Randal Macsorley MacDonnell, 1st Earl of Antrim

Is your surname MacDonnell?

Research the MacDonnell family

Randal Macsorley MacDonnell, 1st Earl of Antrim's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Randal MacSorley MacDonnell, Earl of Antrim

Birthplace: Dunluce, Antrim, Ireland
Death: December 10, 1636 (75-84)
Dunluce, Antrim, Ulster, Ireland
Immediate Family:

Son of Sorley Boy MacDonnell and Mary O'Neill
Husband of Alice MacDonnell
Father of Randal MacDonnell, 2nd Earl and 1st Marquis of Antrim; Mary Plunkett, Lady; Alexander MacDonnell, 3rd Earl of Antrim; Catherine Plunkett and Lady Anne Mac Donnell
Brother of Sir James MacDonnell; Unknown MacDonnell; Catherine MacDonnell of Antrim; Alice Hill; Unknown MacDonnell and 4 others

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Randal Macsorley MacDonnell, 1st Earl of Antrim


Randal Macsorley MacDonnell, 1st Earl of Antrim (died December 10, 1636), (called "Arranach" in Irish/Scottish Gaelic) (meaning "of Arran") having been fostered in the Gaelic manner on the Scottish island of Arran by the Hamiltons, was the 4th son of Sorley Boy MacDonnell, and of Mary, daughter of Conn O'Neill, 1st Earl of Tyrone.

He fought at first against the English government, participating in his brother James's victory over Sir John Chichester at Carrickfergus in November 1597, and joining in O'Neill's rebellion in 1600. But on December 16 he signed articles with Sir Arthur Chichester and was granted protection; in 1601 he became head of his house by his elder brother's death, his pardon being confirmed to him; and in 1602 he submitted to Lord Mountjoy and was knighted.

On the accession of James I in 1603 he obtained a grant of the Route and the Glynns (Glens) districts, together with the island of Rathlin, and remained faithful to the government in spite of the unpopularity he thereby incurred among his kinsmen, who conspired to depose him. In 1607 he successfully defended himself against the charge of disloyalty on the occasion of the flight of the earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, and rendered services to the government by settling and civilizing his districts, being well received the following year by James in London.

In 1618 he was created Viscount Dunluce, and subsequently he was appointed a privy councillor and lord-lieutenant of the county of Antrim. On December 12, 1620 he was created Earl of Antrim. In 1621 he was charged with harbouring Roman Catholic priests, confessed his offence and was pardoned. He offered his assistance in 1625 during the prospect of a Spanish invasion, but was still regarded as a person that needed watching. His arbitrary conduct in Ireland in 1627 was suggested as a fit subject for examination by the Star Chamber, but his fidelity to the government was strictly maintained to the last. In 1631 he was busy repairing Protestant churches, and in 1634 he attended the Irish parliament.

He made an important agreement in 1635 for the purchase from James Campbell, Lord Cantire, of the lordship of Cantire, or Kintyre, of which 'the MacDonnells had been dispossessed in 1600 by Argyll; but his possession was successfully opposed by Lord Lorne Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll.

He was an important figure in the plantation of Ulster, essentially settling his estate with large numbers of Protestants from the Scottish lowlands (though he himself remained an important patron of Catholic monastic foundations in his lands). He also build grand houses, in the English style, on his lands: again suggesting his willing co-operation with the English project of 'civilising' Ireland known as surrender and regrant. His approach to the English crown has been characterised as "unconscious colonialism." It has also been suggested he was inspired by James IV of Scotland's failed attempts to 'plant' the Western Isles.

Antrim married Alice, daughter of Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, by whom, besides six daughters, he had Randal, 2nd earl and 1st marquess of Antrim, and Alexander, 3rd earl. Three other sons, Maurice, Francis and James, were probably illegitimate. The earldom has continued in the family down to the present day, the 11th earl (b. 1851) succeeding in 1869. See also An Historical Account of the MacDonnells of Antrim, by G Hill (1873).

view all

Randal Macsorley MacDonnell, 1st Earl of Antrim's Timeline

Dunluce, Antrim, Ireland
Antrim, UK
Ballycastle, County Antrim, Ireland
Glenarm, Antrim, Ireland
December 10, 1636
Age 80
Dunluce, Antrim, Ulster, Ireland