Recorded as O'Shaughnessy and occasionally Shaughnessy, without the Gaelic prefix, this is a famous Irish surname. Its precise meaning is uncertain, but it has a special significance in a land where Christianity has such a hold. The O'Shaunghnessy clan are believed to be the direct descendants of the last pagan king of all Ireland, King Daithi, in the 10th century a.d. Certainly the clan were the most prominent sect in that part of the country known in ancient times as Ui Fiachra Aidhne, now County Galway, and it is said that they defeated their kinsmen the O'Cahills and the O'Clery's, to be the chiefs of the region. In the "Book of Connacht" which outlines the main land owners of the province in the year 1585, they are recorded as holding "O'Shaughnessy's country". It seems that the clan had rather roving loyalties being at various times rewarded by the English crown with status and homours, and at other times, particularly in the Cromwellian period of 1650 - 1660, having much of their lands sequestrated for rebellion. These lands were regained in the reign of Charles 11 (1660 - 1685) only to be lost again when King James 11 (1685 - 1690) was defeated at the battle of the Boyne. Amongst the many famous name holders is the man claimed to be the last true chief of the clan William O'Shaughnessy. He was the commander of the Irish Brigade in the army of France, and died in 1744, having attained the position of Marshall of France. The first recorded holder of the surname may be Sir Dermot O'Shaughnessy, who was granted a knighthood by King Henry V111 of England in the year 1526.
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