The castle was the chief seat of the O’Donaghue Mors, hereditary rulers of this district and descendants of the ancient kings of Munster. After the Desmond rebellion their fortified lands were acquired by the MacCarthy Mors from whom they were purchased by Sir Valentine Browne, ancestor of the Earls of Kenmare. In 1652 the castle was held by Lord Muskerry against a Cromwellian force of 1,500 foot and 700 horse soldiers, commanded by Edmond Ludlow. It fell after floating batteries were brought over land to bombard it from the lough as well as from the land. The Brownes, who retained the old faith, remained in the castle until they lost their estates in 1690 for supporting the Jacobite cause. Although their lands were recovered around 1720, they were unable to regain possession of the castle, which had been taken over as a military barracks. The Earl of Kenmare had 22,700 acres in Ireland at the turn of the 20th century.
The sixteenth century in Europe was a time of unprecedented change. It was the beginning of the modern era, and it saw a revolution in almost every aspect of European life. The century opened with the discovery of a new continent. The renaissance in Italy was peaking and spreading north, even arriving in backwaters like England (Hale – The Civilization of Europe in the Renaissance). Life was largely prosperous for the average person, the economy was growing. The mechanisms of commerce, systems of international finance, ocean-going trading fleets, an entrepreneurial bourgeoisie, were all building a recognizably capitalist, money-based economy. Geniuses were stepping all over each other on the street corners producing scientific innovation after innovation. Technological innovations like gunpowder were changing the nature of warfare and the military caste nature of society — the cannon probably had a great deal to do with the rise of the centralized nation state as we know it. The printing press created a media revolution. It brought ideas, partisan rhetoric, and how-to manuals to the people. Most of all, it brought the Bible, in its original tongues and in the vernacular, to the masses. A spirit of inquiry, a desire to return to first principles, was blowing through the Church, which had been the unifying cultural foundation of Europe for a millenium.
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