A Popular History of Ireland


On the last day of January, 1547, Edward, son of Henry, by Lady Jane Seymour, was crowned by the title of Edward VI. He was then only nine years old, and was destined to wear the crown but for six years and a few months. No Irish Parliament was convened during his reign, but the Reformation was pushed on with great vigour, at first under the patronage of the Protector, his uncle, and subsequently of that uncle’s rival, the Duke of Northumberland. Archbishop Cranmer suffered the zeal of neither of these statesmen to flag for want of stimulus, and the Lord Deputy Saint Leger, judging from the cause of his disgrace in the next reign, approved himself a willing assistant in the work.

The Irish Privy Council, which exercised all the powers of government during this short reign, was composed exclusively of partizans of the Reformation. Besides Archbishop Browne and Staples, Bishop of Meath, its members were the Chancellor, Read, and the Treasurer, Brabazon, both English, with the Judges Aylmer, Luttrel, Bath, Cusack, and Howth—all proselytes, at least in form, to the new opinions. The Earl of Ormond, with sixteen of his household, having been poisoned at a banquet in Ely House, London, in October before Henry’s death, the influence of that great house was wielded during the minority of his successor by Sir Francis Bryan, an English adventurer, who married the widowed countess. This lady being, moreover, daughter and heir general to James, Earl of Desmond, brought Bryan powerful connections in the South, which he was not slow to turn to a politic account. His ambition aimed at nothing less than the supreme authority, military and civil; but when at length he attained the summit of his hopes, he only lived to enjoy them a few months.

To enable the Deputy and Council to carry out the work they had begun, an additional military force was felt to be necessary, and Sir Edward Bellingham was sent over, soon after Edward’s accession, with a detachment of six hundred horse, four hundred foot, and the title of Captain General. This able officer, in conjunction with Sir Francis Bryan, who appears to have been everywhere, overran Offally, Leix, Ely and West-Meath, sending the chiefs of the two former districts as prisoners to London, and making advantageous terms with those of the latter. He was, however, supplanted in the third year of Edward by Bryan, who held successively the rank of Marshal of Ireland and Lord Deputy. To the latter office he was chosen on an emergency, by the Council, in December, 1549, but died at Clonmel, on an expedition against the O’Carrolls, in the following February. His successes and those of Bellingham hastened the reduction of Leix and Offally into shire ground in the following reign.

The total military force at the disposal of Edward’s commanders was probably never less than 10,000 effective men. By the aid of their abundant artillery, they were enabled to take many strong places hitherto deemed impregnable to assault. The mounted men and infantry, were, as yet, but partially armed with musquetons, or firelocks—for the spear and the bow still found advocates among military men. The spearmen or lancers were chiefly recruited on the marches of Northumberland from the hardy race of border warriors; the mounted bowmen or hobilers were generally natives of Chester or North Wales. Between these new comers and the native Anglo-Irish troops many contentions arose from time to time, but in the presence of the common foe these bickerings were completely forgotten. The townsmen of Waterford marched promptly at a call, under their standard of the three galleys, and those of Dublin as cheerfully turned out under the well-known banner, decorated with three flaming towers.

The personnel of the administration, in the six years of Edward, was continually undergoing change. Bellingham, who succeeded St. Leger, was supplanted by Bryan, on whose death, St. Leger was reappointed. After another year Sir James Croft was sent over to replace St. Leger, and continued to fill the office until the accession of Queen Mary. But whoever rose or fell to the first rank in civil affairs, the Privy Council remained exclusively Protestant, and the work of innovation was not suffered to languish. A manuscript account, attributed to Adam Loftus, Browne’s successor, assigns the year 1549 as the date when “the Mass was put down,” in Dublin, “and divine service was celebrated in English.” Bishop Mant, the historian of the Established Church in Ireland, does not find any account of such an alteration, nor does the statement appear to him consistent with subsequent facts of this reign. We observe, also, that in 1550, Arthur Magennis, the Pope’s Bishop of Dromore, was allowed by the government to enter on possession of his temporalities after taking an oath of allegiance, while King’s Bishops were appointed in that and the next two years to the vacant Sees of Kildare, Leighlin, Ossory, and Limerick. A vacancy having occurred in the See of Cashel, in 1551, it was unaccountably left vacant, as far as the Crown was concerned, during the remainder of this reign, while a similar vacancy in Armagh was filled, at least in name, by the appointment of Dr. Hugh Goodacre, chaplain to the Bishop of Winchester, and a favourite preacher with the Princess Elizabeth. This Prelate was consecrated, according to a new form, in Christ Church, Dublin, on 2nd of February, 1523, together with his countryman, John Bale, Bishop of Ossory. The officiating Prelates were Browne, Staples, and Lancaster of Kildare—all English. The Irish Establishment, however, does not at all times rest its argument for the validity of its episcopal Order upon these consecrations. Most of their writers lay claim to the Apostolic succession, through Adam Loftus, consecrated in England, according to the ancient rite, by Hugh Curwen, an Archbishop in communion with the See of Rome, at the time of his elevation to the episcopacy.

In February, 1551, Sir Anthony St. Leger received the King’s commands to cause the Scriptures translated into the English tongue, and the Liturgy and Prayers of the Church, also translated into English, to be read in all the churches of Ireland. To render these instructions effective, the Deputy summoned a convocation of the Archbishops, Bishops, and Clergy, to meet in Dublin on the 1st of March, 1551. In this meeting—the first of two in which the defenders of the old and of the new religion met face to face—the Catholic party was led by the intrepid Dowdal, Archbishop of Armagh, and the Reformers by Archbishop Browne. The Deputy, who, like most laymen of that age, had a strong theological turn, also took an active part in the discussion. Finally delivering the royal order to Browne, the latter accepted it in a set form of words, without reservation; the Anglican Bishops of Meath, Kildare, and Leighlin, and Coyne, Bishop of Limerick, adhering to his act; Primate Dowdal, with the other Bishops, having previously retired from the Conference. On Easter day following, the English service was celebrated for the first tune in Christ Church, Dublin, the Deputy, the Archbishop, and the Mayor of the city assisting. Browne preached from the text: “Open mine eyes that I may see the wonders of the law” —a sermon chiefly remarkable for its fierce invective against the new Order of Jesuits.

Primate Dowdal retired from the Castle Conference to Saint Mary’s Abbey, on the north side of the Liffey, where he continued while these things were taking place in the city proper. The new Lord Deputy, Sir James Crofts, on his arrival in May, addressed himself to the Primate, to bring about, if possible, an accommodation between the Prelates. Fearing, as he said, an “order ere long to alter church matters, as well in offices as in ceremonies,” the new Deputy urged another Conference, which was accordingly held at the Primate’s lodgings, on the 16th of June. At this meeting Browne does not seem to have been present, the argument on the side of the Reformers being maintained by Staples. The points discussed were chiefly the essential character of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and the invocation of Saints. The tone observed on both sides was full of high-bred courtesy. The letter of the Sacred Scriptures and the authority of Erasmus in Church History were chiefly relied upon by Staples; the common consent and usage of all Christendom, the primacy of Saint Peter, and the binding nature of the oath taken by Bishops at their consecration, were pointed out by the Primate. The disputants parted, with expressions of deep regret that they could come to no agreement; but the Primacy was soon afterwards transferred to Dublin, by order of the Privy Council, and Dowdal fled for refuge into Brabant. The Roman Catholic and the Anglican Episcopacy have never since met in oral controversy on Irish ground, though many of the second order of the clergy in both communions have, from time to time, been permitted by their superiors to engage in such discussions.

Whatever obstacles they encountered within the Church itself, the propagation of the new religion was not confined to moral means, nor was the spirit of opposition at all tunes restricted to mere argument. Bishop Bale having begun at Kilkenny to pull down the revered images of the Saints, and to overturn the Market Cross, was set upon by the mob, five of his servants, or guard, were slain, and himself narrowly escaped with his life by barricading himself in his palace. The garrisons in the neighbourhood of the ancient seats of ecclesiastical power and munificence were authorized to plunder their sanctuaries and storehouses. The garrison of Down sacked the celebrated shrines and tomb of Patrick, Bridget, and Columbkill; the garrison of Carrickfergus ravaged Rathlin Island and attacked Derry, from which, however, they were repulsed with severe loss by John the Proud. But the most lamentable scene of spoliation, and that which excited the profoundest emotions of pity and anger in the public mind, was the violation of the churches of St. Kieran—the renowned Clonmacnoise. This city of schools had cast its cross-crowned shade upon the gentle current of the Upper Shannon for a thousand years. Danish fury, civil storm, and Norman hostility had passed over it, leaving traces of their power in the midst of the evidences of its recuperation. The great Church to which pilgrims flocked from every tribe of Erin, on the 9th of September—St. Kieran’s Day; the numerous chapels erected by the chiefs of all the neighbouring clans; the halls, hospitals, book-houses, nunneries, cemeteries, granaries-all still stood, awaiting from Christian hands the last fatal blow. In the neighbouring town of Athlone—seven or eight miles distant—the Treasurer, Brabazon, had lately erected a strong “Court” or Castle, from which, in the year 1552, the garrison sallied forth to attack “the place of the sons of the nobles,”—which is the meaning of the name. In executing this task they exhibited a fury surpassing that of Turgesius and his Danes. The pictured glass was torn from the window frames, and the revered images from their niches; altars were overthrown; sacred vessels polluted. “They left not,” say the Four Masters, “a book or a gem,” nor anything to show what Clonmacnoise had been, save the bare walls of the temples, the mighty shaft of the round tower, and the monuments in the cemeteries, with their inscriptions in Irish, in Hebrew, and in Latin. The Shannon re-echoed with their profane songs and laughter, as laden with chalices and crucifixes, brandishing croziers, and flaunting vestments in the air, their barges returned to the walls of Athlone.

In all the Gaelic speaking regions of Ireland, the new religion now began to be known by those fruits which it had so abundantly produced. Though the southern and midland districts had not yet recovered from the exhaustion consequent upon the suppression of the Geraldine league and the abortive insurrection of Silken Thomas, the northern tribes were still unbroken and undismayed. They had deputed George Paris, a kinsman of the Kildare Fitzgeralds, as their agent to the French King, in the latter days of Henry VIII., and had received two ambassadors on his behalf at Donegal and Dungannon. These ambassadors, the Baron de Forquevaux, and the Sieur de Montluc, who subsequently became Bishop of Valence, crossing over from the west of Scotland, entered into a league, offensive and defensive, with “the princes” of Tyrconnell and Tyrowen, by which the latter bound themselves to recognize, on certain conditions, “whoever was King of France as King of Ireland likewise.” This alliance, though prolonged into the reign of Edward, led to nothing definitive, and we shall see in the next reign how the hopes then turned towards France were naturally transferred to Spain.

The only native name which rises into historic importance at this period is that of Shane, or John O’Neil, “the Proud.” He was the legitimate son of that Con O’Neil who had been girt with the Earl’s baldric by the hands of Henry VIII. His father had procured at the same time for an illegitimate son, Ferodach, or Mathew, of Dundalk, the title of Baron of Dungannon, with the reversion of the Earldom. When, however, John the Proud came of age, he centred upon himself the hopes of his clansmen, deposed his father, subdued the Baron, and assumed the title of O’Neil. In 1552 he defeated the efforts of Sir William Brabazon to fortify Belfast, and delivered Derry from its plunderers. From that time till his tragical death, in the ninth year of Queen Elizabeth, he stood unquestionably the first man of his race, both in lineage and action.


The death of Edward VI. and the accession of the lady Mary were known in Dublin by the middle of July, 1553, and soon spread all over the kingdom. On the 20th of that month, the form of proclamation was received from London, in which the new Queen was forbidden to be styled “head of the church,” and this was quickly followed by another ordinance, authorizing all who would to publicly attend Mass, but not compelling thereto any who were unwilling. A curious legal difficulty existed in relation to Mary’s title to the Crown of Ireland. By the Irish Statute, 38. Hen. VIII., the Irish crown was entailed by name on the Lady Elizabeth, and that act had not been repealed. It was, however, held to have been superseded by the English Statute, 35. Hen. VIII., which followed the election of 1541, and declared the Crown of Ireland “united and knit to the Imperial Crown of the Realm of England.” Read in the light of the latter statute, the Irish sovereignty might be regarded a mere appurtenance of that of England, but Mary did not so consider it. At her coronation, a separate crown was used for Ireland, nor did she feel assured of the validity of her claim to wear it till she had obtained a formal dispensation to that effect from the Pope.

The intelligence of the new Queen’s accession, and the public restoration of the old religion, diffused a general joy throughout Ireland. Festivals and pageants were held in the streets, and eloquent sermons poured from all the pulpits. Archbishop Dowdal was called from exile, and the Primacy was restored to Armagh. Sir Anthony St. Leger, his ancient antagonist, had now conformed to the Court fashion, and was sent over to direct the establishment of that religion which he had been so many years engaged in pulling down. In 1554, Browne, Staples, Lancaster, and Travers, were formally deprived of their sees; Bale and Casey of Limerick fled beyond seas, without awaiting judgment. Married clergymen were invariably silenced, and the children of Browne were declared by statute illegitimate.

What, however, gratified the public even more than these retributions was the liberation of the aged Chief of Offally from the Tower of London, at the earnest supplication of his heroic daughter, Margaret, who found her way to the Queen’s presence to beg that boon; and the simultaneous restoration of the Earldom of Kildare, in the person of that Gerald, who had been so young a fugitive among the glens of Muskerry and Donegal, and had since undergone so many continental adventures. With O’Conor and young Gerald, the heirs of the houses of Ormond and of Upper Ossory were also allowed to return to their homes, to the great delight of the southern half of the kingdom. The subsequent marriage of Mary with Philip II. of Spain gave an additional security to the Irish Catholics for the future freedom of their religion.

Great as was the change in this respect, it is not to be inferred that the national relations of Ireland and England were materially affected by such a change of sovereign. The maxims of conquest were not to be abandoned at the dictates of religion. The supreme power continued to be entrusted only to Englishmen; while the same Parliament (3rd and 4th Philip and Mary) which abolished the title of head of the Church, and restored the Roman jurisdiction in matters spiritual, divided Leix and Offally, Glenmalier and Slewmargy, into shire ground, subject to English law, under the name of King’s and Queen’s County. The new forts of Maryborough and Philipstown, as well as the county names, served to teach the people of Leinster that the work of conquest could be as industriously prosecuted by Catholic as by Protestant rulers. Nor were these forts established and maintained without many a struggle. St. Leger, and his still abler successor, the Earl of Sussex, and the new Lord Treasurer, Sir Henry Sidney, were forced to lead many an expedition to the relief of those garrisons, and the dispersion of their assailants. It was not in Irish human nature to submit to the constant pressure of a foreign power without seizing every possible opportunity for its expulsion.

The new principle of primogeniture introduced at the commutation of chieftainries into earldoms was productive in this reign of much commotion and bloodshed. The seniors of the O’Briens resisted its establishment in Thomond, on the death of the first Earl; Calvagh O’Donnell took arms against his father, to defeat its introduction into Tyrconnell; John the Proud, as we have seen in the reign of Edward, had been one of its earliest opponents in Ulster. Being accused in the last year of Queen Mary of procuring the death of his illegitimate brother, the Baron of Dungannon, in order to remove him from his path, he was summoned to account for those circumstances before Sir Henry Sidney, then acting as Lord Justice. His plea has been preserved to us, and no doubt represents the prevailing opinion of the Gaelic-speaking population towards the new system. He answered, “that the surrender which his father had made to Henry VIII., and the restoration which Henry made to his father again were of no force; inasmuch as his father had no right to the lands which he surrendered to the King, except during his own life; that he (John) himself was the O’Neil by the law of Tanistry, and by popular election; and that he assumed no superiority over the chieftains of the North except what belonged to his ancestors.” To these views he adhered to the last, accepting no English honours, though quite willing to live at peace with English sovereigns. When the title of Earl of Tyrone was revived, it was in favour of the son of the Baron, the celebrated Hugh O’Neil, the ally of Spain, and the most formidable antagonist of Queen Elizabeth.

In the Irish Parliament already referred to (3rd and 4th Philip and Mary) an Act was passed declaring it a felony to introduce armed Scotchmen into Ireland, or to intermarry with them without a license under the great seal. This statute was directed against those multitudes of Islesmen and Highlanders who annually crossed the narrow strait which separates Antrim from Argyle to harass the English garrisons alongshore, or to enlist as auxiliaries in Irish quarrels. In 1556, under one of their principal leaders, James, son of Conal, they laid siege to Carrickfergus and occupied Lord Sussex some six weeks in the glens of Antrim. Their leader finally entered into conditions, the nature of which may be inferred from the fact that he received the honour of knighthood on their acceptance. John O’Neil had usually in his service a number of these mercenary troops, from among whom he selected sixty body-guards, the same number supplied by his own clan. In his first attempt to subject Tyrconnell to his supremacy in 1557, his camp near Raphoe was surprised at night by Calvagh O’Donnell, and his native and foreign guards were put to the sword, while he himself barely escaped by swimming the Mourne and the Finn. O’Donnell had frequently employed a similar force, in his own defence; and we read of the Lord of Clanrickarde driving back a host of them engaged in the service of his rivals, from the banks of the Moy, in 1558.

Although the memory of Queen Mary has been held up to execration during three centuries as a bloody-minded and malignant persecutor of all who differed from her in religion, it is certain that in Ireland, where, if anywhere, the Protestant. minority might have been extinguished by such severities as are imputed to her, no persecution for conscience’ sake took place. Married Bishops were deprived, and married priests were silenced, but beyond this no coercion was employed. It has been said there was not time to bring the machinery to bear; but surely if there was time to do so in England, within the space of five years, there was tune in Ireland also. The consoling truth—honourable to human nature and to Christian charity, is—that many families out of England, apprehending danger in their own country, sought and found a refuge from their fears in the western island. The families of Agar, Ellis, and Harvey, are descended from emigrants, who were accompanied from Cheshire by a clergyman of their own choice, whose ministrations they freely enjoyed during the remainder of this reign at Dublin. The story about Dr. Cole having been despatched to Ireland with a commission to punish heretics, and, losing it on the way, is unworthy of serious notice. If there had been any such determination formed there was ample time to put it into execution between 1553 and 1558.


The daughter of Anna Boleyn was promptly proclaimed Queen the same day on which Mary died—the 17th of November, 1558. Elizabeth was then in her 26th year, proud of her beauty, and confident in her abilities. Her great capacity had been cultivated by the best masters of the age, and the best of all ages, early adversity. Her vices were hereditary in her blood, but her genius for government so far surpassed any of her immediate predecessors as to throw her vices into the shade. During the forty-four years in which she wielded the English sceptre, many of the most stirring occurrences of our history took place; it could hardly have fallen out otherwise, under a sovereign of so much vigour, having the command of such immense resources.

On the news of Mary’s death reaching Ireland, the Lord Deputy Sussex returned to England, and Sir Henry Sidney, the Treasurer, was appointed his successor ad interim. As in England, so in Ireland, though for somewhat different reasons, the first months of the new reign were marked by a conciliating and temporizing policy. Elizabeth, who had not assumed the title of “Head of the Church,” continued to hear Mass for several months after her accession. At her coronation she had a High Mass sung, accompanied, it is true, by a Calvinistic sermon. Before proceeding with the work of “reformation,” inaugurated by her father, and arrested by her sister, she proceeded cautiously to establish herself, and her Irish deputy followed in the same careful line of conduct. Having first made a menacing demonstration against John the Proud, he entered into friendly correspondence with him, and finally ended the campaign by standing godfather to one of his children. This relation of gossip among the old Irish was no mere matter of ceremony, but involved obligations lasting as life, and sacred as the ties of kindred blood. By seeking such a sponsor, O’Neil placed himself in Sidney’s power, rather than Sidney in his, since the two men must have felt very differently bound by the connection into which they had entered. As an evidence of the Imperial policy of the moment, the incident is instructive.

Bound the personal history of this splendid, but by no means stainless Ulster Prince, the events of the first nine years of Elizabeth’s reign over Ireland naturally group themselves. Whether at her Majesty’s council-board, or among the Scottish islands, or in hall or hut at home, the attention of all manner of men interested in Ireland was fixed upon the movements of John the Proud. In tracing his career, we therefore naturally gather all, or nearly all, the threads of the national story, during the first ten years of Queen Mary’s successor.

In the second year of Elizabeth, Lord Deputy Sussex, who returned fully possessed of her Majesty’s views, summoned the Parliament to meet in Dublin on the 12th day of January, 1560. It is to be observed, however, that though the union of the crowns was now of twenty years’ standing, the writs were not issued to the nation at large, but only to the ten counties of Dublin, Meath, Louth, West-Meath, Kildare, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Waterford, and Tipperary, with their boroughs. The published instructions of Lord Sussex were “to make such statutes (concerning religion) as were made in England, mutatis mutandis.” As a preparation for the legislature, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Christ Church were purified by paint; the niches of the Saints were for the second time emptied of their images; texts of Scripture were blazoned upon the walls, and the Litany was chanted in English. After these preparatory demonstrations, the Deputy opened the new Parliament, which sat for one short but busy month. The Acts of Mary’s Parliament, re-establishing ecclesiastical relations with Rome, were the first thing repealed; then so much of the Act 33, Henry VIII., as related to the succession, was revived; all ecclesiastical jurisdiction was next declared vested in the Crown, and all “judges, justices, mayors, and temporal officers were declared bound to take tie oath of supremacy;” the penalty attached to the refusal of the oath, by this statute, being “forfeiture of office and promotion during life.” Proceeding rapidly in the same direction, it was declared that commissioners in ecclesiastical causes should adjudge nothing as heresy which was not expressly so condemned by the Canonical Scriptures, the received General Councils, or by Parliament. The penalty of praemunire was declared in force, and, to crown the work, the celebrated “Act of Uniformity” was passed. This was followed by other statutes for the restoration of first fruits and twentieths, and for the appointment of Bishops by the royal prerogative, or conge d’elire—elections by the chapter being declared mere “shadows of election, and derogatory to the prerogative.” Such was, in brief, the legislation of that famous Parliament of ten counties—the often quoted statutes of the “2nd of Elizabeth.” In the Act of Uniformity, the best known of all its statutes, there was this curious saving clause inserted: that whenever the “priest or common minister” could not speak English, he might still continue “to celebrate the service in the Latin tongue.” Such other observances were to be had as were prescribed by the 2nd Edward VI., until her Majesty should “publish further ceremonies or rites.” We have no history of the debates of this Parliament of a month, but there is ample reason to believe that some of these statutes were resisted throughout by a majority of the Upper House, still chiefly composed of Catholic Peers; that the clause saving the Latin ritual was inserted as a compromise with this opposition; that some of the other Acts were passed by stealth in the absence of many members, and that the Lord Deputy gave his solemn pledge the statute of Uniformity should be enforced, if passed. So severe was the struggle, and so little satisfied was Sussex with his success, that he hastily dissolved the Houses and went over personally to England to represent the state of feeling he had encountered. Finally, it is remarkable that no other Parliament was called in Ireland till nine years afterwards—a convincing proof of how unmanageable that body, even constituted as it was, had shown itself to be in matters affecting religion.

The non-invitation of the Irish chiefs to this Parliament, contrary to the precedent set in Mary’s reign and in 1541, the laws enacted, and the commotion they excited in the minds of the clergy, were circumstances which could not fail to attract the attention of John O’Neil. Even if insensible to what transpired at Dublin, the indefatigable Sussex-one of the ablest of Elizabeth’s able Court-did not suffer him long to misunderstand his relations to the new Queen. He might be Sidney’s gossip, but he was not the less Elizabeth’s enemy. He had been proclaimed “O’Neil” on the rath of Tullahoge, and had reigned at Dungannon, adjudging life and death. It was clear that two such jurisdictions as the Celtic and the Norman kingship could not stand long on the same soil, and the Ulster Prince soon perceived that he must establish his authority, by arms, or perish with it. We must also read all Irish events of the time of Elizabeth by the light of foreign politics; during the long reign of that sovereign, England was never wholly free from fears of invasion, and many movements which now seem inexplicable will be readily understood when we recollect that they took place under the menaces of foreign powers.

The O’Neils had anciently exercised a high-handed superiority over all Ulster, and John the Proud was not the man to let his claim lie idle in any district of that wide-spread Province. But authority which has fallen into decay must be asserted only at a propitious time, and with the utmost tact; and here it was that Elizabeth’s statesmen found their most effective means of attacking O’Neil. O’Donnell, who was his father-in-law, was studiously conciliated; his second wife, a lady of the Argyle family, received costly presents from the Queen; O’Reilly was created Earl of Breffni, and encouraged to resist the superiority to which the house of Dungannon laid claim. The natural consequences followed; John the Proud swept like a storm over the fertile hills of Cavan, and compelled the new-made Earl to deliver him tribute and hostages. O’Donnell, attended only by a few of his household, was seized in a religious house upon Lough Swilly, and subjected to every indignity which an insolent enemy could devise. His Countess, already alluded to, supposed to have been privy to this surprise of her husband, became the mistress of his captor and jailer, to whom she bore several children. What deepens the horror of this odious domestic tragedy is the fact that the wife of O’Neil, the daughter of O’Donnell, thus supplanted by her shameless stepmother, under her own roof, died soon afterwards of “horror, loathing, grief, and deep anguish,” at the spectacle afforded by the private life of O’Neil, and the severities inflicted upon her wretched father. All the patriotic designs, and all the shining abilities of John the Proud, cannot abate a jot of our detestation of such a private life; though slandered in other respects as he was, by hostile pens, no evidence has been adduced to clear his memory of these indelible stains; nor after becoming acquainted with their existence can we follow his after career with that heartfelt sympathy with which the lives of purer patriots must always inspire us.

The pledge given by Sussex, that the penal legislation of 1560 should lie a dead letter, was not long observed. In May of the year following its enactment, a commission was appointed to enforce the 2nd Elizabeth, in West-Meath; and in 1562 a similar commission was appointed for Meath and Armagh. By these commissioners Dr. William Walsh, Catholic Bishop of Meath, was arraigned and imprisoned for preaching against the new liturgy; a Prelate who afterwards died an exile in Spain. The primatial see was for the moment vacant, Archbishop Dowdal having died at London three months before Queen Mary-on the Feast of the Assumption, 1558. Terence, Dean of Armagh, who acted as administrator, convened a Synod of the English-speaking clergy of the Province in July, 1559, at Drogheda, but as this dignitary followed in the steps of his faithful predecessors, his deanery was conferred upon Dr. Adam Loftus, Chaplain of the Lord Lieutenant; two years subsequently the dignity of Archbishop of Armagh was conferred upon the same person. Dr. Loftus, a native of Yorkshire, had found favour in the eyes of the Queen at a public exhibition at Cambridge University; he was but 28 years old, according to Sir James Ware, when consecrated Primate-but Dr. Mant thinks he must have attained at least the canonical age of 30. During the whole of this reign he continued to reside at Dublin, which see was early placed under his jurisdiction in lieu of the inaccessible Armagh. For forty years he continued one of the ruling spirits at Dublin, whether acting as Lord Chancellor, Lord Justice, Privy Councillor, or First Provost of Trinity College. He was a pluralist in Church and State, insatiable of money and honours; if he did not greatly assist in establishing his religion, he was eminently successful in enriching his family.

Having subdued every hostile neighbour and openly assumed the high prerogative of Prince of Ulster, John the Proud looked around him for allies in the greater struggle which he foresaw could not be long postponed. Calvagh O’Donnell was yielded up on receiving a munificent ransom, but his infamous wife remained with her paramour. A negotiation was set on foot with the chiefs of the Highland and Island Scots, large numbers of whom entered into O’Neil’s service. Emissaries were despatched to the French Court, where they found a favourable reception, as Elizabeth was known to be in league with the King of Navarre and the Huguenot leaders against Francis II. The unexpected death of the King at the close of 1560; the return of his youthful widow, Queen Mary, to Scotland; the vigorous regency of Catherine de Medicis during the minority of her second son; the ill-success of Elizabeth’s arms during the campaigns of 1561-2-3, followed by the humiliating peace of April, 1564—these events are all to be borne in memory when considering the extraordinary relations which were maintained during the same years by the proud Prince of Ulster, with the still prouder Queen of England. The apparently contradictory tactics pursued by the Lord Deputy Sussex, between his return to Dublin in the spring of 1561, and his final recall in 1564, when read by the light of events which transpired at Paris, London, and Edinburgh, become easily intelligible. In the spring of the first mentioned year, it was thought possible to intimidate O’Neil, so Lord Sussex, with the Earl of Ormond as second in command, marched northwards, entered Armagh, and began to fortify the city, with a view to placing in it a powerful garrison. O’Neil, to remove the seat of hostilities, made an irruption into the plain of Meath, and menaced Dublin. The utmost consternation prevailed at his approach, and the Deputy, while continuing the fortification of Armagh, despatched the main body of his troops to press on the rear of the aggressor. By a rapid countermarch, O’Neil came up with this force, laden with spoils, in Louth, and after an obstinate engagement routed them with immense loss. On receipt of this intelligence, Sussex promptly abandoned Armagh, and returned to Dublin, while O’Neil erected his standard, as far South as Drogheda, within twenty miles of the capital. So critical at this moment was the aspect of affairs, that all the energies of the English interest were taxed to the utmost. In the autumn of the year, Sussex marched again from Dublin northward, having at his side the five powerful Earls of Kildare, Ormond, Desmond, Thomond, and Clanrickarde—whose mutual feuds had been healed or dissembled for the day. O’Neil prudently fell back before this powerful expedition, which found its way to the shores of Lough Foyle, without bringing him to an engagement, and without any military advantage. As the shortest way of getting rid of such an enemy, the Lord Deputy, though one of the wisest and most justly celebrated of Elizabeth’s Counsellors, did not hesitate to communicate to his royal mistress the project of hiring an assassin, named Nele Gray, to take off the Prince of Ulster, but the plot, though carefully elaborated, miscarried. Foreign news, which probably reached him only on reaching the Foyle, led to a sudden change of tactics on the part of Sussex, and the young Lord Kildare—O’Neil’s cousin-germain, was employed to negotiate a peace with the enemy they had set out to demolish.

This Lord Kildare was Gerald, the eleventh Earl, the same whom we have spoken of as a fugitive lad, in the last years of Henry VIII., and as restored to his estates and rank by Queen Mary. Although largely indebted to his Catholicity for the protection he had received while abroad from Francis I., Charles V., the Duke of Tuscany and the Roman See—especially the Cardinals Pole and Farnese—and still more indebted to the late Catholic Queen for the restoration of his family honours, this finished courtier, now in the very midsummer of life, one of the handsomest and most accomplished persons of his time, did not hesitate to conform himself, at least outwardly, to the religion of the State. Shortly before the campaign of which we have spoken, he had been suspected of treasonable designs, but had pleaded his cause successfully with the Queen in person. From Lough Foyle, accompanied by the Lord Slane, the Viscount Baltinglass, and a suitable guard, Lord Kildare set out for John O’Neil’s camp, where a truce was concluded between the parties, Lord Sussex undertaking to withdraw his wardens from Armagh, and O’Neil engaging himself to live in peace with her Majesty, and to serve “when necessary against her enemies.” The cousins also agreed personally to visit the English Court the following year, and accordingly in January ensuing they went to England, from which they returned home in the latter end of May.

The reception of John the Proud, at the Court of Elizabeth, was flattering in the extreme. The courtiers stared and smiled at his bareheaded body-guard, with their crocus-dyed vests, short jackets, and shaggy cloaks. But the broad-bladed battle-axe, and the sinewy arm which wielded it, inspired admiration for all the uncouth costume. The haughty indifference with which the Prince of Ulster treated every one about the Court, except the Queen, gave a keener edge to the satirical comments which were so freely indulged in at the expense of his style of dress. The wits proclaimed him “O’Neil the Great, cousin to Saint Patrick, friend to the Queen of England, and enemy to all the world besides!” O’Neil was well pleased with his reception by Elizabeth. When taxed upon his return with having made peace with her Majesty, he answered—”Yes, in her own bed-chamber.” There were, indeed, many points in common in both their characters.

Her Majesty, by letters patent dated at Windsor, on the 15th of January, 1563, recognized in John the Proud “the name and title of O’Neil, with the like authority, jurisdiction, and pre-eminence, as any of his ancestors.” And O’Neil, by articles, dated at Benburb, the 18th of November of the same year, reciting the letters patent aforesaid, bound himself and his suffragans to behave as “the Queen’s good and faithful subjects against all persons whatever.” Thus, so far as an English alliance could guarantee it, was the supremacy of this daring chief guaranteed in Ulster from the Boyne to the North Sea.

In performing his part of the engagements thus entered into, O’Neil is placed in a less invidious light by English writers than formerly. They now describe him as scrupulously faithful to his word; as charitable to the poor, always carving and sending meat from his own table to the beggar at the gate before eating himself. Of the sincerity with which he carried out the expulsion of the Islesmen and Highlanders from Ulster, the result afforded the most conclusive evidence. It is true he had himself invited those bands into the Province to aid him against the very power with which he was now at peace, and, therefore, they might in their view allege duplicity and desertion against him. Yet enlisted as they usually were but for a single campaign, O’Neil expected them to depart as readily as they had come. But in this expectation he was disappointed. Their leaders, Angus, James, and Sorley McDonald, refused to recognize the new relations which had arisen, and O’Neil was, therefore, compelled to resort to force. He defeated the Scottish troops at Glenfesk, near Ballycastle, in 1564, in an action wherein Angus McDonald was slain, James died of his wounds, and Sorley was carried prisoner to Benburb. An English auxiliary force, under Colonel Randolph, sent round by sea, under pretence of co-operating against the Scots, took possession of Derry and began to fortify it. But their leader was slain in a skirmish with a party of O’Neil’s people who disliked the fortress, and whether by accident or otherwise their magazine exploded, killing a great part of the garrison and destroying their works. The remnant took to their shipping and returned to Dublin.

In the years 1565, ‘6 and ‘7, the internal dissensions of both Scotland and France, and the perturbations in the Netherlands giving full occupation to her foreign foes, Elizabeth had an interval of leisure to attend to this dangerous ally in Ulster. A second unsuccessful attempt on his life, by an assassin named Smith, was traced to the Lord Deputy, and a formal commission issued by the Queen to investigate the case. The result we know only by the event; Sussex was recalled, and Sir Henry Sidney substituted in his place! Death had lately made way in Tyrconnell and Fermanagh for new chiefs, and these leaders, more vigorous than their predecessors, were resolved to shake off the recently imposed and sternly exercised supremacy of Benburb. With these chiefs, Sidney, at the head of a veteran armament, cordially co-operated, and O’Neil’s territory was now attacked simultaneously at three different points—in the year 1566. No considerable success was, however, obtained over him till the following year, when, at the very opening of the campaign, the brave O’Donnell arrested his march along the strand of the Lough Swilly, and the tide rising impetuously, as it does on that coast, on the rear of the men of Tyrone, struck them with terror, and completed their defeat. From 1,500 to 3,000 men perished by the sword or by the tide; John the Proud fled alone, along the river Swilly, and narrowly escaped by the fords of rivers and by solitary ways to his Castle on Lough Neagh. The Annalists of Donegal, who were old enough to have conversed with survivors of the battle, say that his mind became deranged by this sudden fall from the summit of prosperity to the depths of defeat. His next step would seem to establish the fact, for he at once despatched Sorley McDonald, the survivor of the battle of Glenfesk, to recruit a new auxiliary force for him amongst the Islesmen, whom he had so mortally offended. Then, abandoning his fortress upon the Blackwater, he set out with 50 guards, his secretary, and his mistress, the wife of the late O’Donnell, to meet these expected allies whom he had so fiercely driven off but two short years before. At Cushendun, on the Antrim coast, they met with all apparent cordiality, but an English agent, Captain Piers, or Pierce, seized an opportunity during the carouse which ensued to recall the bitter memories of Glenfesk. A dispute and a quarrel ensued; O’Neil fell covered with wounds, amid the exulting shouts of the avenging Islesmen. His gory head was presented to Captain Piers, who hastened with it to Dublin, where he received a reward of a thousand marks for his success. High spiked upon the towers of the Castle, that proud head remained and rotted; the body, wrapped in a Kerns saffron shirt, was interred where he fell, a spot familiar to all the inhabitants of the Antrim glens as “the grave of Shane O’Neil.” And so may be said to close the first decade of Elizabeth’s reign over Ireland!


Sir Henry Sidney, in writing to his court, had always reported John O’Neil as “the only strong man in Ireland.” Before his rout at Lough Swilly, he could commonly call into the field 4,000 foot and 1,000 horse; and his two years’ revolt cost Elizabeth, in money, about 150,000 pounds sterling “over and above the cess laid on the country”—besides “3,500 of her Majesty’s soldiers” slain in battle. The removal of such a leader in the very prime of life was therefore a cause of much congratulation to Sidney and his royal mistress, and as no other “strong man” was likely soon to arise, the Deputy now turned with renewed ardour to the task of establishing the Queen’s supremacy, in things spiritual as well as temporal. With this view he urged that separate governments, with large though subordinate military as well as civil powers, should be created for Munster and Connaught—with competent Presidents, who should reside in the former Province at Limerick, and in the latter, at Athlone. In accordance with this scheme—which continued to be acted upon for nearly a century—Sir Edward Fitton was appointed first President of Connaught, and Sir John Perrott, the Queen’s illegitimate brother, President of Munster. Leinster and Ulster were reserved as the special charge of the Lord Deputy.

About the time of O’Neil’s death Sidney made an official progress through the South and West, which he describes as wofully wasted by war, both town and country. The earldom of the loyal Ormond was far from being well ordered; and the other great nobles were even less favourably reported; the Earl of Desmond could neither rule nor be ruled; the Earl of Clancarty “wanted force and credit;” the Earl of Thomond had neither wit to govern “nor grace to learn of others;” the Earl of Clanrickarde was well intentioned, but controlled wholly by his wife. Many districts had but “one-twentieth” of their ancient population; Galway was in a state of perpetual defence. Athenry had but four respectable householders left, and these presented him with the rusty keys of their once famous town, which they confessed themselves unable to defend, impoverished as they were by the extortions of their lords. All this to the eye of the able Englishman had been the result of that “cowardly policy, or lack of policy,” whose sole maxims had been to play off the great lords against each other and to retard the growth of population, least “through their quiet might follow” future dangers to the English interest. His own policy was based on very different principles. He proposed to make the highest heads bow to the supremacy of the royal sword—to punish with exemplary rigour every sign of insubordination, especially in the great—and, at the same time, to encourage with ample rewards, adventurers, and enterprises of all kinds. He proposed to himself precisely the part Lord Stafford acted sixty years later, and he entered on it with a will which would have won the admiration of that unbending despot. He prided himself on the number of military executions which marked his progress. “Down they go in every corner,” he writes, “and down they shall go, God willing!” He seized the Earl of Desmond in his own town of Kilmallock; he took the sons of Clanrickarde, in Connaught, and carried them prisoners to Dublin. Elizabeth became alarmed at these extreme measures, and Sidney obtained leave to explain his new policy in person to her Majesty. Accordingly in October he sailed for England, taking with him the Earl and his brother John of Desmond, who had been invited to Dublin, and were detained as prisoners of State; Hugh O’Neil, as yet known by no other title than Baron of Dungannon; the O’Conor Sligo, and other chiefs and noblemen. He seems to have carried his policy triumphantly with the Queen, and from henceforth for many a long year “the dulce ways” and “politic drifts” recommended by the great Cardinal Statesman of Henry VIII. were to give way to that remorseless struggle in which the only alternative offered to the Irish was—uniformity or extermination. Of this policy, Sir Henry Sidney may, it seems to me, be fairly considered the author; Stafford, and even Cromwell were but finishers of his work. One cannot repress a sigh that so ferocious a design as the extermination of a whole people should be associated in any degree with the illustrious name of Sidney.

The triumphant Deputy arrived at Carrickfergus in September, 1568, from England. Here he received the “submission,” as it is called, of Tirlogh, the new O’Neil, and turned his steps southwards in full assurance that this chief of Tyrone was not another “strong man” like the last. A new Privy Council was sworn in on his arrival at Dublin, with royal instructions “to concur with” the Deputy, and 20,000 pounds a year in addition to the whole of the cess levied in the country were guaranteed to enable him to carry out his great scheme of the “reduction.” A Parliament was next summoned for the 17th of January, 1569, the first assembly of that nature which had been convened since Lord Sussex’s rupture with his Parliament nine years before.

The acts of this Parliament, of the 11th of Elizabeth, are much more voluminous than those of the 2nd of the same reign. The constitution of the houses is also of interest, as the earlier records of every form of government must always be. Three sessions were held in the first year, one in 1570, and one in 1571. After its dissolution, no Parliament sat in Ireland for fourteen years—so unstable was the system at that time, and so dependent upon accidental causes for its exercise. The first sittings of Sidney’s Parliament were as stormy as those of Sussex. It was found that many members presented themselves pretending to represent towns not incorporated, and others, officers of election, had returned themselves. Others, again, were non-resident Englishmen, dependent on the Deputy who had never seen the places for which they claimed to sit. The disputed elections of all classes being referred to the judges, they decided that non-residence did not disqualify the latter class; but that those who had returned themselves, and those chosen for non-corporate towns, were inadmissible. This double decision did not give the new House of Commons quite the desired complexion, though Stanihurst, Recorder of Dublin, the Court candidate, was chosen Speaker. The opposition was led by Sir Christopher Barnewall, an able and intrepid man, to whose firmness it was mainly due that a more sweeping proscription was not enacted, under form of law, at this period. The native Englishmen in the House were extremely unpopular out of doors, and Hooker, one of their number, who sat for the deserted borough of Athenry, had to be escorted to his lodgings by a strong guard, for fear of the Dublin mob. The chief acts of the first session were a subsidy, for ten years, of 13 shillings 4 pence for every ploughland granted to the Queen; an act suspending Poyning’s act for the continuance of that Parliament; an act for the attainder of John O’Neil; an act appropriating to her Majesty the lands of the Knight of the Valley; an act authorizing the Lord Deputy to present to vacant benefices in Munster and Connaught for ten years; an act abolishing the title of “Captain,” or ruler of counties or districts, unless by special warrant under the great seal; an act for reversing the attainder of the Earl of Kildare. In the sittings of 1570 and ’71, the chief acts were for the erection of free schools, for the preservation of the public records, for establishing an uniform measure in the sale of corn, and for the attainder of the White Knight, deceased. Though undoubtedly most of these statutes strengthened Sidney’s hands and favoured his policy, they did not go the lengths which in his official correspondence he advocated. For the last seven years of his connection with Irish affairs, he was accordingly disposed to dispense with the unmanageable machinery of a Parliament. Orders in council were much more easily procured than acts of legislation, even when every care had been taken to pack the House of Commons with the dependents of the executive.

The meeting of Parliament in 1569 was nearly coincident with the formal excommunication of Elizabeth by Pope Pius V. Though pretending to despise the bull, the Queen was weak enough to seek its revocation, through the interposition of the Emperor Maximilian. The high tone of the enthusiastic Pontiff irritated her deeply, and perhaps the additional severities which she now directed against her Catholic subjects, may be, in part, traced to the effects of the excommunication. In Ireland, the work of reformation, by means of civil disabilities and executive patronage, was continued with earnestness. In 1564, all Popish priests and friars were prohibited from meeting in Dublin, or even coming within the city gates. Two years later, The Book of Articles, copied from the English Articles, was published, by order of “the Commissioners for Causes Ecclesiastical.” The articles are twelve in number:—1. The Trinity in Unity; 2. The Sufficiency of the Scriptures to Salvation; 3. The Orthodoxy of Particular Churches; 4. The Necessity of Holy Orders; 5. The Queen’s Supremacy; 6. Denial of the Pope’s authority “to be more than other Bishops have;” 7. The Conformity of the Book of Common Prayer to the Scriptures; 8. The Ministration of Baptism does not depend on the Ceremonial; 9. Condemns “Private Masses,” and denies that the Mass can be a propitiatory Sacrifice for the Dead; 10. Asserts the Propriety of Communion in Both Kinds; 11. Utterly disallows Images, Relics and Pilgrimages; 12. Requires a General Subscription to the foregoing Articles. With this creed, the Irish Establishment started into existence, at the command and, of course, with all the aid of the civil power. The Bishops of Meath and Kildare, the nearest to Dublin, for resisting it were banished their sees; the former to die an exile in Spain, the latter to find refuge and protection with the Earl of Desmond. Several Prelates were tolerated in their sees, on condition of observing a species of neutrality; but all vacancies, if within the reach of the English power, were filled as they occurred by nominees of the crown. Those who actively and energetically resisted the new doctrines were marked out for vengeance, and we shall see in the next decade how Ireland’s martyr age began.

The honour and danger of organizing resistance to the progress of the new religion now devolved upon the noble family of the Geraldines of Munster, of whose principal members we must, therefore, give some account. The fifteenth Earl, who had concurred in the act of Henry’s election, died in the year of Elizabeth’s accession (1558), leaving three sons, Gerald the sixteenth Earl, John, and James. He had also an elder son by a first wife, from whom he had been divorced on the ground of consanguinity. This son disputed the succession unsuccessfully, retired to Spain, and there died. Earl Gerald, though one of the Peers who sat in the Parliament of the second year of Elizabeth, was one of those who strenuously opposed the policy of Sussex, and still more strenuously, as may be supposed, the more extreme policy of Sidney. His reputation, however, as a leader, suffered severely by the combat of Affane, in which he was taken prisoner by Thomas, the tenth Earl of Ormond, with whom he was at feud on a question of boundaries. By order of the Queen, the Lord Deputy was appointed arbitrator in this case, and though the decision was in favour of Ormond, Desmond submitted, came to Dublin, and was reconciled with his enemy in the chapter house of St. Patrick’s. A year or two later, Gerald turned his arms against the ancient rivals of his house—the McCarthys of Muskerry and Duhallow—but was again taken prisoner, and after six months’ detention, held to ransom by the Lord of Muskerry. After his release, the old feud with Ormond broke out anew—a most impolitic quarrel, as that Earl was not only personally a favourite with the Queen, but was also nearly connected with her in blood through the Boleyns. In 1567, as before related, Desmond was seized by surprise in his town of Kilmallock by Sidney’s order, and the following autumn conveyed to London on a charge of treason and lodged in the Tower. This was the third prison he had lodged in within three years, and by far the most hopeless of the three. His brother, Sir John of Desmond, through the representations of Ormond, was the same year arrested and consigned to the same ominous dungeon, from which suspected noblemen seldom emerged, except when the hurdle waited for them at the gate.

This double capture aroused the indignation of all the tribes of Desmond, and led to the formidable combination which, in reference to the previous confederacy in the reign of Henry, may be called “the second Geraldine League.” The Earl of Clancarty, and such of the O’Briens, McCarthys, and Butlers, as had resolved to resist the complete revolution in property, religion, and law, which Sidney meditated, united together to avenge the wrongs of those noblemen, their neighbours, so treacherously arrested and so cruelly confined. Sir James, son of Sir Maurice Fitzgerald of Kerry, commonly called James Fitz-Maurice, cousin-germain to the imprisoned noblemen, was chosen leader of the insurrection. He was, according to the testimony of an enemy, Hooker, member for Athenry, “a deep dissembler, passing subtile, and able to compass any matter he took in hand; courteous, valiant, expert in martial affairs.” To this we may add that he had already reached a mature age; was deeply and sincerely devoted to his religion; and, according to the eulogist of the rival house of Ormond, one whom nothing could deject or bow down, a scorner of luxury and ease, insensible to danger, impervious to the elements, preferring, after a hard day’s fighting, the bare earth to a luxurious couch.

One of the first steps of the League was to despatch an embassy for assistance to the King of Spain and the Pope. The Archbishop of Cashel, the Bishop of Emly, and James, the youngest brother of Desmond, were appointed on this mission, of which Sidney was no sooner apprised than he proclaimed the confederates traitors, and at once prepared for A campaign in Munster. The first blow was struck by the taking of Clogrennan Castle, which belonged to Sir Edmond Butler, one of the adherents of the League. The attack was led by Sir Peter Carew, an English adventurer, who had lately appeared at Dublin to claim the original grant made to Robert Fitzstephen of the moiety of the kingdom of Cork, and who at present commanded the garrison of Kilkenny. The accomplished soldier of fortune anticipated the Deputy’s movements by this blow at the confederated Butlers, who retaliated by an abortive attack on Kilkenny, and a successful foray into Wexford, in which they took the Castle of Enniscorthy. Sidney, taking the field in person, marched through Waterford and Dungarvan against Desmond’s strongholds in the vicinity of Youghal. After a week’s siege he took Castlemartyr, and continued his route through Barrymore to Cork, where he established his head-quarters. From Cork, upon receiving the submission of some timid members of the League, he continued his route to Limerick, where Sir Edmond Butler and his brothers were induced to come in by their chief the Earl of Ormond. From Limerick he penetrated Clare, took the Castles of Clonoon and Ballyvaughan; he next halted some time at Galway, and returned to Dublin by Athlone. Overawed by the activity of the Deputy, many others of the confederates followed the example of the Butlers. The Earl of Clancarty sued for pardon and delivered up his eldest son as a hostage for his good faith; the Earl of Thomond—more suspected than compromised—yielded all his castles, with the sole exception of Ibrackan. But the next year, mortified at the insignificance to which he had reduced himself, he sought refuge in France, from which he only returned when the intercession of the English ambassador, Norris, had obtained him full indemnity for the past. Sir James Fitzmaurice, thus deserted by his confederates, had need of all that unyielding firmness of character for which he had obtained credit. Castle after castle belonging to his cousins and himself was taken by the powerful siege trains of President Perrott; Castlemaine, the last stronghold which commanded an outlet by sea, surrendered after a three months’ siege, gallantly maintained. The unyielding leader had now, therefore, no alternative but to retire into the impregnable passes of the Galtees, where he established his head-quarters. This mountain range, towering from two to three thousand feet over the plain of Ormond, stretches from north-west to south-east, some twenty miles, descending with many a gentle undulation towards the Funcheon and the Blackwater in the earldom of Desmond. Of all its valleys Aharlow was the fairest and most secluded. Well wooded, and well watered, with outlets and intricacies known only to the native population, it seemed as if designed for a nursery of insurrection. It now became to the patriots of the South what the valley of Glenmalure had long been for those of Leinster—a fortress dedicated by Nature to the defence of freedom. In this fastness Fitzmaurice continued to maintain himself, until a prospect of new combinations opened to him in the West.

The sons of the Earl of Clanrickarde, though released from the custody of Sidney, receiving intimation that they were to be arrested at a court which Fitton, President of Connaught, had summoned at Galway, flew to arms and opened negotiations with Fitzmaurice. The latter, withdrawing from Aharlow, promptly joined them in Galway, and during the campaign which followed, aided them with his iron energy and sagacious counsel. They took and demolished the works of Athenry, and, in part, those of the Court of Athlone. Their successes induced the Deputy to liberate Clanrickarde himself, who had been detained a prisoner in Dublin, from the outbreak of his sons. On his return—their main object being attained—they submitted as promptly as they had revolted, and this hope also being quenched, Fitzmaurice found his way back again, with a handful of Scottish retainers, to the shelter of Aharlow. Sir John Perrott, having by this time no further sieges to prosecute, drew his toils closer and closer round the Geraldine’s retreat. For a whole year, the fidelity of his adherents and the natural strength of the place enabled him to baffle all the President’s efforts. But his faithful Scottish guards being at length surprised and cut off almost to a man, Fitzmaurice, with his son, his kinsman, the Seneschal of Imokilly, and the son of Richard Burke, surrendered to the President at Kilmallock, suing on his knees for the Queen’s pardon, which was, from motives of policy, granted.

On this conclusion of the contest in Munster, the Earl of Desmond and his brother, Sir John, were released from the Tower, and transferred to Dublin, where they were treated as prisoners on parole. The Mayor of the city, who was answerable for their custody, having taken them upon a hunting party in the open country, the brothers put spurs to their horses and escaped into Munster (1574). They were stigmatized as having broken their parole, but they asserted that it was intended on that party to waylay and murder them, and that their only safety was in flight. Large rewards were offered for their capture, alive or dead, but the necessities of both parties compelled a truce during the remainder of Sidney’s official career— which terminated in his resignation—about four years after the escape of the Desmonds from Dublin. Thus were new elements of combination, at the moment least expected, thrown, into the hands of the Munster Catholics.


Queen Elizabeth, when writing to Lord Sussex of a rumoured rising by O’Neil, desired him to assure her lieges at Dublin, that if O’Neil did rise, “it would be for their advantage; for there will be estates for them who want.” The Sidney policy of treating Ireland as a discovered country, whose inhabitants had no right to the soil, except such as the discoverers graciously conceded to them—begat a new order of men, unknown to the history of other civilized states, which order we must now be at some pains to introduce to the reader.

These “Undertakers,” as they were called, differed widely from the Norman invaders of a former age. The Norman generally espoused the cause of some native chief, and took his pay in land; what he got by the sword he held by the sword. But the Undertaker was usually a man of peace—a courtier like Sir Christopher Hatton—a politician like Sir Walter Raleigh—a poet like Edmund Spencer, or a spy and forger like Richard Boyle, first Earl of Cork. He came, in the wake of war, with his elastic “letters patent,” or, if he served in the field, it was mainly with a view to the subsequent confiscations. He was adroit at finding flaws in ancient titles, skilled in all the feudal quibbles of fine and recovery, and ready to employ the secret dagger where hard swearing and fabricated documents might fail to make good his title. Sometimes men of higher mark and more generous dispositions, allured by the temptations of the social revolution, would enter on the same pursuits, but they generally miscarried from want of what was then cleverly called “subtlety,” but which plain people could not easily distinguish from lying and perjury. What greatly assisted them in then: designs was the fact that feudal tenures had never been general in Ireland, so that by an easy process of reasoning they could prove nineteen-twentieths of all existing titles “defective,” according to their notions of the laws of property.

Sir Peter Carew, already mentioned, was one of the earliest of the Undertakers. He had been bred up as page to the Prince of Orange, and had visited the Courts of France, Germany, and Constantinople. He claimed, by virtue of his descent from Robert Fitzstephen, the barony of Idrone, in Carlow, and one half the kingdom of Desmond. Sir Henry Sidney had admitted these pretensions, partly as a menace against the Kavanaghs and Geraldines, and Sir Peter established himself at Leighlin, where he kept great house, with one hundred servants, over one hundred kerne, forty horse, a stall in his stable, a seat at his board for all comers. He took an active part in all military operations, and fell fighting gallantly on a memorable day to be hereafter mentioned.

After the attainder of John the Proud in 1569, Sir Thomas Smith, Secretary to the Queen, obtained a grant of the district of the Ards of Down, for his illegitimate son, who accordingly entered on the task of its plantation. But the O’Neils of Clandeboy, the owners of the soil, attacked the young Undertaker, who met a grave where he had come to found a lordship. A higher name was equally unfortunate in the same field of adventure. Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex (father of the Essex still more unfortunate), obtained in 1573 a grant of one moiety of Farney and Clandeboy, and having mortgaged his English estates to the Queen for 10,000 pounds, associated with himself many other adventurers. On the 16th of August, he set sail from Liverpool, accompanied by the Lords Dacre and Rich, Sir Henry Knollys, the three sons of Lord Norris, and a multitude of the common people. But as he had left one powerful enemy at court in Leicester—so he found a second at Dublin, in the acting deputy, Fitzwilliam. Though gratified with the title of President of Ulster and afterwards that of Marshal of Ireland, he found his schemes constantly counteracted by orders from Dublin or from England. He was frequently ordered off from his head-quarters at Newry, on expeditions into Munster, until those who had followed his banner became disheartened and mutinous. The O’Neils and the Antrim Scots harassed his colony and increased his troubles. He attempted by treachery to retrieve his fortunes. Having invited the alliance of Con O’Donnell, he seized that chief and sent him prisoner to Dublin. Subsequently his chief opponent, Brian, lord of Clandeboy, paid him an amicable visit, accompanied by his wife, brother, and household. As they were seated at table on the fourth day of then—stay, the soldiers of Essex burst into the banquet hall, put them all, “women, youths and maidens,” to the sword. Brian and his wife were saved from the slaughter only to undergo at Dublin the death and mutilation inflicted upon traitors. Yet the ambitious schemes of Walter of Essex did not prosper the more of all these crimes. He died at Dublin, two years afterwards (1576), in the 36th year of his age, as was generally believed from poison administered by the orders of the arch-poisoner, Leicester, who immediately upon his death married his widow.

It is apparent that the interest of the Undertakers could not be to establish peace in Ireland so long as war might be profitably waged. The new “English interest” thus created was often hostile to the soundest rules of policy and always opposed to the dictates of right and justice; but the double desire to conquer and to convert—to anglicize and Protestantize—blinded many to the lawless means by which they were worked out. The massacre of 400 persons of the chief families of Leix and Offally, which took place at Mullaghmast in 1577, is an evidence of how the royal troops were used to promote the ends of the Undertakers. To Mullaghmast, one of the ancient raths of Leinster, situated about five miles from Athy in Kildare, the O’Moores, O’Kellys, Lalors, and other Irish tribes were invited by the local commander of the Queen’s troops, Francis Cosby. The Bowens, Hartpoles, Pigotts, Hovendons, and other adventurers who had grants or designs upon the neighbouring territory were invited to meet them. One of the Lalors, perceiving that none of those who entered the rath before him emerged again, caused his friends to fall back while he himself advanced alone. At the very entrance he beheld the dead bodies of some of his slaughtered kinsmen; drawing his sword, he fought his way back to his friends, who barely escaped with their lives to Dysart. Four hundred victims, including 180 of the name of O’Moore, are said to have fallen in this deliberate butchery. Rory O’Moore, the chief of his name, avenged this massacre by many a daring deed. In rapid succession he surprised Naas, Athy, and Leighlin. From the rapidity with which his blows were struck in Kildare, Carlow, and Kilkenny, he appeared to be ubiquitous. He was the true type of a guerilla leader, yet merciful as brave. While Naas was burning, he sat coolly at the market cross enjoying the spectacle, but he suffered no lives to be taken. Having captured Cosby, he did not, as might be expected, put him to death. His confidence in his own prowess and resources amounted to rashness, and finally caused his death. Coming forth from a wood to parley with a party of the Queen’s troops led by his neighbour, the Lord of Ossory, a common soldier ran him through the body with a sword. This was on the last day of June, 1578—a day mournful through all the midland districts for the loss of their best and bravest captain.

While these events occupied the minds and tongues of men in the North and East, a brief respite from the horrors of war was permitted to the province of Munster. The Earl of Desmond, only too happy to be tolerated in the possession of his 570,000 acres, was eager enough to testify his allegiance by any sort of service. His brothers, though less compliant, followed his example for the moment, and no danger was to be apprehended in that quarter, except from the indomitable James Fitzmaurice, self-exiled on the continent. No higher tribute could be paid to the character of that heroic man than the closeness with which all his movements were watched by English spies, specially set upon his track. They followed him to the French court, to St. Malo’s (where he resided for some time with his family), to Madrid, whence he sent his two sons to the famous University of Alcala, and from Madrid to Rome. The honourable reception he received at the hands of the French and Spanish Sovereigns was duly reported; yet both being at peace with England, his plans elicited no open encouragement from either. At Rome, however, he obtained some material and much moral support. Here he found many zealous advocates among the English and Irish refugees—among them the celebrated Saunders, Alien, sometimes called Cardinal Alien, and O’Mulrian, Bishop of Killaloe. A force of about 1,000 men was enlisted at the expense of Pope Gregory XIII., in the Papal States, and placed under an experienced captain, Hercules Pisano. They were shipped at Civita Vecchia by a squadron under the command of Thomas Stukely, an English adventurer, who had served both for and against the Irish Catholics, but had joined Fitzmaurice in Spain and accompanied him to Rome. On the strength of some remote or pretended relationship to the McMurroghs, Stukely obtained from the Pope the titles of Marquis of Leinster and Baron of Idrone and Ross; at Fitzmaurice’s urgent request—so it is stated—he was named Vice-Admiral of the fleet. The whole expedition was fitted out at the expense of the Pope, but it was secretly agreed that it should be supported, after landing in Ireland, at the charge of Philip II. Fitzmaurice, travelling overland to Spain, was to unite there with another party of adventurers, and to form a junction with Stukely and Pisano on the coast of Kerry. So with the Papal benediction gladdening his heart, and a most earnest exhortation from the Holy Father to the Catholics of Ireland to follow his banner, this noblest of all the Catholic Geraldines departed from Rome, to try again the hazard of war in his own country.

This was in the spring of the year 1579. Sir Henry Sidney, after many years’ direction of the government, had been recalled at his own request; Sir William Drury was acting as Lord Justice; and Sir Nicholas Malby as President of Munster. Expectation of the return of Fitzmaurice, at the head of a liberating expedition, began to be rife throughout the south and west, and the coasts were watched with the utmost vigilance. In the month of June, three persons having landed in disguise from a Spanish ship, at Dingle, were seized by government spies, and carried before the Earl of Desmond. On examination, one of them proved to be O’Haly, Bishop of Mayo, and another a friar named O’Rourke; the third is not named. By the timid, temporizing Desmond, they were forwarded to Kilmallock to Drury, who put them to every conceivable torture, in order to extract intelligence of Fitzmaurice’s movements. After their thighs had been broken with hammers, they were hanged on a tree, and their bodies used as targets by the brutal soldiery. Fitzmaurice, with his friends, having survived shipwreck on the coast of Galicia, entered the same harbour (Dingle) on the 17th of July. But no tidings had yet reached Munster of Stukely and Pisano; and his cousin, the Earl, sent him neither sign of friendship nor promise of co-operation. He therefore brought his vessels round to the small harbour of Smerwick, and commenced fortifying the almost isolated rock of Oilen-an-oir—or golden island, so called from the shipwreck at that point of one of Martin Forbisher’s vessels, laden with golden quartz, some years before. Here he was joined by John and James of Desmond, and by a band of 200 of the O’Flaherties of Galway, the only allies who presented themselves. These latter, on finding the expected Munster rising already dead, and the much-talked-of Spanish auxiliary force so mere a handful, soon withdrew in their own galleys, upon which an English ship and pinnace, sweeping round from Kinsale, carried off the Spanish vessels in sight of the powerless little fort. These desperate circumstances inspired desperate councils, and it was decided by the cousins to endeavour to gain the great wood of Kilmore, near Charleville—in the neighbourhood of Sir James’ old retreat among the Galtee Mountains. In this march they were closely pursued by the Earl of Desmond, either in earnest or in sham, and were obliged to separate into three small bands, the brothers of the Earl retiring respectively to the fastnesses of Lymnamore and Glenfesk, while Fitzmaurice, with “a dozen horsemen and a few kerne,” made a desperate push to reach the western side of the Shannon, where he hoped, perhaps, for better opportunity and a warmer reception. This proved for him a fatal adventure. Jaded after a long day’s ride he was compelled to seize some horses from the plough, in the barony of Clanwilliam, in order to remount his men. These horses were the property of his relative, Sir William Burke, who, with his neighbour, Mac-I-Brien of Ara, pursued the fugitives to within six miles of Limerick, where Fitzmaurice, having turned to remonstrate with his pursuers, was fired at and mortally wounded. He did not instantly fall. Dashing into the midst of his assailants he cleft down the two sons of Burke, whose followers immediately turned and fled. Then alighting from his saddle, the wounded chief received the last solemn rites of religion from the hands of Dr. Allen. His body was decapitated by one of his followers, that the noble head might not be subjected to indignity; but the trunk being but hastily buried was soon afterwards discovered, carried to Kilmallock, and there hung up for a target and a show. This tragical occurrence took place near the present site of “Barrington’s bridge,” on the little river Mulkern, county of Limerick, on the 18th day of August, 1579. In honour of his part in the transaction William Burke was created Baron of Castleconnell, awarded a pension of 100 marks per annum, and received from Elizabeth an autograph letter of condolence on the loss of his sons: it is added by some writers that he died of joy on the receipt of so many favours. Such was the fate of the glorious hopes of Sir James Fitzmaurice. So ended in a squabble with churls about cattle, on the banks of an insignificant stream, a career which had drawn the attention of Europe, and had inspired with apprehension the lion-hearted Queen.

As to the expedition under Stukely, its end was even more romantic. His squadron having put into the Tagus, he found the King of Portugal, Don Sebastian, on the eve of sailing against the Moors, and from some promise of after aid was induced to accompany that chivalrous Prince. On the fatal field of Alcacar, Stukely, Pisano, and the Italians under their command shared the fate of the Portuguese monarch and army. Neither Italy nor Ireland heard of them more.

Gregory XIII. did not abandon the cause. On the receipt of all these ill-tidings he issued another Bull, highly laudatory of the virtues of James Fitzmaurice “of happy memory,” and granting the same indulgence to those who would fight under John or James of Desmond, “as that which was imparted to those who fought against the Turks for the recovery of the Holy Land.” This remarkable document is dated from Rome, the 13th of May, 1580.


We must continue to read the history of Ireland by the light of foreign affairs, and our chief light at this period is derived from Spain. The death of Don Sebastian concentrated the thoughts of Philip II. on Portugal, which he forcibly annexed to the Spanish crown. The progress of the insurrection in the Netherlands also occupied so large a place in his attention, that his projects against Elizabeth were postponed, year after year, to the bitter disappointment of the Irish leaders. It may seem far-fetched to assert, but it is not the less certainly true, that the fate of Catholic Munster was intimately involved in the change of masters in Portugal, and the fluctuations of war in the Netherlands,

The “Undertakers,” who had set their hearts on having the Desmond estates, determined that the Earl and his brothers should not live long in peace, however peaceably they might be disposed. The old trick of forging letters, already alluded to, grew into a common and familiar practice during this and the following reign. Such a letter, purporting to be written by the Earl of Desmond —at that period only too anxious to be allowed to live in peace—was made public at Dublin and London. It was addressed to Sir William Pelham, the temporary Lord Justice, and among other passages contained this patent invention—that he (the Earl and his brethren) “had taken this matter in hand with great authority, both from the Pope’s holiness and King Philip, who do undertake to further us in our affairs, as we shall need.” It is utterly incredible that any man in Desmond’s position could have written such a letter—could have placed in the hands of his enemies a document which must for ever debar him from entering into terms with Elizabeth or her representatives in Ireland. We have no hesitation, therefore, in classing this pretended letter to Pelham with those admitted forgeries which drove the unfortunate Lord Thomas Fitzgerald into premature revolt, in the reign of Henry VIII.

Sir John of Desmond had been nominated by the gallant Fitzmaurice in his last moments as the fittest person to rally the remaining defenders of religion and property in Munster. The Papal standard and benediction were almost all he could bequeath his successor, but the energy of John, aided by some favourable local occurrences, assembled a larger force for the campaign of 1579 than had lately taken the field. Without the open aid of the Earl, he contrived to get together at one time as many as 2,000 men, amongst whom not the least active officer was his younger brother, Sir James, hardly yet of man’s age. Drs. Saunders and Allen, with several Spanish officers, accompanied this devoted but undisciplined multitude, sharing all the hardships of the men, and the counsels of the chiefs. Their first camp, and, so to speak, the nursery of their army, was among the inaccessible mountains of Slievelogher in Kerry, where the rudiments of discipline were daily inculcated. When they considered the time ripe for action, they removed their camp to the great wood of Kilmore, near Charleville, from which they might safely assail the line of communication between Cork and Limerick, the main depots of Elizabeth’s southern army. Nearly half-way between these cities, and within a few miles of their new encampment, stood the strong town of Kilmallock on the little river Lubach. This famous old Geraldine borough, the focus of several roads, was the habitual stopping place of the Deputies in their progress, as well as of English soldiers on their march. The ancient fortifications, almost obliterated by Fitzmaurice eleven years before, had been replaced by strong walls, lined with earthworks, and crowned by towers. Here Sir William Drury fixed his head-quarters in the spring of 1579, summoning to his aid all the Queen’s lieges in Munster. With a force of not less than 1,000 English regulars under his own command, and perhaps twice that number under the banner of the Munster “Undertakers” and others, who obeyed the summons, he made an unsuccessful attempt to beat up the Geraldine quarters at Kilmore. One division of his force, consisting of 300 men by the Irish, and 200 by the English account, was cut to pieces, with their captains, Herbert, Price, and Eustace. The remainder retreated in disorder to their camp at Athneasy, a ford on the Morning Star River, four miles east of Kilmallock. For nine weeks Drury continued in the field, without gaining any advantage, yet so harassed day and night by his assailants that his health gave way under his anxieties. Despairing of recovery, he was removed by slow stages to Waterford—which would seem to indicate that his communications both with Cork and Limerick were impracticable—but died before reaching the first mentioned city. The chief command in Munster now devolved upon Sir Nicholas Malby, an officer who had seen much foreign service, while the temporary vacancy in the government was filled by the Council at Dublin, whose choice fell on Sir William Pelham, another distinguished military man, lately arrived from England.

Throughout the summer and autumn months the war was maintained, with varying fortune on either side. In the combats of Gortnatibrid and Enagbeg, in Limerick, the final success, according to Irish accounts, was with the Geraldines, though they had the misfortune to lose Cardinal Allen, Sir Thomas Fitzgerald and Sir Thomas Browne. Retiring into winter quarters at Aharlow, they had a third engagement with the garrison of Kilmallock, which attempted, without success, to intercept their march. The campaign of 1580 was, however, destined to be decisive. Sir John of Desmond, being invited to an amicable conference by the Lord Barry, was entrapped by an English force under Captain Zouch, in the woods surrounding Castle Lyons, and put to death on the spot. The young Sir James had previously been captured on a foray into Muskerry, and executed at Cork, so that of the brothers there now remained but Earl Gerald, the next victim of the machinations which had already proved so fatal to his family. Perceiving at length the true designs cherished against him, the Earl took the field in the spring of 1580, and obtained two considerable advantages, one at Pea-field, against the English under Roberts, and a second at Knockgraffon against the Anglo-Irish, under the brothers of the Earl of Ormond, the recusant members of the original league. Both these actions were fought in Tipperary, and raised anew the hopes of the Munster Catholics. An unsuccessful attempt on Adare was the only other military event in which the Earl bore a part; he wintered in Aharlow, where his Christmas was rather that of an outlaw than of the Lord Palatine of Desmond. In Aharlow he had the misfortune to lose the gifted and heroic Nuncio, Dr. Saunders, whose great services, at that period, taken together with those of Cardinal Allen, long endeared the faithful English to the faithful Irish Catholics.

The sequel of the second Geraldine League may be rapidly narrated. In September, 1580, the fort at Smerwick, where Fitzmaurice had landed from Galicia, received a garrison of 800 men, chiefly Spaniards and Italians, under Don Stephen San Joseph. The place was instantly invested by sea and land, under the joint command of the new Lieutenant, Lord Grey de Wilton, and the Earl of Ormond. Among the officers of the besieging force were three especially notable men—Sir Walter Raleigh, the poet Spenser, and Hugh O’Neil, afterwards Earl of Tyrone, but at this time commanding a squadron of cavalry for her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. San Joseph surrendered the place on conditions; that savage outrage ensued, which is known in Irish history as “the massacre of Smerwick.” Raleigh and Wingfield appear to have directed the operations by which 800 prisoners of war were cruelly butchered and flung over the rocks. The sea upon that coast is deep and the tides swift; but it has not proved deep enough to hide that horrid crime, or to wash the stains of such wanton bloodshed from the memory of its authors!

For four years longer the Geraldine League flickered in the South. Proclamations offering pardon to all concerned, except Earl Gerald and a few of his most devoted adherents, had their effect. Deserted at home, and cut off from foreign assistance, the condition of Desmond grew more and more intolerable. On one occasion he narrowly escaped capture by rushing with his Countess into a river, and remaining concealed up to the chin in water. His dangers can hardly be paralleled by those of Bruce after the battle of Falkirk, or by the more familiar adventures of Charles Edward. At length, on the night of the 11th of November, 1584, he was surprised with only two followers in a lonesome valley about five miles distant from Tralee, among the mountains of Kerry. The spot is still remembered, and the name of “the Earl’s road” transports the fancy of the traveller to that tragical scene. Cowering over the embers of a half-extinct fire in a miserable hovel, the lord of a country, which in time of peace had yielded an annual rental of “40,000 golden pieces,” was despatched by the hands of common soldiers, without pity, or time, or hesitation. A few followers watching their creaghts or herds, farther up the valley, found his bleeding trunk flung out upon the highway; the head was transported over seas, to rot upon the spikes of London Tower.

The extirpation of the Munster Geraldines, in the right line, according to the theory of the “Undertakers” and the Court of England in general, vested in the Queen the 570,000 acres belonging to the late Earl. Proclamation was accordingly made throughout England, inviting “younger brothers of good families” to undertake the plantation of Desmond—each planter to obtain a certain scope of land, on condition of settling thereupon so many families—”none of the native Irish to be admitted.” Under these conditions, Sir Christopher Hatton took up 10,000 acres in Waterford; Sir Walter Raleigh 12,000 acres, partly in Waterford and partly in Cork; Sir William Harbart, or Herbert, 13,000 acres in Kerry; Sir Edward Denny 6,000 in the same county; Sir Warham, St. Leger, and Sir Thomas Norris, 6,000 acres each in Cork; Sir William Courtney 10,000 acres in Limerick; Sir Edward Fitton 11,500 acres in Tipperary and Waterford, and Edmund Spenser a modest 3,000 acres in Cork, on the beautiful Blackwater. The other notable Undertakers were the Hides, Butchers, Wirths, Berklys, Trenchards, Thorntons, Bourchers, Billingsleys, &c., &c. Some of these grants, especially Raleigh’s, fell in the next reign into the ravening maw of Richard Boyle, the so-called “great Earl of Cork”—probably the most pious hypocrite to be found in the long roll of the “Munster Undertakers.”

Before closing the present chapter, we must present to the reader, in a formal manner, the personage whose career is to occupy the chief remaining part of the present Book—Hugh O’Neil, best known by the title of Earl of Tyrone. We have seen him in the camp of the enemies of his country, learning the art of war on the shores of Dingle Bay—a witness to the horrors perpetrated at Smerwick. We may find him later in the same war—in 1584—serving under Perrott and Norris, along the Foyle and the Bann, for the expulsion of the Antrim Scots. The following year, for these and other good services, he received the patent of the Earldom originally conferred on his grandfather, Con O’Neil, but suffered to sink into abeyance by the less politic “John the Proud,” in the days when he made his peace with the Queen. The next year he obtained from his clansmen the still higher title of O’Neil, and thus he contrived to combine, in his own person, every principle of authority likely to ensure him following and obedience, whether among the clansmen of Tyrone, or the townsmen upon its borders.

O’Neil’s last official act of co-operation with the Dublin government may be considered his participation in the Parliament convoked by Sir John Perrott in 1585, and prorogued till the following year. It is remarkable of this Parliament, the third and last of Elizabeth’s long reign, that it was utterly barren of ecclesiastical legislation, if we except “an act against sorcery and witchcraft” from that category. The attainder of the late Earl of Desmond, and the living Viscount of Baltinglass, in arms with the O’Byrnes in Glenmalure, are the only measures of consequence to be found among the Irish statutes of the 27th and 28th of Elizabeth. But though not remarkable for its legislation, the Parliament of 1585 is conspicuously so for its composition. Within its walls with the peers, knights, and burgesses of the anglicized counties, sat almost all the native chiefs of Ulster, Connaught, and Munster. The Leinster chiefs recently in arms, in alliance with the Earl of Desmond, generally absented themselves, with the exception of Feagh, son of Hugh, the senior of the O’Byrnes, and one of the noblest spirits of his race and age. He appears not to have had a seat in either House; but attended, on his own business, under the protection of his powerful friends and sureties.


In pursuing to its close the war in Munster, we were obliged to omit the mention of an affair of considerable importance, which somewhat consoled the Catholics for the massacre at Smerwick and the defeat of the Desmonds. We have already observed that what Aharlow was to the southern insurgents, the deep, secluded valley of Glenmalure was to the oppressed of Leinster. It afforded, at this period, refuge to a nobleman whose memory has been most improperly allowed to fall into oblivion. This was James Eustace, Viscount Baltinglass, who had suffered imprisonment in the Castle for refusing to pay an illegal tax of a few pounds, who was afterwards made the object of a special, vindictive enactment, known as “the Statute of Baltinglass,” and was in the summer of 1580, on his keeping, surrounded by armed friends and retainers. His friend, Sir Walter Fitzgerald, son-in-law to the chief of Glenmalure, and many of the clansmen of Leix, Offally and Idrone, repaired to him at Slieveroe, near the modern village of Blessington, from which they proceeded to form a junction with the followers of the dauntless Feagh McHugh O’Byrne of Ballincor. Lord Grey, of Wilton, on reaching Dublin in August of that year, obtained information of this gathering, and determined to strike a decisive blow in Wicklow, before proceeding to the South. All the chief captains in the Queen’s service—the Malbys, Dudleys, Cosbys, Carews, Moors—had repaired to meet him at Dublin, and now marched, under his command, into the neighbouring highlands. The Catholics, they knew, were concentrated in the valley, on one of the slopes of which Lord Grey constructed a strong camp, and then, having selected the fittest troops for the service, gave orders to attack the Irish camp. Sir William Stanley, one of the officers in command, well describes the upshot, in a letter to Secretary Walshingham: “When we entered the glen,” he writes, “we were forced to slide, sometimes three or four fathoms, ere we could stay our feet; it was in depth, where we entered, at least a mile, full of stones, rocks, logs and wood; in the bottom thereof a river full of loose stones, which we were driven to Cross divers times * * * before we were half through the glen, which is four miles in length, the enemy charged us very hotly * * * it was the hottest piece of service that ever I saw, for the time, in any place.” As might have been expected, the assailants were repulsed with heavy loss; among the slain were Sir Peter Carew, Colonel Francis Cosby of Mullaghmast memory, Colonel Moor, and other distinguished officers. The full extent of the defeat was concealed from Elizabeth, as well as it could be, in the official despatches; but before the end of August private letters, such as we have quoted, conveyed the painful intelligence to the court. The action was fought on the 25th day of August.

Lord Grey’s deputyship, though it lasted only two years, included the three decisive campaigns in the South, already described. At the period of his recall—or leave of absence—the summer of 1582, that “most populous and plentiful country,” to use the forcible language of his eloquent Secretary, Edmund Spenser, was reduced to “a heap of carcasses and ashes.” The war had been truly a war of extermination; nor did Munster recover her due proportion of the population of the island for nearly two centuries afterwards.

The appointment of Sir John Perrott dates from 1583, though he did not enter on the duties of Lord Deputy till the following year. Like most of the public men of that age, he was both soldier and statesman. In temper he resembled his reputed father, Henry VIII.; for he was impatient of contradiction and control; fond of expense and magnificence, with a high opinion of his own abilities for diplomacy and legislation. The Parliament of 1585-6, as it was attended by almost every notable man in the kingdom, was one of his boasts, though no one seems to have benefited by it much, except Hugh O’Neil, whose title of Earl of Tyrone was then formally recognized. Subordinate to Perrott, the office of Governor of Connaught was held by Sir Richard Bingham—founder of the fortunes of the present Earls of Lucan—and that of President of Munster, by Sir Thomas Norris, one of four brothers, all employed in the Queen’s service, and all destined to lose their lives in that employment.

The most important events which marked the four years’ administration of Perrott were the pacification of Thomond and Connaught, the capture of Hugh Roe O’Donnell, and the wreck of a large part of the Spanish Armada, on the northern and western coasts. The royal commission issued for the first-mentioned purpose exemplifies, in a striking manner, the exigencies of Elizabeth’s policy at that moment. The persons entrusted with its execution were Sir Richard Bingham, the Earls of Thomond and Clanrickarde; Sir Turlogh O’Brien, Sir Richard Bourke (the McWilliam), O’Conor Sligo, Sir Brian O’Ruarc, and Sir Murrogh O’Flaherty. The chief duties of this singular commission were, to fix a money rental for all lands, free and unfree, in Clare and Connaught; to assess the taxation fairly due to the crown also in money; and to substitute generally the English law of succession for the ancient customs of Tanistry and gavelkind. In Clare, from fortuitous causes, the settlement they arrived at was never wholly reversed; in Connaught, the inhuman severity of Bingham rendered it odious from the first, and the successes of Hugh Roe O’Donnell, a few years later, were hailed by the people of that province as a heaven-sent deliverance.

The treacherous capture of this youthful chieftain was one of the skilful devices on which Sir John Perrott most prided himself. Although a mere lad, the mysterious language of ancient prophecy, which seemed to point him out for greatness, give him consequence in the eyes of both friends and foes. Through his heroic mother, a daughter of the Lord of the Isles, he would naturally find allies in that warlike race. His precocious prowess and talents began to be noised abroad, and stimulated Perrott to the employment of an elaborate artifice, which, however, proved quite successful. A ship, commanded by one Bermingham, was sent round to Donegal, under pretence of being direct from Spain. She carried some casks of Spanish wine, and had a crew of 50 armed men. This ship dropped anchor off Rathmullen Castle on Lough Swilly, in which neighbourhood the young O’Donnell—then barely fifteen—was staying with his foster-father, McSweeny, and several companions of his own age. The unsuspecting youths were courteously invited on board the pretended Spanish ship, where, while they were being entertained in the cabin, the hatches were fastened down, the cable slipped, the sails spread to the wind, and the vessel put to sea. The threats and promises of the astonished clansmen as they gathered to the shore were answered by the mockery of the crew, who safely delivered their prize in Dublin, to the great delight of the Lord Deputy and his Council. Five weary years of fetters and privation the young captives were doomed to pass in the dungeons of the Castle before they breathed again the air of their native North.

But now every ship that reached the English or Irish ports brought tidings more and more positive of the immense armada which King Philip was preparing to launch from the Tagus against England. The piratical exploits of Hawkins and Drake against the Spanish settlements in America, the barbarous execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the open alliance of Elizabeth with the Dutch insurgents, all acted as stimulants to the habitual slowness of the Spanish sovereign. Another event, though of minor importance, added intensity to the national quarrel. Sir William Stanley, whose account of the battle of Glenmalure we lately quoted, went over to Philip with 1,300 English troops, whom he commanded as Governor of Daventer, and was taken into the counsels of the Spanish sovereign. The fleet for the invasion of England was on a scale commensurate with the design. One hundred and thirty-five vessels of war, manned by 8,000 sailors, and carrying 19,000 soldiers, sailed from the Tagus, and after encountering a severe storm off Cape Finesterre, re-assembled at Corunna. The flower of Spanish bravery embarked in this fleet, named somewhat presumptuously “the invincible armada.” The sons of Sir James Fitzmaurice, educated at Alcala, Thomas, son of Sir John of Desmond, with several other Irish exiles, laymen, and ecclesiastics, were also on board. The fate of the expedition is well known. A series of disasters befell it on the coasts of France and Belgium, and finally, towards the middle of August, a terrific storm swept the Spaniards northward through the British channel, scattering ships and men helpless and lifeless on the coasts of Scotland, and even as far north as Norway. On the Irish shore nineteen great vessels were sunk or stranded. In Lough Foyle, one galleon, manned by 1,100 men, came ashore, and some of the survivors, it is alleged, were given up by O’Donnell to the Lord Deputy, in the vain hope of obtaining in return the liberation of his son. Sir John O’Doherty in Innishowen, Sir Brian O’Ruarc at Dromahaire, and Hugh O’Neil at Dungannon, hospitably entertained and protected several hundreds who had escaped with their lives. On the iron-bound coast of Connaught, over 2,000 men perished. In Galway harbour, 70 prisoners were taken by the Queen’s garrison, and executed on St. Augustine’s hill. In the Shannon, the crew of a disabled vessel set her on fire, and escaped to another in the offing. On the coasts of Cork and Kerry nearly one thousand men were lost or cast away. In all, according to a state paper of the time, above 6,000 of the Spaniards were either drowned, killed, or captured, on the north, west, and southern coasts. A more calamitous reverse could not have befallen Spain or Ireland in the era of the Reformation.

It is worthy of remark that at the very moment the fear of the armada was most intensely felt in England—the beginning of July—Sir John Perrott was recalled from the government. His high and imperious temper, not less than his reliance on the native chiefs, rather than on the courtiers of Dublin Castle, had made him many enemies. He was succeeded by a Lord Deputy of a different character—Sir William Fitzwilliam—who had filled the same office, for a short period, seventeen years before. The administration of this nobleman was protracted till the year 1594, and is chiefly memorable in connection with the formation of the Ulster Confederacy, under the leadership of O’Neil and O’Donnell.

Fitzwilliam, whose master passion was avarice, had no sooner been sworn into the government than he issued a commission to search for treasure, which the shipwrecked Spaniards were supposed to have saved. “In hopes to finger some of it,” he at once marched into the territory of O’Ruarc and O’Doherty; O’Ruarc fled to Scotland, was given up by order of James VI., and subsequently executed at London; O’Doherty and Sir John O’Gallagher, “two of the most loyal subjects in Ulster,” were seized and confined in the Castle. An outrage of a still more monstrous kind was perpetrated soon after on the newly elected chieftain of Oriel, Hugh McMahon. Though he had engaged Fitzwilliam by a bribe of 600 cows to recognize his succession, he was seized by order of the Deputy, tried by a jury of common soldiers, on a trumped up charge of “treason,” and executed at his own door. Sir Harry Bagnal who, as Marshal of Ireland, had his head-quarters at Newry, next to Fitzwilliam himself, profited most by the consequent partition and settlement of McMahon’s vast estates. Emboldened by the impunity which attended such high-handed proceedings, and instigated by the Marshal, Fitzwilliam began to practise, against the ablest as well as the most powerful of all the Northern chiefs, who had hitherto been known only as a courtier and soldier of the Queen. This was Hugh O’Neil, Earl of Tyrone, another of Sir Henry Sidney’s “strong men,” with the additional advantage of being familiar from his youth with the character of the men he was now to encounter.

O’Neil, in the full prime of life, really desired to live in peace with Elizabeth, provided he might be allowed to govern Ulster with all the authority attached to his name. Bred up in England, he well knew the immense resources of that kingdom, and the indomitable character of its queen. A patriot of Ulster rather than of Ireland, he had served against the Desmonds, and had been a looker on at Smerwick. To suppress rivals of his own clan, to check O’Donnell’s encroachments, and to preserve an interest at the English Court, were the objects of his earlier ambition. In pursuing these objects he did not hesitate to employ English troops in Ulster, nor to accompany the Queen and her Deputy to the service of the Church of England. If, however, he really believed that he could long continue to play the Celtic Prince north of the Boyne, and the English Earl at Dublin or London, he was soon undeceived when the fear of the Spanish Armada ceased to weigh on the Councils of Elizabeth.

A natural son of John the Proud, called from the circumstances of his birth “Hugh of the fetters,” communicated to Fitzwilliam the fact of Tyrone having sheltered the shipwrecked Spaniards, and employed them in opening up a correspondence with King Philip. This so exasperated the Earl, that, having seized the unfortunate Hugh of the fetters, he caused him to be hanged as a common felon—a high-handed proceeding which his enemies were expert in turning to account. To protect himself from the consequent danger, he went to England in May, 1590, without obtaining the license of the Lord Deputy, as by law required. On arriving in London he was imprisoned, but, in the course of a month, obtained his liberty, after signing articles, in which he agreed to drop the Celtic title of O’Neil; to allow the erection of gaols in his country; that he should execute no man without a commission from the Lord Deputy, except in cases of martial law; that he should keep his troop of horsemen in the Queen’s pay, ready for the Queen’s service, and that Tyrone should be regularly reduced to shire-ground. For the performance of these articles, which he confirmed on reaching Dublin, he was to place sureties in the hands of certain merchants of that city, or gentlemen of the Pale, enjoying the confidence of the Crown. On such hard conditions his earldom was confirmed to him, and he was apparently taken into all his former favour. But we may date the conception of his latter and more national policy from the period of this journey, and the brief imprisonment he had undergone in London.

The “profound dissembling mind” which English historians, his cotemporaries, attribute to O’Neil, was now brought into daily exercise. When he discovered money to be the master passion of the Lord Deputy, he procured his connivance at the escape of Hugh Roe O’Donnell from Dublin Castle. On a dark night in the depth of winter the youthful chief, with several of his companions, succeeded in escaping to the hills in the neighbourhood of Powerscourt; but, exhausted and bewildered, they were again taken, and returned to their dungeons. Two years later, the heir of Tyrconnell was more fortunate. In Christmas week, 1592, he again escaped, through a sewer of the Castle, with Henry and Art O’Neil, sons of John the Proud. In the street they found O’Hagan, the confidential agent of Tyrone, waiting to guide them to the fastness of Glenmalure. Through the deep snows of the Dublin and Wicklow highlands the prisoners and their guide plodded their way. After a weary tramp they at length sunk down overwhelmed with fatigue. In this condition they were found insensible by a party despatched by Feagh O’Byrne; Art O’Neil, on being raised up, fell backward and expired; O’Donnell was so severely frost-bitten that he did not recover for many months the free use of his limbs. With his remaining companion he was nursed in the recesses of Glenmalure, until he became able to sit a horse, when he set out for home. Although the utmost vigilance was exercised by all the warders of the Pale, he crossed the Liffey and the Boyne undiscovered, rode boldly through the streets of Dundalk, and found an enthusiastic welcome, first from Tyrone in Dungannon, and soon after from the aged chief, his father, in the Castle of Ballyshannon. Early in the following year, the elder O’Donnell resigned the chieftaincy in favour of his popular son, who was, on the 3rd of May, duly proclaimed the O’Donnell, from the ancient mound of Kilmacrenan.

The Ulster Confederacy, of which, for ten years, O’Neil and O’Donnell were the joint and inseparable leaders, was now imminent. Tyrone, by carrying off, the year previous to O’Donnell’s escape, the beautiful sister of Marshal Bagnal, whom he married, had still further inflamed the hatred borne to him by that officer. Bagnal complained bitterly of the abduction to the Queen, charging, among other things, that O’Neil had a divorced wife still alive. A challenge was in consequence sent him by his new brother-in-law, but the cartel was not accepted. Every day’s events were hastening a general alliance between the secondary chieftains of the Province and the two leading spirits. The O’Ruarc and Maguire were attacked by Bingham, and successfully defended themselves until the Lord Deputy and the Marshal also marched against them, summoning O’Neil to their aid. The latter, feeling that the time was not yet ripe, temporized with Fitzwilliam during the campaign of 1593, and though in the field at the head of his horsemen, nominally for the Queen, he seems to have rather employed his opportunities to promote that Northern Union which he had so much at heart.


In the summer of 1594 the cruel and mercenary Fitzwilliam was succeeded by Sir William Russell, who had served the Queen, both in Ireland “and in divers other places beyond sea, in martial affairs.” In lieu of the arbitrary exaction of county cess—so grossly abused by his predecessor—the shires of the Pale were to pay for the future into the Treasury of Dublin a composition of 2,100 pounds per annum, out of which the fixed sum of 1,000 pounds was allowed as the Deputy’s wages. Russell’s administration lasted till May, 1597. In that month he was succeeded by Thomas, Lord Borough, who died in August following of the wounds received in an expedition against Tyrone; after which the administration remained in the hands of the Justices till the appointment of the Earl of Essex.

On the arrival of Russell, Tyrone for the last time ventured to appear within the walls of Dublin. His influence in the city, and even at the Council table, must have been considerable to enable him to enter the gates of the Castle with so much confidence. He came to explain his wrongs against the previous Deputy, to defend himself against Bagnal’s charges, and to discover, if possible, the instructions of Russell. If in one respect he was gratified by a personal triumph over his brother-in-law, in another he had cause for serious alarm, on learning that Sir John Norris, brother of the President of Munster, a commander of the highest reputation, was to be sent over under the title of Lord General, with 2,000 veterans who served in Brittany, and 1,000 of a new levy. He further learned that his own arrest had been discussed at the Council, and, leaving Dublin precipitately, he hastened to his home at Dungannon. All men’s minds were now naturally filled with wars and rumours of wars.

The first blow was struck at “the firebrand of the mountains,” as he was called at Court, Feagh Mac Hugh O’Byrne. The truce made with him expired in 1594, and his application for his renewal was not honoured with an answer. On the contrary, his sureties at Dublin, Geoffrey, son of Hugh, and his own son, James, were committed to close custody in the Castle. His son-in-law, Sir Walter Fitzgerald, had been driven by ill-usage, and his friendship for Lord Baltinglass, to the shelter of Glenmalure, and this was, of course, made a ground of charge against its chief. During the last months of 1594, Mynce, Sheriff of Carlow, informed the Lord Deputy of warlike preparations in the Glen, and that Brian Oge O’Rourke had actually passed to and fro through Dublin city and county, as confidential agent between Feagh Mac Hugh and Tyrone. In January following, under cover of a hunting party among the hills, the Deputy, by a night march on Glenmalure, succeeded in surprising O’Byrne’s house at Ballincor, and had almost taken the aged chieftain prisoner. In the flight, Rose O’Toole, his wife, was wounded in the breast, and a priest detected hiding in a thicket was shot dead. Feagh retired to Dromceat, or the Cat’s-back Mountain —one of the best positions in the Glen—while a strong force was quartered in his former mansion to observe his movements. In April, his son-in-law, Fitzgerald, was taken prisoner, near Baltinglass, in a retreat where he was laid up severely wounded; in May, a party under the Deputy’s command scoured the mountains and seized the Lady Rose, who was attainted of treason, and, like Fitzgerald, barbarously given up to the halter and the quartering knife. Two foster-brothers of the chief were, at the same time and in the same manner, put to death, and a large reward was offered for his own apprehension, alive or dead.

Hugh O’Neil announced his resort to arms by a vigorous protest against the onslaught made on his friend O’Byrne. Without waiting for, or expecting any answer, he surprised the fort erected on the Blackwater which commanded the highway into his own territory. This fort, which was situated between Armagh and Dungannon, about five miles distant from either, served, before the fortification of Charlemont, as the main English stronghold in that part of Ulster. The river Blackwater on which it stood, from its source on the borders of Monaghan to its outlet in Lough Neagh, watered a fertile valley, which now became the principal theatre of war; for Hugh O’Neil, and afterwards for his celebrated nephew, it proved to be a theatre of victory. General Norris, on reaching Ireland, at once marched northward to recover the fort lately taken. O’Neil, having demolished the works, retreated before him; considering Dungannon also unfit to stand a regular siege, he dismantled the town, burnt his own castle to the ground, having first secured every portable article of value. Norris contented himself with reconnoitring the Earl’s entrenched camp at some distance from Dungannon, and returned to Newry, where he established his head-quarters.

The campaign in another quarter was attended with even better success for the Confederates. Hugh Roe O’Donnell, no longer withheld by the more politic O’Neil, displayed in action all the fiery energy of his nature. Under his banner he united almost all the tribes of Ulster not enlisted with O’Neil; while six hundred Scots, led by MacLeod of Ara, obeyed his commands. He first descended on the plains of Annally-O’Farrell (the present county of Longford), driving the English settlers before him: he next visited the undertaker’s tenants in Connaught, ejecting them from Boyle and Ballymoate, and pursuing them to the gates of Tuam. On his return, the important town and castle of Sligo, the property of O’Conor, then in England, submitted to him. Sir Richard Bingham endeavoured to recover it, but was beaten off with loss. O’Donnell, finding it cheaper to demolish than defend it, broke down the castle and returned in triumph across the Erne.

General Norris, having arranged his plan of campaign at Newry, attempted to victual Armagh, besieged by O’Neil, but was repulsed by that leader after a severe struggle. He, however, succeeded in throwing supplies into Monaghan, where a strong garrison was quartered, and to which O’Neil and O’Donnell proceeded to lay siege. While lying before Monaghan they received overtures of peace from the Lord Deputy, who continually disagreed with Sir John Norris as to the conduct of the war, and lost no opportunity of thwarting his plans. He did not now blush to address, as Earl of Tyrone, the man he had lately proclaimed a traitor at Dublin, by the title of the son of a blacksmith. The Irish leaders at the outset refused to meet the Commissioners—Chief Justice Gardiner and Sir Henry Wallop, Treasurer-at-War—in Dundalk, so the latter were compelled to wait on them in the camp before Monaghan. The terms demanded by O’Neil and O’Donnell, including entire freedom of religious worship, were reserved by the Commissioners for the consideration of the Council, with whose sanction, a few weeks afterwards, all the Ulster chiefs, except “the Queen’s O’Reilly,” were formally tried before a jury at Dublin, and condemned as traitors.

Monaghan was thrice taken and retaken in this campaign. It was on the second return of General Norris from that town he found himself unexpectedly in presence of O’Neil’s army, advantageously posted on the left bank of the little stream which waters the village of Clontibret. Norris made two attempts to force the passage, but without success. Sir Thomas Norris, and the general himself, were wounded; Seagrave, a gigantic Meathian cavalry officer, was slain in a hand to hand encounter with O’Neil; the English retreated hastily on Newry, and Monaghan was again surrendered to the Irish. This brilliant combat at Clontibret closed the campaign of 1595. General Norris, who, like Sir John Moore, two centuries later, commanded the respect, and frankly acknowledged the wrongs of the people against whom he fought, employed the winter months in endeavouring to effect a reconciliation between O’Neil and the Queen’s Government. He had conceived a warm and chivalrous regard for his opponent; for he could not deny that he had been driven to take up arms in self-defence. At his instance a royal commission to treat with the Earl was issued, and the latter cheerfully gave them a meeting in an open field without the walls of Dundalk. The same terms which he had proposed before Monaghan were repeated in his ultimatum, and the Commissioners agreed to give him a positive answer by the 2nd day of April. On that day they attended at Dundalk, but O’Neil did not appear. The Commissioners delayed an entire fortnight, addressing him in the interim an urgent remonstrance to come in and conclude their negotiation. On the 17th of the month they received his reasons for breaking off the treaty—the principal of which was, that the truce had been repeatedly broken through by the English garrisons—and so the campaign of 1596 was to be fought with renewed animosity on both sides.

Early in May the Lord Deputy made another descent on Ballincor, which Feagh Mac Hugh had recovered in the autumn to lose again in the spring. Though worn with years and infirm of body, the Wicklow chieftain held his devoted bands well together, and kept the garrison of Dublin constantly on the defensive. In the new chieftain of the O’Moores he found at this moment a young and active coadjutor. In an affair at Stradbally Bridge, O’Moore obtained a considerable victory, leaving among the slain Alexander and Francis Cosby, grandsons of the commander in the massacre at Mullaghmast.

The arrival of three Spanish frigates with arms and ammunition in Donegal Bay was welcome news to the Northern Catholics. They were delivered to O’Donnell, who was incessantly in the field, while O’Neil was again undergoing the forms of diplomacy with a new royal commission at Dundalk. He himself disclaimed any correspondence with the King of Spain, but did not deny that such negotiations might be maintained by others. It is alleged that, while many of the chiefs had signed a formal invitation to the Spanish King to assume their crown, O’Neil had not gone beyond verbal assurances of co-operation with them. However this may be, he resolved that the entire season should not be wasted in words, so he attacked the strong garrison left in Armagh, and recovered the primatial city. According to the Irish practice, he dismantled the fortress, which, however, was again reconstructed by the English before the end of the war. Some other skirmishes, of which we have no very clear account, and which we may set down as of no decisive character, terminated the campaign.

In May, 1597, Lord Borough, who had distinguished himself in the Netherlands, replaced Russell as Lord Deputy, and assumed the command-in-chief, in place of Sir John Norris. Simultaneously with his arrival Feagh Mac Hugh O’Byrne, was surprised in Glenmalure by a detachment from Dublin, and slain; he died as he had lived, a hero and a free man. O’Neil, who was warmly attached to the Wicklow chief, immediately despatched such succour as he could spare to Feagh’s sons, and promised to continue to them the friendship he had always entertained for their father. Against Tyrone the new Lord Deputy now endeavoured to combine all the military resources at his disposal. Towards the end of July, Sir Conyers Clifford was ordered to muster the available force of Connaught at Boyle, and to march into Sligo and Donegal. A thousand men of the Anglo-Irish were assembled at Mullingar, under the command of young Barnewell of Trimbleston, who was instructed to effect a junction with the main force upon the borders of Ulster. The Lord Deputy, marching in force from Drogheda, penetrated, unopposed, the valley of the Blackwater, and entered Armagh. From Armagh he moved to the relief of the Blackwater fort, besieged by O’Neil. At a place called Drumfliuch, where Battleford Bridge now stands, Tyrone contrived to draw his enemies into an engagement on very disadvantageous ground. The result was a severe defeat to the new Deputy, who, a few days afterwards, died of his wounds at Newry, as his second in command, the Earl of Kildare, did at Drogheda. Sir Francis Vaughan, Sir Thomas Waller, and other distinguished officers, fell in the same action, but the fort, the main prize of the combatants, remained in English hands till the following year. O’Donnell, with equal success, held Ballyshannon, compelled Sir Conyers Clifford to raise the siege with the loss of the Earl of Thomond, and a large part of his following. Simultaneously, Captain Richard Tyrrell of West-Meath—one of O’Neil’s favourite officers—having laid an ambuscade for young Barnewell at the pass in West-Meath which now bears his name, the Meathian regiment were sabred to a man. Mullingar and Maryborough were taken and sacked, and in the North, Sir John Chichester, Governor of Carrickfergus, was cut off with his troop by MacDonald of the Glens.

These successes synchronize exactly with the expectation of a second Spanish Armada, which filled Elizabeth with her old apprehensions. Philip was persuaded again to tempt the fortune of the seas, and towards the end of October his fleet, under the Adelantado of Castille, appeared off the Scilly Islands, with a view to secure the Isle of Wight, or some other station, from which to operate an invasion the ensuing spring. Extraordinary means were taken for defence; the English troops in France were recalled, new levies raised, and the Queen’s favourite, the young Earl of Essex, appointed to command the fleet, with Raleigh and Lord Thomas Howard as Vice-Admirals. But the elements again fought for the northern island; a storm, which swept the channel for weeks, drove the English ships into their ports, but scattered those of Spain over the Bay of Biscay. In this second expedition sailed Florence Conroy, and other Irish exiles, who had maintained for years a close correspondence with the Catholic leaders. Their presence in the fleet, the existence of the correspondence, and the progress of the revolt itself, will sufficiently account for the apparent vacillations of English policy in Ulster in the last months of 1597. Shortly before Christmas, Ormond, now Lord Lieutenant, accompanied by the Earl of Thomond, attended only by their personal followers, visited Dungannon, and remained three days in conference with O’Neil and O’Donnell. The Irish chiefs reiterated their old demands: freedom of worship, and the retention of the substantial power attached to their ancient rank. They would admit Sheriffs, if they were chosen from among natives of their counties, but they declined to give hostages out of their own families. These terms were referred to the Queen’s consideration, who, after much protocoling to and fro, finally ratified them the following April, and affixed the great seal to O’Neil’s pardon. But Tyrone, guided by intelligence received from Spain or England, or both, evaded the royal messenger charged to deliver him that instrument, and as the late truce expired the first week of June, devoted himself anew to military preparations.

In the month of June, 1598, the Council at Dublin were in a state of fearful perplexity. O’Neil, two days after the expiration of the truce, invested the fort on the Blackwater, and seemed resolved to reduce it, if not by force, by famine. O’Donnell, as usual, was operating on the side of Connaught, where he had brought back O’Ruarc, O’Conor Sligo, and McDermot, to the Confederacy, from which they had been for a season estranged. Tyrrell and O’Moore, leading spirits in the midland counties were ravaging Ormond’s palatinate of Tipperary almost without opposition. An English reinforcement, debarked at Dungarvan, was attacked on its march towards Dublin, and lost 400 men. In this emergency, before which even the iron nerve of Ormond quailed, the Council took the resolution of ordering one moiety of the Queen’s troops under Ormond to march south against Tyrrell and O’Moore; the other under Marshal Bagnal, to proceed northward to the relief of the Blackwater fort. Ormond’s campaign was brief and inglorious. After suffering a severe check in Leix, he shut himself up in Kilkenny, where he heard of the disastrous fate of Bagnal’s expedition.

On Sunday, the 13th of August, the Marshal reached Newry with some trifling loss from skirmishes on the route. He had with him, by the best accounts, six regiments of infantry, numbering in all about 4,000 men and 350 horse. After resting a day, his whole force marched out of the city in three divisions; the first under the command of the Marshal and Colonel Percy, the cavalry under Sir Calisthenes Brooke and Captains Montague and Fleming; the rear guard under Sir Thomas Wingfield and Colonel Cosby. The Irish, whose numbers, both mounted and afoot, somewhat exceeded the Marshal’s force, but who were not so well armed, had taken up a strong position at Ballinaboy (“the Yellow ford”), about two miles north of Armagh. With O’Neil were O’Donnell, Maguire, and McDonnell of Antrim—all approved leaders beloved by their men. O’Neil had neglected no auxiliary means of strengthening the position. In front of his lines he dug deep trenches, covered over with green sods, supported by twigs and branches. The pass leading into this plain was lined by 500 kerne, whose Parthian warfare was proverbial. He had reckoned on the headlong and boastful disposition of his opponent, and the result showed his accurate knowledge of character. Bagnal’s first division, veterans from Brittany and Flanders, including 600 curassiers in complete armour, armed with lances nine feet long, dashed into the pass before the second and third divisions had time to come up. The kerne poured in their rapid volleys; many of the English fell; the pass was yielded, and the whole power of Bagnal debouched into the plain. His artillery now thundered upon O’Neil’s trenches, and the cavalry, with the plain before them, were ordered to charge; but they soon came upon the concealed pitfalls, horses fell, riders were thrown, and confusion spread among the squadron. Then it was O’Neil in turn gave the signal to charge; himself led on the centre, O’Donnell the left, and Maguire, famous for horsemanship, the Irish horse. The overthrow of the English was complete, and the victory most eventful. The Marshal, 23 superior officers, with about 1,700 of the rank and file fell on the field, while all the artillery baggage and 12 stand of colours were taken: the Irish loss in killed and wounded did not exceed 800 men. “It was a glorious victory for the rebels,” says the cotemporary English historian, Camden, “and of special advantage: for hereby they got arms and provisions, and Tyrone’s name was cried up all over Ireland as the author of their liberty.” It may also be added that it attracted renewed attention to the Irish war at Paris, Madrid, and Rome, where the names of O’Neil and O’Donnell were spoken of by all zealous Catholics with enthusiastic admiration.

The battle was over by noon of the 15th of August; and the only effort to arrest the flight of the survivors was made by “the Queen’s O’Reilly,” who was slain in the attempt. By one o’clock the remnant of the cavalry under Montague were in full career for Dundalk, closely pressed by the mounted men of O’Hanlon. During the ensuing week the Blackwater fort capitulated; the Protestant garrison of Armagh surrendered; and were allowed to march south, leaving their arms and ammunition behind. The panic spread far and wide; the citizens of Dublin were enrolled to defend their walls; Lord Ormond continued shut up in Kilkenny; O’Moore and Tyrrell, who entered Munster by O’Neil’s order, to kindle the elements of resistance, compelled the Lord President to retire from Kilmallock to Cork. O’Donnell established his head-quarters at Ballymoate, a dozen miles south of Sligo, which he had purchased from the chieftain of Corran for 400 pounds and 300 cows. The castle had served for thirteen years as an English stronghold, and was found staunch enough fifty years later to withstand the siege trains of Coote and Ludlow. From this point the Donegal chieftain was enabled to stretch his arm in every direction over lower Connaught. The result was, that before the end of the year 1598, nearly all the inhabitants of Clanrickarde and the surrounding districts were induced, either from policy or conviction, to give in their adhesion to the Northern Confederacy.


The last favourite of the many who enjoyed the foolish, if not guilty, favours of Elizabeth was Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, son of that unfortunate nobleman spoken of in a previous chapter as the “undertaker” of Farney and Clandeboy. Born in 1567, the Earl had barely reached the age of manhood when he won the heart of his royal mistress, already verging on threescore. Gifted by nature with a handsome person, undoubted courage, and many generous qualities, he exhibited, in the most important transactions of life, the recklessness of a madman and the levity of a spoiled child; it was apparent to the world that nothing short of the personal fascination which he exercised over the Queen could so long have preserved him from the consequences of his continual caprices and quarrels. Such was the character of the young nobleman, who, as was afterwards said, at the instigation of his enemies, was sent over to restore the ascendancy of the English arms in the revolted provinces. His appointment was to last during the Queen’s pleasure; he was provided with an army of 20,000 foot and 2,000 horse; three-fourths of the ordinary annual revenue of England (340,000 pounds out of 450,000 pounds) was placed at his disposal, and the largest administrative powers, civil and military, were conferred on him. A new plan of campaign in Ulster was decided upon at the royal council table, and Sir Samuel Bagnal, brother of the late Marshal, and other experienced officers, were to precede or accompany him to carry it into execution. The main feature of this plan was to get possession by sea and strongly fortify Ballyshannon, Donegal, Derry, and the entrance to the Foyle, so as to operate at once in the rear of the northern chiefs, as well as along the old familiar base of Newry, Monaghan, and Armagh.

Essex, on being sworn into office at Dublin, on the 15th of April, 1599, immediately issued a proclamation offering pardon and restoration of property to such of the Irish as would lay down their arms by a given day, but very few persons responded to this invitation. He next despatched reinforcements to the garrisons of Wicklow and Naas, menaced by the O’Moores and O’Byrnes, and to those of Drogheda, Dundalk, Newry, and Carrickfergus, the only northern strongholds remaining in possession of the Queen. The principal operations, it had been agreed before he left England, were to be directed against Ulster, but with the waywardness which always accompanied him, he disregarded that arrangement, and set forth, at the head of 7,000 men, for the opposite quarter. He was accompanied in this march by the Earls of Clanrickarde and Thomond, Sir Conyers Clifford, Governor of Connaught, and O’Conor of Sligo, the only native chief who remained in the English ranks. In Ormond he received the submission of Lord Mountgarrett, son-in-law to Tyrone, and took the strong castle of Cahir from another of the insurgent Butlers. After a halt at Limerick, he set out against the Geraldines, who the previous year had joined the Northern league, at the instance of Tyrrell and O’Moore. Although the only heir of the Earl of Desmond was a prisoner, or ward of Elizabeth in England, James Fitzgerald, son of Thomas Roe, son of the fifteenth Earl by that marriage which had been pronounced invalid, assumed the title at the suggestion of O’Neil, and was recognized as the Desmond by the greater portion of the relatives of that family. Fitzmaurice, Lord of Lixnaw, the Knight of Glynn, the White Knight, the Lord Roche, Pierce Lacy of Buree and Bruff, the last descendant of Hugh de Lacy and the daughter of Roderick O’Conor, with the McCarthys, O’Donohoes, O’Sullivans, Condons, and other powerful tribes, were all astir to the number, as Carew supposes, of 8,000 men, all emulous of their compatriots in the North. Issuing from Limerick, Essex marched southward to strengthen the stronghold of Askeaton, into which he succeeded, after a severe skirmish by the way, in throwing supplies. Proceeding to victual Adare, he experienced a similar check, losing among others Sir Henry Norris, the third of those brave brothers who had fallen a victim to these Irish wars. In returning to Dublin, by way of Waterford and Kildare, he was assailed by O’Moore at a difficult defile, which, to this day, is known in Irish as “the pass of the plumes” or feathers. The Earl forced a passage with the loss of 500 lives, and so returned with little glory to Dublin.

The next military incident of the year transpired in the West. We have spoken of O’Conor Sligo as the only native chief who followed Essex to the South. He had been lately at the English Court, where he was treated with the highest distinction, in order that he might be used to impede O’Donnell’s growing power in lower Connaught. On returning home he was promptly besieged by the Donegal chief in his remaining castle at Colooney, within five miles of Sligo. Essex, on learning this fact, ordered Sir Conyers Clifford to march to the relief of O’Conor with all the power he could muster. Clifford despatched from Galway, by sea, stores and materials for the refortification of Sligo town, and set out himself at the head of 2,100 men, drafted from both sides of the Shannon, under twenty-five ensigns. He had under him Sir Alexander Radcliffe, Sir Griffin Markham, and other experienced officers. Their rendezvous, as usual, was the old monastic town of Boyle, about a day’s march to the south of Sligo. From Boyle, the highway led into the Curlieu mountains, which divide Sligo on the south-east from Roscommon. Here, in the strong pass of Ballaghboy, O’Donnell with the main body of his followers awaited their approach. He had left the remainder, under his cousin and brother-in-law, Nial Garve (or the rough), to maintain the siege of Colooney Castle. O’Ruarc and the men of Breffni joined him during the battle, but their entire force is nowhere stated. It was the eve of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, and the first anniversary of the great victory of the Yellow Ford. The night was spent by the Irish in fasting and prayer, the early morning in hearing Mass, and receiving the Holy Communion. The day was far advanced when the head of Clifford’s column appeared in the defile, driving in a barricade erected at its entrance. The defenders, according to orders, discharged their javelins and muskets, and fell back farther into the gorge. The English advanced twelve abreast, through a piece of woodland, after which the road crossed a patch of bog. Here the thick of the battle was fought. Sir Alexander Radcliffe, who led the vanguard, fell early in the action, and his division falling back on the centre threw them all into confusion. O’Ruarc arriving with his men at the critical moment completed the rout, and pursued the fugitives to the gates of Boyle. The gallant Clifford, scorning to fly, was found among the slain, and honourably interred by his generous enemies in the monastery of Lough Key. On his head being shown to O’Conor at Colooney, he at once surrendered to O’Donnell, and entered into the Northern Confederacy. Theobald Burke, the commander of the vessels sent round from Galway to fortify Sligo, also submitted to O’Donnell, and was permitted to return to the port from which he had lately sailed, with very different intentions.

Essex, whose mind was a prey to apprehension from his enemies in England had demanded reinforcements before he could undertake anything against Ulster. It seems hardly credible that the 15,000 regular troops in the country at his coming should be mostly taken up with garrison duty, yet we cannot otherwise account for their disappearance from the field. He asked for 2,000 fresh troops, and while awaiting their arrival, sent a detachment of 600 men into Wicklow, who were repulsed with loss by Phelim, son of Feagh, the new Chief of the O’Byrnes. Essex was thrown into transports of rage at this new loss. The officers who retreated were tried by court-martial, and, contrary to his usually generous temper, the surviving men were inhumanly decimated.

Early in September, the reinforcement he had asked for arrived with a bitterly reproachful letter from the Queen. He now hastened to make a demonstration against Tyrone, although, from some cause unexplained, he does not seem to have drawn out the whole force at his disposal. From Newry he proceeded northward towards Carrickfergus, with only 1,300 foot and 300 horse. On the high ground to the north of the river Lagan, overlooking Anaghclart Bridge, he found the host of O’Neil encamped, and received a courteous message from their leader, soliciting a personal interview. Essex at first declined, but afterwards accepted the invitation, and at an appointed hour the two commanders rode down to the opposite banks of the river, wholly unattended, the advanced guard of each looking curiously on from the uplands. O’Neil spurred his horse into the stream up to the saddle girth, and thus for an hour, exposed to the generous but impulsive Englishman, the grievances of himself and his compatriots. With all the art, for which he was distinguished, he played upon his knowledge of the Earl’s character: he named those enemies of his own whom he also knew to be hostile to Essex, he showed his provocations in the strongest light, and declared his readiness to submit to her Majesty, on condition of obtaining complete liberty of conscience, an act of indemnity to include his allies in all the four Provinces; that the principal officers of state, the judges, and one half the army should in future be Irish by birth. This was, in effect, a demand for national independence, though the Lord Lieutenant may not have seen it in that light. He promised, however, to transmit the propositions to England, and within presence of six principal officers of each side, agreed to a truce till the 1st of May following. Another upbraiding letter from Elizabeth, which awaited him on his return to Dublin, drove Essex to the desperate resolution of presenting himself before her, without permission. The short remainder of his troubled career, his execution in the Tower in February, 1601, and Elizabeth’s frantic lamentations, are familiar to readers of English history.

In presenting so comprehensive an ultimatum to Essex, O’Neil was emboldened by the latest intelligence received from Spain. Philip II., the life-long friend of the Catholics, had, indeed, died the previous September, but one of the first acts of his successor, Philip III., was to send envoys into Ireland, assuring its chiefs that he would continue to them the friendship and alliance of his father. Shortly before the conference at Anaghclart, a third Armada, under the Adelantado of Castile, was awaiting orders in the port of Corunna, and England, for the third time in ten years, was placed in a posture of defence. The Spaniards sailed, but soon divided into two squadrons, one of which passed down the British Channel unobserved, and anchored in the waters of the Sluys, while the other sailed for the Canaries to intercept the Hollanders. At the same time, however, most positive assurances were renewed that an auxiliary force might shortly be expected to land in Ireland in aid of the Catholics. The non-arrival of this force during the fortunate campaign of 1599 was not much felt by the Catholics; and was satisfactorily explained by Philip’s envoys—but the mere fact of the existence of the Spanish alliance gave additional confidence and influence to the confederates. That fact was placed beyond all question by the arrival of two Spanish ships laden with stores for O’Neil, immediately after the interview with Essex. In the summer or autumn ensuing, Mathew of Oviedo, a Spaniard, consecrated at Rome, Archbishop of Dublin, brought over 22,000 crowns towards the pay of the Irish troops, and a year afterwards, Don Martin de la Cerda was sent to reside as envoy with Tyrone.

The year 1600 was employed by Hugh O’Neil, after the manner of his ancestors, who were candidates for the Kingship of Tara, in a visitation of the Provinces. Having first planted strong garrisons on the southern passes leading into Ulster, he marched at the head of 3,000 men into West-Meath, where he obliged Lord Delvin and Sir Theobald Dillon to join the Confederation. From Meath he marched to Ely, whose chief he punished for a late act of treachery to some Ulster soldiers invited to his assistance. From Ely he turned aside to venerate the relic of the Holy Cross, at Thurles, and being there he granted his protection to the great Monastery built by Donald More O’Brien. At Cashel he was joined by the Geraldine, whom he caused to be recognized as Earl of Desmond. Desmond and his supporters accompanied him through Limerick into Cork, quartering their retainers on the lands of their enemies, but sparing their friends; the Earl of Ormond with a corps of observation moving on a parallel line of march, but carefully avoiding a collision. In the beginning of March the Catholic army halted at Inniscarra, upon the river Lee, about five miles west of Cork. Here O’Neil remained three weeks in camp consolidating the Catholic party in South Munster. During that time he was visited by the chiefs of the ancient Eugenian clans—O’Donohoe, O’Donovan, and O’Mahoney: thither also came two of the most remarkable men of the southern Province, Florence McCarthy, Lord of Carberry, and Donald O’Sullivan, Lord of Bearehaven. McCarthy “like Saul, higher by the head and shoulders than any of his house,” had brain in proportion to his brawn; O’Sullivan, as was afterwards shown, was possessed of military virtues of a high order. Florence was inaugurated with O’Neil’s sanction as McCarthy More, and although the rival house of Muskerry fiercely resisted his claim to superiority at first, a wiser choice could not have been made had the times tended to confirm it.

While at Inniscarra, O’Neil lost in single combat one of his most accomplished officers, the chief of Fermanagh. Maguire, accompanied only by a Priest and two horsemen, was making observations nearer to the city than the camp, when Sir Warham St. Leger, Marshal of Munster, issued out of Cork with a company of soldiers, probably on a similar mission. Both were in advance of their attendants when they came unexpectedly face to face. Both were famous as horsemen and for the use of their weapons, and neither would retrace his steps. The Irish chief, poising his spear, dashed forward against his opponent, but received a pistol shot which proved mortal the same day. He, however, had strength enough left to drive his spear through the neck of St. Leger, and to effect his escape from the English cavalry. Saint Leger was carried back to Cork where he expired; Maguire, on reaching the camp, had barely time left to make his last confession, when he breathed his last. This untoward event, the necessity of preventing possible dissensions in Fermanagh, and still more, the menacing movements of the new Deputy, lately sworn in at Dublin, obliged O’Neil to return home earlier than he intended. Soon after reaching Dungannon he had the gratification of receiving a most gracious letter from Pope Clement VIII., together with a crown of phoenix feathers, symbolical of the consideration with which he was regarded by the Sovereign Pontiff.

A new Deputy had landed at Howth on the 24th of February, 1600, and was sworn in at Dublin the day following. This was Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, afterwards Earl of Devonshire, a nobleman now in his 37th year. He had been the rival, the enemy, and the devoted friend of the unfortunate Essex, whom he equalled in personal gifts, in courage, and in gallantry, but far exceeded in judgment, firmness, and foresight. He was one of a class of soldier-statesmen, peculiar to the second half of Elizabeth’s reign, who affected authorship and the patronage of letters as a necessary complement to the manners of a courtier and commander. On the 2nd of April, Mountjoy, still at Dublin, wrote to her Majesty that the army had taken heart since his arrival, that he had no fear of the loss of the country, but was more anxious for Connaught than any other Province. He deplored the capture of Lord Ormond by the O’Moores, but hoped, if God prospered her arms during the summer, either “to bow or to break the crooked humours of these people.” The three succeeding years of peace granted to England— interrupted only by the mad emeute of Essex, and the silly intrigues of the King of Scotland—enabled Elizabeth to direct all the energies of the State, which had so immensely increased in wealth during her reign, for the subjugation of the Irish revolt.

The capture of Ormond by the O’Moores took place in the month of April, at a place called Corroneduff, in an interview between the Earl, the President of Munster, and Lord Thomond, on the one part, and the Leinster Chief on the other. Ormond, who stood out from his party, had asked to see the famous Jesuit, Father Archer, then with O’Moore. The Priest advanced leaning on his staff, which, in the heat of a discussion that arose, he raised once or twice in the air. The clansmen, suspecting danger to the Jesuit, rushed forward and dragged the Earl from his horse. Lord Thomond and the President, taking the alarm, plied their spurs, and were but too glad to escape. Ormond remained a prisoner from April to June, during which interval he was received by Archer into the Church, to which he firmly adhered till the day of his death. On his liberation he entered into bonds for 3,000 pounds not to make reprisals, but Mountjoy took vengeance for him. The fair, well-fenced, and well-cultivated land of Leix was cruelly ravaged immediately after Ormond’s release—the common soldiers cut down with their swords “corn to the value of 10,000 pounds and upwards,” and the brave chief, Owny, son of Rory, having incautiously exposed himself in an attack on Maryborough, was, on the 17th of August, killed by a musket shot.


The twofold operations against Ulster, neglected by Essex, were vigorously pressed forward by the energetic Mountjoy. On the 16th of May, a fleet arrived in Lough Foyle, having on board 4,000 foot and 200 horse, under the command of Sir Henry Dowcra, with abundance of stores, building materials, and ordnance. At the same moment, the Deputy forced the Moira pass, and made a feigned demonstration against Armagh, to draw attention from the fleet in the Foyle. This feint served its purpose; Dowcra was enabled to land and throw up defensive works at Derry, which he made his head-quarters, to fortify Culmore at the entrance to the harbour, where he placed 600 men, under the command of Captain Atford, and to seize the ancient fort of Aileach, at the head of Lough Swilly, where Captain Ellis Flood was stationed with 150 men. The attempt against Ballyshannon was, on a nearer view, found impracticable, and deferred; the Deputy, satisfied that the lodgment had been made upon Lough Foyle, retired to Dublin, after increasing the garrisons at Newry, Carlingford, and Dundalk. The Catholic chieftains immediately turned their attention to the new fort at Deny, appeared suddenly before it with 5,000 men, but failing to draw out its defenders, and being wholly unprovided with a siege train and implements—as they appear to have been throughout— they withdrew the second day, O’Donnell leaving a party in hopes to starve out the foreigners. This party were under the command of O’Doherty, of Innishowen, and Nial Garve O’Donnell, the most distinguished soldier of his name, after his illustrious cousin and chief. On the 28th of June, a party of the besieged, headed by Sir John Chamberlaine, made a sally from the works, but were driven in with loss, and Chamberlaine killed. On the 29th of July, O’Donnell, who had returned from his annual incursion into Connaught and Thomond, seized the English cavalry horses, and defeated the main force of the besieged, who had issued out to their rescue. From this affair Dowcra was carried back wounded into Deny.

But treason was busy in the Irish camp and country among the discontented members of the neighbouring clans. The election of chiefs for life, always a fruitful source of bickering and envy, supplied the very material upon which “the princely policie” of division, recommended by Bacon to Essex, might be exercised. Dowcra succeeded in the summer in winning over Art O’Neil, son of Turlogh, the early adversary of the great Hugh; before the year was over, by bribes and promises, he seduced Nial Garve, in the absence of his chief in Connaught, and Nial, having once entered on the career of treason, pursued it with all the dogged courage of Ms disposition. Though his wife, sister to Red Hugh, forsook him, though his name was execrated throughout the Province, except by his blindly devoted personal followers, he served the English during the remainder of the war with a zeal and ability to which they acknowledged themselves deeply indebted. By a rapid march, at the head of 1,000 men, supplied by Dowcra, he surprised the town of Lifford, which his new allies promptly fortified with walls of stone, and entrusted to him to defend. Red Hugh, on learning this alarming incident, hastened from the West to invest the place. After sitting before it an entire month, with no other advantage than a sally repulsed, he concluded to go into winter quarters. Arthur O’Neil and Nial Garve had the dignity of knighthood conferred upon them, and were, besides, recognized for the day by the English officials as the future O’Neil and O’Donnell. In like manner, “a Queen’s Maguire” had been raised up in Fermanagh, “a Queen’s O’Reilly” in Cavan, and other chiefs of smaller districts were provided with occupation enough at their own doors by the “princely policie” of Lord Bacon.

The English interest in Munster during the first year of Mountjoy’s administration had recovered much of its lost predominance. The new President, Sir George Carew, afterwards Earl of Totness, was brother to that knightly “undertaker” who claimed the moiety of Desmond, and met his death at Glenmalure. He was a soldier of the new school, who prided himself especially on his “wit and cunning,” in the composition of “sham and counterfeit letters.” He had an early experience in the Irish wars, first as Governor of Askeaton Castle, and afterwards as Lieutenant General of the Ordnance. Subsequently he was employed in putting England in a state of defence against the Spaniards, and had just returned from an embassy to Poland, when he was ordered to join Mountjoy with the rank of Lord President. He has left us a memoir of his administration, civil and military, edited by his natural son and Secretary, Thomas Stafford—exceedingly interesting to read both as to matter and manner, but the documents embodied in which are about as reliable as the speeches which are read in Livy. Some of them are admitted forgeries; others are at least of doubtful authenticity. After escaping with Lord Thomond from the scene of Ormond’s capture, his first act on reaching Cork was to conclude a month’s truce with Florence McCarthy. This he did, in order to gain time to perfect a plot for the destruction of O’Neil’s other friend, called in derision, by the Anglo-Irish of Munster, the sugane (or straw-rope) Earl of Desmond.

This plot, so characteristic of Carew and of the turn which English history was about to take in the next reign, deserves to be particularly mentioned. There was, in the service of the Earl, one Dermid O’Conor, captain of 1,400 hired troops, who was married to lady Margaret Fitzgerald, daughter to the late, and niece to the new-made Earl of Desmond. This lady, naturally interested in the restoration of her young brother, then the Queen’s ward or prisoner at London, to the title and estates, was easily drawn into the scheme of seducing her husband from his patron. To justify and cloak the treachery a letter was written by Carew to the sugane Earl reminding him of his engagement to deliver up O’Conor; this letter, as pre-arranged, was intercepted by the latter, who, watching his opportunity, rushed with it open into the Earl’s presence, and arrested him, in the name of O’Neil, as a traitor to the Catholic cause! Anxious to finger his reward—1,000 pounds and a royal commission for himself —before giving up his capture, O’Conor imprisoned the Earl in the keep of Castle-Ishin, but the White Knight, the Knight of Glynn, Fitzmaurice of Kerry, and Pierce Lacy, levying rapidly 2,000 men, speedily delivered him from confinement, while his baffled betrayer, crest-fallen and dishonoured, was compelled to quit the Province. The year following he was attacked while marching through Galway, and remorselessly put to death by Theobald Burke, usually called Theobald of the ships.

Another device employed to destroy the influence of O’Neil’s Desmond was the liberation of the young son of the late Earl from the Tower and placing him at the disposal of Carew. The young nobleman, attended by a Captain Price, who was to watch all his movements, landed at Youghal, where he was received by the Lord President, the Clerk of the Council, Mr. Boyle, afterwards Earl of Cork, and Miler Magrath, an apostate ecclesiastic, who had been the Queen’s Archbishop of Cashel. By his influence with the warders, Castlemaine, in Kerry, surrendered to the President. On reaching Kilmallock, he was received with such enthusiasm that it required the effort of a guard of soldiers to make way for him through the crowd. According to their custom the people showered down upon him from the windows handfuls of wheat and salt—emblems of plenty and of safety—but the next day, being Sunday, turned all this joy into mourning, not unmingled with anger and shame. The young lord, who had been bred up a Protestant by his keepers, directed his steps to the English Church, to the consternation of the devoted adherents of his house. They clung round him in the street and endeavoured to dissuade him from proceeding, but he continued his course, and on his return was met with hootings and reproaches by those who had hailed him with acclamations the day before. Deserted by the people, and no longer useful to the President, he was recalled to London, where he resumed his quarters in the Tower, and shortly afterwards died. The capture of the strong castle of Glynn from the knight of that name, and the surrender of Carrigafoyle by O’Conor of Kerry, were the other English successes which marked the campaign of 1600 in Munster. On the other hand, O’Donnell had twice exercised his severe supremacy over southern Connaught, burning the Earl of Thomond’s new town of Ennis, and sweeping the vales and plains of Clare, and of Clanrickarde, of the animal wealth of their recreant Earls, now actively enlisted against the national confederacy.

The eventful campaign of 1601 was fought out in almost every quarter of the kingdom. To hold the coast line, and prevent the advantages being obtained, which the possession of Derry, and other harbours on Lough Foyle gave them, were the tasks of O’Donnell; while to defend the southern frontier was the peculiar charge of O’Neil. They thus fought, as it were, back to back against the opposite lines of attack. The death of O’Doherty, early in this year, threw the succession to Innishowen into confusion, and while O’Donnell was personally endeavouring to settle conflicting claims, Nial Garve seized on the famous Franciscan monastery which stood at the head of the bay, within sight of the towers of Donegal Castle. Hugh Roe immediately invested the place, which his relative as stoutly defended. Three months, from the end of June till the end of September, the siege was strictly maintained, the garrison being regularly supplied with stores and ammunition from sea. On the night of the 29th of September an explosion of gunpowder occurred, and soon the monastery was wrapped in flames. This was the moment chosen for the final attack. The glare of the burning Abbey reflected over the beautiful bay, the darkness of night all round, the shouts of the assailants, and the shrieks of the fugitives driven by the flames upon the spears of their enemies, must have formed a scene of horrors such as even war rarely combines. Hundreds of the besieged were slain, but Nial Garve himself, with the remainder, covered by the fire of an English ship in the harbour, escaped along the strand to the neighbouring monastery of Magherabeg, which he quickly put into a state of defence. All that was left to O’Donnell of that monastery, the burial place of his ancestors, and the chief school of his kinsmen, was a skeleton of stone, standing amid rubbish and ashes. It was never re-inhabited by the Franciscans. A group of huts upon the shore served them for shelter, and the ruined chapel for a place of worship, while they were still left in the land.

While Hugh Roe was investing Donegal Abbey the war had not paused on the southern frontier. We have said that Mountjoy had made a second and a third demonstration against Armagh the previous year; in one of these journeys he raised a strong fort at the northern outlet of the Moira pass, which he called Mount Norris, in honour of his late master in the art of war. This work, strongly built and manned, gave him the free entree of the field of battle whenever he chose to take it. In June of this year he was in the valley of the Blackwater, menaced O’Neil’s castle of Benburb, and left Sir Charles Danvers with 750 foot and 100 horse in possession of Armagh. He further proclaimed a reward of 2,000 pounds for the capture of Tyrone alive, or 1,000 pounds for his head. But no Irishman was found to entertain the thought of that bribe. An English assassin was furnished with passports by Danvers, and actually drew his sword on the Earl in his own tent, but he was seized, disarmed, and on the ground of insanity was permitted to escape. Later in the summer Mountjoy was again on the Blackwater, where he laid the foundation of Charlemont, called after himself, and placed 350 men in the works under the command of Captain Williams, the brave defender of the old fort in the same neighbourhood. There were thus quartered in Ulster at this period the 4,000 foot and 400 horse under Dowcra, chiefly on the Foyle, with whatever companies of Kerne adhered to Arthur O’Neil and Nial Garve; with Chichester in Carrickfergus there were 850 foot and 150 horse; with Danvers in Armagh, 750 foot and 100 horse; in Mount Norris, under Sir Samuel Bagnal, 600 foot and 50 horse; in and about Downpatrick, lately taken by the Deputy, under Moryson, 300 foot; in Newry, under Stafford, 400 foot and 50 horse; in Charlemont, with Williams, 300 foot and 50 horse; or, in all, of English regulars in Ulster alone, 7,000 foot and 800 horse. The position of the garrisons on the map will show how firm a grasp Mountjoy had taken of the Northern Province.

The last scene of this great struggle was now about to shift to the opposite quarter of the kingdom. The long-looked for Spanish fleet was known to have left the Tagus—had been seen off the Scilly Islands. On the 23rd of September the Council, presided over by Mountjoy, was assembled in Kilkenny Castle: there were present Carew, Ormond, Sir Richard Wingfield, Marshal of the Queen’s troops, uncle to Carew, and founder of the family of Powerscourt; also Chief Justice Gardiner, and other members less known. While they were still sitting a message arrived from Cork that the Spanish fleet was off that harbour, and soon another that they had anchored in Kinsale, and taken possession of the town without opposition. The course of the Council was promptly taken. Couriers were at once despatched to call in the garrisons far and near which could possibly be dispensed with for service in Munster. Letters were despatched to England for reinforcements, and a winter campaign in the South was decided on.

The Spanish auxiliary force, when it sailed from the Tagus, consisted originally of 6,000 men in fifteen armed vessels and thirty transports. When they reached Kinsale, after suffering severely at sea, and parting company with several of their comrades, the soldiers were reduced to 3,400 men—a number inferior to Dowcra’s force on the Foyle. The General, Don Jaun del Aguila, was a brave, but testy, passionate and suspicious officer. He has been severely censured by some Irish writers for landing in the extreme South, within fourteen miles of the English arsenal and head-quarters at Cork, and for his general conduct as a commander. However vulnerable he may be on the general charge, he does not seem fairly to blame for the choice of the point of debarkation. He landed in the old Geraldine country, unaware, of course, of the events of the last few weeks, in which the sugane Earl, and Florence McCarthy, had been entrapped by Carew’s “wit and cunning,” and shipped for London, from which they never returned. Even the northern chiefs, up to this period, evidently thought their cause much stronger in the South, and Munster much farther restored to vigour and courage than it really was. To the bitter disappointment and disgust of the Spaniards, only O’Sullivan Beare, O’Driscoll, and O’Conor of Kerry, declared openly for them; while they could hear daily of chiefs they had been taught to count as friends, either as prisoners or allies of the English. On the 17th of October—three weeks from their first arrival—they were arrested in Kinsale by a mixed army of English and Anglo-Irish, 15,000 strong, under the command of the Deputy and President, of whom above 5,000 had freshly arrived at Cork from England. With Mountjoy were the Earls of Thomond and Clanrickarde, more zealous than the English themselves for the triumph of England. The harbour was blockaded by ten ships of war, under Sir Richard Leviston, and the forts at the entrance, Rincorran and Castlenepark, being taken by cannonade, the investment on all sides was complete. Don Juan’s messengers found O’Neil and O’Donnell busily engaged on their own frontiers, but both instantly resolved to muster all their strength for a winter campaign in Munster. O’Donnell rendezvoused at Ballymote, from which he set out, at the head of 2,500 men, of Tyrconnell and Connaught, on the 2nd day of November. O’Neil, with McDonnell of Antrim, McGennis of Down, McMahon of Monaghan, and others, his suffragans, marched at the head of between 3,000 and 4,000 men, through West-Meath towards Ormond. Holy Cross was their appointed place of meeting, where they expected to be joined by such of the neighbouring Catholics as were eager to strike a blow for liberty of worship. O’Donnell reached the neighbourhood first, and encamped in a strongly defensible position, “plashed on every quarter” for greater security. Mountjoy, anxious to engage him before O’Neil should come up, detached a numerically superior force, under Carew, for that purpose: but O’Donnell, evacuating his quarters by night, marched over the mountain of Slieve Felim, casting away much of his heavy baggage, and before calling halt was 32 Irish miles distant from his late encampment. After this extraordinary mountain march, equal to 40 of our present miles, he made a detour to the westward, descended on Castlehaven, in Cork, and formed a junction with 700 Spaniards, who had just arrived to join Del Aguila. A portion of these veterans were detailed to the forts of Castlehaven, Baltimore, and Dunboy, commanding three of the best havens in Munster; the remainder joined O’Donnell’s division.

During the whole of November the siege of Kinsale was pressed with the utmost vigour by Mountjoy. The place mounted but three or four effective guns, while 20 great pieces of ordnance were continually playing on the walls. On the 1st of December a breach was found practicable, and an assault made by a party of 2,000 English was bravely repulsed by the Spaniards. The English fleet, ordered round to Castlehaven on the 3rd, were becalmed, and suffered some damage from a battery, manned by Spanish gunners, on the shore. The lines were advanced closer towards the town, and the bombardment became more effective. But the English ranks were considerably thinned by disease and desertion, so that on the last day of December, when the united Irish force took up their position at Belgoley, a mile to the north of their lines, the Lord Deputy’s effective force did not, it is thought, exceed 10,000 men. The Catholic army has generally been estimated at 6,000 native foot and 500 horse; to these are to be added 300 Spaniards, under Don Alphonso Ocampo, who joined O’Donnell at Castlehaven.

The prospect for the besiegers was becoming exceedingly critical, but the Spaniards in Kinsale were far from being satisfied with their position. They had been fully three months within walls, in a region wholly unknown to them before their allies appeared. They neither understood nor made allowance for the immense difficulties of a winter campaign in a country trenched with innumerable swollen streams, thick with woods, which, at that season, gave no shelter, and where camping out at nights was enough to chill the hottest blood. They only felt their own inconveniences: they were cut off from escape by sea by a powerful English fleet, and Carew was already practising indirectly on their commander his “wit and cunning,” in the fabrication of rumours, and the forging of letters. Don Juan wrote urgent appeals to the northern chiefs to attack the English lines without another day’s delay, and a council of war, the third day after their arrival at Belgoley, decided that the attack should be made on the morrow. This decision was come to on the motion of O’Donnell, contrary to the judgment of the more circumspect and far-seeing O’Neil. Overruled, the latter acquiesced in the decision, and cheerfully prepared to discharge his duty.

A story is told by Carew that information was obtained of the intended attack from McMahon, in return for a bottle of aquavitae presented to him by the President. This tale is wholly unworthy of belief, told of a chief of the first rank, encamped in the midst of a friendly country. It is also said—and it seems credible enough —that an intercepted letter of Don Juan’s gave the English in good time this valuable piece of information. On the night of the 2nd of January, new style (24th of December, O.S.—in use among the English), the Irish army left their camp in three divisions, the vanguard led by Tyrrell, the centre by O’Neil, and the rear by O’Donnell. The night was stormy and dark, with continuous peals and flashes of thunder and lightning. The guides lost their way, and the march, which, even by the most circuitous route, ought not to have exceeded four or five miles, was protracted through the entire night. At dawn of day, O’Neil, with whom were O’Sullivan and Ocampo, came in sight of the English lines, and, to his infinite surprise, found the men under arms, the cavalry in troop posted in advance of their quarters. O’Donnell’s division was still to come up, and the veteran Earl now found himself in the same dilemma into which Bagnal had fallen at the Yellow Ford. His embarrassment was perceived from the English camp; the cavalry were at once ordered to advance. For an hour O’Neil maintained his ground alone; at the end of that time he was forced to retire. Of Ocampo’s 300 Spaniards, 40 survivors were, with their gallant leader, taken prisoners; O’Donnell at length arrived, and drove back a wing of the English cavalry; Tyrrell’s horsemen also held their ground tenaciously. But the rout of the centre proved irremediable. Fully 1,200 of the Irish were left dead on the field, and every prisoner taken was instantly executed. On the English side fell Sir Richard Graeme; Captains Danvers and Godolphin, with several others, were wounded; their total loss they stated at 200, and the Anglo-Irish, of whom they seldom made count in their reports, must have lost in proportion. The Earls of Thomond and Clanrickarde were actively engaged with their followers, and their loss could hardly have been less than that of the English regulars. On the night following their defeat, the Irish leaders held council together at Innishanon, on the river Bandon, where it was agreed that O’Donnell should instantly take shipping for Spain to lay the true state of the contest before Philip III.; that O’Sullivan should endeavour to hold the Castle of Dunboy, as commanding a most important harbour; that Rory O’Donnell, second brother of Hugh Roe, should act as Chieftain of Tyrconnell, and that O’Neil should return into Ulster to make the best defence in his power. The loss in men was not irreparable; the loss in arms, colours, and reputation, was more painful to bear, and far more difficult to retrieve.

On the 12th of January, nine days after the battle, Don Juan surrendered the town, and agreed to give up at the same time Dunboy, Baltimore, and Castlehaven. He had lost 1,000 men out of his 3,000 during a ten weeks’ siege, and was heartily sick of Irish warfare. On his return to Spain he was degraded from his rank, for his too great intimacy with Carew, and confined a prisoner in his own house. He is said to have died of a broken heart occasioned by these indignities.

O’Donnell sailed from Castlehaven in a Spanish ship, on the 6th of January, three clays after the battle, and arrived at Corunna on the 14th. He was received with all the honours due to a crown prince by the Conde de Caracena, Governor of Galicia. Among other objects, he visited the remains of the tower of Betanzos, from which, according to Bardic legends, the sons of Milesius had sailed to seek for the Isle of Destiny among the waves of the west. On the 27th he set out for the Court, accompanied as far as Santa Lucia by the governor, who presented him with 1,000 ducats towards his expenses. At Compostella the Archbishop offered him his own palace, which O’Donnell respectfully declined: he afterwards celebrated a Solemn High Mass for the Irish chief’s intention, entertained him magnificently at dinner, and presented him, as the governor had done, with 1,000 ducats. At Zamora he received from Philip III. a most cordial reception, and was assured that in a very short time a more powerful armament than Don Juan’s should sail with him from Corunna. He returned to that port, from which he could every day look out across the western waves that lay between him and home, and where he could be kept constantly informed of what was passing in Ireland. Spring was over and gone, and summer, too, had passed away, but still the exigencies of Spanish policy delayed the promised expedition. At length O’Donnell set out on a second visit to the Spanish Court, then at Valladolid, but he reached no further than Simancas, when, fevered in mind and body, he expired on the 10th of September, 1602, in the 29th year of his age. He was attended in his last moments by two Franciscan Fathers who accompanied him, Florence, afterwards Archbishop of Tuam, and Maurice Donlevy, of his own Abbey of Donegal. His body was interred with regal honours in the Cathedral of Valladolid, where a monument was erected to his memory by the King of Spain.

Thus closed the career of one of the brightest and purest characters in any history. His youth, his early captivity, his princely generosity, his daring courage, his sincere piety won the hearts of all who came in contact with him. He was the sword as O’Neil was the brain of the Ulster Confederacy; the Ulysses and Achilles of the war, they fought side by side, without jealousy or envy, for almost as long a period as their prototypes had spent in besieging Troy.


The days of Queen Elizabeth were now literally numbered. The death of Essex, the intrigues of the King of Scotland, and the successes of Tyrone, preyed upon her spirits. The Irish chief was seldom out of her mind, and, as she often predicted, she was not to live to receive his submission. She was accustomed to send for her godson, Harrington, who had served in Ireland, to ask him questions concerning Tyrone; the French ambassador considered Tyrone’s war one of the causes that totally destroyed her peace of mind in her latter days. She received the news of the victory of Kinsale with pleasure, but, even then, she was not destined to receive the submission of Tyrone.

The events of the year, so inauspiciously begun for the Irish arms, continued of the same disastrous character. Castlehaven was surrendered by its Spanish guard, according to Del Aguila’s agreement. Baltimore, after a momentary resistance, was also given up, but O’Sullivan, who considered the Spanish capitulation nothing short of treason, threw a body of native troops, probably drawn from Tyrrell’s men, into Dunboy, under Captain Richard Mageoghegan, and Taylor, an Englishman, connected by marriage with Tyrrell. Another party of the same troops took possession of Clear Island, but were obliged to abandon it as untenable. The entire strength of the Dunboy garrison amounted to 143 men; towards the end of April —the last of the Spaniards having sailed in March— Carew left Cork at the head of 3,000 men to besiege Dunboy. Sir Charles Wilmot moved on the same point from Kerry, with a force of 1,000 men, to join Carew. In the pass near Mangerton Wilmot was encountered by Donald O’Sullivan and Tyrrell, at the head of then remaining followers, but forced a passage and united with his superior on the shores of Berehaven. On the 1st of June the English landed on Bear Island, and on the 6th opened their cannonade. They were 4,000 men, with every military equipment necessary, against 143. After eleven days’ bombardment the place was shattered to pieces; the garrison offered to surrender, if allowed to retain their arms, but their messenger was hanged, and an instant assault ordered. Over fifty of this band of Christian Spartans had fallen in the defence, thirty attempted to escape in boats, or by swimming, but were killed to a man while in the water. The remainder retreated with Mageoghegan, who was severely wounded, to a cellar approached by a narrow stair, where the command was assumed by Taylor. All day the assault had been carried on till night closed upon the scene of carnage. Placing a strong guard on the approach to the crypt, Carew returned to the charge with the returning light. Cannon were first discharged into the narrow chamber which held the last defenders of Dunboy, and then a body of the assailants rushing in, despatched the wounded Mageoghegan with their swords, having found him, candle in hand, dragging himself towards the gunpowder. Taylor and fifty-seven others were led out to execution; of all the heroic band, not a soul escaped alive.

The remaining fragments of Dunboy were blown into the air by Carew on the 22nd of June. Dursey Castle, another island fortress of O’Sullivan’s, had fallen even earlier; so that no roof remained to the lord of Berehaven. Still he held his men well together in the glens of Kerry, during the months of Summer, but the ill-news from Spain in September threw a gloom over those mountains deeper than was ever cast by equinoctial storm. Tyrrell was obliged to separate from him in the Autumn, probably from the difficulty of providing for so many mouths, and O’Sullivan himself prepared to bid a sad farewell to the land of his inheritance. On the last day of December he left Glengariffe, with 400 fighting men, and 600 women, children, and servants, to seek a refuge in the distant north. After a retreat almost unparalleled, the survivors of this exodus succeeded in reaching the friendly roof of O’Ruarc, at Dromahaire, not far from Sligo. Their entire march, from the extreme south to the almost extreme north-west of the island, a distance, as they travelled it, of not less than 200 miles, was one scene of warfare and suffering. They were compelled to kill their horses, on reaching the Shannon, in order to make boats of the hides, to ferry them to the western bank. At Aughrim they were attacked by a superior force under Lord Clanrickarde’s brother, and Captain Henry Malby, but they fought with the courage of despair, routed the enemy, slaving Malby, and other officers. Of the ten hundred who left the shores of Glengariffe, but 35 souls reached the Leitrim chieftain’s mansion. Among these were the chief himself, with Dermid, father of the historian, who at the date of this march had reached the age of seventy. The conquest of Munster, at least, was now complete. In the ensuing January, Owen McEgan, Bishop of Ross, was slain in the midst of a guerilla party, in the mountains of Carberry, and Ms chaplain, being taken, was hanged with the other prisoners. The policy of extermination recommended by Carew was zealously carried out by strong detachments under Wilmot, Harvey, and Flower; Mr. Boyle and the other “Undertakers” zealously assisting as volunteers.

Mountjoy, after transacting some civil business at Dublin, proceeded in person to the north, while Dowcra, marching out of Derry, pressed O’Neil from the north and north-east. In June, Mountjoy was at Charlemont, which he placed under the custody of Captain Toby Caufield, the founder of an illustrious title taken from that fort. He advanced on Dungannon, but discovered it from the distance, as Norris had once before done, in flames, kindled by the hand of its straitened proprietor. On Lough Neagh he erected a new fort called Mountjoy, so that his communications on the south now stretched from that great lake round to Omagh, while those of Dowcra, at Augher, Donegal, and Lifford, nearly completed the circle. Almost the only outlet from this chain of posts was into the mountains of O’Cane’s country, the north-east angle of the present county of Derry. The extensive tract so enclosed and guarded had still some natural advantages for carrying on a defensive war. The primitive woods were standing in masses at no great distance from each other; the nearly parallel vales of Faughan, Moyala, and the river Roe, with the intermediate leagues of moor and mountain, were favourable to the movements of native forces familiar with every ford and footpath. There was also, while this central tract was held, a possibility of communication with other unbroken tribes, such as those of Clandeboy and the Antrim glens on the east, and Breffni O’Ruarc on the west. Never did the genius of Hugh O’Neil shine out brighter than in these last defensive operations. In July, Mountjoy writes apologetically to the Council, that “notwithstanding her Majesty’s great forces, O’Neil doth still live.” He bitterly complains of his consummate caution, his “pestilent judgment to spread and to nourish his own infection,” and of the reverence entertained for his person by the native population. Early in August, Mountjoy had arranged what he hoped might prove the finishing stroke in the struggle. Dowcra from Derry, Chichester from Carrickfergus, Danvers from Armagh, and all who could be spared from Mountjoy, Charlemont, and Mount Norris, were gathered under his command, to the number of 8,000 men, for a foray into the interior of Tyrone. Inisloghlin, on the borders of Down and Antrim, which contained a great quantity of valuables, belonging to O’Neil, was captured. Magherlowney and Tulloghoge were next taken. At the latter place stood the ancient stone chair on which the O’Neils were inaugurated time out of mind; it was now broken into atoms by Mountjoy’s orders. But the most effective warfare was made on the growing crops. The 8,000 men spread themselves over the fertile fields along the valleys of the Bann and the Roe, destroying the standing grain with fire, where it would burn, or with the praca, a peculiar kind of harrow, tearing it up by the roots. The horsemen trampled crops into the earth which had generously nourished them; the infantry shore them down with their sabres, and the sword, though in a very different sense from that of Holy Scripture, was, indeed, converted into a sickle. The harvest month never shone upon such fields in any Christian land. In September, Mountjoy reported to Cecil, “that between Tulloghoge and Toome there lay unburied a thousand dead,” and that since his arrival on the Blackwater—a period of a couple of months—”there were about 3,000 starved in Tyrone.” In O’Cane’s country, the misery of his clansmen drove the chief to surrender to Dowcra, and the news of Hugh Roe’s death having reached Donegal, his brother repaired to Athlone, and made his submission to Mountjoy, early in December. O’Neil, unable to maintain himself on the river, Roe, retired with 600 foot and 60 horse, to Glencancean, near Lough Neagh, the most secure of his fastnesses. His brother Cormac McMahon, and Art O’Neil, of Clandeboy, shared with him the wintry hardships of that last asylum, while Tyrone, Clandeboy, and Monaghan, were given up to horrors, surpassing any that had been known or dreamt of in former wars. Moryson, secretary to Mountjoy, in his account of this campaign, observes, “that no spectacle was more frequent in the ditches of towns, and especially in wasted countries, than to see multitudes of these poor people dead, with their mouths all coloured green, by eating nettles, docks, and all things they could rend above ground.”

The new year, opening without hope, it began to be rumoured that O’Neil was disposed to surrender on honourable terms. Mountjoy and the English Council long urged the aged Queen to grant such terms, but without effect. Her pride as a sovereign had been too deeply wounded by the revolted Earl to allow her easily to forgive or forget his offences. Her advisers urged that Spain had followed her own course towards the Netherlands, in Ireland; that the war consumed three-fourths of her annual revenue, and had obliged her to keep up an Irish army of 20,000 men for several years past. At length she yielded her reluctant consent, and Mountjoy was authorized to treat with the arch-rebel upon honourable terms. The agents employed by the Lord Deputy in this negotiation were Sir William Godolphin and Sir Garrett Moore, of Mellifont, ancestor of the Marquis of Drogheda—the latter, a warm personal friend, though no partizan of O’Neil’s. They found him in his retreat near Lough Neagh early in March, and obtained his promise to give the Deputy an early meeting at Mellifont. Elizabeth’s serious illness, concealed from O’Neil, though well known to Mountjoy, hastened the negotiations. On the 27th of March he had intelligence of her decease at London on the 24th, but carefully concealed it till the 5th of April following. On the 31st of March, he received Tyrone’s submission at Moore’s residence, the ancient Cistercian Abbey, and not until a week later did O’Neil learn that he had made his peace with a dead sovereign.

The honourable terms on which this memorable religious war was concluded were these: O’Neil abjured all foreign allegiance, especially that of the King of Spain; renounced the title of O’Neil; agreed to give up his correspondence with the Spaniards, and to recall his son, Henry, who was a page at the Spanish Court, and to live in peace with the sons of John the Proud. Mountjoy granted him an amnesty for himself and his allies; agreed that he should be restored to his estates as he had held them before the war, and that the Catholics should have the free exercise of their religion. That the restoration of his ordinary chieftain rights, which did not conflict with the royal prerogative, was also included, we have the best possible evidence: Sir Henry Dowcra having complained to Lord Mountjoy that O’Neil quartered men on O’Cane, who had surrendered to himself, Mountjoy made answer—”My Lord of Tyrone is taken in with promise to be restored, as well to all his lands as to his honour and dignity, and O’Cane’s country is his, and must be obedient to his commands.” That the article concerning religion was understood by the Catholics to concede full freedom of worship, is evident from subsequent events. In Dublin, sixteen of the principal citizens suffered fine and imprisonment for refusing to comply with the act of uniformity; in Kilkenny the Catholics took possession of the Black Abbey, which had been converted into a lay fee; in Waterford they did the same by St. Patrick’s Church, where a Dominican preacher was reported to have said, among other imprudent things, that “Jesabel was dead”— alluding to the late Queen. In Cork, Limerick, and Cashel, the cross was carried publicly in procession, the old Churches restored to their ancient rites, and enthusiastic proclamation made of the public restoration of religion. These events having obliged the Lord Deputy to make a progress through the towns and cities, he was met at Waterford by a vast procession, headed by religious in the habits of their order, who boldly declared to him “that the citizens of Waterford could not, in conscience, obey any prince that persecuted the Catholic religion.” When such was the spirit of the town populations, we are not surprised to learn that, in the rural districts, almost exclusively Catholic, the people entered upon the use of many of their old Churches, and repaired several Abbeys—among the number, Buttevant, Kilcrea, and Timoleague in Cork; Quin Abbey in Clare; Kilconnell in Galway; Rosnariell in Mayo, and Multifarnham in West-Meath. So confident were they that the days of persecution were past, that King James prefaces his proclamation of July, 1605, with the statement—”Whereas we have been informed that our subjects in the kingdom of Ireland, since the death of our beloved sister, have been deceived by a false rumour, to wit, that we would allow them liberty of conscience,” and so forth. How cruelly they were then undeceived belongs to the history of the next reign; here we need only remark that the Articles of Limerick were not more shamefully violated by the statute 6th and 7th, William III., than the Articles of Mellifont were violated by this Proclamation of the third year of James I.


During the greater part of the reign of Elizabeth, the means relied upon for the propagation of the reformed doctrines were more exclusively those of force and coercion than even in the time of Edward VI. Thus, when Sir William Drury was Deputy, in 1578, he bound several citizens of Kilkenny, under a penalty of 40 pounds each, to attend the English Church service, and authorized the Anglican Bishop “to make a rate for the repair of the Church, and to distrain for the payment of it”—the first mention of Church rates we remember to have met with. Drury’s method of proceeding may be further inferred from the fact, that of the thirty-six executions ordered by him in the same city, “one was a blackamoor and two were witches, who were condemned by the law of nature, for there was no positive law against witchcraft [in Ireland] in those days.” That defect was soon supplied, however, by the statute 27th of Elizabeth, “against witchcraft and sorcery.” Sir John Perrott, successor to Drury, trod in the same path, as we judge from the charge of severity against recusants, upon which, among other articles, he was recalled from the government. Towards the end of the sixteenth century, however, it began to be discovered by the wisest observers that violent methods were worse than useless with the Irish. Edmund Spenser urged that “religion should not be forcibly impressed into them with terror and sharp penalties, as now is the manner, but rather delivered and intimated with mildness and gentleness.” Lord Bacon, in his “Considerations touching the Queen’s Service in Ireland,” addressed to Secretary Cecil, recommends “the recovery of the hearts of the people,” as the first step towards their conversion. With this view he suggested “a toleration of religion (for a time not definite), except it be in some principal towns and cities,” as a measure “warrantable in religion, and in policy of absolute necessity.” The philosophic Chancellor farther suggested, as a means to this desired end, the preparation of “versions of Bibles and Catechisms, and other works of instruction in the Irish language.” In accordance with these views of conversion, the University of Trinity College was established by a royal charter, in the month of January, 1593. The Mayor and Corporation of Dublin had granted the ancient monastery of All Hallows as a site for the buildings; some contributions were received from the Protestant gentry, large grants of confiscated Abbey and other lands, which afterwards yielded a princely revenue, were bestowed upon it, and the Lord Treasurer Burleigh graciously accepted the office of its Chancellor. The first Provost was Archbishop Loftus, and of the first three students entered, one was the afterwards illustrious James Usher. The commanders and officers engaged at Kinsale presented it with the sum of 1,800 pounds for the purchase of a library; and at the subsequent confiscations in Munster and Ulster, the College came in for a large portion of the forfeited lands.

Although the Council in England generally recommended the adoption of persuasive arts and a limited toleration, those who bore the sword usually took care that they should not bear it in vain. A High Commission Court, armed with ample powers to enforce the Act of Uniformity, had been established at Dublin in 1593; but its members were ordered to proceed cautiously after the Ulster Confederacy became formidable, and their powers lay dormant in the last two or three years of the century. Essex and Mountjoy were both fully convinced of the wisdom of Bacon’s views; the former showed a partial toleration, connived at the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice, even in the capital, and liberated some priests from prison. Mountjoy, in answer to the command of the English Council “to deal moderately in the great matter of religion,” replied by letter that he had already advised “such as dealt in it for a time to hold a restrained hand therein.” “The other course,” he adds, “might have overthrown the means of our own end of a reformation of religion.” This conditional toleration—such as it was—excited the indignation of the more zealous Reformers, whose favourite preacher, the youthful Usher, did not hesitate to denounce it from the pulpit of Christ Church, as an unhallowed compromise with antichrist. In 1601, Usher, then but 21 years of age, preached his well-known sermon from the text of the forty days, in which Ezekiel “was to bear the iniquity of the house of Judah—a day for a year.” “From this year,” cried the youthful zealot, “will I reckon the sin of Ireland, that those whom you now embrace shall be your ruin, and you shall bear their iniquity.” When the northern insurrection of 1641 took place, this rhetorical menace was exalted, after the fact, into the dignity of a prophecy fulfilled. After the victory of Kinsale, however, the Ultra Protestant party had less cause to complain of the temporizing of the civil power; the pecuniary mulct of twelve pence for each absence from the English service was again enforced at least in Dublin, and several priests, then in prison, were, on various pretences, put to death. Among those who suffered in the capital was the learned Jesuit, Henry Fitzsimons, son of a Mayor of the city, the author of Brittanomachia, with whom, while in the Castle, Usher commenced a controversy, which was never finished. But the terms agreed upon at Mellifont, between Mountjoy and Tyrone, again suspended for a short interval the sword of persecution.

Notwithstanding its manifold losses by exile and the scaffold, the ancient Church was enabled, through the abundance of vocations, and the zeal of the ordained, to keep up a still powerful organization. Philip O’Sullivan states, under the next reign that the government had ascertained through its spies, the names of 1,160 priests, secular and regular, still in the country. There must have been between 300 and 400 others detained abroad, either as Professors in the Irish Colleges in Spain, France, and Flanders, or as ecclesiastics, awaiting major orders. Of the regulars at home, 120 were Franciscans, and about 50 Jesuits. There are said to have been but four Fathers of the Order of St. Dominick remaining at the time of Elizabeth’s death. The reproach of Cambrensis had long been taken away, since every Diocese might now point to its martyrs. Of these we recall among the Hierarchy the names of O’Hely, Bishop of Killala, executed at Kilmallock hi 1578; O’Hurley, Archbishop of Cashel, burned at the stake in Dublin in 1582; Creagh, Archbishop of Armagh, who died a prisoner in the Tower in 1585; Archbishop McGauran, his successor, slain in the act of ministering to the wounded in the engagement at Tulsk, in Roscommon, in 1593; McEgan, Bishop of Ross, who met his death under precisely similar circumstances in Carberry in 1603. Yet through all these losses the episcopal succession was maintained unbroken. In the early part of the next reign O’Sullivan gives the names of the four Archbishops, Peter Lombard of Armagh, Edward McGauran of Dublin, David O’Carny of Cashel, and Florence Conroy of Tuam. On the other hand, the last trying half century had furnished, so far as we can learn, no instance of apostacy among the Bishops, and but half a dozen at most from all orders of the clergy. We read that Owen O’Conor, an apostate, was advanced by letters patent to Killala in 1591; that Maurice O’Brien of Ara was, in 1570, by the same authority, elevated to the See of Killaloe, which he resigned in 1612; that Miler Magrath, in early life a Franciscan friar, was promoted by the Queen to the Sees of Clogher, Killala, Anchory and Lismore successively. He finally settled in the See of Cashel, in which he died, having secretly returned to the religion of his ancestors. For the rest, “the Queen’s Bishops” were chiefly chosen out of England, though some few natives of the Pale, or of the walled towns, educated at Oxford, may be found in the list.

Of the state of learning in those troubled times the brief story is easily told. The Bardic Order still flourished and was held in honour by all ranks of the native population. The national adversity brought out in them, as in others, many noble traits of character. The Harper, O’Dugan, was the last companion that clung to the last of the Desmonds; the Bard of Tyrconnell, Owen Ward, accompanied the Ulster chiefs in their exile, and poured out his Gaelic dirge above their Roman graves. Although the Bardic compositions continued to be chiefly personal, relating to the inauguration, journeys, exploits, or death of some favourite chief, a large number of devotional poems on the passion of our Lord and the glories of the Blessed Virgin are known to be of this age. The first forerunners of what was destined to be a numerous progeny, the controversial ode or ballad, appeared in Elizabeth’s reign, in the form of comparisons between the old and new religions, lamentations over the ruin of religious houses, and the apostacy of such persons as Miler Magrath and the son of the Earl of Desmond. The talents of many of the authors are admitted by Spenser, a competent judge, but the tendency of their writings, he complains, was to foster the love of lawlessness and rebellion rather than of virtue and loyalty. He recommended them for correction to the mercies of the Provost Marshal, whom he would have “to walk the country with half a dozen or half a score of horsemen,” in quest of the treasonable poets.

As this was the age of the general diffusion of printing, we may observe that the casting of Irish type for the use of Trinity College, by order of Queen Elizabeth, is commonly dated from the year 1591; but as the College was not opened for two years later, the true date must be anticipated. John Kearney, Treasurer of St. Patrick’s Church, who died about the year 1600, published a Protestant Catechism from the College Press, which, says O’Reilly, “was the first book ever printed in Irish types.” In the year 1593, Florence Conroy translated from the Spanish into Irish a catechism entitled “Christian Instruction,” which, he states in the preface, he had no opportunity of sending into Ireland “until the year of the age of our Lord 1598.” Whether it was then printed we are not informed, but there does not seem to have been any Irish type in Catholic hands before the foundation of the Irish College at Louvain in 1616.

The merit of first giving to the press, in the native language of the country, a version of the Sacred Scriptures, belongs clearly to Trinity College. Nicholas Walsh, Bishop of Ossory, who died in 1585, had commenced, with the assistance of John Kearney, to translate the Greek Testament into Gaelic. He had also the assistance of Dr. Nehemiah Donnellan, and Dr. William Daniel, or O’Daniel, both of whom subsequently filled the See of Tuam. This translation, dedicated to King James, and published by O’Daniel in 1603, is still reprinted by the Bible Societies. The first Protestant translation of the Old Testament, made under Bishop Bedel’s eye, and with such revision of particular passages as his imperfect knowledge of the language enabled him to suggest, though completed in the reign of Charles I., was not published before the year 1680. It was Bedel, also, who caused the English liturgy to be recited in Irish, in his Cathedral, as early as 1630.

Ireland and her affairs naturally attracted, during Elizabeth’s reign, the attention of English writers. Of these it is enough to mention the Poet Spenser, Secretary to Lord Grey de Wilton, Fynes Moryson, Secretary to Lord Mountjoy, and the Jesuit Father, Campian. Campian, early distinguished at Oxford, was employed as Cambrensis had been four centuries earlier, and as Plowden was two centuries later, to write down everything Irish. He crossed the Channel in 1570, and composed two books rapidly, without accurate or full information as to the condition or history of the country. The nearer view of Catholic suffering and Catholic constancy exercised a powerful influence on this accomplished scholar; he became a convert and a Jesuit. For members of that order there was but one exit out of life, under the law of England: he suffered death at Tyburn in 1581. Richard Stanihurst, son of the Recorder of Dublin, and uncle of Archbishop Usher, went through precisely the same experiences as his friend Campian, except that he died, a quarter of a century later, Chaplain to the Archdukes at Brussels, instead of expiring at the stake. His English hexameters are among the curiosities of literature, but his contributions to the history of his country, especially his allusions to events and characters in and about his own time, are not without their use. Stanihurst wrote his historical tracts, as did Lombard the Catholic and Usher the Protestant Primate, O’Sullivan, White, O’Meara, and almost all the Irish writers of that age, without exception, in the Latin language. The first Latin book printed in Ireland is thought to be O’Meara’s poem in praise of Thomas, Earl of Ormond and Ossory, published in 1615. The earliest English books printed in Ireland are unknown to me; the collection of Anglo-Irish statutes, ordered to be published while Sir Henry Sidney was Deputy, was the most important undertaking of that class in the reign of Elizabeth.

As to institutions of learning, if we except Trinity College, which increased rapidly in numbers and reputation under the patronage of the Crown, and the College of Saint Nicholas, at Galway—protected by its remote situation on the brink of the Atlantic—there was no famous seat of learning left in the island. In the next reign 1,300 scholars are stated to have attended that western “school of humanity,” when the Ecclesiastical Commissioners despotically ordered it to be closed, because the learned Principal, John Lynch, “would not confirm to the religion established.” But the greater number of the children of Catholics, who still retained property enough to educate them, were sent beyond seas, a fact with which King James, soon after his accession, reproached the deputation of that body. A proclamation issued by Lord Deputy Chichester, in 1610, alludes to the same custom, and commands all noblemen, merchants, and others, whose children are abroad for educational purposes, to recall them within one year from the date thereof; and in case they refuse to return, all parents, friends, &c., sending them money, directly or indirectly, will be punished as severely as the law permits. It was mainly to guard against this danger that “the School of Wards” was established by Elizabeth, and enlarged by James I., in which the great Duke of Ormond, Sir Phelim O’Neil, Murrogh, Lord Inchiquin, and other sons of noble families, were educated for the next generation. Early in the reign of James there were not less than 300 of these Irish children in the Tower, or at the Lambeth School,—and it is humiliating to find the great name of Sir Edward Coke among those who gloried in the success of this unnatural substitution of the State for the Parent in the work of education.

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