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Such infighting was typical in all the Gaelic lordships of Ireland, the only unusual feature of the Mac Carthy situation being that it was not resolved by actual violence.For this reason, the English described ‘tanistry’ as a barbarous method of succession and attempted to impose primogeniture inheritance.Desmond, (not to be confused with the Fitzgerald Earldom to the north) was the largest of the three, located in the mountainous region of west Cork and southern Kerry and was, as Florence would later write, ‘the back and strength of Munster’ because of its rugged terrain that made it difficult to subdue.George Carew would call it, ‘that rough and mountainous land…unfit for honest men to dwell on’. The lord of this territory was the Mac Carthy Mór, with authority not only over the dependent septs within Desmond, such as the O’Sullivans, but also superiority over all the Mac Carthys in Munster.On the one hand, he was to receive protection and manpower from his ‘kindred and friends’ (which is the literal translation of ).
The Mac Carthys were a ruling sept, believing themselves to be descended from the pre-conquest kings of Munster.
The third main Mac Carthy lordship was in Muskerry, which was centred on Blarney and which abutted Cork city, the lord of which was Cormac Mac Taig Mac Carthy.
Although these septs were distinct, it was possible for a Mac Carthy of one line to become the chief of another, as Florence (albeit with the help of marriage) was to become Mac Carthy Mór.
A dissertation submitted to the National University of Ireland in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts at University College Dublin. 1560-1583 Finian Mac Donagh (better known as Florence) Mac Carthy was born in Carberry in around 1560 as the son of Donagh Mac Carthy, the Mac Carthy Reagh – chief of the Mac Carthys of Carberry.
In this chapter, I will outline Florence’s early life, and outline the structure of the society he was born into.