It was first created in 1603, for Rudhraighe Ó Domhnail (Rory O'Donnell), formerly King of Tír Chonaill (or Tyrconnell), along with the subsidiary title Baron Donegal. The 1st Earl was succeeded by his son Hugh, Lord Donegal, but both titles were attainted in 1614.
Following the self-exile of the Gaelic aristocracy in 1607, and the ensuing Ulster Plantation, it was created a second time in 1661 for the 2nd Viscount FitzWilliam, but became extinct on his death in 1667.
It was created a third time in 1685 for Sir Richard Talbot, along with the subsidiary titles Viscount Baltinglass and Baron Talbotstown, but all these titles were forfeit in 1691 when Lord Tyrconnell joined King James II against the Glorious Revolution. King James also created him Duke of Tyrconnell and Marquess of Tyrconnell in 1689, but these titles were recognised only by Jacobites (see Jacobite peerage).
The title was created a fourth and final time in 1761 for the 3rd Baron Carpenter, along with the subsidiary title Viscount Carlingford. These titles became extinct on the death of the 4th Earl in 1853. The 1st Baron Carpenter was a distinguished soldier, who was a Member of Parliament for Whitchurch in 1715–1722 and Westminster from 1722. The 2nd Baron Carpenter was Member of Parliament for Morpeth in 1717–27 and for Weobley in 1741–7
The Earl had no surviving children. Upon his demise, and then that of his spouse, the Carpenter surname and arms Carpenter was assumed by Royal Licence, dated 1 June 1868, by The Hon. Walter Cecil Carpenter (1834 - 1904), formerly known as The Hon. Walter Cecil Talbot. He later became an Admiral in the Royal Navy.