Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/O'Neill, Daniel

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O'NEILL, DANIEL (1612?–1664), soldier, royalist, and postmaster-general, elder son of Con M'Neill M'Fachartaigh O'Neill, by his wife, a sister of Owen Roe O'Neill [q. v.], was born in Ulster about 1612. His father must be distinguished from another Con O'Neill who was nephew of Hugh O'Neill [q. v.], the great earl of Tyrone, was younger brother of Owen Roe O'Neill, and also had a son Daniel (Burke, Extinct Peerage, p. 416). Con M'Neill M'Fachartaigh O'Neill was very distantly related to the Tyrone branch of the O'Neills, (Montgomery MSS. ed. Hill, p. 14) : he possessed lands in Ulster called Upper Claneboys or Clandeboye, Ards, and Sliocht or Slut O'Neill, worth 12,000l. a year, and had served during Elizabeth's reign on the English side. In 1605, owing either to a difference with Lord-deputy Chichester and dealings with the rebels, or to a riot in which his servants came into collision with the English troops, Con was imprisoned at Carrickfergus. Thence he escaped to Scotland, where he entered into an agreement with James Hamilton, afterwards viscount Claneboye [q. v.], and Hugh Montgomery, afterwards viscount Ards, to grant them two-thirds of his lands on condition of their obtaining his pardon. This was done, and Con afterwards lived quietly on his remaining estates. He left two sons, Daniel and Con Oge; the latter took an active part in the rebellion of 1641, became a colonel, and was killed in an action at Clones in 1643 by a presbyterian minister after quarter had been given (Henry O'Neill's Diary in Lodge, Desiderata Cur. Hibernica, ii. 492; Castlehaven, Memoirs, ed. 1753, p. 63).

Daniel, the elder son, was early introduced at the court of Charles I, and, unlike the rest of his family, became a protestant. He spent 'many years between it [the court] and the Low Countries, the winter seasons in the one, and the summer always in the army in the other, which was as good an education toward advancement in the world as that age knew any; he had a fair reputation in both climates, having a competent fortune of his own to support himself without dependence or beholdingness, and a natural insinuation and address which made him acceptable in the best company' (Clarendon, Rebellion, bk. viii. §§ 268 et seq.) Before 1635 he took service as a volunteer under Sir Horace Vere, and was also employed on missions to the titular queen of Bohemia and the elector-palatine. Soon after his father's death Viscounts Claneboye and Ards managed to secure the remaining third of Con's property, leaving Daniel and his brother little more than 160l. a year. In 1635 O'Neill endeavoured to recover his heritage, and, armed with letters of recommendation from Archbishop Laud and the elector-palatine, pressed his suit at Dublin on Wentworth, who ordered the two viscounts to treat with him. Nothing, however, came of the negotiation. Wentworth resented O'Neill's importunity, and threatened to put him in prison. This led to bitter animosity between the two, and O'Neill was henceforth one of Wentworth's most active enemies. In 1636 O'Neill was again in the Netherlands, and next year served at the siege of Breda, being wounded in the thigh in an assault (Hexham, Siege of Breda, 1637, pp. 28–31, &c.) When the troubles broke out with Scotland in 1639 he was given the command of a troop of horse, 'to which he was by all men held very equal, having had good experience in the most active armies of that time, and a courage very notorious' (Clarendon, viii. 268). After the retreat from Berwick in May 1639 O'Neill returned to the Netherlands with letters for the queen of Bohemia, and is mentioned as a devoted servant to Northumberland and Conway. When the Scots again took up arms early in 1640 Sir John Conyers eagerly pressed upon O'Neill a command in his regiment (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1639–40, p. 422). At the rout of Newburn on 28 Aug. he was ordered to protect the rear, but after a sharp skirmish was surrounded and taken prisoner, being reported as dead. He was well treated by the Scottish officers, some of whom he had known in the Netherlands, and was restored to liberty at Ripon in October (Baillie, Letters, Bannatyne Club, i. 257; Nalson, i. 426; Rushworth, {sc|ii}}. ii. 1238; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1640–1 , p. 5; Cal. Clarendon State Papers, ed. Macray, i. 204; Welford, Newcastle and Gateshead in Seventeenth Century, p. 400).

During the ensuing winter he was with the army in the north of England; early next year he made another attempt to recover his lands by petitioning the House of Lords, which referred the matter to the ordinary courts of law; the civil war stopped further proceedings. At the same time he was implicated in the first army plot, being early taken into consultation by Percy, Goring, and others; he was also, under the pseudonym 'Louis Lanois,' in communication with his relatives in Ulster, who were planning the Irish rebellion, and his brother Con O'Neill was sent over to secure his services. In May he went down to York in connection with the second army plot, to sound Conyers and Sir Jacob Astley [q. v.] as to the possibility of bringing the army to London (D'Ewes, Diary in Harl. MS. 164, f. 167). Neither Conyers nor Astley would hear of that plan, and meanwhile the secret committee of the House of Commons had reported on the first plot. On 14 June O'Neill was summoned to answer for his share in it, but fled from York, and, in spite of his reported capture in Norfolk, escaped to Brussels in safety.

A committee of the house was appointed to inquire into his proceedings, and in August his pay was stopped ; in September O'Neill returned to Wey bridge with Sir John Berkeley, and surrendered himself at Pym's house in Chelsea during the recess. Alter an examination bail was refused, and he was taken into custody by the sergeant-at-arms. On 20 Oct. he was committed to the gatehouse, and on 4 Dec. was brought to the bar of the house. He pleaded the act of oblivion, but this was disallowed ; it was resolved to impeach him, and articles of high treason were passed on 13 Dec. After further examination by the House of Lords, his trial was Postponed by a difference between the two houses ; in January 1642 he was removed, on the plea of ill-health, to the Tower, whence on 6 May he escaped in female attire, and made his way to Brussels in spite of proclamations for his arrest (Treason Discovered, or the Impeachment of Daniel Oneale, 1641 ; Oneale's Escape out of the Tower, 1642 ; Commons' Journals, ii. 175, &c. ; Lords' Journals, iv. 399, &c. ; Evelyn, Diary, ed. Bray, App. passim).

On the outbreak of the civil war O'Neill returned to England; his first commission was that of major in Colonel Osborne's regiment (Masson, Life of Milton, ii. 442 ; Peacock, Army Lists, p. 17) ; in October he was with Rupert at Abingdon, complaining of the bad discipline of his troops (Warburton, Prince Rupert, ii. 82). His promotion was retarded by Charles I, who could not forgive O'Neill's hostility to Strafford. In June 1643 he was lighting at Gloucester, and on 27 Sept. was at the first battle of Newbury. During the winter he was at Oxford (Carte, Original Letters, &c. i. 26). In January 1643-4 he was selected to accompany Randal MacDonnell, second earl of Antrim [q. v.], on his mission to Ormonde, with the object of procuring ten thousand Irish troops for England and three thousand for Scotland. O'Neill was on good terms with Ormonde, and had great influence over Antrim, with whom he was distantly connected. By a court intrigue of Digby's, detailed at great length by Clarendon, O'Neill was previous to his departure made groom of the bedchamber by Charles, under the impression that it would be long before he returned to assume his duties. He arrived at Kilkenny on 23 Feb., and superintended the despatch of fifteen hundred troops for Scotland, but otherwise the mission was unsuccessful. O'Neill had returned to Beaumaris by 25 June, and joined Rupert's army in time to take part in the battle of Marston Moor on 2 July; he commanded Rupert's regiment of foot (Sanford, Studies of the Great Rebellion, p. 595 ; Markham, Life of Fairfax, pp. 161-9). He then joined the army of the west, at Bath, on 17 July, and marched into Devonshire 'Essex-hunting' (O'Neill to Trevor in Carte, Original Letters, i. 58-61); he was present in September when Essex allowed nimself to be surrounded in Cornwall, and fought at the second battle of Newbury on 27 Oct. He was again at Oxford during the winter, and fought at Naseby on 14 June 1645; he was then directed, on 27 June, to proceed to Falmouth to procure ships, probably in order to secure a retreat for Prince Charles (Husband, A Collection of Ordinances, 1646, pp. 855-6 ; Ludlow, Memoirs, ed. 1753, iii. 306). Thence he was sent with a letter of recommendation from Charles I to Ormonde, and landed at Passage, co. Waterford, on 24 Aug.

For the next few years O'Neill was principally engaged in fruitless negotiations between his uncle Owen Roe and Ormoude, and in endeavours to save the royalist cause in Ireland. In 1647 he was treating with Sir James Turner and the Scots (Turner, Memoirs, Bannatyne Club, p. 47); and in October of the same year he was despatched by Ormonde to seek aid at St. Germains, when he took part, as second, in the duel between Digby and Wilmot (O'Neill to Ormonde in Carte, Original Letters, i. 146-59). Returning to Ireland, he was made governor of Ormonde's horse-guards, and served with Castlehaven in Carlow (Castlehaven, Memoirs, ed. 1753, pp. 87, &c.) In July 1649, as governor of Trim, he defended that town against the parliamentarians, and in the autumn he brought to a successful issue the fresh negotiations with Owen Roe, which had been started early in the year. Soon after he was sent with two thousand foot and four hundred horse to recover places in Down and Antrim, but retired on finding the country completely in the power of the parliamentarians. O'Neill was now promoted major-general, a step which subsequently formed one of the charges brought by the bishops against Ormonde (Cox, Hibernia Angl. vol. ii.) For a short time during his uncle's illness he actually commanded the Ulster army, being the only man from whom its various sections were willing to receive orders (The Marquess of Ormondes Answer to the Declaration &c., in Cox, vol. ii.) He endeavoured to bring the army to Ormonde's assistance while Cromwell was marching on Wexford. Owen Roe died on 6 Nov. Daniel was proposed as his successor, and the nobility and gentry were generally in his favour; he was also supported by Ormonde, but as a protestant he was obnoxious to the papal party, and Heber or Emer MacMahon [q. v.], bishop of Clogher, who had promised, if elected general, to hand over the command to O'Neill, made his conversion an absolute condition (Henry O'Neill's Diary in Lodge, Desiderata Cur. Hib.; Carte, Life of Ormonde, iii. 532). O'Neill declined to abjure his faith; the royalist cause in Ireland was now hopeless, and O'Neill sought terms from Ireton, who gave him permission to enlist five thousand Irish troops for the service of Spain or the States-General (O'Neill to the Marchioness of Ormonde in Carte, Original Letters, i, 384-90).

O'Neill arrived at the Hague just in time to accompany Charles II, who embarked at Terheyden on 2 June 1650 for Scotland. As in the case of most of Charles's followers, his expulsion had been already voted by the Scottish parliament. Falling into the hands of the Scots, he was accordingly expelled, but was first forced to sign a document consenting to his death if ever he returned. In October he was back at the Hague pressing his services upon the Spanish ambassador. He stipulated for the command of all the Irish in the Spanish dominions, with the rank of colonel-general. This was apparently refused; and after a visit to Paris, O'Neill, in April 1651, again joined Charles in Scotland (Nicoll, Diary of Transactions, Bannatyne Club, p. 52). Charles was now practically at liberty to choose his own followers. O'Neill remained in Scotland throughout the summer, and joined in the Scottish invasion of England; he was at Penrith on 8 Aug., but he ridiculed the idea of invading England while Charles was utterly unable to hold Scotland (Cary, Memorials of the Civil War, ii. 306). After the battle of Worcester on 3 Sept. he made his escape to the Netherlands.

From this time he was the busiest of the exiled intriguers, and his journeys in Holland, Flanders, France, and Germany were incessant. He was principally attached to the princess royal, but as groom of the bed-chamber to Charles II his influence was considerable; at one time Nicholas complained that O'Neill directed all the correspondence of the court. In 1652 he was in England; in March 1654-5 he paid another visit to estimate the prospects of a royalist rising Landing at Dover, he proceeded to London, where, after interviewing the principal royalists, he was arrested, but soon made his escape to Holland. In the same year his expulsion from France was stipulated in the treaty between Cromwell and Mazarin. In February 1657-8 he set out with Ormonde from Cologne, landed at Westmarch in Essex, and, leavmg Ormonde at Chelmsford, proceeded to London, whence he returned in safety to Flanders. In August 1659 he accompanied Charles through France to Fuentarabia, and returned with him to Brussels in November.

At the Restoration O'Neill received numerous rewards for his loyal exertions; he was made captain of the king's own troop of horse-guards, became M.P. for St. Ives, and was admitted a member of Gray's Inn. His numerous grants of land, in London and elsewhere, included one of fourteen hundred feet in length and twenty-three feet broad between St. James's Park and Pall Mall; he was also sole manufacturer of gunpowder to the crown, and accountant for the regulation of alehouses. He received a pension of 500l. and a grant of the profits of all mines north of the Trent, the working of which he had investigated as early as 1641 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1641-3, pp. 12, 13, 1660-1). In March 1662-3 he became postmaster-general; he paid 21,500l. annually for the lease, in return for which he had a monopoly of carrying letters, with liberty to make as much as he could from it provided he adhered rigidly to the rates fixed by parliament; he was also empowered to make contracts with foreign postmasters for the transmission of letters abroad (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1661, &c.; Joyce, Hist. of Post Office, pp. 33-4). With the wealth he thus acquired he built Belsize House, Hampstead, 'at vast expense' (Evelyn, Diary, ed. Bray, ii. 106); he also had a country house at Boughton-Malherbe, Kent. He died on 24 Oct. 1664. Charles II, writing to the Duchess of Orleans, said: 'This morning poor O'Neill died of an ulcer in the guts; he was as honest a man as ever lived. I am sure I have lost a good servant by it.' Pepys writes: 'This day the great Oneale died; I believe to the content of all the Protestant pretenders in Ireland' (Diary, ed. Wheatley, iv. 273-4; cf. also Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1664-5, pp. 43, 49; Edward Savage to Dr. Sancroft in Harl. MS, 3785. f. 19). He was buried in Boughton-Malherbe church, and his tomb was subsequently removed within the altar rails, but it no longer exists; a full inscription on it stated that he died in 1663, aged 60, both of which assertions are erroneous.

Clarendon draws an elaborate portrait of O’Neill: ‘A great observer and discerner of men's natures and humours, and very dexterous in compliance when he found it useful,' he had, 'by a marvellous dexterity in his nature, and extraordinary influence' over those with whom he was brought in contact. Naturally inclined ‘to ease and luxury, his industry was indefatigable when his honour required it, or his particular interest;' ‘he was in subtlety and understanding much superior to the whole notion of the old Irish’—qualities which earned him the nickname of ‘Infallible Subtle,' and the distinction of being the first Irishman to occupy a conspicuous position at the court and in the English administration. In 1642 he was described as being ‘of a sanguine complexion, of a middle stature, light brown hair, about the age of thirty years, little or no beard.' A number of letters from O'Neill are printed in the works mentioned below, especially Carte's ‘Collection of Original Letters,' the ‘Clarendon State Papers,' and Gilbert's ‘Contemporary History of Affairs;’ many letters, memoranda, and plans are among the Carte MSS. in the Bodleian Library.

He married Catherine, eldest daughter of Thomas, second baron Wotton, and widow of (l) Henry, second baron Stanhope, by whom she was mother of Philip, second earl of Chesterfield; and (2) John Poliander der Kirckhoven, lord of Henfleet, Holland, by whom she had Charles Henry, subsequently created Baron Wotton and Earl of Bellamont. For her services at court she was created Countess of Chesterfield for life; she died in 1666, and was buried at Boughton-Malherbe. O'Neill had no issue by her to whom he left all his wealth; but apparently he had by a previous marriage a son Harry, whom he educated as a protestant; nothing more is known of him, and he probably died young.

[There is considerable confusion in the O'Neill genealogy, and O'Hart makes two persons of Daniel O'Neill, giving each a separate pedigree. For the genealogy and for Con O'Neill see Cal. State Papers, Irish Ser. 1603–6, passim; Laud's Works, ed. 1860, vii. 226; Montgomery MSS. ed. Hill, p. 41; Reeves's Eccl. Antiq. of Down, Connor, and Dromore, pp. 343–7; Morrin's Cal. Patent Rolls (Charles I), passim; Ulster Journ. of Archæology, iii. 135, &c.; Richey's Lectures on Irish Hist. ii. 464–72; Lodge's Peerage, ed. Archdall, iii. 2–4; O'Hart's Irish Pedigrees, ed. 1887, i. 724, 734. For Daniel O'Neill see, besides authorities quoted, Cal. State Papers, Dom. passim; Hist. MSS. Comm. Appendices to 3rd Rep. p. 429, 4th Rep. passim, 5th Rep. passim, 6th Rep. p. 771 b, 7th Rep. pp. 74, 456, 9th and 10th Rep. passim, 12th Rep. ix. 264, 495, 13th Rep. v. 99; Nalson, Rushworth, and Thurloe's Collections, throughout; Journals of the Lords and Commons for 1641–2; Clarendon's Hist. of the Rebellion; Clarendon State Papers, ed. 1786, vol. iii. and Cal. by Macray, passim; Strafford Papers, passim; Nicholas Papers (Camden Soc.), passim; Hatton Corr. (Camden Soc.), i. 42; The King's Packet of Letters, 1645, pp. 8–11; D'Ewes's Diary in Harl. MS. 164, f. 157 b; Pythouse Papers, ed. Day, pp. lv–lvii, 25; Lloyd's Memoirs, 1668, pp. 664–5; Burton's Diary, ed. Rutt, vol. i. p. cxxxviii; The Warr of Ireland, p. 114; Sir John Temple's Hist. of the Rebellion, 1646, p. 74; Borlase's Hist. of the Execrable Rebellion, 1662, pp. 152, 227; Col. Henry O'Neill's Diary in Lodge's Desiderata Curiosa Hibernica, ii. 492, &c.; Castlehaven's Memoirs, ed. 1753, pp. 53, 87; Rinuccini's Embassy in Ireland, ed. Hughes, p. 325; Pepys's Diary, ed. Wheatley, ii. 274, iv. 273–4, ed. Braybrooke, i. 279, ii. 175; Evelyn's Diary, ed. Bray, passim; Cox's Hibernia Anglicana, vol. ii. App. pp. 179, 191, 202; Somers Tracts, v. 654; Rapin's Hist. of England, ii. 400; Carte's Life of Ormonde, throughout, especially vol. iii. and Letters, &c., throughout; Dalrymple's Memorials of Great Britain and Ireland, ii. 27 App.; Laud's Works, ed. 1860, vol. vii. 122, 226–7; Warburton's Prince Rupert and Rupert MSS.; Gilbert's Confederation and War, and Cont. Hist. of Affairs, throughout; Gardiner's Hist. of England, vols. ix. and x., Civil War, and Commonwealth, vol. i. passim; Cary's Memorials of the Civil War, ii. 136, 164; Leland's Hist. of Ireland, vol. iii.; George Hill's Montgomery MSS. and Macdonnells of Antrim; Joyce's Hist. of the Post Office, pp. 33–4; Ulster Journal of Archæology, ii. 57, iv. 37, v. 275, &c.; Official Returns of Members of Parl.; Dircks's Life of the Marquis of Worcester, 1865, p. 113; Foster's Register of Gray's Inn, p. 291; Peerages by Burke (Extinct), Collins, iii. 316, and Lodge, ed. Archdall; Hasted's Kent, ii. 431, 437; Dalton's English Army Lists, 1661–1714, i. 4–5; Notes and Queries, 6th ser. ii. 48.]

A. F. P.