History of Breifne

The Ancient Kingdom of Breifne UaRaighaillaigh – Ireland
(Breifne O’Reilly)

It has been estimated that Breifne was established more than five thousand years ago by Connor King of Connaught as a reward to his nephew Raighaillaigh (Reilly) O’Connor for a major victory in battle. According to archeological studies, the UK site of Stone Henge is five thousand years old. On the banks of the River Boyne in County Meath, just south of the town of Drogheda, is the Passage Tomb called Newgrange, nearby are two smaller tombs: Howth and Knowth. Newgrange, the passage tomb of Breifne O’Raighaillaigh, is said to pre-date Stone Henge by at least five hundred years and is in a state of complete preservation.

Raighaillaigh, nephew of King Connor, firmly established the Kingdom of Connaught with Connor undisputed King and the family O’Connor (sons of Connor) maintaining the dynasty. At the time Ireland had two kingdoms: East, what is now the southern part of Leinster and most of Munster, and West, the newly established Connaught. The northern and central areas were not yet established.

As a reward for his great victory Lord Connor, King of Connaught, created the kingdom of Breifne, the present day counties of Cavan (seat of the King – Dun na Righ – English – Kingscourt), Meath, Westmeath and Longford, and probably what is now County Louth, thus effectively occupying the centre of Ireland and the east coast from north of what is now County Dublin to Carlingford Lough. The Hill of Tara, the seat of the High King, is situated in the centre of County Meath and was under the protection of the King of Breifne.

Titles among Irish royalty and nobility are quite different from their equivalents in England. The appellation ‘Lord’ or ‘Lady’ is applied to ranks from Chieftain, equivalent to an English Squire, to the High King. Succession is not primogeniture as in most countries but within a range of close family with no guarantee that men have precedence over women. There is an example of a female King (not queen which means consort) in the west during the reign of the English Queen Elizabeth the First. All those eligible for the crown are considered Prince or Princess. The king is elected by them from among them and can be removed by them if performance is inadequate or overbearing, including severe infringements of Brehon Law.

This legal system throughout Ireland was the Brehon Law of the Druidic tradition. All Celts had equal rights, including free representation. A high ranking noble, even a king did not have any advantage in law over the lowliest peasant.

Somewhere around 800 AD, The lesser King of Longford, O’Rourke and his family, made a military claim on the throne of Breifne. War continued for two hundred years between O’Reilly and O’Rourke with alternating success on both sides. Eventually the High King at the council of the Kings divided Breifne in two: East and West. O’Reilly continued to rule the East, with the greater population and access to the sea port of Drogheda while O’Rourke was granted the lesser, land bound portion of the western area of County Meath, now known as Westmeath, and County Longford. Unlike many Irish nobles and royals who, under threat from English forces, ‘bent the knee’ to the English crown where kings became English Earls, O’Reilly refused to surrender, as did O’Neil of Ulster. Elizabeth the First was determined to eradicate O’Reilly as if the family had never existed. Cavan is quite rugged and was, at the time covered in Oak forests. These were burned to nothing and the king and all O’Reillys, with anyone offering support, declared a capital offense. Records of O’Reilly were also destroyed in an attempt to prevent any future resurrection of the royal family

Following the burning of the oak forests of County Cavan, O’Reilly of Breifne and O’Neill of Ulster were the last two kings to succumb to the English invasion. They were finally defeated by Lord Mountjoy under orders from Elizabeth 1st and the English ruled the entire 32 counties. Occupation continued, despite repeated attempts to the contrary, until the signing of the Treaty of 1921, and applied in 1922. By this time royalty and nobility had been driven overseas or underground. The concept of noble and royal was now considered English and therefore hated. The constitution of the Free State, later the Republic, established that all citizens are equal and therefore there could be no nobility and peasant classes. Some nobility and royalty have survived and like those of other countries such as France, royalty operates in a quiet fashion to support the values of chivalry. Like in France Breifne in Ireland makes no claims to rule but strongly supports the values of chivalry and espousing the ancient principles of fairness supporting true democracy.

Lord Martin O’Reilly
Map of Ireland, Kingdom of Breifne
This image shows the map of Ireland and The Ancient Kingdom of Breifne UaRaighaillaigh (Breifne O’Reilly) , its counties and major cities.