Ulick de Burgh (Bourke or Burke), styled MacWilliam, and Ne-gan or NagCeann (i.e. 'of the Heads', "having made a mount of the heads of men slain in battle which he covered up with earth"), was the son of Richard or Rickard de Burgh, lord of Clanricarde, by a daughter of Madden of Portumna, and grandson of Ulick de Burgh, lord of Clanricarde (1467-1487), the collateral heir male of the earls of Ulster.
On the death of the last earl in 1333, his only child Elizabeth had married Lionel, Duke of Clarence, and the earldom became merged in the crown, in consequence of which the de Burghs abjured English laws and sovereignty, and chose for their chiefs the sons of Sir William, the 'Red' earl of Ulster's brother, the elder William taking the title of MacWilliam Eighter (Uachtar, i.e. Upper), and becoming the ancestor of the earls of Clanricarde, and his brother Sir Edmond that of MacWilliam Oughter (Ochtar, i.e. Lower), and founding the family of the earls of Mayo. In 1361 the Duke of Clarence was sent over as Lord-Lieutenant to Ireland to enforce his claims as husband of the heir general, but failed, and the chiefs of the de Burghs maintained their independence of English sovereignty for several generations.
Ulick de Burgh succeeded to the headship of his clan, exercised a quasi-royal authority and held vast estates in county Galway, in Connaught, including Loughry, Dunkellin, Kiltartan (Hilltaraght) and Athenry, as well as Clare and Leitrim. In March 1541, however, he wrote to Henry VIII, lamenting the degeneracy of his family, "which have been brought to Irish and disobedient rule by reason of marriage and nurseing with those Irish, sometime rebels, near adjoining to me," and placing himself and his estates in the king's hands. The same year he was present at Dublin, when the act was passed making Henry VIII king of Ireland. In 1543, in company with other Irish chiefs, he visited the king at Greenwich, made full submission, undertook to introduce English manners and abandon Irish names, received a regrant of the greater part of his estates with the addition of other lands, was confirmed in the captainship and rule of Clanricarde, and was created on the 1st of July 1543 Earl of Clanricarde and Baron of Dunkellin in the peerage of Ireland, with unusual ceremony. "The making of McWilliam earl of Clanricarde made all the country during his time quiet and obedient," states Lord Chancellor Cusake in his review of the state of Ireland in 1553.1 He did not live long, however, to enjoy his new English dignities, but died shortly after returning to Ireland about March 1544.
He is called by the annalist of Loch Ce "a haughty and proud lord," who reduced many under his yoke, and by the Four Masters "the most illustrious of the English in Connaught". Clanricarde married (1) Grany or Grace, daughter of Mulrone O'Carroll, 'prince of Ely', by whom he had Richard or Rickard 'the Saxon', who succeeded him as 2nd Earl of Clanricarde (grandfather of the 4th earl, whose son became Marquess of Clanricarde), this alliance being the only one declared valid. After parting with his first wife he married (2) Honora, sister of Ulick de Burgh, from whom he also parted. He married (3) Mary Lynch, by whom he had John, who claimed the earldom in 1568. Other sons, according to Burke's Peerage, were Thomas 'the Athlete', shot in 1545, Redmond 'of the Broom' (d. 1595), and Edmund (d. 1597).
See also Annals of Ireland by the Four Masters (ed. by O. Connellan, 1846), p. 132 note, and reign of Henry VIII.; Annals of Loch Ce (Rerum Brit. Medii Aevi Scriptores) (54) (1871); Historical Memoirs of the O'Briens, by J. O. Donoghue (1860), pp 159, 519; Ireland under the Tudors, by R. Bagwell, vol. i.; State Papers, Ireland, Carew Manuscripts and Gairdner's Letters and Papers of Henry VIII.; Cotton Manuscripts, British Museum, Titus B xi. f. 388. (P.C.Y.)
1 Calendar of State Papers, Carew MSS. 1515-1574, p. 246.
Being the entry for CLANRICARDE, ULICK DE BURGH (BOURKE or BURKE), 1ST EARL OF in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.