As Robert Devereux, the 2nd Earl, was a minor aged ten on his inheritance, his estates were put in the hands of trustees. He grew up to become Elizabeth’s favourite and in 1599 she made him Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He failed his sovereign, and his fall from favour and subsequent execution, in 1600, attainted of treason, led to the forfeiture of his estates to the Crown.
We now find the Gaels coming back into their own. In 1594, Ever MacColla MacMahon had illegally broken into and taken over the whole barony of Farney. Following the attainder of Essex, he applied to the Crown to have this act legitimised. King James I, on ascending the throne in 1603, immediately revoked the attainder on the Essex family. MacMahon was allowed to lease the land from its official owner, Essex, until 1620. Moreover, the settlement and regrant of 1606 left the county of Monaghan largely in Gaelic hands. The estate continued in the Essex family until 1646, when the 3rd Earl died intestate and without issue.
At this stage the estate underwent the first of several partitions. It passed in two halves to Essex’s co-heirs, the Marquess of Hertford and Sir Robert Shirley. Sir Robert himself died in 1656, imprisoned in the Tower of London for supporting the Royalist cause in the English civil war. His son and heir was Sir Seymour Shirley, on whose death in 1667 the estate and the rest of the family inheritance passed in turn to his second and only surviving son, Sir Robert Shirley. Sir Robert entered the House of Lords in 1677, as Baron Ferrers of Chartley, and in 1711 was further promoted as Earl Ferrers and Viscount Tamworth. This last title related to the family seat of Ettington in Warwickshire.
The division of 1692 came out of an agreement between the heirs of the two daughters of Robert, 2nd Earl of Essex. Earl Ferrers, the grandson of Lady Dorothy inherited her share, and Thomas Thynne, 1st Viscount Weymouth succeeded to the inheritance of Lady Frances Devereux, the Earl’s elder daughter, later Marchioness of Hertford and Duchess of Somerset. This division was uneven, and in Lord Weymouth’s favour. Lord Weymouth, however, behaved generously in order to rectify this injustice to Ferrers.
The lst Viscount Weymouth died in 1714, without surviving male issue, and bequeathed his estates to Thomas, 2nd Viscount, and ancestor of the Marquesses of Bath. Robert, Earl Ferrers died in 1717, his estate, by agreement, devolving in equal parts to his four sons: Robert, George, Sewallis and John Shirley. Of these, only George survived and, as the others had died without issue, the whole estate passed to him. He was the grandfather of the Shirley brothers Horatio Henry and Evelyn Philip, the 19th-century owners of the western moiety of Farney. The Shirleys were absentees, spending most of their time at Ettington in Warwickshire. In c.1750, they built a house near Carrickmacross for their occasional visits. It was not until 1826 that Robert’s grandson, Evelyn John Shirley, laid the foundations of a mansion worthy of the family and estate near the banks of Lough Fea.