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Vanishing Kingdoms

The Irish Chiefs and Their Families

By: Walter J.P. Curley

Publication Date: November 2004


Vanishing Kingdoms: The Irish Chiefs and Their Families by Walter J.P. Curley


Vanishing Kingdoms combines an account of aristocracy and its history in Ireland with an interview-based description of twenty recognized Irish chiefs of the name and their family backgrounds. Three of them, The O’Brien, O’Conor Don and The O’Neill, have legitimate claims to high kingship; all are descendants of territorial kings and sub-kings. For the most part shorn of their privileges and territories in a democratized, socially fluid Ireland of the twenty-first century, as a group the chiefs exercise a continuing fascination and a living link to the past, leaving an imaginative yet tangible mark on the Irish landscape.

The families are grouped by province

  • ULSTER: The O’Neill; The O’Dogherty; The O’Donnell; MacDonnell; The Maguire
  • MUNSTER: The O’Brien; The O’Callaghan; The O’Carroll; The O’Donovan; The O’Donoghue; The McGillycuddy; The O’Grady; The O’Long
  • LEINSTER: The Fox; The O’Morchoe; The MacMorrough Kavanagh
  • CONNACHT: O’Conor Don; The MacDermot; The O’Kelly; The O’Rorke

Through the unfolding diorama of these individual family stories, Vanishing Kingdoms gives an enriching view of Irish history and society. Contemporary portraits of the current chiefs, photographs and engravings of their dwellings, past and present, complement a vivid narrative.


WALTER J.P CURLEY is a graduate of Yale and Harvard universities, and the former US Ambassador to Ireland and France. He is the author of Letters from the Pacific and Monarchs in Waiting: The Descendants of Europe’s Royal Families. He divides his time between Manhattan and Newport, County Mayo.

The artist Gordon Wetmore is chairman of the Portrait Society of America, and lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee.


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Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 156 × 234 mm
Publication Date

November 2004


Hardback, 240pp