Background

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The siege of Castle Maine came after nearly fifteen years of conflict between the Desmond Geraldines and the crown, a conflict that fostered increased contact between Irish, Old English and New English peoples in Munster. As all sixteenth-century cartographic activity in Ireland was undertaken by crown officials, the map of the siege of Castle Maine reflects New English perceptions of themselves, as well as of their Old English and Irish allies and enemies. Castle Maine bridged the River Maine in County Kerry and had been controlled by the Desmond family since its construction in 1215. The lands of the Old English earl of Desmond lay to the north of the river and the lands of his traditional enemies, the MacCarthy Mór, to the southern side. During the Desmond rebellion in the late 1560s and early 1570s, Domhnall MacCarthy Mór allied himself with Sir John Perrot, who became the first president of Munster in 1570–1 and was tasked with suppressing the rebellion. At the time of the first siege of Castle Maine in 1571, men loyal to the Old English rebel James Fitzmaurice, a member of the Desmond family, defended the castle and succeeded in holding off Perrot’s forces. When Perrot returned a year later and laid siege to the castle for three months, Fitzmaurice’s constable and ward were forced to surrender the castle to the crown.

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