Carbery, and MacCarthys of Muskerry). It was the northernmost line of MacCarthy defence in the almost-constant conflict with the Norman-Irish family of the Earls of Desmond, the FitzGeralds (Geraldines). Interestingly, the MacCarthys and FitzGeralds, at least once, combined their defences against "new" invaders: the town of Castlemaine (although not technically within the territory of Coshmaing) "...takes its name from a castle erected on a bridge over the river Maine by McCarthy More and the Earl of Desmond, as a defence to their frontiers."[6]

The Lordship of Coshmaing is a Paramount lordship, of comital (Count) rank (Gaelic: Ard Tiarna na Cois Mainge). The original Lord of Coshmaing, Eoghan Mór MacCarthy, head of Sliocht Eoghan of Coshmaing, granted sub-lordships to his two sons: Cormac (West Coshmaing), and Donal (East Coshmaing, known as the Lordship of Molahiffe [tiarnas/baronial-rank]). In turn, Cormac's two sons also received grants of sub-lordships (tiarnas) – Donal (Lord of Clonmeallane), and Eoghan/Owen (Lord of Fieries – in Gaelic, foithre, meaning "woods").[7] The lordships of Molahiffe, Fieries and Clonmeallane each had castles that survived for various tenures up until the Cromwellian Confisacations (ca. 1649–53).

Devolution of the Title[edit]

In The MacCarthys of Munster, Samuel Trant MacCarthy (Mór) describes the end of the original main line of Coshmaing as follows: "The Calendar of Patent Rolls of Elizabeth A.D. 1588, mentions Teige MacDermod MacCormac as apparently the last Lord of Coshmang.... slain in a skirmish near Aghadoe (ca. 1581)."[8] Among the cadet lines of the original Sliocht Eoghan of Coshmaing, only the male line of what is believed to be the Molahiffe branch descended into the 19th century. The last known possible claimant to the Coshmaing title was Brig. Gen. Sir Charles MacCarthy, who died (without issue) in an 1824 battle with the Ashantis, in Sierra Leone, Africa.[9]

Under Gaelic-Irish Brehon law, a title granted by a royal/noble house re-vests in the house of the overlordship when the male line of the title-holder becomes extinct. Thus, the title of the Lord (Ard Tiarna) of Coshmaing re-vested with the Royal House of MacCarthy Mór as of 1581, and was never claimed by any of the Coshmaing cadet line descendants of Molahiffe, Fieries, or Clonmeallane. Similarly, as those cadet lines became extinct, their baronial-rank lordship titles re-vested in the overlordship of Coshmaing. As said, when that house became extinct, all of the sub-lordship titles also re-vested in the overlordship of MacCarthy Mór.


  1. ^ Butler; JRSAI, May 1920; p.33.
  2. ^ Appanage – the grant of an estate, titles, offices, or other things of value to the younger (non-successor) male children of a sovereign.
  3. ^ Butler; JRSAI; 1920; p.43.
  4. ^ Butler; JCHAS; 1928; p.4.
  5. ^ Butler; JRSAI; 1920; p.43.
  6. ^ Lewis, Samuel; A Topographical History of Ireland"; London; 1837
  7. ^ MacCarthy (Mór); MacCarthys of Munster; 1921; pp. 266–267.
  8. ^ MacCarthy (Mór); MacCarthys of Munster; 1921; p. 268.
  9. ^ MacCarthy (Mór); MacCarthys of Munster; 1921; pp. 271–273.


  • Butler,Prof. W.; "The Divisions of South Munster Under the Tudors"; Journal of the Cork Historical & Archaeological Society; Second Series – Vol. III, No. 28; April 1897.
  • Butler, W.F.; "Pedigree and Succession of the House of MacCarthy Mór, With a Map'"; Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland; Vol. 51, May 1920.
  • Duhallow, Lord of; "Gaelic Titles and Forms of Address"; 2d Edition, 1997; Irish Genealogical Foundation, Kansas City, MO; pp. 68 & 69; ISBN 0-940134-27-6.
  • MacCarthy (Mór), Samuel Trant; The MacCarthys of Munster; Chapter XV (The Lords of Coshmang); Dundalk Press; 1921.
  • O'Laughlin, Michael C.; "Families of County Kerry, Ireland"; 1994; Irish Genealogical Foundation; Kansas City, MO; pp. 20 & 22; ISBN 0-940134-36-5.

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