Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/O'Neill, Hugh (1540?-1616)
O'NEILL, HUGH, third Baron of Dungannon and second Earl of Tyrone (1540?–1616), the second son of Mathew or Fedoragh O'Neill, first baron of Dungannon, the reputed son of Con O'Neill, first earl of Tyrone [q. v.], was born about 1640. After the murder of his elder brother Brian by Turlough Luineach O'Neill [q. v.], on 12 April 1662, he became Baron of Hungannon, and, being taken under the special protection of the state, was for greater security removed to England. Beyond the fact recorded by Gainsforde that 'he trooped in the streets of London with sufficient equipage and orderly respect,' nothing particular is known of his life at court, though from certain expressions in his letters it seems probable that he attached himself to the household of the Earl of Leicester. After the death of Shane O'Neill [q. v.l in June 1567, and the inauguration of Turlough Luineach as O'Neill, government began to regard Hugh as a sort of counterpoise to the latter. He returned to Ireland early in 1568, and was established by Sir Henry Sidney in that part of Tyrone which corresponds with the modern county of Armagh. At first he found it no easy matter, even with the assistance of Sir Nicholas Bagenal, to maintain himself against O'Neill, who, on one occasion, was said to have robbed him of thirty thousand head of cattle, and is believed to have instigated more than one attempt to murder him. In 1574 he assisted Walter Devereux, earl of Essex [q. v.], against Sir Brian Mac Phelim O'Neill, and the earl spoke strongly in favour of advancing him to the earldom of Tyrone. But after the failure of Essex's enterprise, feeling that he was unequally matched against Turlough, he accepted his overtures for a reconciliation, and was reported to be about to marry his daughter.
The government strongly remonstrated against this change of policy; and Hugh was easily dissuaded from pursuing it because Turlough's age and ill-health rendered it probable that his death was at hand. In that event Turlough's position as O'Neill would fall into Hugh's hands in the natural course of events. But Sir William Drury, who thought he detected in Hugh an ambition to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors, advised, as a further precaution, that Henry MacShane O'Neill, one of Shane's sons, should be maintained as a check on him. After returning to his allegiance, Hugh wrote piteously on 3 Sept. 1580 to the lord deputy, Arthur, lord Grey of Wilton, that he had been driven by Turlough to take refuge in the woods, and that unless he was speedily relieved he would be compelled to submit to him. Later in the year he was given a troop of horse, and served against the Earl of Desmond in Munster. Subsequently, in January 1582, he did good service by capturing John Cusack, of Alliston-read, co. Meath, who had taken a prominent part in the rebellion of William Nugent [q. v.] The fact that, on a report of Turlough Luineach's supposed death during a drunken debauch in May 1583, he rode post-haste to the stone at Tulloghoge, with the intention of having himself elected O'Neill, does not appear to have come to the ears of government, or, if it did, did not shake their confidence in him ; for about this time the defence of the northern marches was entrusted to him, and the appointment was confirmed from England. But Sir Nicholas White and Sir Nicholas Bagenal agreed that the state was raising up for itself a formidable enemy, and that he would never rest satisfied with less than Shane possessed. Their opinion received some confirmation from a rumour early in 1584 that he had been elected tanist, and that he, Turlough, and O'Donnell had arrived at an understanding.
But whatever the object of the combination may have been, it ceased to exist, or at any rate sank into abeyance, on the arrival of Sir John Perrot. Dungannon's name is attached to an order for a general hosting issued on 22 June, and he accompanied Perrot on his expedition against the Ulster Scots. His request to be admitted Earl of Tyrone was allowed, and he sat by that title in the parliament of 1585. About the same time Turlough, at Perrot's instance, consented to an arrangement by which Tyrone was put in possession of that portion of Tyrone which lies between the Blackwater and the Mullaghcarne mountains, at an annual rent of one thousand marks, to which Perrot added the command of all the urraghs or vassal chiefs lying between the Pale and Slieve Gullion. The arrangement, which was to hold good for seven years, but to be terminable at Turlough's option at the end of three, worked badly from the first. Tyrone's treatment of Sir Hugh Magennis, one of his urraghs, aroused suspicion as to his ulterior intentions, and in January 1587 it was noted that 'generally all men of rank within the province are become his men, receive his wages, and promise him service according to the usual manner of that country.' With Turlough Luineach, his only really formidable rival, he was on particularly bad terms. Accusations of aggressions on the one side, of non-payment of rent on the other, were bandied to and fro. In March Tyrone obtained permission to go to England to petition for a regrant of all the lands contained in the patent granted by Henry VIII to his reputed grandfather Con. But the government thought enough had already been conceded to him, and he was obliged to accept a patent which practically confirmed the settlement arrived at by Perrot.
Returning to Ireland, Tyrone was soon involved in fresh disputes with Turlough and Sir Ros MacMahon. In March 1588 Perrot, who was beginning to lose confidence in his professions of loyalty, proclaimed a general hosting against him; but Tyrone at once submitted, went to Dublin, and put in two of his best pledges as guarantee to keep the peace. Commissioners Benyon and Merriman were sent to settle his differences with Turlough, but he resented their intrusion, and in April invaded Turlough's territory with a large army. He took Turlough by surprise, and harried his country up to the very walls of Strabane. But at Carricklea, on 1 May, he was utterly routed by the combined efforts of Turlough, Niall Garv O'Donnell [q. v.], and Hugh Mac Deaganach, and forced to seek safety in flight. The news of his defeat was received with great satisfaction in Dublin. ‘Nothing,’ according to Perrot, ‘had done so much good in the north these nine years.’ But it required something like a threat of instant war to compel him to desist from attempting to revenge his defeat by a fresh invasion. Later in the year Turlough took advantage of the proviso in his agreement to demand the restoration of his lands between the Mullaghcarne mountains and the Blackwater. The privy council were inclined to concede his demand; but Tyrone swore he would lose his life sooner than surrender them. Lord-deputy Fitzwilliam was afraid that Shane O'Neill's sons, who had found a patron in Turlough, and had a strong following in the country, would seize the opportunity to assert their claims. Turlough was consequently induced in May 1589 to waive his demand, and to consent to a renewal of the lease for the remaining four years at an increased rent of five hundred fat beeves.
The new arrangement was equally distasteful to Tyrone and to Turlough, and served to embitter still further the relations between them. Depredations occurred on both sides, and Tyrone complained that Turlough was instigating Shane's sons, Hugh Geimhleach and Con, to plunder him. Fitzwilliam, who went to Newry to inquire into the matter, thought that Turlough was the principal sufferer, but he agreed in laying the blame on Shane's sons. About the end of the year Tyrone bribed Hugh Maguire [q. v.] with some cattle and horses to surrender Hugh Geimhleach, and if he did not, as was asserted, hang Hugh with his own hands on a thorn tree, he procured a hangman from Cavan to execute him. Fitzwilliam was indignant, and summoned Tyrone to Dublin. But the earl merely said he thought he had done well to execute him, ‘being the son of a traitor and himself a traitor;’ and having given surety in 2,000l. to appear whenever he was wanted, he was allowed to return home. But he subsequently professed sorrow for what he had done; and Fitzwilliam, who was inclined to regard him with favour, gave him permission to go to England. On arriving at court in March 1590, he was for some time placed under restraint. But the deputy wrote eloquently in his behalf, urging that of his own knowledge the Pale had ‘felt great good and security in his neighbourhood,’ and that so long as Turlough lived he was not really dangerous, though ‘when he is absolute and hath no competitor, then he may show himself to be the man which now in his wisdom he hath reason to dissemble.’ He was accordingly ‘purged with mercy,’ and returned to Ireland on 20 Aug. For some time he caused the government little or no anxiety.
In January 1591 his wife, the daughter of O'Donnell, died, and Tyrone, who had been attracted by the personal charms of Mabel Bagenal, daughter of Sir Nicholas Bagenal, made overtures to her brother, Sir Henry, for an alliance with her. But Bagenal repulsed his overtures with contempt. Tyrone, however, found opportunities to speak with the young lady in private, and, having succeeded in winning her affections, persuaded her to elope with him ‘to an honest gentleman's house within a mile of Dublin … when I did not once touch her until I had sent to Dublin and had entreated the Bishop of Meath to marry us together in honest sort, which he did’ in August. The elopement caused a great sensation. Sir Henry refused to pay his sister's dowry, which henceforth became a principal grievance with Tyrone. According to a statement attributed to Tyrone himself (Trevelyan Papers, ii. 101), Mabel herself before long regretted her rashness, and ‘because I did affect two other gentlewomen, she grew in dislike with me, forsook me, and went unto her brother to complain upon me to the council of Ireland, and did exhibit articles against me.’ She died a year or two later, and so did not live to see her brother killed in battle by her husband. As for Tyrone, he declared that his chief object in marrying her was ‘to bring civility into my house and among the country people’—a specious plea, and likely to carry weight with the government.
In July 1592 Tyrone was instrumental in persuading Hugh Roe O'Donnell [q. v.] to go to Dundalk and submit to the deputy. But as the year drew to a close rumours of a disquieting nature reached Fitzwilliam's ears. Hitherto Tyrone's ambition had been limited to crushing his rival, Turlough Luineach, and asserting his supremacy as head of the O'Neills. Hostility towards Turlough rather than towards the government was the motive of his conduct. Afterwards, when he was seen to be aiming at the separation of Ireland from England, it became the fashion to ascribe to him a degree of astuteness and duplicity of which he was certainly innocent. Private ambition, the influence of Hugh Roe O'Donnell, and Spanish intrigues, rather than any statesmanlike interest in the welfare of his country or regard for the catholic religion, were at the bottom of his revolt. Cautious even to timidity, he resorted to a system of duplicity, to call it by no more offensive title, which, while it proved wholly ineffective, has served sufficiently to perplex his biographers, and to give rise to a view of his character which has no foundation in fact. In May 1593 he came to terms with Turlough Luineach, and the latter having resigned the chieftainship in his favour, he was inaugurated O'Neill. Something of what had happened reached the ears of the deputy, who, failing to inveigle him to Dublin, ordered him to repair to Dundalk on 20 June, ‘so that, under pretence of border causes, we might lay hold on him there.’ Tyrone obeyed the summons, expressed profound grief at having been falsely accused of disloyalty, and consented to concede a life interest in the district of Strabane to Turlough. He was allowed to return home, Fitzwilliam explaining that he had not sufficient ground to proceed against him on a charge of foreign conspiracy as directed in her majesty's letters.
It was deemed advisable to overlook his delinquencies, and to employ him to recover Hugh Maguire [q. v.], who in June had invaded Connaught and defeated the president, Sir Richard Bingham, at Tulsk, co. Roscommon. It was a hazardous proceeding if, as there were good grounds for believing, Maguire was only acting on secret instructions from Tyrone and O'Donnell. Tyrone readily undertook the task committed to him, but failed to induce Maguire to submit. Accordingly, in September 1593, Sir Henry Bagenal, with 143 horse and 208 foot, invaded Fermanagh from the side of Monaghan. At Enniskillen he was joined by Tyrone with two hundred horse and six hundred foot. On 10 Oct. they encountered Maguire at Belleek, and gained ‘a splendid victory’ over him. During the fight Tyrone was wounded in the leg, of which he did not fail to make the most; but it was noticed in his disparagement that he ‘made earnest motion to be gone the day before the conflict.’ He protested that Bagenal and Fitzwilliam had conspired to rob him of the honour that was due to him; but the impression that he had assisted unwillingly at Maguire's discomfiture was shared by the Irish (O'Clery, Life of O'Donnell, p. 65). After the battle he retired to Dungannon, where he awaited the further development of events. In March 1594 Archbishop Loftus, Chief-justice Gardiner, and Sir Anthony St. Leger, being personæ gratæ, were sent to Dundalk to treat with him. Tyrone, after keeping the commissioners waiting some days, handed in a list of his grievances (Cal. Carew MSS. iii. 87), chiefly to the effect that Fitzwilliam and Bagenal were knit together to take his life and deprive him of all honour. Official opinion was divided, the commissioners suggesting the removal of Bagenal; Sir Richard Bingham and Solicitor-general Wilbraham urging that Tyrone's country should be shired and partitioned as Monaghan had been. Eventually, on 15 March, ‘a kind of truce’ was concluded, ‘to last till her majesty's pleasure touching the earl's griefs and petitions may be ascertained.’
On 11 Aug. Fitzwilliam surrendered the sword of state to Sir William Russell. A day or two later Tyrone, in fulfilment of a promise he had made to Ormonde, but to the evident astonishment of the council, appeared in Dublin, and, having deluded the deputy with the belief that he was the most loyal of subjects, was allowed to slip quietly away again. The deputy had soon good reason to regret his short-sighted leniency. Proof was forthcoming that he was secretly supporting Maguire, and had arrived at an understanding with Fiagh MacHugh O'Byrne [q. v.] Spanish gold was current in Tyrone, and rumours were rife of a Spanish invasion, supported from Scotland by the Earl of Huntly. The government deemed an immediate attack on Tyrone essential. Reinforcements under Sir John Norris [q. v.] were advertised as being on the way; but Tyrone had prior information, and struck the first blow by invading Louth, which he burned up to the very walls of Drogheda. When Norris landed at Waterford on 4 May 1595, the fort at the Blackwater had fallen into Tyrone's hands, and a day or two later Enniskillen was recaptured by Maguire. Before Norris could take the field, Sligo Castle had fallen, and its commander, George Bingham, been slain. On 24 June Tyrone was proclaimed a traitor in English and Irish at Dundalk. There was plenty of skirmishing and considerable loss of life; but Norris failed to bring him to an open engagement, and Cecil, who thought the situation dangerous, advised a compromise. ‘Her majesty,’ he wrote, ‘would be content to see what was in the traitor's heart, and what he would offer.’ But Tyrone insisted on a general pardon all round, and to this Norris refused to consent.
In the midst of the struggle old Turlough Luineach died, and Tyrone assumed the title, as he had for some time past possessed the authority, of O'Neill. ‘The coming to the place of O'Neill,’ wrote Norris, ‘hath made the rebel much prouder and harder to yield to his duty, and he flattereth himself much with the hope of foreign assistance.’ As if to confirm Norris's statement, letters were shortly afterwards intercepted from him and O'Donnell to Philip II and Don John d'Aquila, soliciting speedy assistance. But Tyrone protested that he had never corresponded with Spain before 20 Aug., which was probably true enough, and, the government being willing to accept his assurances, a truce was concluded on 2 Oct. for a week, but was subsequently extended to 1 Jan. 1596. Gardiner and Wallop were sent to Dundalk to come to some terms with him; but Elizabeth thought their language too subservient to him, and substituted Norris and Fenton. On 9 April Maguire, MacMahon, and O'Reilly submitted on their knees in the market-place of Dundalk. But Tyrone and O'Donnell refused to meet the commissioners anywhere except in the open fields, and, this being regarded as undignified, intermediaries were appointed. ‘Free liberty of conscience’ and local autonomy were the points chiefly insisted on. But there were explanations, and Elizabeth having professed herself satisfied, a hollow peace was signed on 24 April.
A day or two later a messenger arrived from Spain with a letter from Philip to Tyrone, encouraging him to persevere in his valiant defence of the catholic cause. There can be no question as to the nature of Tyrone's answer, for it is extant in the archives at Simancas, and has been published (O'Clery, Life of O'Donnell, p. lxxviii). But to Norris Tyrone declared that he had told the Spaniard who brought the letter that he and O'Donnell had been received into the favour of their own princess, and therefore could not answer Philip's expectations. To put the matter at rest, he submitted Philip's letter to Russell's inspection. But in this he rather overshot his mark, for Russell retained the letter, and caused it to be transmitted to Philip, who was indignant at Tyrone's breach of faith. Tyrone excused himself by saying his secretary had run away with it.
For the next two years it is impossible to describe the relations between Tyrone and the government as those either of settled peace or open war. So far as Tyrone was concerned, it was, of course, to his interest to avoid coming to an open breach with the government until the arrival of Spanish assistance was assured. The unfriendly relations existing between Sir William Russell and Sir John Norris, and the obstinate blindness of the latter to Tyrone's real intentions, favoured his design. He manifested no eagerness to sue out his pardon, but when it arrived he received it, according to Fenton, ‘most dutifully, and, as a public token of his rejoicing, caused a great volley of shot to be discharged in his camp.’ He proffered his assistance to restore order in Connaught; but nothing came, as it was meant nothing should come, of his intervention. To everybody except Norris it was evident that he was merely spinning out the time. At the end of August 1596 two ‘barks of adviso’ were announced to have arrived at Killybegs, and Tyrone, O'Donnell, and O'Rourke at once posted thither. Letters addressed by them to the king of Spain, the infante, and Don John d'Aquila, calling for instant support, were betrayed by Tyrone's secretary, Nott, but it was some time, ‘owing to the handling of the matter by the Earl of Tyrone,’ before any absolute knowledge of the correspondence came into the possession of the government. After this, further dissimulation on his part might have seemed impossible. Nevertheless, he was highly indignant at what he called Russell's breach of faith in attacking his ally, Fiagh MacHugh O'Byrne, and threatened instant war unless the deputy desisted from his purpose. But Russell treated his threats with contempt, and Tyrone, after making a demonstration on the borders of the Pale and cutting off all supplies from the garrison at Armagh, abandoned his ally.
In January 1597 Norris moved down to Dundalk, and the earl, ‘contrary to the minds of his brethren and chief followers, who would have him still remain Irish,’ consented to parley. He could not deny having written letters to Spain, but he laid the blame partly on O'Donnell, partly on the government. He protested his loyalty with ‘oaths deep and vehement.’ But Norris doubted whether his words corresponded with ‘his heart or inward meaning,’ and refused to assure him of the queen's pardon, though agreeing to another parley in March. A few days later Tyrone wrote to O'Donnell that he had refused to make peace, and advised him to strengthen himself in Connaught. The day appointed for the parley arrived, but Tyrone asked that it might be postponed, ‘pretending that his pledges were not changed according to covenant, nor restitution made him by those that had purged his country, and that his confederates could not come so soon.’ Norris, Bourchier, and Fenton, who had been appointed to treat with him, replied that they were not to be deluded with his excuses, and fixed 16 April as the last day of grace. Meanwhile, a ship from Spain arrived in Donegal, and Tyrone hastened to Lifford to learn the news. He asserted at the same time that, ‘if all the Spaniards in Spain should come into Ireland, they could not alter his mind from being a dutiful subject to her majesty, if promise was kept with him;’ but by this time neither Norris nor Fenton believed him, and Tyrone thought it prudent not to go to Dundalk on 16 April.
On 22 May Russell surrendered the sword of state to Thomas, lord Borough, and on the same day Norris wrote to Tyrone, offering a final meeting for 20 June. The new deputy, who declared that he was ‘not so covetous of action that he would not most willingly hearken to terms of humiliation,’ refused to be deluded by Tyrone's excuses, and sternly reproved him for his disloyalty. A general hosting was proclaimed for 6 June, and a day or two later Captain Turner attacked Tyrone between Newry and Armagh. The earl was completely taken by surprise, but managed to escape, with the loss of his horse and hat, into a neighbouring bog. Armagh was revictualled by Turner, and Tyrone withdrew across the Blackwater. On 14 July the lord deputy captured the fort on the Blackwater, and, having placed a strong garrison in it, returned to Dublin. But Tyrone, who ‘hanged twenty of his knaves that were appointed for the defence of the sconce,’ pressed the garrison so closely that Borough was compelled to return to their relief. Succeeding in this, but failing to come to ‘prick proke’ with Tyrone, he was pushing forward to Dungannon, when he was taken suddenly ill, and compelled to retire to Newry. There he died, a few days later, on 13 Oct. It was anticipated that Tyrone would seize the opportunity to overrun the Pale, which, according to Loftus, he could very easily have done, ‘even to the gates of Dublin.’ But instead of doing so, he wrote submissively to the state, and on 22 Dec. humbly submitted himself to the Earl of Ormonde at Dundalk, ‘and upon the knees of his heart professed most hearty penitence for his disloyalty, and especially his foul relapses thereinto.’ He promised to renounce the title of O'Neill, to refrain from putting obstacles in the way of victualling the fort on the Blackwater; and undertook not to correspond with Spain or any other foreign nation. Ormonde promised to transmit his grievances and petitions, in which ‘free liberty of conscience for all the inhabitants of Ireland’ held the foremost place, to Elizabeth, and on these terms a truce for eight weeks, subsequently renewed to 7 June 1598, was concluded.
His pardon passed the great seal on 11 April 1598; but, feeling that the demands of the crown, if yielded to, would completely destroy his authority over his urraghs, he took advantage of the expiration of the truce to besiege the fort on the Blackwater. His efforts to capture it were not successful, but lack of provisions before long reduced the garrison to the direst extremities. In August a strong force, under the command of Marshal Sir Henry Bagenal, was sent to relieve it; but on 14 Aug. it was cut to pieces and almost annihilated by Tyrone at Beal-an-atha-buidhe, or the Yellow Ford on the Blackwater. The government was panic-stricken at the news. But Tyrone, who might have marched directly on Dublin, showed no ability to profit by his unexpected victory, and was content to allow the remnants of Bagenal's army to retreat to Newry, ‘so that the fort might be delivered him, to the governor whereof, Captain Williams, and his soldiers, he would give no better conditions than to depart in their doublets and hose only with rapier and dagger.’ As a result of the victory, the smouldering elements of discontent burst everywhere into open activity. Nowhere was the effect more visible than in Munster, which, in the expressive language of the Irish annalists, again became ‘a trembling sod.’ But three months elapsed before Tyrone showed any appreciation of the advantage he had won, or manifested any design of extending his operations beyond the limits of a provincial revolt. In October he sent a strong force into Munster under Tyrrell, and Cecil was informed ‘that the very day they set foot within the province, Munster to a man was in arms before noon.’ The general estimation in which Tyrone was at this time held may be gathered from the fact that the king of Spain was said to have stayed all Irish ships that had not the earl's pass. Under his protection James Fitzthomas Fitzgerald, commonly called the Sugan Earl [q. v.], assumed the title of Earl of Desmond, and before long found himself at the head of eight thousand clansmen. Donald MacCarthy, Florence MacCarthy's rival, seized the opportunity, with Tyrone's consent, to have himself proclaimed MacCarthy mor. The English planters fled without striking a blow, and the settlement on which English statesmen had set such store vanished like the unsubstantial fabric of a vision.
But Tyrone possessed few of those qualities, of which foresight and breadth of aim are not the least essential, that go to constitute generalship, and months of precious time were lost during which he might have made himself master of Ireland, and welded into one homogeneous mass all those scattered elements of hostility towards England, to which recent events had imparted extraordinary vigour. When Essex landed at Dublin on 15 April 1599, the situation, so far as Tyrone was concerned, was practically unaltered. Essex's plan of first securing the three provinces of Munster, Leinster, and Connaught, ‘that thereby the main action of Ulster may be proceeded with with less distraction,’ whether his or the council's, has been harshly criticised; but it was rather the manner of its execution than the plan itself that was mainly responsible for his failure. After a fruitless expedition into Munster, he returned to Dublin on 3 July with his forces ‘weary, sick, and incredibly diminished.’ The wisdom of postponing further operations for that year was manifest to every one on the spot. But towards the end of July letters arrived from Elizabeth with peremptory orders to attack Tyrone with all speed. Accordingly, on 28 Aug., Essex left Dublin with a wholly inadequate force of 2,500 men. As he approached the borders of Ulster there was some skirmishing between him and Tyrone's outposts, but nothing like a general engagement. Tyrone, according to his wont, made overtures for a parley, and on 7 Sept. he and Essex met at a ford on the river Lagan, identified as Anagh-clint. What passed at this meeting has been much disputed, for Tyrone, according to Essex, flatly refused to commit to writing the conditions on which he was willing to submit, and Essex, unwisely as the event proved, consented to humour him. There is an interesting account of the meeting in the ‘Trevelyan Papers’ (ii. 101–4), in which Essex is made to say ‘If I was sure you would not violate your oath and promise, as heretofore you have already done, I would be very well content to speak unto the Queen's majesty, my mistress, for you’ (cf. Addit. MS. 5495, f. 16). The gist of Tyrone's demands appears in a document called ‘Tyrone's Propositions,’ printed in Winwood's ‘Memorials’ (i. 119); but a fuller copy of the same, contained in a letter from Captain Warren, has been printed in Gilbert's ‘Account of the National Manuscripts of Ireland,’ p. 249. The suggestion of treason on Essex's part may be dismissed as mere calumny. It was surely enough to condemn him in Elizabeth's eyes that he had shown so little regard for the dignity of the crown by consenting to treat on equal terms ‘as best becomes soldiers’ with a proscribed traitor. Sussex and Sidney would have shown themselves much more sensitive in this respect. It was agreed that commissioners should be appointed to arrange the details of the pacification, and that in the meantime there should be a truce for six weeks to six weeks, until 1 May 1600, either side being at liberty to break it on giving fourteen days' notice.
On 8 Nov. Tyrone in a letter signed O'Neill—the style he now openly adopted—announced his intention not to renew the cessation, but in December he was induced by the Earl of Ormonde to consent to a truce for one month. The interval was employed in completing his preparations for an expedition into Munster. Letters, little less than regal in style, were sent to MacCarthy Muskerry, to Florence MacCarthy, to Lords Barry and Roche, the ‘White Knight,’ and the ‘Sugan Earl of Desmond,’ appointing a meeting at Holy Cross in Tipperary ‘to learn the intentions of the gentlemen of Munster with regard to the great question of the nation's liberty and religion.’ For the benefit of the catholics of the towns in Ireland a manifesto was drawn up and scattered broadcast, calling on them to join Tyrone's standard, and threatening punishment if they refused. For himself, he declared that he had only the interests of religion at heart, and protested ‘that if I had to be king of Ireland without having the catholic religion, I would not the same accept.’ Early in January 1600 he began his march southward. Proceeding slowly through the central districts, scrupulously observing his promise to plunder all those who refused to join his standard, he reached Holy Cross on the appointed day. Saluting with all reverence the sacred relic preserved there, he proceeded to Cashel, where he was joined by the ‘Sugan Earl.’ Passing the Blackwater on 18 Feb., he fixed his camp at Inniscarra, on the river Lee, where he received the homage of the principal magnates of the province, and caused Florence MacCarthy [q. v.] to be inaugurated MacCarthy Mor. He pillaged the country of Lord Barry, who defied him; but, on the whole, the expedition was a failure. His principal henchman, Hugh Maguire, lost his life in a skirmish with Sir Warham St. Leger on 1 March. The loss was irreparable, and Tyrone, hearing that Sir George Carew was on his way to Cork with reinforcements, thought it prudent to decamp. He returned by forced marches to Ulster, and by doing so avoided Mountjoy, who was preparing to intercept him in Westmeath.
Shortly after his return he received welcome intelligence that a ship from Spain had arrived at Donegal bearing on board Mathew de Oviedo, titular archbishop of Dublin, with letters from Philip III, and considerable supplies of money and ammunition to be divided between him and O'Donnell, together with a phœnix feather (penna phœnicis) from Clement VIII for himself, and indulgences for all who should rise in defence of the faith. On 15 May Sir Henry Docwra [q. v.] landed with four thousand foot and two hundred horse on the shores of Lough Foyle; and, in order to assist him in establishing himself firmly at Derry, Mountjoy drew down with the army to Newry. These tactics were successful, and the continued efforts of Tyrone and O'Donnell during the summer proved inadequate to dislodge Docwra, who was assisted by Sir Art O'Neill, Turlough's eldest son, and later by Niall garv O'Donnell [q. v.] During the summer Mountjoy was occupied in settling the disturbed districts of Leix and Offaly, but in September he established his camp at Faughard, near Dundalk, with the intention of conducting a winter campaign against Tyrone. There was some sharp fighting in the Moyry Pass, where Tyrone had entrenched himself, but he was compelled to retire to Armagh. He was unable to prevent the erection of fort Mount Norris; but Mountjoy, finding insufficient forage for his horses, contented himself with offering a reward of 2,000l. for his apprehension and 1,000l. for his head, and retired to Carlingland, skirmishing all the way with Tyrone, who narrowly escaped being shot. During the winter Tyrone stood on the defensive. In May 1600 Mountjoy again invaded Ulster, and meeting with no resistance from Tyrone, he had penetrated as far as Benburb, and was making preparations in connection with Docwra for a winter campaign, when he was suddenly called south by the news that the Spaniards were preparing to land at Kinsale (September).
But it was not till the beginning of November that Tyrone was able to put his army in motion, and the month was fast drawing to a close before he united his forces with those of Hugh Roe O'Donnell at Bandon. Hemmed in by the forces of the crown, and weary of his enforced inactivity, Don John d'Aquila, the Spanish commander, urged a combined attack on the English lines. Tyrone and O'Donnell, who seem to have been agreed on the expediency of starving out the besiegers, yielded to his pressure, the former very reluctantly, and it was resolved to make a joint attack on Christmas morning. The plan was betrayed to Mountjoy, who, being forewarned, was also forearmed. The attack was badly managed, and when morning broke the Irish fell into confusion on finding themselves confronted by a well-prepared and active enemy, and withdrew in disorder to Inishannon. The situation was far from hopeless, and Tyrone was strongly in favour of a fresh attempt, but his opinion was overruled by O'Donnell, who very unjustly laid the blame of the failure on Don John d'Aquila, and immediately sailed for Spain in order to solicit fresh assistance from Philip. After his withdrawal, Tyrone returned to Ulster, when was fulfilled the saying of O'Donnell that ‘they which did kiss them in their going forward, did both strip them and shoot bullets at them on their return; and for their arms they did drown them and tread them down in every bog and soft place.’ According to Carew, a troop of women could have beaten Tyrone's army on its homeward march.
During his absence, Docwra had established a fort at Omagh; and Tyrone, after burning Dungannon, retreated into the fastnesses of Glenconkein. He pleaded earnestly for pardon, and the queen, after much hesitation, authorised Mountjoy to promise him his life. But Tyrone was by no means at the end of his resources, and refused to make an unconditional surrender, knowing that if the worst did indeed come to the worst he could always effect his escape into Scotland, where he hoped, and not without reason, to find a sympathiser in James VI. In August Mountjoy established a garrison at Augher, and broke down the inauguration-stone of the O'Neills at Tullaghoge; but though the end was far from doubtful, it was uncertain how long Tyrone might succeed in evading his efforts or those of Docwra and Chichester to capture him. In February 1603 Elizabeth authorised Mountjoy to promise him life, liberty, and pardon, with restoration, on certain conditions, of his estate, and on these terms he consented to treat with Sir William Godolphin and Sir Garret Moore. The fact of Elizabeth's death, which occurred in the interval, was carefully concealed from him; and on 3 April, in entire ignorance of it, he submitted to Mountjoy at Mellifont. He abjured the title of O'Neill, renounced all dependency on any foreign prince, especially on the king of Spain, and promised to forbear all intermeddling with the urraghs. Accompanying Mountjoy to Dublin, he was greatly chagrined on learning of the death of Elizabeth; but he signed the proclamation of James I, and on 8 April renewed his submission before the lord deputy and council in Dublin. He consented to go to England, and about the end of May he sailed with Mountjoy and Rory O'Donnell [q. v.] on board the Tramontana.
Narrowly escaping shipwreck on the Skerries, he and his companions landed at Beaumaris, and immediately proceeded to London, where they arrived, not without some rough experience on Tyrone's part of the feelings of hostility with which he was regarded by Englishmen, on 4 June. He was graciously received by the king at Hampton Court, and confirmed in his title and estate. But a feeling of bitter hostility towards him prevailed. ‘I have lived,’ exclaimed Sir John Harington, ‘to see that damnable rebel Tyrone brought to England, honoured, and well liked. … How I did labour after that knave's destruction! … who now smileth in peace at those who did hazard their lives to destroy him.’ He returned to Ireland towards the end of August, and was shortly afterwards involved in a dispute with Donnell O'Cahan [q. v.], formerly his principal urragh, but, by the terms of his submission to Sir Henry Docwra on 27 July 1602, constituted an independent chieftain. Tyrone maintained that O'Cahan's independence was incompatible with the terms of his own restoration, and insisted on exacting his customary rents from him. He was supported by Mountjoy, and O'Cahan submitted. Subsequently, during the deputyship of Sir Arthur Chichester, it became the object of the government to reverse Mountjoy's policy, and, by persuading the minor chiefs ‘to depend wholly and immediately’ upon the crown, to break down the territorial influence of the native aristocracy. At the instigation of George Montgomery, bishop of Derry, O'Cahan in 1606 renewed his suit against Tyrone. The government, which, without having anything very definite to charge Tyrone with, had for some time past suspected his intention to raise up a fresh rebellion, thought the matter worthy of close attention, and in April 1607 summoned the earl to Dublin to answer O'Cahan's plaint. Whether the suspicions of the government were well founded or not—and subsequent revelations seem to show that they were—Tyrone's violent behaviour towards O'Cahan in the council-chamber greatly damaged his cause. The government, unable to come to any definite conclusion, referred the matter to the king's decision, and Tyrone promised to go to London.
Meanwhile information had reached Cuconnacht Maguire in the Netherlands that it was intended to arrest Tyrone if he went to England. Subsequent arrests seem to prove that the information was not so ill-founded as has been imagined, though the undisguised surprise of Chichester when he heard of Tyrone's flight proves that he at least was unaware of any such design. Maguire at any rate believed the information to be sufficiently reliable to justify him in sending a vessel of eighty tons into the north of Ireland in order to facilitate his escape. Tyrone was at Slane with the lord deputy when the news of its arrival reached him. He seems to have come to an immediate decision, and it was afterwards recollected ‘that he took his leave of the lord deputy in a more sad and passionate manner than he used at other times.’ His wife, who hated him for his brutality, showed some reluctance to accompany him, but he swore to kill her on the spot ‘if she would not pass on with him and put on a more cheerful countenance withal.’ In the hurry of the flight his youngest son, Con, was left behind. At midnight on 14 Sept. 1607 Tyrone, Tyrconnel, their wives and retainers—ninety-nine persons in all—‘having little sea-store, and being otherwise miserably accommodated,’ sailed from Rathmullen.
The story of the flight was written in Irish by Teigue O'Keenan, a member of a family who acted as ollavs or hereditary bards to Maguire, in 1609. The original, which is incomplete, is preserved in the Franciscan convent removed from Rome to Dublin, and forms the basis of C. P. Meehan's ‘Fate and Fortunes of Tyrone and Tyrconnel.’ Intending to make for Spain, the fugitives encountered a violent storm, which drove them out of their course, and after three weeks' buffeting about they were glad to make the mouth of the Seine. Proceeding to Rouen, they were on their way to Paris, when, in consequence of the remonstrances of the English ambassador, they were compelled to withdraw into the Spanish Netherlands. Passing through Amiens, Arras, Douay, and Brussels, where they were splendidly entertained by Spinola, they reached Louvain on 9 Nov. There they passed the winter, and there Tyrone drew up that extraordinary catalogue of his grievances now preserved in the Record Office, London, which must astonish any one who expects to find in it any adequate explanation of his flight. Debarred from entering Spain, Tyrone accepted the hospitable offer of Paul V to take up his abode in Rome, and on 28 Feb. 1608 he and his companions, now reduced to thirty-two persons, left Louvain. They reached Rome at the end of April, and were welcomed by a large concourse of ecclesiastics and others. The pope granted them an audience on the following day, and assigned to Tyrone a monthly pension of a hundred crowns, a house (called the Borgo Vecchio) rent free, together with an allowance of bread and wine for ten persons; the king of Spain added four hundred ducats a month. Rory O'Donnell, earl of Tyrconnel, died in June 1608, and in December 1613 Tyrone, who by that time was probably fully convinced of his folly in leaving Ireland, made overtures through the Earl of Somerset for his restoration. But his overtures met with no response from the government, which was engaged in perfecting the plantation of Ulster, to which in the following year the Irish parliament gave its sanction by passing an act of outlawry and attainder against the fugitives. Tyrone talked of recovering his inheritance by force of arms, and lived in hope of seeing and profiting by a rupture between England and Spain. But the government contented itself with watching his movements and taking such steps as were necessary to frustrate his designs. He was seized with a settled melancholy. His eyesight failed him at the beginning of 1616, and later in the year he was prostrated by frequent attacks of intermittent fever, to which he eventually succumbed on 20 July. He is said to have been buried with great pomp and ceremony between his eldest son and the Earl of Tyrconnel in the church of San Pietro di Montorio. The absence of any memorial slab, and the existence of several copies (Egerton MSS. 127 , 155 , 174 ) of a poem by an anonymous author on seeing his skull, beginning ‘O Man that gazest on the bone,’ lead irresistibly to the conclusion that his remains were subsequently removed, but to what final resting-place is not known.
Tyrone's first wife was a daughter of Sir Brian MacPhelim O'Neill, lord of Clandeboye, whom he divorced, and who subsequently married Niall MacBrian Faghartach O'Neill. His second wife, the daughter of Hugh MacManus O'Donnell, died in 1591. By her he had Hugh, called the baron of Dungannon, who died in Rome in September 1608, and was buried in San Pietro di Montorio; Henry, a colonel of an Irish regiment in the archduke's army, who died about 1626; Ursula, said to have been married to Sir Nicholas Bagenal, and two other daughters—one married to Magennis, and the other to Richard Butler, viscount Mountgarret. The circumstances of his marriage with his third wife, Mabel, the daughter of Sir Nicholas Bagenal, have already been recounted. His fourth wife was a daughter of Sir Hugh Magennis of Iveagh. She accompanied him in his flight, and is believed to have died at Louvain in 1607. She was the mother of Shane Niall or John O'Neill, who entered the Spanish army, was called ‘El conde de Tyrone,’ and was killed in Catalonia in 1641; Con Brian, who either was murdered or committed suicide at Brussels on 16 Aug. 1617; and several daughters, one of whom married Sir Randal MacDonnell, first earl of Antrim [q. v.], and another Hugh Roe O'Donnell. It is probable Tyrone married a fifth time, for mention is made of a young countess of Tyrone during his residence in Rome. He had, in addition, numerous illegitimate children, of whom one, Con, who was left behind at the time of the flight, was educated at Eton as a protestant, and died apparently about 1622 in the Tower.
Two portraits of Tyrone—one in armour, and the other made in his decrepitude at Rome—belonged in 1866 to Mr. C. de Gernon (Cat. First Exhibition of National Portraits, Nos. 375, 378). A portrait forms the frontispiece to C. P. Meehan's ‘Life and Fortunes of the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnel.’
[Cal. State Papers, Ireland, Eliz. and James I; Cal. Carew MSS.; Annals of the Four Masters, ed. O'Donovan; Gainsforde's True Exemplary and Remarkable History of Hugh, Earl of Tyrone, London, 1619; Meehan's Fate and Fortunes of the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnel; O'Sullivan-Beare's Hist. Cath. Ibern. Compendium, ed. O'Kelly; O'Clery's Life of Hugh Roe O'Donnell, ed. Murphy; Mitchel's Life and Times of Aodh O'Neill; Fynes Moryson's Itinerary; Stafford's Pacata Hibernia; MacCarthy's Life and Letters of Florence MacCarthy Reagh; Trevelyan Papers, pt. ii. (Camden Soc.); Abbot's Bacon and Essex; Lee's Brief Declaration in Desiderata Curiosa Hibernica, and the same author's Discovery and Recovery of Ireland in Addit. MS. 33743; Cal. Cotton MSS.; Ayscough's Catalogue of MSS. in Brit. Mus. pp. 151–3; Addit. MS. 12503, f. 389 sqq.; Hist. MSS. Comm. 1st Rep. p. 48, 3rd Rep. pp. 179, 203, 281, 4th Rep. p. 597, 5th Rep. pp. 136–7, 6th Rep. p. 668, 7th Rep. pp. 251, 525–8, 9th Rep. p. 265, 10th Rep. pt. i. p. 535, 11th Rep. pt. vii. p. 133; Cal. Hatfield MSS. passim; Cal. Portland MSS. ii. 23; Irish Genealogies in Harl. MS. 1425; Shirley's Hist. of Monaghan; Devereux's Lives of the Earls of Essex; Lombardus De Regno Hib. Commentarius; Kilkenny Archæol. Soc. Journal, new ser. vol. i.; Chamberlain's Letters (Camden Soc.); Carleton's Thankful Remembrance of God's Mercy; Hill's MacDonnells of Antrim; Moran's Catholic Archbishops of Dublin; Gilbert's Account of Facsimiles of National MSS. of Ireland; Bagwell's Ireland under the Tudors; Lyte's Hist. of Eton College; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biogr.]