In 1663, Edward Cooper, a Cornet, who served under Cromwell when his army defeated the O’Brien Clan, was allotted the original 14th-century Markree Castle and the surrounding lands.
Conor O’Brien died in this battle and Edward married his widow, Marie Rua, and with her two sons they went to live at Dromoland Castle. One son, Donough, was left Dromoland and the other Markree. Charles Cooper, who sold Markree Castle in 2015, is a direct descendant of this son.
Times remained turbulent and, during an attempt by the English King James to regain the throne, the Catholic army occupied Markree Castle and the Coopers had to flee. After the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, they returned and have been resident ever since.
In 1830, Col. Edward Joshua Cooper MP, the eldest son of Edward Synge Cooper MP and Ann, daughter of Henry Vansittart, Governor of Bengal, set up Markree Observatory in the castle grounds. For a number of years, Cooper’s telescope was the largest in the world.
“The Observatory of Mr Cooper of Markree Castle – undoubtedly the most richly furnished private observatory known – is worked with great activity by Mr Cooper himself and by his very able assist, Mr Andrew Graham.” - Royal Astronomical Society, 1851.
The observatory remained active until the death of Edward Henry Cooper MP in 1902.
The soldier and politician, Bryan Cooper, inherited the castle on the death of his father in 1902 and resided there with his family, except during WWI and when carrying out political duties, until his death in 1930.
After WWI, the castle fell on hard times and stood empty for many years, gradually falling into dereliction. In 1988 it appeared on the front cover of The Vanishing Country Houses of Ireland, a testament to the sad state of decay of many of Ireland's great houses at the time until, in 1989, Charles Cooper transformed his ancestral home into a hotel.
In recent years, Markree Castle was operated as a hotel run by Charles and Mary Cooper, the 10th generation of the family to live there. In 2015, after nearly four centuries, it finally changed hands when bought by the Corscaddens, a renowned family or Irish hoteliers.
On the landing of the castle’s monumental staircase sits a huge stained glass window which traces the Cooper family tree from Victorian times all the way back to the time of King John.