Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/O'Donnell, Rory

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1426120Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 41 — O'Donnell, Rory1895Richard Bagwell

O'DONNELL, RORY, first Earl of Tyrconnel (1575–1608), born in 1575, was the second son of Sir Hugh MacManus O'Donnell, by Ineenduv (Inghín Dhubh) MacDonnell of Cantire. He accompanied his elder brother, Hugh Roe O'Donnell [q. v.], to Kinsale in 1601, and became acting chief when the latter fled to Spain after the defeat on 24 Dec. He led the clan back to Connaught, joined O'Connor Sligo, and maintained a guerilla warfare, of which the ‘Four Masters’ give details, until December 1602, when both chiefs submitted to Mountjoy at Athlone [see Blount, Charles]. Hugh Roe had just died childless in Spain, and Rory was his natural successor.

Mountjoy went to London in June 1603, accompanied by Hugh O'Neill [q. v.], Tyrone, and O'Donnell, and the party narrowly escaped shipwreck on the Skerries. On 7 June the two Irish chiefs kissed the king's hands at Hampton Court, and were graciously received. They were present on 21 July when Mountjoy was created Earl of Devonshire. On 29 Sept. O'Donnell was knighted in Christchurch, Dublin, by Lord-deputy Carey, and was at the same time created Earl of Tyrconnel, with remainder to his brother Cathbhar; and at the beginning of 1604 he had a grant of the greater part of Donegal, leaving Inishowen to O'Dogherty and the fort and fishery of Ballyshannon to the crown. Sir Niall Garv O'Donnell [q. v.], who had done the government some service, was to have such lands as he had held peaceably in Hugh Roe's time. All this was done by Devonshire's advice; but Sir Henry Docwra [q. v.] thought that Neill Garv had been badly treated.

The new earl was not satisfied, though shrewd officials thought too much had been done for him, and within a year he sent a special messenger to Cecil to complain of the manifold injuries offered him. The situation was strained; for both Tyrone and Tyrconnel aimed at tribal independence, while the government tried to make them the means to a new state of things. In June 1605, by James's special order, Tyrconnel received a commission from Sir Arthur Chichester [q. v.], who was now lord deputy, as the king's lieutenant in Donegal county; but with the proviso that martial law should be exercised only during actual war, and never over his majesty's officers and soldiers. Every effort was made to humour Tyrconnel, but he continued to complain, especially of Sir Niall Garv, to whom he was unwilling to allow a foot of ground (Report to the Privy Council, 30 Sept. 1605). Chichester and his council visited the country, and granted about thirteen thousand acres near Lifford to Sir Niall Garv, reserving the town to the crown. This reservation then became a grievance, though the earl could show no sufficient title. On 30 Aug. 1606 two Glasgow mariners reported that Tyrconnel had been inquiring as to whether their smack could go to Spain or France, but Chichester could not believe that he wanted to run away.

About Christmas 1606 Tyrconnel, who had married the late Earl of Kildare's daughter, was at Maynooth, and in the garden there he divulged to Richard, lord Delvin, and afterwards first earl of Westmeath [q. v.], who had grievances of his own, a plan to seize Dublin Castle, with the lord deputy and council in it. ‘Out of them,’ he said, ‘I shall have my lands and countries as I desire it;’ that is, as they were held by Hugh Roe O'Donnell. Various strong places were to be seized, and Tyrconnel thought Tyrone, Maguire, and many others would join him. So far as Tyrconnel was concerned there can be no doubt that he had been in correspondence with Spain, but it must remain uncertain whether there was any conspiracy. Delvin's confession to Chichester (State Papers, Ireland, 6 Nov. 1607) is quite clear, and it was never shaken. Tyrconnel found out that his rash speeches were known, and perhaps persuaded Tyrone that he would be arrested if he went to London about his dispute with Sir Donnell O'Cahan [q. v.] On 4–14 Sept. they both sailed from Rathmullan, in Lough Swilly, and neither ever saw Ireland again.

‘The Flight of the Earls,’ as it is called, is one of the most picturesque episodes in Irish history. The immediate cause of their sudden departure may be doubtful, but not the real causes. The jurisdiction of an Irish chief was incompatible with the structure of a modern state. In his fatal conversation with Delvin, Tyrconnel said he had heard that the government meant to cut off the chiefs in detail, under pretence of executing the recusancy laws. In his formal statement of grievances sent to the king (State Papers, Ireland, 1607, No. 501) he begins by saying that all priests in his country were persecuted by the royal officers, and that Chichester had told him at his own table that he had better go to church, ‘or else he should be forced to go thereto.’ It was his evident interest to put religion in the foreground, and there was plenty to complain of; but temporal grievances had as much, or more, to do with his flight. Many of these were real, and there were clearly some great rascals in the service of government. Moreover, the earl was over head and ears in debt, and his country deeply mortgaged. Nor can we wonder at this; for the Four Masters, who wrote in Donegal, and fancied they were praising its chief, say he was ‘a generous, bounteous, munificent, and truly hospitable lord, to whom the patrimony of his ancestors did not seem anything for his spending and feasting parties.’ Chichester thought his encumbrances did not leave him more than 300l. a year. Sir John Davies [q. v.] (to Salisbury, 12 Sept. 1607) thought him ‘so vain a person that the Spaniard will scarce give him means to live, if the Earl of Tyrone do not countenance and maintain him.’ Yet many at Rome thought him the more important man of the two, and even Sir Henry Wotton [q. v.] seemed disposed to agree (to Salisbury, 8 Aug. 1608).

About ninety persons sailed with the earls, among whom were Tyrconnel's son Hugh, aged eleven months, his brother Cathbhar, with his wife Rose O'Dogherty and their son Hugh, aged two years and three months, and his sister Nuala, who had deserted her husband, Neill Garv, besides other relations. Chichester failed to intercept them at sea. They were unable to make Corunna, and put into the Seine after three weeks' tossing. The English ambassador demanded their extradition, which Henry IV of course refused; but they were not allowed to stay in France, nor to visit Paris. From Amiens they went by Arras to Douay, where the Irish seminarists greeted them with Latin and Greek odes, and thence to Brussels. At a dinner given by Spinola, Tyrone was placed in the chair, the papal nuncio on his right, and Tyrconnel next (Meehan, Fate and Fortunes of Tyrone, p. 129). In November they went from Brussels to Louvain, and in December drew up their statements of grievances there. Tyrconnel's has been quoted above. It does not appear that these memorials were ever communicated to the Irish government; and about the time they were sent to London, Tyrconnel, who was a loose talker, justified all Chichester's apprehensions of his intended hostile return. In conversation with John Crosse of Tiverton, an old servant of Walsingham's, he detailed his shadowy plans for conveying arms to Ireland, and for raising a rebellion there (State Papers, Ireland, 19 Feb. 1608).

At the end of February 1608 Tyrone and Tyrconnel set out for Rome with a large party. According to information received by the English privy council, their departure from Belgium was little regretted, ‘having left so good a memory of their barbarous life and drunkenness’ (ib. 8 March 1608). Avoiding France, they went by Namur and Nancy to Lucerne, and over the St. Gothard to Milan, where Fuentes gave them a grand reception, though the Spanish government had promised to discountenance them, and did find money to pass them on. They travelled by Bologna and Rimini to Loretto; but Wotton had them watched, and they were excluded from Venetian territory. They reached the Milvian bridge on 29 April, and had a great escort of cardinals and others into Rome. The pope received them at the Quirinal next day. We have a glimpse of Tyrconnel habitually driving in the same coach with Tyrone and Peter Lombard [q. v.], the titular archbishop of Armagh. On the Thursday before Trinity the earls occupied places of honour at the canonisation of S. Francesca Romana in St. Peter's, and at Corpus Christi they carried the canopy over the pope's head. In June Tyrconnel was attacked by intermittent fever, received no benefit from a trip to Ostia, and died in Rome on 28 July. He was attended by Lady Tyrone, by his sister-in-law Rose, and by Florence Conry, titular archbishop of Tuam, who had been with Hugh Roe when he died. He was buried on the Janiculum in the Spanish church of S. Pietro in Montorio, wrapped in the garb of St. Francis, the customary winding-sheet of his family since they had founded the convent at Donegal. His brother Cathbhar and Tyrone's eldest son died in September, and were buried in the same place, where their joint epitaphs may still be read (Meehan, p. 477). A proposal to kill Tyrone or Tyrconnel had been made to Wotton in April, and he had some suspicion that the jesuits distrusted Tyrconnel and had him put out of the way; but there can be no doubt that he really died of Roman fever. He was outlawed and attainted after his flight, and the attainder was confirmed by the Irish parliament in 1614. The settlement of Ulster resulted from the flight of the earls and the rising of Sir Cahir O'Dogherty [q. v.], and the statesmen of that day were evidently very glad to have the ground thus cleared for them.

Tyrconnel married Lady Bridget Fitzgerald, daughter of the twelfth Earl of Kildare. Her husband did not take her with him in his flight, and on her presentation at court James wondered how he could leave so fair a face behind him. Tyrconnel made some ineffectual attempts to communicate with her afterwards. She had a pension of 200l. from the Irish government, and was remarried to Nicholas Barnewall, first viscount Kingsland [q. v.] By Tyrconnel she had a son Hugh, who took the title of earl, or count, on the continent, and was in favour at the Spanish court. His death is announced in an Irish letter written at Louvain (facsimile in Gilbert, vol. i.) 16 Sept. 1642 by his aunt Rose, who signs with her maiden name, although then married for the second time. Lady Tyrone had a daughter, Mary Stuart [see below]. Another daughter, Elizabeth, is often given to her; but on a comparison of dates it seems doubtful whether the lady in question was not her sister, who married Luke, first earl of Fingal (pedigree in Earls of Kildare, Addenda).

Mary Stuart O'Donnell (fl. 1632) was born in England after her father's flight, and the royal name was given to her by James I. She was brought up by her mother in Ireland until her twelfth year, and then went to live in England with her grandmother, Lady Kildare, who proposed to leave her all she had and to provide a husband for her. Mary objected to the favoured suitor as a protestant; perhaps also because she had formed a previous attachment, and escaped during the latter months of 1626. Dressed in male attire, and wearing a sword, she got clear of London, and after many wanderings arrived in Bristol. She was accompanied by a maid similarly disguised, and by a young ‘gentilhomme son parent,’ who may have been the Don John O'Gallagher whom she afterwards married. At Bristol her sex was suspected; but, if we believe the Spanish panegyrist, who likens her to various saints, she bribed a magistrate, offered to fight a duel, and made fierce love to another girl. Two attempts were made to reach Ireland, but the ship was beaten back into the Severn. At last Mary Stuart got off in a Dutch vessel, and was carried, with her two companions, to Rochelle. She retained her doublet, boots, and sword, and at Poitiers made love to another lady. On her arrival at Brussels Urban VIII wrote a special congratulatory letter; but she soon estranged her brother by continuing to seek adventures in man's clothes. She married an O'Gallagher, had one child at Genoa, and in February 1632 wrote to Cardinal Barberini, saying that another was expected, and that she was in great misery. After that day nothing further seems to be recorded of her (Earls of Kildare, Addenda, p. 321).

[For the whole of Tyrconnel's life, O'Donovan's ed. of the Four Masters, vol. iii.; for his career in Ireland, and after his flight, Russell and Prendergast's Calendar of Irish State Papers, 1603–8 (for the foreign part especially Appendix to vol. ii.), and Meeban's Fate and Fortunes of Tyrone and Tyrconnel, the latter partly founded on a manuscript by Teigue O'Keeran written in 1609, and preserved at St. Isidore's, Rome; for the few events under Elizabeth, Bagwell's Ireland under the Tudors, vol. iii. See also the Earls of Kildare, by Lord Kildare, with the vol. of addenda; Contemp. Hist. of Affairs in Ireland, ed. Gilbert; O'Sullivan-Beare's Hist. Cath. Hiberniæ Compendium. The account of Mary Stuart O'Donnell in vol. iii. of the Abbé MacGeohegan's Histoire d'Irlande, Paris, 1758, is drawn from a Spanish tract by Albert Henriquez, published at Brussels in 1627, of which a French translation by Pierre de Cadenet appeared at Paris in 1628. The Spanish original is not in Trinity College, Dublin, nor the British Museum; the French translation only is in the museum.]

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