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A Lost Cause
"Two Forces" shows ‘classical’ Britain using the sword of law to protect Ireland from Irish ‘anarchists’ and their demand for land reform
(Anti-Irish propaganda from Britain’s 19th Century ‘Punch’ magazine)


Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, in her groundbreaking visit to Dublin just two years ago, was quoted as saying that she wished that some things historic between England and the people of Ireland “had been done differently, or not at all”.  There is no question but that during her long reign she has tried to be a bridge so as to heal the remaining wounds resulting from those long-ago decisions.  This paper deals with something that should not have been done at all.

Queen Elizabeth II, Irish President Mary McAleese, and retired British Major-General David O’Morchoe (‘The O Morchoe’, Chief of the Murphy Clan and Chairman of the Royal British Legion in Ireland) at a wreath-laying ceremony in Islandbridge Dublin, the Irish War Memorial, 18 May 2011
(The Queen's visit to Ireland was the first by a British monarch since 1911)

Now, all the historic English legislation regarding Ireland impacted all Irish people to some degree or other – such as actions to eliminate Gaelic law and culture. Given that, some particular actions were also aimed at a segment or part of the population.   One of those segments was small and is actually now an extremely small percentage of the overall Irish nation.   They are those who descend from the formerly ruling Gaelic families, pre-Battle of Kinsale –  those who were the indigenous nobility of Gaelic Ireland, and who take pride in the accomplishments of their ancestors and who wish to maintain an awareness of what the cultural and governmental/organisational history really was. 

Centuries of false propaganda and centuries of servitude on many levels, until Irish Independence in1922, resulted in a totally incorrect conception of the Gaelic order of things, Chiefs-of-Name, etc.   Much of this was the result of deliberate English policy and prejudice, starting with their ‘Surrender and Regrant’ policy of the mid 1500’s and culminating with the 1587 law under the first Queen Elizabeth which ‘utterly abolished’ all Brehon law, Gaelic titles and successions, Irish cultural practices, language, religion, etc.    And that law was added to increasingly during the following centuries by specific local actions and other legislation.    The objective was to completely eliminate the centuries-old Gaelic culture and refer to the nobility of Ireland as no more than ‘Chiefs of Savage Clans’.    When in fact our culture and governmental genius was far older and more advanced than theirs, only different, which they refused to accept and thus decided to eliminate.   Forever.

Elizabeth Tudor, Queen of England and Ireland
7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603

Now, saying that, a new organisation, The Kingdom of Desmond Association, is only one of many recent initiatives among individuals, groups, academics, etc. to ‘recapture’ the total treasure of our history pre-Kinsale.    Which we ourselves have neglected since 1922 as is evident from simply looking at our own textbooks in our schools, which teach our own children very little about the Gaelic order of things, seemingly preferring to imply that Gaelic Ireland was a ‘republican’ world – which it never was.   In any case, given the better environment which exists today on many levels, and the statements of the Queen of the U.K., an approach was made to her to ‘right’ the historic prejudices against Gaelic (and gaelicised Norman-Irish) titleholders, whose rights were never relinquished in international law irrespective of the illegal surpression of our whole history by an invader, by force.

What follows will speak for itself and you, the readers, can make your own judgements.    You will see that the initiative was undertaken without accusations, and in a most courteous manner.    Only pointing out the historic injustice to the Irish nobility and the immense problems resultant both for those remaining in Ireland and those among ‘the Wild Geese’, for over 400 years and still continuing! The approach was via a letter with a ‘petition’ enclosed, carefully written so as to make it clear that the ‘House of Windsor’ many times gave and gives social recognition/acknowledgement to formerly ruling houses irrespective of the recognition of the ‘government’ of the U.K. to their successor governments.    In short, the petition was to the House of Windsor and not to the current government of the U.K. in any manner.   Likewise no attempt was made to involve the current government of Ireland.

The following is the letter sent from the Association:



Her Majesty Elizabeth II,
Queen of the United Kingdom and Head of the Royal House of Windsor
London, England, U.K. SW1A 1AA


May it please Your Majesty to give serious consideration to this ‘petition’.   And, please, accept that our writing to you directly and taking your time is because we sincerely believe that only you and your Royal House can assist us in this matter – that is, quietly and without any governmental actions.   We hope to explain herein.

First of all, we write based on your unblemished record of support for full and complete reconciliation between the peoples of the United Kingdom and the people of Ireland. We cannot without taking pages and pages recount the numerous acts you and your family have taken to effect total goodwill  - but will mention the recent visit of your good self, and the previous of your son HRH the Prince of Wales, etc., and the kind receptions you have given to heads of the current Irish Republic.   ETC.   On behalf of those of us who are titular holders of Gaelic titles, please accept our thanks and appreciation – for we indeed have noticed all you have done.   Your reign will go down in history, already is down in history, as one of desire for peace and as demonstrating a selfless energy to so accomplish a lasting peace and amity.

Now, you will find attached to this letter a summation of the issue we ask you, as head of the Royal House, to address.  The objective is just.  The objective is to eliminate another impediment between our peoples.  Yes, a rather minor one and one which affects only a small percentage of the current Irish population.  But one which has continued to exist for over 400 years, and which has proved to be ‘problem’ for those of us who hold Gaelic (pre Kinsale 1601-02) titles – in terms of legal and social acceptance.

It is an issue which we believe can be resolved by you, easily – and fully in accordance with previous positions of your Royal House.  And with no necessity for any full public discussion or polemics which would only open historical wounds which are best forgotten.  It can be laid to rest, which a positive response to our request to you will do – once and for all, privately and out of the sphere of any governmental action either on the part of your government or the current Irish government which succeeded the reign of your predecessors in Ireland and the reigns of the Gaelic kings of Ireland.

We address this to you as an Association interested in and dedicated to the history of the previous Kingdom of Desmond, which ended with the death of the last reigning MacCarthy Mor, King of Desmond, in 1596, and with Kinsale.  Within the ranks of our ‘participants’ are most of the hereditary Desmond titleholders still verified as such in spite of the centuries that have passed – and thus we speak for them.   But, on complete knowledge, we know that what we request is supported by all formerly reigning royal houses of Ireland and the nobility extant still under them.   That is, we believe this request is relevant for all who hold Gaelic titles, not only of those who hold of MacCarthy Mor, Prince of Desmond, but also for the houses of O Brien, Prince of Thomond, O Conor Don, Prince of Connaught, MacMorrough Kavanagh, Prince of Leinster, and both O Neill Mor, Prince of Ulster, and O Neill of Clanaboy, Prince of Clanaboy.  Further, it would be supported by the great majority of the Irish people if made public, as a positive initiative and as a continuation of your already much-appreciated record of undoing issues which divide. This we believe to be true, however much the ordinary Irishman today is totally ‘republican’ and wishes no return of any monarchy, including those which existed within the Gaelic order of state for untold centuries. In short, what we address is not in any form or manner a ‘monarchist’ initiative.  We all accept and support the current Irish State and its constitution.   Of that we assure you.


We most respectfully request your consideration and look forward to a favourable reply.   As said, we believe this is the simplest way to resolve this rather small issue in the large scheme of things.   And  it is ‘just’.   It is the right thing to do and we believe within your discretion without any governmental involvements or public discourses.


With warm regards and respect for Your Majesty and the Royal Family,

we have the honour to remain, Madam,



By:    Lieutenant Colonel Leonard M. Keane, Jr.
         The O Cahan, Chief-of-the-Name
         In the name of all members of the Association

Association website: desmondasn@webs.com

The following is the petition enclosed with the letter:


This petition is to request that Your Majesty assist via a simple declaration to remove the effects of previous legislations/directives concerning Gaelic royal and noble titles, and the Brehon laws of Ireland by which they were and are governed.


1.      In no way is this petition requesting any ‘governmental’ action on the part of the current governments of either the U.K. or the Republic of Ireland.   We believe such a course of action is unnecessary and could possibly result in polemics; any of that can be avoided totally;

2.      In no way does this petition involve any of the hundreds of ‘Irish’ titles created by a government of the U.K. or of Great Britain or of England. Those titles, the source of honour for which is the Crown of England, etc. are outside of this petition, and are indeed internationally recognised.   They bear no relation to this petition which involves only Gaelic titles and Gaelic royal houses in actual rule until the Battle of Kinsale in 1602 - afterwhich actual rule ceased.  Thus titles such as Duke of Leinster, Viscount Gormanston, Baron of Fermoy, etc., are not the subject of this petition;

3.      And again it is stressed that this petition is addressed to Her Majesty as Head of the House of Windsor, for her private consideration and only in the hope that she will continue her much applauded efforts to effect reconciliations in every possible area.

References/the Issue:

Beginning with the policy of ‘Surrender and Regrant’ under HM King Henry VIII, it was the policy of the then government to require renunciations of all titles held by Gaelic royals.   In various pieces of legislation and in directives, it was clearly stated that all Gaelic titles were to ‘henceforth cease, end, and to be utterly abolished and extinct forever’ (Act of 1587).

As these legislations/directives are no longer operative, no rescinding of them is requested by this petition.  Yet, in the over 400 years since their implementation they have had an adverse effect upon titled Gaelic families and continue to draw unnecessary criticism from Irish and international writers, all of which can be avoided in the future.

A summary of these legislations and their impact is very well and succinctly covered in the book by the distinguished Gaelic scholar, Peter Berresford Ellis, in his Erin’s Blood Royal: the Gaelic Noble Dynasties of Ireland, Palgrave Press, New York, 2002, 2nd edition.  Additionally, current Garter King of Arms (formerly Norroy & Ulster King of Arms) is totally versed in this area, and much respected by Gaelic titleholders for his profound understanding of Brehon Law, Gaelic successions, etc.   Indeed the Office of Arms has on occasion in history taken notice of the Gaelic titles in preparing pedigrees etc. for Gaelic titleholders living outside of Ireland, etc., notably one prepared for the MacCarthy Counts of Toulouse in the 18th century.

Impacts/history re Gaelic royal houses:

After 1602 as mentioned the ‘Gaelic order of things’ completely ceased.   That is history.  And this is not to discuss the rights or wrongs of history.  These things happened and here we list only the results as far as impacting Gaelic royals, etc.

1.      Losing all, the Gaelic royal houses could not function as such except in exile; even in exile, they were forced to ‘deal’ with the laws of their abolishment – and this often involved other governments/their heralds not granting recognitions, or only after prolonged presentations of facts from the Gaelic point-of-view, labourious, time-consuming, expensive.  Yes, a number of recognitions were achieved but they were and all minimal:  the use of ‘prince’ by the Papacy in addressing ex-Irish royals; the recognition even in 1613 by Spain of the title of O Sullivan Bere (Ard Tiarna of Dunboy) and giving the ‘equivalency’ of Conde or Count, which is correct for an Ard Tiarna of Desmond – and noting that such equivalency was not the grant of a new title but indeed simply a recognition of what O Sullivan Bere already was under the Gaelic order.   The governments of France likewise gave equivalency to a few Gaelic peers, notably the MacCarthy Reagh noble house which was recognised as comital.   Again, these were recognitions of pre-existing royal/noble status, and not ‘new grants’ of titles (though numerous Gaelic nobles in exile did indeed receive new grants of titles to include presently the O Neill Mors and O Donnells in Spain, respectively holding ducal titles from the Spanish king).

2.      The press and numerous books, up to the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty establishing the Irish Free State, were discriminatory about Gaelic titles, often referring to Gaelic lords as simply ‘chiefs of savage clans’, etc. Beginning in the mid-19th century, with the removal of various penal laws, some scholars both English and Irish did come to a better understanding of the Gaelic order of things pre-1602, and published. This work continues but the ‘residue’ of negativity about Gaelic titles and the accomplishments of the Gaelic kings still remains.

3.      Additionally, due to other cultural, economic, and historical factors on the ground in Ireland, the knowledge by Irish people of their own royal houses sank to a low level.   But now, as mentioned, Irish scholars and others are indeed paying more attention to our nobiliary history pre-1602.    And this initiative is indeed part of that quest.

The Petition and precedents:

This requests that the Royal House of Windsor issue to us a simple declaration which will be of immense benefit to Gaelic royals/nobles.   It is requested that it be issued as just a statement by the Royal House of Windsor, not binding in any legal way, and certainly not as a governmental action.

Such an action would have enormous positive acceptance by the Gaelic nobility, and as time passes would also show the world in general that Her Majesty indeed did ‘the right thing’ thus continuing the policy of goodwill and reconciliation, albeit this proclamation is now directed only to a small portion of the total Irish population.

We beg your indulgence for suggesting something along the lines of what follows:

‘This is to state that the Royal House of Windsor subscribes to the general international law that ex-reigning houses succeeded by different forms of government still retain their historic royal status and various rights enjoyed while actually reigning.   Our government recognises the successor states and indeed we have good diplomatic relations with such states.   But it is the prerogative of Our House to continue to privately maintain recognitions and acceptances of former royals and nobles of countries formerly monarchical, such as India, Italy, Bulgaria, Greece, Rumania, etc. in accordance with general international law.

And now we state that formerly reigning royals of Gaelic Ireland are likewise accorded such recognitions by the House of Windsor, irrespective of historical actions to the contrary.

This is issued as a private statement with no relation to our current government or of the government of the Republic of Ireland, only to facilitate acceptances internationally by Gaelic royal and noble families which existed pre 1602 and which continue to this day’.


Other than Gaelic royals and nobles, we are not aware of any of the royals of any other countries having had their status ‘abolished’ by law.    With positive action on this petition, while not governmental, that ‘abolition’ as an issue will disappear. With immense appreciation, we look forward to favourable action and know that such will almost result in the complete diminution of embarrassing criticism of the actions re abolition of Gaelic titles in history.

The following is the reply received from Buckingham Palace

You will note that the reply deliberately did not salute the writer, who is a Gaelic Chief-of-Name, with his title.   Even though he signed the letter as such.   It is clear that ‘no social recognition’ flows from the Buckingham Palace reply, in total, for Gaelic ex-royals as well as for all other titleholders of Gaelic origin designations.

So, now commenting in some detail, the reply contains little information as to why the Queen made a choice to not personally ‘intervene’.   That is stated as a final conclusion without giving any reasons.   It also must now be stated that it obviously differs from many previous ‘interventions’ by the House of Windsor acting privately and not in any official governmental capacity.   For as alluded to in the introduction above to the letter and petition, the Kingdom of Desmond Association was asking not just to correct an historic wrong but also to simply extend to formerly-reigning Gaelic royal houses, etc. what the House of Windsor has already done on numerous occasions.   That is, to ‘socially’ recognise, as is just and correct under international law, that descendants/claimants to previously-reigning royal houses still exist and retain their hereditary rights under international law.  Which rights ex-reigning Gaelic families have, and need no ‘approval’ of the House of Windsor for those inalienable rights – that was not what was requested. What was requested was House of Windsor acknowledgement of those rights with the concurrent social recognition, solely – as that House has no authority to approve Gaelic titles any more than the government of England had in 1587 the authority legally to ‘utterly abolish’ Gaelic titles and culture.

There was much recent publicity concerning the 60th Anniversary of accession of the Queen of the U.K.   As I write this, I am looking at photos from Ola – the Spanish version of the  U.K. periodical Hello (a picture/gossip/famous people magazine – which is very popular).    In one we see a large group picture with the Queen sitting in the middle of the first row.    Included in the photo are many royals who for one reason or another are no longer reigning in their respective countries:  such as the ‘exs’ of Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Greece, Thailand ... along with some of the current reigning people to include a number from Muslin countries such as Jordan, Quatar, Saudi Arabia, plus a few from countries as far wide as Lesoto and Tonga.   In addition, it is known that the House of Windsor certainly gives social acceptance to formerly reigning royals of such as Portugal, Russia, Italy, etc.   NOTE:  forgive the writer if other ‘exs’ were missed as we’ve never seen a complete list of who is socially recognised but certainly we’ve not listed the many Maharajahs of  India when that country had ruling families.

(Anti-Irish propaganda from Britain’s 19th Century ‘Punch’ magazine)

None of those formerly-reigning houses have the longevity of the Gaelic houses  - - which go back to the earliest centuries of the Christian era and even before, stated correctly to be the oldest houses in Europe.   Indeed several of the ‘exs’ in the photo with Queen Elizabeth go back no farther than the 19th century when, as cadets of German royal houses, etc., they were placed on the thrones of countries liberated from the Ottoman Empire, e.g. Serbia (Yugoslavia), Greece, Bulgaria, etc.  That was accomplished via accords among the ‘Great Powers’ and Bismarck played a leading role.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II hosts some of the world’s monarchs and non-reigning royals 
 London, 18 May 2012

The key is that all of these formerly-reigning royals were replaced by successor governments which the U.K. government accepts and has relations with.   But that is not in conflict with the Queen, as head of the House of Windsor, continuing separately to acknowledge the representatives of the formerly-reigning houses of those countries.

The ‘petition’ asked only that the same courtesy be extended to formerly-reigning Gaelic royal families;  and, yes, by doing so to also remove the wound of having said that the whole of Gaelic civilisation and culture was to be utterly abolished!

The Queen missed the opportunity to put substance behind her remarks made when visiting Dublin.   While others are admitted, it seems that the sign outside Buckingham Palace is still ‘No Irish Need Apply’ at least as far as acknowledging the Gaelic royal families, which exist irrespective of the centuries which have elapsed per international law.

Perfidious Albion, also again?    In conclusion, this ‘initiative’ was taken in good faith and for good reasons.   Once denied, it is doubtful that any other petition to the House of Windsor will succeed.   Given the sensitivity of Irish-U.K. relations, it is doubtful that a civil servant made the decision without the express knowledge of the person to whom the petition was addressed:  Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

If the reply had been different, this article would have been very different, full of praise and appreciation for an act of justice.   The reply to the reply follows, to close this article:


August 18th 2012

Mrs. Sonia Bonici
Senior Correspondence Officer to Her Majesty,
Buckingham Palace
London, England, U.K.
Dear Mrs. Bonici,
This acknowledges yours of 9 August, re the decision of the Queen not to intervene on behalf of our petition concerning Gaelic titles.
The Association regrets the decision but accepts it as final, and no further ‘petition’ action will be taken.
We of course will make the reply known to those most interested, and in general among the Irish people.   We believe that the decision is the incorrect one, given that Her Majesty has ‘intervened’ numerous times as regards social recognition by the House of Windsor of representatives of other formerly reigning Houses - irrespective of how her government has relations with their successor states. 
To us, there seemed to be no conflict about extending the same courtesy to former sovereigns of Ireland as a private House of Windsor action separate from the official recognitions between the governments of Ireland and the U.K. - thus the petition in the first place.
Yours sincerely,



Ó Catháin   (Signed)

Lieutenant Colonel Leonard M. Keane, Jr.,                                                             The O’Cahan, Chief of Name


Written by Chevalier William F.K. Marmion, M.A.,
at the request of the
and with its approval


Celt Knot   


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 Last updated 27 April, 2013