Lacy is one of the most popular surnames in Ireland but it has Norman-French origins.
Variations of the name include Lacey, Lassey and Lacye.
The name is taken from the town of Lassy in Calvados, Normandy, France. The town got its name from the Romans who called it De Laci when they arrived in France during the days of the Roman Empire. This came from the personal name ‘Lascius’ which has biblical origins.
The name Lassy was taken to England during the Norman Conquest in 1066. Many Lassys fought alongside William the Conqueror.
Lacys arrive in Ireland
In the late 12th century the Normans turned their attention to Ireland. They crossed the Irish Sea and defeated the King of Leinster in 1169.
Hugh de Lacy was given 800,000 acres of land in Co Meath that had belonged to the MacLaughlin family. Hugh strengthened his family’s position in Ireland when he married Rose O’Connor whose father was king of Connacht.
Hugh and his son Walter built Trim Castle over a 30-year period in the 12th century. It is the largest Norman castle in Ireland and is still standing today.
Walter later acquired more land in Co Down.
King John became worried that the de Lacys were becoming too powerful and many were banished to Scotland.
The brothers Ilbert and William de Lacy came from a distinguished family and both had descendants who played significant roles in British and Irish history.
John de Lacy and the Magna Carta
John de Lacy, a descendent of Ilbert, was Earl of Lincoln. He was one of the noblemen who helped to impose the Magna Carta on King John of England.
The Magna Carta is a significant document in political history as it was the first time a king relinquished power to his subjects without being defeated in battle. It paved the way for centuries of struggle to reach full democracy as we know it today.
William’s descendants continued to be an important family in Ireland. One descendant of William, Count Peter Lacy, was military adviser to Russian Czar Peter the Great.
By the 16th century the Lacys had become more integrated into Irish society. They joined forces with the Irish natives to fight English invaders during the Elizabethan era.
Joining the French military
Many Lacys left Ireland in the ‘Flight of the Wild Geese’. This was after Irish Catholics who wanted James as king lost the Battle of the Boyne to the Protestant forces of William of Orange.
The Flight of the Wild Geese saw noblemen and soldiers leave Ireland and head for Catholic European countries such as France, Spain, Italy and Austria. Many Lacys joined the Irish brigade in the French army.
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