Ellis MacDonnell, Countess of Antrim

Ellis MacDonnell, Countess of Antrim (her first name is also variously spelled as Aellis, Elice or Alice) was an Irish aristocrat of the late Elizabethan and early Stuart eras.

Born Ellis O'Neill, she was the third daughter of Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone the leading Gaelic figure in Ireland. Her mother was Hugh's fourth wife, Catherine Magennis, daughter of Sir Hugh Magennis. Her marriage to Randal MacDonnell was a dynastic match that brought Tyrone into alliance with the MacDonnells, the dominant family in northern County Antrim who also had strong connections in Scotland. Tyrone's other children made similar marriages with leading families across Ulster. During Tyrone's Rebellion (1594-1603) Randal supported his father-in-law, but in the closing stages of the conflict he changed sides. He was eventually rewarded for this by the Crown when he was made Earl of Antrim and his wife thereby became a Countess. Despite being a Gaelic Catholic, Randal was a strong supporter of settling Scottish Protestants along the Eastern Ulster coastline, anticipating the Ulster Plantation which took place in six of the more western counties of the province.[1] Ellis's husband became the most senior Gaelic aristocrat in Ulster following the Flight of the Earls in 1607, when her father fled into exile in Continental Europe.

Her husband died in 1636. Ellis outlived him by many years, dying in 1665.[2]


The marriage produced two sons, both of whom followed their father as Earl. Randal MacDonnell, a leading courtier under Charles I known for his involvement in the War of the Three Kingdoms. The younger son Alexander MacDonnell succeeded to the title in 1683, and is best known as a Catholic leader during the Williamite Wars who had the city gates shut on him at the beginning of the Siege of Derry in 1688. They had six daughters who married leading Catholic nobles of Ireland and Scotland. One of these daughters was also called Ellis; she died unmarried. Their daughter Rose married Colonel George Gordon, while Catherine married Edward Plunket. Anne married firstly Christopher Nugent, Baron Delvin and secondly William Fleming, nineteenth , Baron Slane. Sarah married firstly Neal O'Neill, ancestor of the O'Neill Baronets, secondly Sir Charles O'Connor Sligo and thirdly Donal MacCarthy Mor. Mary married firstly Lucas, second Viscount Dillon and secondly Oliver Plunkett, sixth Baron Louth.[3]


  1. Bardon p.80-83
  2. Ohlmeyer p.44-45
  3. Ohlmeyer p.46


  • Bardon, Jonathan. The Plantation of Ulster. Gill & MacMillan, 2012.
  • Ohlmeyer, Jane. Civil War and Restoration in the Three Kingdoms. The Career of Randall MacDonnell, Marquis of Antrim, 1609-1683. Cambridge University Press, 1993.
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