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In 1567 the then Knight of Glin, Thomas Fitz Gerald, was hanged, drawn and quartered and had much of his estate confiscated for his role in the Desmond Rebellion against Elizabeth I.Legend has it that his mother seized his severed head and drank his blood before gathering his body parts for burial.Her second husband was the Canadian millionaire, Ray Milner.

In 1923 Desmond’s grandfather, the 27th Knight, saved the castle from being raided by a Sinn Fein mob.

Confined to a wheelchair after a stroke, he refused to leave the castle, roaring: “You’ll have to burn it with me inside, boys.” On hearing this, the rebels were said to have dispersed to a village hostelry while the Knight used the petrol they had left behind to run the farm machinery.

They started a bed and breakfast business and in 2002 turned the castle into a small hotel which did well for a number of years, and where the 29th Knight, a youthful and handsome figure into his 70s, continued to cut a dash in his signature tweed jacket and black polo neck sweater.

But the international credit crunch and the Irish economic nosedive hit them hard and finances became increasingly strained.

Desmond Fitz Gerald inherited the castle and title aged 12, on the death of his father from tuberculosis in 1949.

By this time, all that remained of the estate was 500 acres of park and grazing land.

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But they never got around to finishing the third floor and, when the Colonel died in 1803, it was found he had no money left.

An auction was held of the entire contents of the house — the only things not sold were the family portraits and the library shelving.

The Knight of Glin, also called the Black Knight, is one of three ancient Irish hereditary titles dating from the 13th and 14th centuries and recognised by Irish Republican governments.

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