VISCOUNT OWEN O’ROURKE OF BREFFNY (c.1670-1743) – Jacobite ambassador to the imperial court in Vienna.

Owen O’Rourke was born in Castle Car, just west of Lurganboy, in about the year 1670.  The castle had been the seat of the O’Rourkes of Carre, whose territory extended from Manorhamilton to the Sligo border and north to Largydonnell, since the 14th century.   As a young man, Owen joined the army of King James II and fought at the battles of the Boyne and Aughrim.  He then followed the king into exile in France.  In 1697 O’Rourke offered his services to Duke Leopold of Lorraine which was an independent state at the time and later married a young noble-woman, Catherine de Beauvau, a relation of the Duke.  O’Rourke was made a counsellor of state and given a pension of 3,000 francs.  Leopold subsequently elevated him to the dignity of Count.  We have so far failed to locate a portrait of Owen O’Rourke, but above is an image of his imposing residence in the city of Nancy in Lorraine.  In 1727 King James Stuart III (the Young Pretender to the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland), who was then in exile in Lorraine, appointed Owen as his ambassador to the imperial court in Vienna.  He also raised Owen to the peerage as Baron O’Rourke of Carre.  The king heaped further honours on O’Rourke when he advanced him to the rank of Viscount of Breffny in recognition of Owen’s ‘wisdom, ability and loyalty to the service of his king and country’.  Owen retained his diplomatic post right up to the end of his life in 1743.  He had no children but his hereditary titles were extended to his first cousin Con and his heirs in Castle Car.  Owen’s private correspondence with his relatives – the O’Rourkes of Car and O’Donnells of Larkfield – still survives in the state archives in Vienna.