O'Kelly, Charles (DNB00)

O'KELLY, CHARLES (1621–1695), Irish historian, the elder son of John O’Kelly, eighth lord of the manor of Screen, co. Galway, by Isma, daughter of Sir William Hill of Ballybeg, co. Carlow, was born at the castle of Screen in 1621, and educated in the Irish College at St. Omer. Soon after the outbreak of the civil war in Ireland he was summoned home to join the royal arm. He accordingly returned in 1642, and obtained the command of a troop of horse under the Marquis of Ormonde. After the ultimate triumph of the parliamentarians he retired, with two thousand of his countrymen, into Spain to serve Charles II. On hearing, however, that Charles was in France, he proceeded thither with most of the officers and soldiers belonging to the corps which he was appointed to command. When Cardinal Mazarin and Oliver Cromwell concluded the treaty of alliance against Spain, in consequence of which the royal family of England were obliged to quit France, O'Kelly and other exiles transferred their services to the crown of Spain.

He came to England on the restoration of Charles II, and, his father dying in 1674, he succeeded to the family estate, becoming ninth lord of the manor of Screen. His name appears on the list of the twenty-four burgesses of the reformed corporation of Athlone in 1687. In the parliament summoned by James II to meet at Dublin in 1689, O'Kelly sat as member for the county of Roscommon. He was commissioned in the same year to levy a regiment of infantry for the king's service, to be commanded by himself, with his brother John as his lieutenant-colonel. This regiment was not long maintained, though he continued to serve the king with the title of colonel. He undertook to defend the province of Connaught, under the direction of Brigadier Patrick Sarsfield [q. v.], with such force of the county militia as could be collected. Colonel Thomas Lloyd [q. v.] defeated this force on 19 Sept. 1689, but O'Kelly, on the rout of his infantry, escaped with his cavalry. He was one of the garrison of the island of Bofin, on the western coast, at the time of its capitulation to the forces of King William on 20 Aug. 1691. Subsequently he was appointed to guard a strong castle near Lough Glin, but he was compelled to surrender this post about 9 Sept., whereupon he proceeded to Limerick, then besieged by Baron de Ginkell. On the conclusion of the treaty of Limerick he retired to his residence at Aughrane, or Castle Kelly, where he died in 1695.

He married Margaret, daughter of Teige O'Kelly, esq., of Gallagh, co. Galway, and had one son, Denis, who became a captain in the Irish army of King James II, and on whose death in 1740 the family in the male line became extinct.

Under disguised names he described the struggle between James II and William III in Ireland in a curious work entitled ‘Macariæ Excidium; or the Destruction of Cyprus, containing the last Warr and Conquest of that Kingdom. Written originally in Syriac by Philotas Phylocypres. Translated into Latin by Gratianus Ragallus, P.R. And now Made into English by Colonel Charles O'Kelly,’ 1692. This was first printed in 1841 by the Camden Society in ‘Narratives illustrative of the Contests in Ireland in 1641 and 1690,’ under the editorship of Thomas Crofton Croker, and from a manuscript in his possession. It was afterwards ‘edited, from four English copies, and a Latin manuscript in the Royal Irish Academy,’ by John Cornelius O'Callaghan, and printed for the Irish Archæological Society, Dublin, 1850, 4to. The Latin translation, made by the Rev. John O'Reilly, preserves many passages not found in the English version. O'Callaghan's notes abound in curious and valuable matter, and contain references to all the original sources of the history of that period. O'Kelly asserts that the successes of William III could not be ascribed to the cowardice or infidelity of the Irish troops, who were abandoned by James II without sufficient trial, undervalued and neglected by their French allies, and betrayed by the policy of Tyrconnel. A new edition of the work, brought out under the superintendence of Count Plunket and the Rev. Edmund Hogan, S. J., under the title of ‘The Jacobite War in Ireland,’ was published at Dublin in 1894, as a volume of the ‘New Irish Home Library.’

O'Kelly was also the author of ‘The O'Kelly Memoirs.’ The manuscript volume containing them was at the time of the French revolution in the possession of Count John James O'Kelly Farrell, minister-plenipotentiary from Louis XVI to the elector of Mayence, but it was lost in the disturbances of that period. These memoirs are stated to have embraced narratives of the parliamentarian war which commenced in 1641, and of the subsequent war of the revolution.

[Keating's Hist. of Ireland, 1723, genealogical append. p. 10; Memoir by O'Callaghan; Nichols's Cat. of the Works of the Camden Soc. p. 13; Croker's Narratives illustrative of the Contests in Ireland (Camden Soc.), Introd. p. xi; O'Donovan's Tribes and Customs of Hy-Many (Irish Archæol. Soc.), p. 115; Story's Impartial Hist. of the Wars in Ireland, 1693.]

T. C.