The Conynghams Story

Posted on 20th April 2022

Twenty-seven children and fighting on both sides of the Battle of the Boyne

A potted history of the Conyngham family

The Conyngham family who have lived in Slane Castle since the 1700s are an eclectic bunch with many fascinating characters enlivening the family tree. The very first Conyngham in Ireland was Alexander, a Scottish protestant clergyman of noble lineage who settled in Donegal in 1611. He sired an impressive 27 children with his Irish wife, Marian Murray, of whom about nine reached adulthood. It is his descendants who are the current Conyngham family in Slane, though the line is indirect, with uncles and aunts playing a part along the way.

The Battle of the Boyne in 1690, which took place a few miles downriver from Slane Castle, brought the Conynghams to Slane for the first time. The battle was between King William of Orange and the deposed King James II – and Conynghams were to be found fighting on both sides. Slane Castle and its lands had been owned the Fleming family since 1175, but they had the misfortune to support the losing Jacobite side, and their property was confiscated. Some time later in 1703 Major General Henry Conyngham, who had fought for the winning King Billy, purchased the estate. Henry was a grandson of Alexander the clergyman and an ancestor of Alex, the current Earl. Henry’s son, also named Henry, was the first to have the title of Earl. He took it upon himself to improve the grounds and engaged the services of legendary landscape artist Capability Browne to design both the parklands and the ornate stable block which today houses Slane Distillery.

Alex and Carina Conyngham

The next generation had an enormous impact on Slane Castle itself. William Burton Conyngham was responsible for reconstructing the existing castle and turning it into the majestic building it is today. This was in the late 1700s, about 80 years after the family had moved into the castle. William was a pioneering and visionary man who also planned and improved the village of Slane. The collective talents of no less than three distinguished architects accomplished the redesign – Francis Johnston, James Gandon (who designed the Custom House) and James Wyatt.

Slane Castle was the settling for a famous historical romance between King George IV of England and Elizabeth, the first Marchioness Conyngham. The King stayed in the Castle in 1821 and it’s believed that the remarkably straight road from Dublin to Slane was designed specifically to speed up his journey. He dined in the spectacular Gothic Revival Ballroom and the bedroom he slept in is, to this day, known as the King’s Room.

The Conynghams have been loyal to the traditional family names, Henry and Alexander through the generations. Lord Henry, father of the current Earl, is best known for introducing the iconic rock concerts to Slane Castle. His son Alex Burton Conyngham now holds the title and lives in the castle with his wife, the Countess Carina, and their children. The family are also entitled to use the surname Mount Charles.

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