Baron of Dunsany

The title Baron of Dunsany or, more commonly, Lord Dunsany, is one of the oldest dignities in the Peerage of Ireland, one of just a handful of 13th- to 15th-century titles still extant, having had 21 holders, of the Plunkett name, to date. Other surviving medieval baronies include Kerry now held by the Marquess of Lansdowne, Kingsale, Trimlestown, Baron Louth[1] and Dunboyne.[2]


The first Baron of Dunsany was Sir Christopher Plunkett, second son of Christopher Plunkett, 1st Baron Killeen. The elder Christopher married Joan Cusack, heiress of Killeen and Dunsany, and passed Killeen to his eldest son and Dunsany to the second.

The date at which Christopher Plunkett became a peer, and an hereditary member of the Irish Parliament, is uncertain; according to Cokayne's Complete Peerage, there is no record of a Dunsany as a peer before 1489, and the creation may well have been as late as 1462, the year Sir Christopher died.[3] On the other hand, Debrett's listed the date of creation of the peerage as 1439,[4] confirmed by Letters Patent in 1461.

The third Baron was a founder member of the Brotherhood of Saint George and supported the claims of the pretender Lambert Simnel. The fourth Baron was a soldier of some repute who was killed trying to put down a rising in 1521. His son, the fifth Baron, was a soldier and statesman who was accused of complicity in the rebellion of Silken Thomas.

The eleventh Baron was a follower of King James II and was outlawed after the Glorious Revolution. He was, however, restored to his estates after the Treaty of Limerick, but neglected the necessary measures needed to have himself recognised as the holder of the peerage, and, as such, was not summoned to Parliament.

The twelfth Baron conformed to the Church of Ireland to preserve the lands of both Dunsany and Killeen, but did not take the necessary steps to confirm his right to the title and to his seat in the Irish House of Lords it bestowed.

The thirteenth Baron, son of the twelfth, did go through the necessary procedures to have his title and claim to a seat in the former Irish upper house admitted, and thus sat in that body as a peer as of proven right. He was succeeded by his son, the fourteenth Baron, who served as Lord Lieutenant of County Meath, and also sat in the British House of Lords as an Irish Representative Peer from 1836 to 1848.

The fifteenth Baron represented Drogheda in the House of Commons and was an Irish Representative Peer from 1850 to 1852. He was succeeded by his younger brother, the sixteenth Baron. The latter was an admiral in the Royal Navy, and also served as an Irish Representative Peer between 1864 and 1889.

The seventeenth Baron, son of the sixteenth, sat as a Conservative Member of Parliament for Gloucestershire South and was an Irish Representative Peer from 1893 to 1899. His brother, Horace Plunkett was a key figure in the development of Irish agriculture and the Irish co-operative movement.

The seventeenth Baron was succeeded by his son, the eighteenth Baron. He was a well-known poet, playwright and author of short stories and novels, best known now for his short stories in the field of fantasy, the Jorkens stories, and his novel The King of Elfland's Daughter. The descendants of his younger brother, Reginald Drax, bear not only the Dunsany's surname Plunkett, but also other surnames inherited from their mother, Ernle Elizabeth Louisa Maria Grosvenor Ernle-Erle-Drax, née Ernle Elizabeth Louisa Maria Grosvenor Burton (1855–1916), giving them a rare quadruple-barrelled surname of Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax.

As of 2013, the title is held by the eighteenth Baron's great-grandson, Randal Plunkett, 21st Baron of Dunsany, who in 2011, succeeded his father, the painter Edward Plunkett, 20th Baron of Dunsany, and first Roman Catholic holder of the title since the 12th Baron.[5]


The ancestral seat of this branch of the Plunkett family is Dunsany Castle in County Meath in Ireland.


The title is listed in Burke's Peerage and Baronetage and Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage as Baron of Dunsany, but in The Complete Peerage as Baron Dunsany without the of. In either case, the holder of the title is called Lord Dunsany in all but the most formal contexts.

Barons of Dunsany (1439)

The heir presumptive is the present holder's brother, the Hon. Oliver Plunkett (born 1985).[6]

See also


  1. Note: also held by a line of Plunketts
  2. Note: Irish earls existed before there were barons, nine of which in the 1205 to 1542 Lordship of Ireland period and all but Waterford are extinct or forfeited. By 1500 the revival of Gaelic Ireland chiefdoms created a competing, and sometimes overlapping, system.
  3. Complete Peerage "Dunsany" Vol. IV, p.552
  4. by writ; the Complete Peerage claims that peerages by writ did not exist in Ireland, despite evidence to the contrary
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 June 2012. Retrieved 9 June 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

Further reading

  • G. E. Cokayne: The complete peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, extant, extinct, or dormant, by G.E.C. New edition, rev. and much enl., edited by the Hon. Vicary Gibbs. London, 1910 et seqq., "Dunsany" Vol. IV, p. 552; Vol I, Appendix A.
  • Dunsany, 2000: Carty, Mary-Rose and Lynch, Malachy – "The Story of Dunsany Castle", ISBN 978-0-95173821-4.
  • Kidd, Charles, Williamson, David (editors): Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage (1990 edition). New York: St Martin's Press, 1990,
  • Leigh Rayment's Peerage Pages
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