by Garry Bryant/Garaidh Ó Briain
Two hundred and sixty-nine years ago the Jacobite Scots made their last attempt to place a Stuart prince upon the throne of Great Britain. The attempt in 1746 failed. The Battle of Culloden Moor lasted less than an hour. With the Jacobite Scottish forces, was a small unit of soldiers from the Irish Brigade in the Service of France, who distinguished themselves with great honor. These Irish soldiers at Culloden were only a fraction of the force of Irishmen that were chosen to attend. The valor came at the end of the battle when they were commanded joined with FitzJames’ cavalry to guard the Jacobite retreat to Inverness. When that mission was complete, they were ordered to surrender and treated as P.O.W.s.
Had the scheduled 1200 soldiers of the Irish Brigade (all veterans of the Battle of Fontenoy, the Irish Brigade’s finest hour and battle over the English) been able to land in Scotland, the Battle of Culloden Moor would have had a different outcome. For Continental European historians noted that the Irish Brigade was fiercest when fighting the English or the Hanoverians.
O’Brien involvement with Scotland begins back in the late tenth century, when a daughter of Brian mac Cennétig (named Blanaid according to author Morgan Llywelyn), King of Munster (later to become known as High-King Brian Boru, 1002-1014), married Malcolm II, who became King of Scotland. King Malcolm II sent a Mormaer with Scots troops to aide High-King Brian Boru at Clontarf in April 1014.
Malcolm II and his wife had three daughters, and through them, many of the Highland Clans and Lowland Families of Scotland descend; not to mention several of the great English houses. So the blood of King Brian Boru flowed in the veins of the royal families of Scotland, England and Europe.
Of the O’ Brien’s, there were two branches that were particularly loyal to the Stuart Kings and the Catholic religion; the O’ Brien’s of Carriginnel, a branch of the family located at Pubblebrien in County Limerick, and the O’ Brien’s of Moyarta and Carrigaholt, who became Viscounts of Clare.
Col. Daniel O’ Brien
(Paris agent for King James III)
James III, exiled Stuart King, known as the “Old Pretender,” lived in Rome. His agent to the French court and King was Colonel Daniel O’Brien.
O’ Brien was the son of Murrough O’Brien, who descended from Conor Ua Briain, King of Thomond in 1406. One of this O’Brien king’s sons, Brian “Dubh” Ua Briain, located at Pubblebrien, County Limerick, and the Carriginnel (Carrigoginniol) branch is part of this O’ Brien family.1
Murrough O’Brien had volunteered in the Irish Regiment of Count George Hamilton, when it joined the service of France in 1671. In 1676, Hamilton was killed and the Irish soldiers were transferred to the regiment of Furstemberg and of Greider, where they remained until Greider was placed in the command of the Duke de Noailles in 1690-91, in the Spanish Army and Murrough was finally transferred to the Regiment of O'Brien (later called Clare) of the Irish Brigade in the Service of France.2
Murrough was promoted from captain to the regiment’s “Colonelship” in 1706 when the 5th Viscount Clare, Charles O’Brien, was killed at Ramillies. Murrough was promoted to brevet Major-General in 1719, and died the following year and is characterized as an officer of great ability and bravery.3
Murrough’s son was Daniel, and he was a colonel of Irish infantry and a Chevalier (Knight) de St. Lazarus in 1716.4
Daniel O’Brien’s important role in King James III affairs has been over looked by historians because of the difficulty in translating his voluminous letters, often up to 60 pages a week to King James, from Paris to the King’s home in Rome, not to mention that Daniel’s native language was Spanish and his letters were written in code that only was known to himself and Rome. These coded letters were written in poor 18th century French. But of James’ three French agents; Lord Semphill, Balhaldy and O’Brien, the latter was relied upon heavily for “true lights” on any given situation. He was King James III most trusted and valued agent, who flawlessly reported about the French Court for 10,000 Livres a year.5
However, the court at Versailles didn’t like Col. Daniel O’Brien, especially King Louis XV. Why this dislike isn’t exactly clear, possibly personal on Louis’ part, but probably because O’Brien was not a nobleman. It took King James III a long time to remedy this problem, but in 1747, he created O’Brien Earl of Lismore and Viscount Tallow. Three years later he was made Grand Cross Chevalier of St. Louis, and till his death (1759) the Secretary of State for King James III at Rome.6
It was Daniel O’Brien who was the intermediary for Prince Charles and the French Court. It was also this O’Brien who sent ships to rescue the Prince in Scotland and who begged for funds from King James III for his son, but he also counseled his king not to send as much money as requested.7
After Culloden and Prince Charlie’s escape to France, O’Brien tried to keep a tight rein on the Prince, especially his extravagant spending. Charles was not pleased with his father’s agent and asked for him to be replaced with Sir John Graeme in the summer of 1747. Fed up with his son, King James III recalled O’Brien to Rome and awarded him with an Irish Peerage for his excellent and loyal years of service, and left Prince Charles to fend for himself.8
Daniel O’ Brien
(Chief valet to Prince Charles)
Another Daniel O’Brien (no relationship to Col. Daniel O’Brien) was the personal valet to Prince Charles Stuart. It isn’t clear when O’Brien joined the service of Prince Charles, before or after Culloden.
Daniel O’Brien was illiterate, but he was a most clever servant, who played a major role in the Prince’s cloak-and-dagger nocturnal affairs. O’Brien’s cunning frustrated Paris’ police chief and dozens of police agents and informers.9
Historians have written that the only person that Prince Charles Edward Stuart ever really trusted was his chief valet, Daniel O’Brien.10
Lt. Gen. Charles O’ Brien
(6th Viscount Clare)
This branch of the O’Brien’s descends from King Conor Ua Briain (died 1540), through his son Donough, and Donough’s third son, Daniel of Moyarta and Carrigaholt. The Moyarta and Carrigaholt O’Brien’s remained staunch Catholic and were loyal both in Ireland and aboard in the service of the Stuart kings. Upon the restoration of King Charles II to the throne, the King created O’ Brien 1st Viscount Clare in 1662 and returned to him 85,000 acres of family land in County Clare.
Lord Clare’s second son, Daniel, became 3rd Viscount of Clare in 1670 and was Lord-Lieutenant of County Clare for King James II and attended the Irish parliament in 1689, in which year he raised a regiment of dragoons (known as the yellow horse, not for the color of their horses, but the facings of their uniforms) and two regiments of infantry to help fight King William of Orange. The dragoons were commanded by Lord O’Brien and the two infantry units by his sons, Daniel and Charles.11
All three went into exile to France, after King James II defeat in 1690. O’Brien’s regiment was one of the original five to create the “Irish Brigade in the Service of France.” The name of the regiment was changed from O’Brien to Clare, in honor of the title it’s colonel received upon the death of the 3rd Viscount Clare, whose son, Daniel, became colonel and received his father’s title and became the 4th Viscount Clare, until 1693 when he died of battle wounds and his younger brother, Charles, became 5th Viscount and colonel until he was killed at Ramillies in 1706.12
Because the 6th Viscount Clare was only a toddler, Murrough O’Brien of Carriginnial, County Limerick, was in charge of Clare’s Regiment until his death in 1720 and Charles O'Brien was commissioned as full colonel in August 1720.
By 1745, O’Brien held the rank of Lieutenant-General and Marshal of France. O’Brien was in command of the entire Irish Brigade and commanded them to their greatest honor at the Battle of Fontenoy on 16 May 1745, over the English, Dutch and German allies.
Charlie’s invasion of England, but the plans were ruined when English spies reported of the Irish Brigade’s involvement. England’s superior maritime force captured the French ships of Irish soldiers. Only a handful of Irish Brigade soldiers reached Prince Charlie, the largest unit being the cavalrymen of FitzJames. O’Brien’s ship escaped capture and returned to its French port.13
It is interesting to note, that at this same time, many Protestant O’Brien’s were officers in the British navy and obtained high rank.
The Irish Brigade that took part in Prince Charlie’s Highland Scots army, were made up of veteran volunteers from each of the regiments of Lally, Roth, Clare, Berwick, Bulkeley and Dillon. But as stated earlier, most of these Irish soldiers were captured at sea or forced back into French ports, only about 175 Irish troops were at the Battle of Culloden Moor instead of the intended 1200.14 Having sworn loyalty to the French king, and being French troops, the Irish Piquetts (Irish Brigade) were accorded the rights of being prisoners of war, and were set free and shipped back to France. One prisoner captured at Inverness after Culloden, was Captain John O’ Bryen, of the Paris Militia, a volunteer. Other O’Brien prisoners were:15
O’Brien POWs at Culloden
Irish involvement at Culloden isn’t just for the O’ Brien’s, but also the O’Shea’s, Nugent’s, O’Reilly’s, O’Keeffe’s, Bourke’s, MacDonagh’s, MacDermott’s, Taaffe’s, Murphy’s, O’Neill’s, and many other Irish, Angelo-Irish, etc. If not for the Irish Brigade (or French Piquets, as written in some histories) covering the Scottish Jacobite retreat, Culloden would not have had many Highland and Jacobite survivors to sing songs of remembrance about.
1 John Cornelius O’ Callaghan. History Of The Irish Brigades, in the Service of France. (Shannon, Ireland: Irish University Press, 1969. Original publication, 1870) P. 40.
2 O’ Callaghan, 41.
3 O’ Callaghan, 41.
4 O’ Callaghan, 41.
5 Susan Maclean Kybett. Bonnie Prince Charlie, A Biography of Charles Edward Stuart. (New York:Doddd, Mead & Company, 1988) Pp. 65-66.
6 Kybett, 66.
7 Kybett, 163.
8 L.L. Bongie. The Love of a Prince, Bonnie Prince Charlie in France, 1744-1748. (Vancouer: University of British Columbia Press, 1986) Pp. 164-165.
9 Bongie, 178.
10 Bongie, 16.
11 John D’Alton, Esq., King James’s Irish Army List (1689). Vol. I-II. (Dublin: Self-published, 1860, second Edition) Vol. I, p. 351. (FHL-BRITISH 941.5 M2d v. 1.) NOTE - Daniel O’Bryan was colonel of Clare’s Dragoons, and his brother Charles was colonel of O’Bryan’s Infantry (v. 2, p. 698), but other sources state that the father, Daniel O’Brien, Sr., commanded the dragoons, and his two sons each had an infantry unit.
12 O’ Callaghan, 24-27.
13 O’ Callaghan, 39-40.
14 O’ Callaghan, 43.
15 Sir Bruce Gordon Seton, BT. of Abercorn, C.B. and Jean Gordon Arnot. The Prisoners of the ‘45, Edited From The State Papers. Vol. 1. (Edinburgh: University Press, Scottish History Society, 1928.)
My name is Garry Eugene Bryant, or in Irish, Garaidh Eóghan Ó Briain. My O'Bryan family emigrated from Ireland to Canada around 1830. They were devout Catholics and my 2nd great-grandfather, William, was informed by his parents that he was to become a priest like his two older bro-thers. He ran away changed his name by dropping the O' and adding a 't,' and ended up at Black Hawk, Col-orado about 1861. But this story was family tradition, no paper doc-ument to that gives the name change. To the rescue came Family Tree DNA and the O'Brien Surname Project which confirmed that I was not only of the Dál gCais Tribe with the R-L226 & FGC5659 snp marker's, but a distant cousin to Sir Conor M. E. O'Brien, Chief of the O'Brien Clan. So I'm not an English Bryant, but an Irish O'Brien! I have three children, all grown and married, and two grandchildren. I'm a retired photojournalist, am passionate about family history and heraldry.