Burgh, Richard de, second Earl of Ulster and fourth Earl of Connaught 1259?-1326, was the eldest son of Walter de Burgh [qv.], first earl of Ulster, by his wife Avelina, sister of Richard FitzJohn, baron of the Isles of Thomond (Cal. Genealog. ii. 540). He succeeded to his father in 1271, but, being at that time a minor, was brought over to the king at Woodstock before the end of 1274, while his lands were entrusted to the custody of William Fitzwarenne in 1 Edward I (Sweetman, ii. 941, 1077, 1520, 1629). It may be inferred that he came of age about 1280; for though he had not taken seisin of his Ulster estates by 4 Nov. 1279, he had already been at open war with his former guardian before July 1282. Hence it is probable that he was born in 1259 (ib. 1601, 1918, with which cf. 1629). He had married before the end of February 1281 (ib. 1794), Margaret, said to be a daughter of John de Burgh, baron of Lanville, and great-grandson of Hubert de Burgh [qv.].
De Burgh was constantly embroiled with the native Irish kings, especially of Connaught, his own lordship. Thus in 1286, when he makes his first great appearance in Irish history, he deposed Brian O'Neill from the supreme sovereignty of the natives of Ireland, and conferred the office on Niall Culanach O'Neill. Five years later he had to restore Niall, who had been in the meanwhile driven out by his rival, whom the earl in the course of a few months expelled from the country (Annals of Loch Cé sub annis). On Niall's death he placed another nominee of his own on the throne (ib.). In Connaught he played a similar part. In 1286 he burst into the province, plundering monasteries and churches, and receiving hostages everywhere, and before the year was out used the army of Connaught to reduce the septs of Cenet Eogtain and Cenel-Connaill. In 1292 he attacked Magnus O'Conor, king of Connaught, the representative of that branch of the house of the last great Irish king before the conquest, which his ancestor, William de Burgh, had driven from the throne, and forced him to do submission at his castle of Milic. In the same manner De Burgh and his brothers William and Theobald are found supporting the claims of Aedh O'Conor, the descendant of their great-grandfather's nominee, Cathal Crobdherg (1296). Many years later (1309-10) the De Burghs were instrumental in securing the accession of Aedh's son, Felim O'Conor, who, however, did not scruple in the Scotch invasion of 1315 to negotiate with Edward Bruce, till the success of his rival, Roderic O'Conor, forced him to supplicate the earl's assistance. The Irish chronicles mention by name three castles that were built by De Burgh, viz. Ballimote in co. Sligo (1300), Greencastle in Galway (1305), and Sligo Castle (1310). In 1316 Felim O'Conor destroyed Milic Castle, the great Connaught fortress that had been founded in the early days of the English conquest (1203) by William de Burgh (Annals of Loch Cé).
De Burgh was summoned to serve against the king of France in 1294, and again in 1297, on the understanding that he should attend the king in person (Sweetman, iv. 396, 399, 452). All through the latter years of Edward I's reign, and the earlier years of Edward II, till 1322, he received summons regularly for the Scotch expeditions (Parl. Writs, i. passim). Thus he led more than sixteen hundred men from Ireland for the Balliol campaign of 1296; and at the second conquest of 1304 it was he who received (February) the submission of the Scotch governor, John Comyn (Hist. Doc. of Scotland, ii. 124; Excheq. Rolls of Scotland, No. 1451; Palgrave, i. 282). Before setting out on this expedition he is said to have made thirty-three knights in Dublin Castle (Bodley MS. Laud 526, ap. Gilbert, ii. 321). In these campaigns he spent his money so lavishly on the king's behalf, that in 1308 more than 2,000l. was still owing to him by the crown, out of an original debt of 4,000l. (Irish Close Rolls, 7 b).
A great part of De Burgh's life was occupied with his hereditary feud with the Geraldines. In 1294 this feud reached a climax, when Lord John FitzThomas of Kildare suddenly made the Earl of Ulster a prisoner, and detained him in his castle from 6 Dec. to 12 March, when he was released by order of a parliament at Kilkenny. Edward declared that he would decide between them (October 1295), and summoned both nobles to attend him abroad (May 1297), their dispute being for the time postponed. In the interim the earl took the matter into his own hands, and the quarrel was not settled till 1302 (30 Edward I), when John FitzThomas was sentenced to forfeit 120 librates in Connaught (Sweetman, iv. 268, 399, 514; Gilbert, Chartularies, ii. 323; Book of Howth, 53). Ten years later (1312) the two families were still further reconciled by the marriage of Thomas, the son and heir of Lord John FitzThomas, with a daughter of De Burgh; and of another daughter, Catherine, with Maurice FitzThomas of Desmond (Book of Howth, 129, 133, 363). In 1311 the earl seems to have been at war in Thomond with Thomas de Clare, who in this year took William de Burgh a prisoner (ib. 128, with which cf. Fifteenth Century Chron. and Loch Cé sub ann.). About the same time, according to Mr. Gilbert, he attempted to dislodge the De Verduns and De Mortimers from Meath (Viceroys, 133).
When Edward Bruce invaded Ireland in May 1315, and having gained possession of Ulster was proclaimed king, De Burgh raised an army to oppose him, and followed his retreat towards the Bann. When Felim O'Conor, his ally, began to waver, he fell back into Connaught with the loss of his brother William, who was taken prisoner by the Scotch (10 Sept.), but released in the course of the next year. In July 1316 the earl and the other Irish lords took an oath to defend their country; but notwithstanding this, on the approach of Bruce towards Dublin, he was apprehended by the mayor and confined in the castle (February 1317), while two ambassadors were despatched to Edward II to consult as to his fate. This imprisonment was probably due to a fear lest he should prove only half loyal in the contest that was about to ensue with his son-in-law Robert Bruce. He was released by Ascension day, but not before the son of his old rival, Thomas FitzJohn, had led the Ultonians against the Scots (Fourteenth Cent. Chron. and Fifteenth Cent. Chron., ap. Gilbert's Chartularies; Annals of Loch Cé).
De Burgh was the most powerful of the English nobles in Ireland, in which country, according to Mr. Gilbert, his name preceded that of the viceroy in the royal writs. Besides the lordship of Connaught and the earldom of Ulster he inherited estates in Munster by right of his mother, Avelina, one of the heiresses of Richard FitzJohn (Sweetman, iv. 638). Earlier in his life he appears to have held the Isle of Man, which, however, he had restored to the king by 1290 (Hist. Doc. of Scotl. i. 156). Towards the close of his career he was occasionally summoned to attend the English parliaments, as, for example, those of Westminster in Lent 1308, and Lincoln in 1318. He was appointed lieutenant of Ireland 15 June 1308, but his commission was next day cancelled in favour of Piers Gaveston. Early in 1310 he was present at the great Kilkenny parliament for the pacification of the Irish barons. Sixteen years later, after attending a parliament at the same place, he gave a farewell banquet, and retired to the monastery of Athassil, near Cashel, where he died almost immediately, before Midsummer day 1326 (Fourteenth and Fifteenth Cent. Chron.; cf. Irish Rolls, 35, &c.).
Richard de Burgh was the father of a large family. His eldest son, Walter, died in 1304 (Loch Cé), and the great De Burgh estates devolved on the issue of a younger son, John (d. 1313), who in 1308 married Elizabeth, sister of Gilbert de Clare, last earl of Gloucester (Cal. Pat. Rolls, 81 b, 99 b; Ann. Lond. et Paul. i. 156, 264). Another son, Thomas, died in 1316 (Fourteenth Cent. Chron.). To these may be added Edmund (Irish Rolls, 40), and, according to Lodge, William. Of his daughters, one, Elizabeth by name, married Robert Bruce, then earl of Carrick (Fifteenth Cent. Chron., cf. sub an. 1302); a second, Matilda, married Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester (Escheat Rolls, i. 271); and a third, Joan, married first Lord Thomas FitzJohn, and secondly Sir John d'Arcy, the justiciar (Fifteenth Cent. Chron. Book of Howth, 155). Katherine de Burgh, a fourth daughter, married Lord Maurice FitzThomas (ib.; cf., however, Lodge, i., who adds Margaret and Eleanor).
Lodge's Peerage of Ireland, i., which must, however, be used with caution
Irish Close and Patent Rolls
Escheat Rolls, i. ii.
Parliamentary Writs, i. ii.
Calendar of Patent Rolls from John to Edward IV
Fine Rolls (ed. Roberts), i. ii.
Calendar of Documents relating to Ireland (ed. Sweetman), ii. iii. iv.
Calendarium Genealogicum, i. ii.
Report on the Dignity of a Peer, ii.
Annals of Loch Cé (ed. Henessey)
Trokelowe (ed. Riley)
Annales Londin. et Paulin. ap. Chronicles of Ed. I and II (ed. Stubbs)
Documents relating to Scotland (ed. Palgrave), i.
Gilbert's Viceroys of Ireland
Exchequer Rolls of Scotland (ed. Stuart and Burnett), i.
Hist. Documents of Scotland (ed. Stevenson), i. ii. The Chartularies of St. Mary's, Dublin (ed. Gilbert), ii., contain copies of two manuscripts (Add. MS. 4792 and Bodley MS. Laud 526), which are assigned from their handwriting to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries respectively. The Book of Howth and Bodley MS. Laud 613 contain many transcripts of documents relating to early Irish history.
Contributor: T. A. A. [Thomas Andrew Archer]