The O'Conor Don is one of the royal houses of Ireland, heirs to the Highkingship, tracing their ancestry in unbroken line back at least to the fifth century A.D. The antiquity of these royal houses is rivaled only by the Royal Bagration family of Georgia who are said to trace their descent from the Armenian nobility of the third century A.D.

The royal eligible for the Highkingship of Ireland corresponded to the four provinces and are: ONeill of Ulster, Mac Morrough of Leinster, Mac Carthy and OBrien of Munster and O'Conor of Connacht.

After the Norman invasion of 1170, these houses survived as kings of their provinces, and through time the O'Conor house was divided into three branches, O'Conor Rua, O'Conor Sligo and O'Conor Don.

The first two of these titles expired in the eighteenth century in exile.

The line of O'Conor continued to be closely associated with Gaelic literature and culture. Charles O'Conor of Belanagare was an outstanding historian, author of Dissertations on Irish History (1753), and responsible for the survival of one of the the major manuscript collections of Gaelic literature, the Book of the O'Conor Don. His grandson, a Catholic priest, wrote Rerum Hibericarum Scriptores in the nineteenth century. A scion of the houses was defence counsel for Jefferson Davis after the American Civil War and Democratic candidate for the Presidency in 1872.

An O'Conor Don was Liberal M.P. for Roscommon in Westminster from 1860 to 1880 and took a prominent role in education and peal reform and workers' legislation, as well as in the revival of the Irish lanaguage in Ireland. Roderic O'Conor (1860-1940), one of the Irelands leading painters, was a member of the Pont-Aven group and a friend of Van Gogh and Gauguin.

The personal arms of the O'Conor Don bear the symbol of the mystic oak tree associated with royalty in the ancient Celtic world, and the motto O Dhia gach cu cabhrach "From God comes every helping champion". The houses survive today as probably the oldest continuous line in Europe.


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