THE ORIGINS OF THE D'ARCY FAMILY
THE NORMAN CONNECTION
The D’Arcy family descend from David D’Areci, a French nobleman who lived at Castle D’Arcie outside Paris. His great grandson, Norman de Areci, served in William the Conqueror’s army when they defeated the Saxons at the battle of Hastings in England in 1066. For his services, Norman de Areci was rewarded with a whopping thirty three lordships in Lincolnshire as well as the wealthy Abbey of St Mary in York. His wife was Adelina a' Court and from their marriage do all the D'Arcy's of Britain and Ireland apparently descend.
That said, it is to be noted that a major DNA project is underway at present which sets out to compare Y chromosome DNA of males with the surnames Dorsey, Darsey, D’Arcy, Dorcey, and Dossey and other variant spellings so who knows what that will reveal. For more, see the D'Arcy Surname Project.
AT WAR WITH THE SCOTS
Amongst the officers whom Edward Longshanks sent to Scotland to fight the armies of William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace and Robert the Bruce was Norman de Areci’s descendant, Sir John d’Arcy.
SIR JOHN D'ARCY, LORD JUSTICE OF IRELAND
In 1323, King Edward II of England gave Sir John D'Arcy the title ‘Lord D’Arcy of Knayth’ and appointed him one of the Lord Justices of Ireland. John’s time in Ireland coincided with the murder in the summer of 1333 of William de Burgh, 3rd Earl of Ulster. This assassination resulted in a widespread rebellion in the province of Connacht and the Norman elite, of which Sir John was one of the leaders, lost control of the western provinces of Ireland. The following year he orchestrated a bloody campaign along the west coast, wreaking havoc on the Aran Islands.
Anglo-Norman influence west of the River Shannon went into decline in the closing decades of the 15th century. But the D'Arcy family continued to prosper and by the time the Tudors came to power, they were firmly established as one of the fourteen ‘Tribes of Galway’.
Above left: In 1334, the famous ‘Annals of the Four Masters’ reported that the monasteries of the Aran Islands on Ireland’s west coast had been plundered and burnt by Sir John D'Arcy at the head of a fleet of 56 vessels. Above middle: Queen Elizabeth, the last of the Tudor monarchs, appointed James D’Arcy to be Mayor of Galway in 1602. Above right: The province of Connaught over which Sir John D'Arcy served as Vice-President in the late 16th century.
JAMES THE SWARTHY, MAYOR OF GALWAY
Amongst these was James D’Arcy, nicknamed ‘Seamus Riveagh’ or ‘James the Swarthy’, who was appointed Vice President of Connaught by Queen Elizabeth and served as Mayor of Galway in 1602-1603. His time in office coincided with the death of the childless Queen Elizabeth and the accession of King James and the House of Stuart to the thrones of England, Ireland and Scotland.
THE GORTEEN BRANCH
By 1660, James the Swarthy’s grandson John D’Arcy, a farmer, settled at Gorteen, a rural boggy townland west of Charlestown in north-east County Mayo. Three generations later, Francis D'Arcy of the Gorteen branch married Lucy Knox, daughter of William Knox of Cartron Rath, Co. Roscommon. Francis and Lucy were the great-grandparents of Bertha D’Arcy and her brother, Knox D’Arcy, the oil tycoon.
Above: The map of Ireland shows the province of Connaught in
yellow. This is the landscape where the d'Arcy family were based
from the 14th to the 18th centuries.