Burgh [Bourke, Burke], the name of an historic Irish house, associated with Connaught for more than seven centuries. It was founded by William de Burgh, brother of Hubert de Burgh (q.v.). Before the death of Henry II. (1189) he received a grant of lands from John as lord of Ireland. At John's accession (1199) he was installed in Thomond and was governor of Limerick. In 1199-1201 he was supporting in turn Cathal Carrach and Cathal Crovderg for the native throne, but he was expelled from Limerick in 1203, and, losing his Connaught, though not his Munster estates, died in 1205. His son Richard, in 1227, received the land of "Connok" [Connaught], as forfeited by its king, whom he helped to fight. From 1228 to 1232 he held the high office of justiciar of Ireland. In 1234 he sided with the crown against Richard, earl marshal, who fell in battle against him. Dying in 1243, he was succeeded as lord of Connaught by his son Richard, and then (1248) by his younger son Walter, who carried on the family warfare against the native chieftains, and added greatly to his vast domains by obtaining (c. 1255) from Prince Edward a grant of "the county of Ulster," in consequence of which he was styled later earl of Ulster. At his death in 1271, he was succeeded by his son Richard as 2nd earl.
In 1286 Richard ravaged and subdued Connaught, and deposed Bryan O'Neill as chief native king, substituting a nominee of his own. The native king of Connaught was also attacked by him, in favour of that branch of the O'Conors whom his own family supported. He led his forces from Ireland to support Edward I. in his Scottish campaigns, and on Edward Bruce's invasion of Ulster in 1315 Richard marched against him, but he had given his daughter Elizabeth in marriage to Robert Bruce, afterwards king of Scotland, about 1304. Occasionally summoned to English parliaments, he spent most of his forty years of activity in Ireland, where he was the greatest noble of his day, usually fighting the natives or his Anglo-Norman rivals. The patent roll of 1290 shows that in addition to his lands in Ulster, Connaught and Munster, he had held the Isle of Man, but had surrendered it to the king.
His grandson and successor William, the 3rd earl (1326-1333), was the son of John de Burgh by Elizabeth, lady of Clare, sister and co-heir of the last Clare earl of Hertford (d. 1314). He married a daughter of Henry, earl of Lancaster, and was appointed lieutenant of Ireland in 1331, but was murdered in his 21st year, leaving a daughter, the sole heiress, not only of the de Burgh possessions, but of vast Clare estates. She was married in childhood to Lionel, son of Edward III., who was recognized in her right as earl of Ulster, and their direct representative, the duke of York, ascended the throne in 1461 as Edward IV., since when the earldom of Ulster has been only held by members of the royal family.
On the murder of the 3rd earl (1333), his male kinsmen, who had a better right, by native Irish ideas, to the succession than his daughter, adopted Irish names and customs, and becoming virtually native chieftains succeeded in holding the bulk of the de Burgh territories. Their two main branches were those of "MacWilliam Eighter" in southern Connaught, and "MacWilliam Oughter" to the north of them, in what is now Mayo. The former held the territory of Clanricarde, lying in the neighbourhood of Galway, and in 1543 their chief, as Ulick "Bourck, alias Makwilliam," surrendered it to Henry VIII., receiving it back to hold, by English custom, as earl of Clanricarde and Lord Dunkellin. The 4th earl (1601-1635) distinguished himself on the English side in O'Neill's rebellion and afterwards, and obtained the English earldom of St Albans in 1628, his son Ulick receiving further the Irish marquessate of Clanricarde (1646). His cousin and heir, the 6th earl (1657-1666) was uncle of the 8th and 9th earls (1687-1722), both of whom fought for James II. and paid the penalty for doing so in 1691, but the 9th earl was restored in 1702, and his great-grandson, the 12th earl, was created marquess of Clanricarde in 1789. He left no son, but the marquessate was again revived in 1825, for his nephew the 14th earl, whose heir is the present marquess.
The family, which changed its name from Bourke to de Burgh in 1752, and added that of Canning in 1862, still own a vast estate in County Galway.
In 1603 "the MacWilliam Oughter," Theobald Bourke, similarly resigned his territory in Mayo, and received it back to hold by English tenure. In 1627 he was created Viscount Mayo. The 2nd and 3rd viscounts (1629-1663) suffered at Cromwell's hands, but the 4th was restored to his estates (some 50,000 acres) in 1666. The peerage became extinct or dormant on the death of the 8th viscount in 1767. In 1781 John Bourke, a Mayo man, believed to be descended from the line of "MacWilliam Oughter," was created Viscount Mayo, and four years later earl of Mayo, a peerage still extant. In 1872 the 6th earl was murdered in the Andaman Islands when viceroy of India.
The baronies of Bourke of Connell (1580) and Bourke of Brittas (1618), both forfeited in 1691, were bestowed on branches of the family which has also still representatives in the baronetage and landed gentry of Ireland.
The lords Burgh or Borough of Gainsborough (1487-1599) were a Lincolnshire family believed to be descended from a younger son of Hubert de Burgh. The 5th baron was lord deputy of Ireland in 1597, and his younger brother, Sir John (d. 1594), a distinguished soldier and sailor.
(J. H. R.)