The Kinsella Clan – A History

Kinsella is one of the big clan names in Irish history. Their strongholds were in Leinster.

Here are some of the family names of Kinsella ancestry. Are you amongst them?

  • Kinsella, Kinshellagh, Kinshlagh
  • Kinsello, Kinchelloe, Kenselloe
  • Kinsler, Kinslayer, Kinchsular

The first Kinsella was the son of a King of Leinster.

But let’s start at the beginning of this story. That goes back a few generations to a clan known as Uí Cheinnsealaigh (this is pronounced like Kinsella).

Diarmaid Mac Máel na mBó (d. 1072)

The lands of the Uí Cheinnsealaigh were in the counties of Wexford and Carlow.  Some of the territories expand into what now are Laoid, Kilkenny, and Wicklow.

The Uí Cheinnsealaigh clan was ascendant in Leinster in earlier centuries.

Their powers waned with the ascent of rival Leinster families. The Battle Of Clontarf returned them to a position of power in the province.

Máel na mBó was one early powerful chieftain.  This nickname means “Bald man of the Cattle”.

His son Diarmaid was therefore Mac (son of) Máel na mBó. Diarmaid Mac Maol na mBó expanded the clan’s strongholds and became king of Leinster in 1032.

Diarmaid took the kingship of Viking Dublin and expanded further to the Isle of Man.

He was the most powerful King in Ireland when he died in battle in 1072.

Diarmaid Mac Murrough, King Of Leinster

Some view Diarmad Mac Murrough (Mac Muchadha) as a great king of Leinster. Others believe that he brought disaster to the entire island.

Both positions could be true at the same time! Read on…

Diarmaid Mac Murrough was a great-grandson of Mac Maol na mBó.

When his older brother died, Diarmaid became king of Leinster.

Turlough O’Connor was the High King at this time. He was worried that Diarmaid would challenge his position.

Turlough’s strong ally was Tiernan O’Rourke, the King of Breffni (now Cavan). Tiernan brought his forces down to Leinster to conquer the territory.

Other Leinster clans rallied to Diarmaid’s aid. He succeeded in droving O’Rourke back to Breffni in 1132.

The next twenty years brought an uneasy peace between the King of Leinster and the High King of Ireland.

Diarmaid Loses His Kingship

There were ongoing disputes and strife involving these three kings. When Turlough died, his son Rory became High King of Ireland.

In the 1160s, Diarmaid is said to have captured the wife of the King of Breffni. Although some accounts say she fled to Diarmaid.

Whatever the reason, Rory O’Connor decided to depose Diarmaid. He marched his armies into Leinster and took the kingship from the Leinster chief.

The First Norman Invasion Of Ireland

Diarmaid traveled to England to ask King Henry II for help. Henry gave him permission to recruit Norman soldiers for his cause.

Diarmaid promised lands in Wexford two Norman half-brothers in return for their forces. Fitzgerald and Fitzstephen duly sailed to Ireland in 1169.

Fitzstephen laid siege to Wexford town and took it under his control.

The Earl of Pembroke also agreed to Diarmaid’s terms. This was Richard de Clare, who was also known as Strongbow.

Strongbow received the hand of Diarmaid’s daughter, Aoife. He later claimed that he was promised the kingship of Leinster in the event of his father-in-law’s death.

King Of Leinster Once Again

Rory O’Connor,  the High King, took his forces back down to Leinster.

But this time, the two foes engaged in talks through the mediation of the Church.

Rory agreed to restore Diarmaid as king of Leinster. Diarmaid agreed to recognize Rory as High King.

It’s also said that Diarmaid agreed to send the Norman knights back to England. This did not happen. They were here to stay.

The Norman settlers immediately started to expand into wider territories.

Diarmaid didn’t remain king for long. He died of an illness in 1171.

The second Anglo-Norman Invasion

Strongbow now made claim to the title of King Of Leinster.

King Henry II of England was growing concerned about Strongbow’s power in Ireland.

The English King invaded Ireland in 1171. His forces were so large that the Irish kings assembled in Dublin and submitted to Henry’s rule.

This was the beginning of the end of the clan system in Ireland.

Eanna Ceinnsealach, The First Kinsella

One son of Diarmad Mac Murrough was known as Domhnall Caomhánach (Kavanagh). This was the start of the Kavanagh line.

You can read more in our article on the Kavanagh clan.

Diarmad’s other son was known as Éanna. He took the second part of his name from the territorial lands of the clan. These were known as the Uí Cheinnsealaigh lands, or the Kinsellagh lands.

Ceinseallach means “like the Kinsellagh lands”.

This is how Eanna became Eanna Ceinnsealach. He is the first of the Kinsella clan.

He supported his brother’s claims to the title of King of Leinster.

Eanna Ceinnsealach’s lands were what is now known as the diocese of Ferns. This covers most of County Wexford and land in the counties of Carlow and Wicklow.