By the 11th century, Bréifne was ruled by the Ua Ruairc (O'Rourke) dynasty. The kingdom reached the height of its power in the 12th century, under Tigernán Ua Ruairc. During the latter part of his reign, Bréifne took part in campaigns against the Norman invasion of Ireland. His assassination by the Anglo-Normans in 1172 was followed by a succession dispute, and a conflict between the Ua Ruairc and Ua Raghallaigh (O'Reilly) dynasties.
Bréifne was part of the province of Connacht until the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. In that time it was shired into the modern counties Cavan and Leitrim, Leitrim remaining a part of the province of Connacht while Cavan became part of Ulster.
Septs of Breifne c. AD 700
Breifne is said[by whom?] to derive from an obsolete Irish word meaning "hilly", a description which describes the topography of this part of Ireland. It was referred to as the rough third of Connacht. Alternatively, the Metrical Dindshenchas states the name is derived from Brefne, daughter of Beoan mac Bethaig, a brave soldier-woman.
In ancient times the area that became to be known as Bréifne was said to be occupied by the Erdini, called in Irish 'Ernaigh', who possessed the entire country bordering Lough Erne.
At the time of the Christianization of Ireland (c. 5th–6th century) groups believed to be in or near Breifne included the Glasraighe, Masraige, Dartraige, Armhaighe, Gallraighe, the Fir Manach, and the Gailenga.
Around the 6th century a people known as the Conmaicne Rein are thought to have moved north from around the present Dunmore in County Galway and settled in Magh Rein (the area around Fenagh). From here they peopled what is now South Leitrim, which became known as Magh Rein, and its inhabitants as the Conmaicne Magh Rein.
They consisted of different family groupings – Muintir Eolais, Muintir Cearbhallain (O Mulvey), and Cinel Luachain, among others.
About the 8th century, the area since known as Breifne was conquered and settled by the Uí Briúin who were a branch of the royal family of Connacht. The Uí Briúin established themselves first in modern county Leitrim and then into what is now County Cavan. It can be argued that there is no contemporary evidence to support these speculations.
By the 9th century the Ó Ruaircs had established themselves as kings of Breifne.
In the 10th and 11th centuries the Ó Ruairc kings of Breifne fought some battles for the title of king of Connacht, four different kings of Breifne gaining the title.
During the 12th century the reign of Tighearnán Ua Ruairc, the kingdom of Breifne was said to comprise most of the modern counties of Leitrim and Cavan, and parts of Longford, Meath, Fermanagh and Sligo.
Cenél Laegaire – County Fermanagh. The Fir Manach, the Cinéal Eanna and the Cenél Laegaire were early indigenous tribes in the County Fermanagh area. The Cenél Laegairi mic Neill were noted west of Loch Erne (Book of Lecan). The Cenél Laegairi mic Neill were also noted in central Ireland (Mide, Meath).
Kings of Breifne
Note: Where mentioned spelling used in the document is used here.
Echu Mugmedón, father to Brión, Fiachra, and Niall (of the Nine Hostages).
Brión: son of Echu Mugmedón and the ancestor of the O'Briuin Kings of Connacht.
Aodh Fionn mac Fergna: king of Breifne
Maenach mac Báithin: king of Ui Briuin Breifne – c.653–
Dub Dothra: king of the Ui Briuin & Conmaicne & Breifne – c.743–
Cormacc mac Duibh Dá Críoch: king of Breifni – c.790
Muircheartach mac Donnghal, king of Breifne: c.800–806
Mael Dúin mac Échtgal, king of Breifne: died822
Ceallach son of Cearnach, son of Dubh Dothra, king of Breithfne
Tighearnán mac Seallachan, king of Breifne: c.888 – father of Ruarc
Ruarc mac Tighearnáin, lord of Ui Briuin Breifne: c. 893 – grandfather of Sean Fergal
Flann mac Tighearnáin, lord of Breifne: c.910
Cernachan mac Tighearnáin, king of Breifne: died 931
Conghalach mac Cathaláin, lord of Breifne: c.935
Cléircén son of Tigernán, king of Bréifne: C. 937
Fergal? ua Ruairc, king of Bréifne
Ó Ruairc dynasty, Kings of Bréifne, c. 964 - 1257
(Sean) Fergal Ó Ruairc king of Connacht & Breifne: c.964–67
Niall Ó Ruairc, heir of Breifne: 1000–1001
Aedh Ó Ruairc, king of Breifne: died 1014–1015 – son of Fergal
Art an caileach Ó Ruairc, king of Breifne: c.1020–1030? – son of Fergal
Aedh Ó Ruairc, lord of Dartraige: 1029
Art uallach (oirdnidhe) Ó Ruairc, king of Connacht & Breifne: c.1030–1046 – son of Aedh mac Fergal
Niall Ó Ruairc, king of Breifne Connacht: 1047 – son of Art uallach
Domnall Ó Ruairc, lord of Breifne: c.1057 – son of Niall
Cathal Ó Ruairc, lord of Breifne: c.1051–1059 – son of Tighernan
Aedh in Gilla Braite Ó Ruairc, king of Breifne: 1066 – son of Niall son of Art Uallach
Aed Ó Ruairc, king of Connacht & Breifne: c.1067–1087 – son of Art Uallach
Donnchadh cael Ó Ruairc, king of Breifne: c.1084 – son of Art an caileach
Ualgharg Ó Ruairc, royal heir of Connacht: 1085 – son of Niall son of Art uallach
Donnchadh Ó Ruairc, lord of Ui Briuin and Conmaicne: 1101 – son of Art Uí Ruairc
Domnall Ó Ruairc, king of Connacht & Breifne: c.1095–1102 – son of Tigernán son of Ualgharg
Cathal Ó Ruairc, lord of Ui Briuin Breifne and Gailenga: 1105 – son of Gilla Braite son of Tigernán
Domnall Ó Ruairc, lord of Ui Briúin: c.1108 – son of Donnchadh
Aedh an Gilla Sronmaol Ó Ruairc king of Conmaicne: c.1117–1122 – son of Domnall (or Donnchadh).
Tadhg Ó Ruairc, lord of Breifne: 1600–1605 – son of Brian na múrtha
Lords of Bréifne Ó Raghallaigh (Muintir Maelmordha)
Godfrey Ua Raghallaigh, lord of Muintir-Maelmordha: 1161
Cathal Ua Raghallaigh, lord of Muintir-Maelmordha: 1161–1162 – son of Godfrey
Fergal son of Cu Chonnacht O'Raigillig, King of Dartry and Clann Fermaige: 1239
Cathal Ua Raghallaigh, lord of Muintir-Maelmordha: 1256
Con Ua Raghallaigh, chief of Muintir-Maelmordha: 1256–1257
Matha Ua Raghallaigh, lord of Muintir-Maelmordha: 1282
Ferghal O'Raigillig, East Breifne: 1282–1293
Gilla-Isa Ruaid O'Raigillig, East Breifne: ↑1327 or 1330
Matha son of Gilla-Isa O'Raigillig, East Breifne: 1304
Mael Sechlainn O'Raigillig, East Breifne: 1328
Richard [Risderd] O'Reilly, East Breifny: 1349– ↑1346 or 1349
Cu Chonnacht O'Reilly, East Breifny: 1362 or 1365 (resigned) – son of Gilla-Isa Ruaid
Philip O'Reilly, East Breifny: 1365–1366/69 (deposed) – son of Gilla-Isa Ruaid
Magnus O'Reilly, East Breifny: 1366/69–1366/69 (deposed)
Philip O'Reilly, East Breifny: 1366/69–1384 – son of Gilla-Isu Ruaid
Thomas, son of Mathgamain Ua Raighillaigh, king of Muinter-Mailmordha: 1384–1390
John, son of Philip O'Reilly, East Breifny: 1390–1400 – son of Philip son of Gilla-Isa-Ruaid
Gilla-Isa son of Anrig O'Raigillig, East Breifny: 1400–1400
Maelmordha, son of Cuconnaught O'Reilly, Muintir Reilly: 1403–1411 – son of Cu Chonnacht son of Gilla-Isa Ruaid
Richard, son of Thomas O'Reilly, East Breifny: 1411–1418
Owen, son of John O'Reilly, Muintir-Maelmordha: 1418–1449
Farrell, son of Thomas O'Reilly, Muintir-Maelmordha: 1450 (deposed) – (AM1450)
John, son of Owen O'Reilly, Muintir-Maelmordha: 1450–1460 – son of Owen son of John son of Philip son of Gilla-Isa-Roe
Cathal O'Reilly, Muintir-Maelmordha: 1467
Turlough, son of John O'Reilly, East Breifny: 1468–1487 – son of John son of Owen
John, son of Turlough O'Reilly, East Breifny: 1487–1491
John, son of Cathal O'Reilly, East Breifny: 1491–1510 – son of Cathal son of Owen son of John
Hugh, son of Cathal O'Reilly, East Breifny: 1514
Owen, son of Cathal O'Reilly, East Breifny:1526
Farrell, son of John O'Reilly, East Breifny & Conmaicne: 1526–1536 – son of John, son of Cathal
Maelmordha, son of John O'Reilly, East Breifny: 1537–1565 – son of John son of Cathal
Hugh Conallagh O'Reilly, son of Maelmordha O'Reilly, East Breifny: 1583 – son of Maelmordha son of John
John Roe, son of Hugh Conallagh O'Reilly, East Breifny: 1583–1596
Philip, son of Hugh O'Reilly, East Breifny: 1596–1596
Edmond, son of Maelmordha O'Reilly, East Breifny: 1596–1601 – son of Maelmordha son of John son of Cathal
Owen, son of Hugh Conallagh O'Reilly, East Breifny: 1601–?
The Prince of Breifne is a courtesy title given to the Chieftain O'Rourke in 1994 by the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland. In 2003, however, the Chief Herald stopped giving out courtesy titles due to a scandal over the MacCarthy Mór. Since 2017, the O'Rourke and O'Reilly clans still struggle to gain the title "Prince of Breifne."
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