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The History of Ulster
Tyrone Submits: Death of Elizabeth


"Famine, Fire, and Slaughter" in Ulster - Tyrone approaches Mountjoy - He is repelled - Docwra and Chichester combine against Tyrone - He retires to Glenconkein - A Force of 8000 men fail to "hunt the Arch-traitor into the Sea" - Tyrone communicates with King 1 James VI of Scotland - James acts with Characteristic Diplomacy - Elizabeth appoints Commissioners to deal with Tyrone - Death of the Queen - Tyrone, ignorant of her death, submits.

The great Russian who wrote War and Peace^ and he alone, could adequately describe the state to which Ireland was reduced by the struggle for supremacy between Elizabeth and Tyrone. Nauseating and gruesome in the extreme as are many of the details, they must be given, if only thereby to gain a truthful picture of the scene when "the war-cloud had lifted". Pitiful and full of anguish are the memorials of that terrible time, whether furnished by a Moryson or a Spenser; by a cool-blooded, indifferent looker-on, or by one who lost his all by incendiary fires, which swallowed up not alone his worldly goods, but with tongues of flame licked up the lives of his children.

Famine followed the footsteps of Mountjoy, who devastated the country through which he passed, destroying the crops as he went, and leaving in his wake nothing save desolation and death. "Mountjoy", says Mr. Bagwell, "had clearly foreseen a famine, had done his best to bring it about, and had completely succeeded." The victims of his merciless methods were reduced to "unspeakable extremities". Fynes Moryson relates how Sir Arthur Chichester, Sir Richard Moryson, and other English commanders in Ulster witnessed "a most horrible spectacle of three children (whereof the eldest was not above ten years old) all eating and knawing with their teeth the entrals of their dead mother, upon whose flesh they had fed twenty days past". Captain Trevor tells us that certain old women lit fires in the woods to attract young children, and that when the children approached, hoping to find food and warmth, they were seized, killed, and eaten by the beldames. Horses were killed for food, and not only horses but dogs, cats, hawks, kites, and other birds of prey. Moryson says: "No spectacle was more frequent, in the ditches of townes, and especiallie in wasted countries, than to see multitudes of these poore people dead, with their mouthes all coloured greene, by eating nettles, docks, and all things they could rend up above ground". The very wolves were driven by starvation from the woods, and killed the enfeebled people. The dead lay unburied, or half-buried, for the survivors had not strength to dig a proper grave, and the human remains, being left thus exposed, were devoured by famishing dogs or ravenous wolves.

Reduced by such a spectacle, Tyrone wrote to Mountjoy in most humble terms, saying: "I know the Queen's merciful nature, though I am not worthy to crave for mercy. . . . Without standing on any terms or conditions, I do hereby both simply and absolutely, submit myself to her Majesty's mercy." Mountjoy, however, remained implacable, and, pluming himself on his success, talked of hunting the archtraitor into the sea. The war was now confined to a corner of Ulster, and Tyrone, being hard pressed by Docwra and Chichester, \vas driven into his last fastnesses, with a few followers and but fifty fighting-men, and stood simply on the defensive. The portion of country he could still call his own was merely about 200 square miles in extent, situate in the south-eastern part of Deny, Glenconkein, and the most eastern portion of Tyrone, on the shores of Lough Neagh.

Sir Henry Docwra, governor of Derry, had been busy for months planting garrisons at all suitable spots, and Mountjoy himself had, during the summer, traversed Ulster with the object of erecting forts; for starvation by means of garrisons was his object. About the 10th of August the Queen's forces, augmented by those of Docwra from Derry, which comprised some 450 English foot and 50 horse, with 200 O'Cahan and 100 O'Dogherty kerne, supplemented by forces which accompanied Chichester from Carrickfergus and Danvers'from Armagh, and by troops drawn from the Mountnorris, Blackwater, Mountjoy, and Charlemont forts, made a formidable array, being a total strength of at least 8000 men, wherewith to "hunt the arch-traitor" and his fifty men-at-arms "into the sea".

This mighty host was gathered together at Toom, the most northerly point of Lough Neagh, with the result that the inhabitants of the district were eaten out of house and home, and the surrounding country cropped as bare as an English common. How the rebels subsisted we are told by Moryson, who says: "the wild Irish willingly eat the herb shamrock, being of a sharp taste, which, as they run and are chased to and fro, they snatch like beasts out of the ditches".

Docwra and Chichester found it by no means easy to converge upon Tyrone. To penetrate shaggy woods in order to discover the whereabouts of your enemy before you proceed to dispatch him is not by any means an agreeable undertaking, especially when, in endeavouring to find the way "through verdurous glooms", impedimenta in the shape of fallen tree-trunks block the way, and a chance encounter with a pack of fierce and starving wolves may possibly relieve you of the necessity of ever encountering another foe! No sooner had the woods been entered than the O'Cahans decamped and the O'Dogherties declined to proceed farther. The usual fortunes of war followed; guides either misled or deserted, soldiers sickened and died, and a wily foe cut off unwary stragglers. Chichester, full of enthusiasm, penetrated farther into the woods and had a brush with Tyrone's men, but did little or no damage, and in but a short time the borders of the wood, like that enchanted one of which George Meredith sang, were marked by "hasty outward-tripping toes, heels to terror, on the mould". Docwra returned to Derry, and Chichester abandoned the enterprise.

Tyrone's thoughts now naturally turned towards Scotland. Five years earlier he had offered his services to James, but that sagacious and sanctimonious monarch, "willing to wound and yet afraid to strike" Elizabeth, replied with characteristic pomposity: "When it shall please God to call our sister, the Queen of England, by death, we will see no less than your promptitude and readiness upon our advertisement to do us service". Tyrone, accepting this assurance as genuine, kept James informed of events in Ireland that might interest the King. But the goodwill of James towards useless friends was a somewhat negative .quantity, and, true to his instinct to "make friends of the mammon of unrighteousness", if such friendliness led to material results, he offered the Queen, in 1601, a body of troops wherewith to exterminate Tyrone and all his breed. Elizabeth, accepting James's professions of friendship at what they were worth, remarked, while she thanked him for his kind offer, that the rebels had done their worst already, and added significantly: "Remember that who seeketh two strings to one bow, may shoot strong but never straight; if you suppose that princes' causes be vailed so covertly that no intelligence may bewray them, deceive not yourself; we old foxes can find shifts to save ourselves by others' malice, and come by knowledge of greatest secret, specially if it touch our freehold".

Tyrone had now retired to a formidable fastness near the extremity of Lough Erne, accompanied by his brother Cormac, Art O'Neill of Clanaboy, and MacMahon, with a muster of some 600 foot and 60 horse. To this secure stronghold Mountjoy, in September, followed him with his huge army, but was unable to get within less than twelve miles of his quarry. Henry and Con, the sons of Shane O'Neill, who were in the English service and were followed by some of the men of Tyrone, were permitted by the Lord Deputy to remain with the herdsmen in the neighbourhood, which otherwise was wholly depopulated.

On the nth of September Mountjoy returned to Newry, stating, in his letters to Cecil and the Privy Council, that "we found everywhere men dead of famine, insomuch that O'Hagan protested to us, that between Tullaghoge and Toom there lay unburied 1000 dead, and that since our first drawing this year to Blackwater there were about 3000 starved in Tyrone".

Early in March, 1603, three letters were received by the Lord Deputy, two bearing dates 6th and 17th February, from Elizabeth, the third dated the i8th February, signed by Cecil. In her dispatches the Queen desired Mountjoy to invite Tyrone to Dublin, and to assure him at the same time that his life would be preserved. Tyrone, once in the Lord Deputy's hands, was to be detained. Eleven days later the maiden Queen, as women are wont to do, changed her mind, and added that not alone was Tyrone's life to be spared, but he was also to be granted a full pardon and be set at liberty. In the letter signed by Cecil, the Queen, two days later, suggested, among other things, that the title of Tyrone should be altered, and granted him greater latitude on condition that he kept the approaches to Ulster in a clear and satisfactory condition. To these dispatches Mountjoy replied by pointing out that Tyrone was to the Irish a more innocent and less suggestive title than The O'Neill, which he considered highly inflammatory, and he added many sage suggestions, which, alas! Elizabeth never lived to read; but it is deeply interesting to know that on the very day of her death, 24th March, commission was given to Sir William Godolphin and Sir Garret Moore to treat with Tyrone, he and his adherents being granted the Royal Protection for a period of three weeks.

Elizabeth was no more, and Tyrone was unaware of the fact. Great care, indeed, was taken to keep the news from becoming public property. The intelligence reached Mountjoy three days after the event, and was at once suppressed, chiefly through the diplomacy of Fynes Moryson. Under the circumstances it was deemed expedient to hasten the negotiations with Tyrone, and accordingly instructions were issued to the Commissioners to expedite matters. Mountjoy was at Sir Garret Moore's castle at Mellifont when the news of Elizabeth's death arrived, and, without revealing his secret, he urged upon Godolphin the advisability of immediate action. Godolphin, in blissful ignorance of the fact that "England wept upon Elizabeth", set out at once to parley with Tyrone, and even rode several miles beyond Dungannon to meet him, returning with the "great O'Neill" that evening to Charlemont fort. Early next day the little party of horsemen set out for Mellifont, where the ceremony of submission took place. Fynes Moryson, who was present, tells us: "Tyrone being admitted to the Lord Deputy's chamber, kneeled at the door humbly on his knees for a long space, making his penitent submission to Her Majesty, and after being required to come nearer to the Lord Deputy, performed the same ceremony in all humbleness, the space of one hour or thereabouts".

The terms of the submission were equally complete: "I, Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, do absolutely submit myself to the Queen's mercy, imploring her gracious commiseration, imploring Her Majesty to mitigate her just indignation against me. I do avow that the first motives of my rebellion were neither malice nor ambition, but that I was induced, by fear of my life, to stand upon my guard. I do, therefore, most humbly sue Her Majesty that she will vouchsafe to restore to me my former dignity and living. In which state of a subject I vow to continue for ever hereafter loyal, in all true obedience to her Royal person, crown, and prerogatives, and to be in all things as dutifully conformable thereunto as I or. any other nobleman of this realm is bound by the duty of a subject to a sovereign, utterly renouncing the name and title of O'Neill, or any other claim which hath not been granted to me by Her Majesty.

"I abjure all foreign power, and all dependence upon any other potentate but Her Majesty. I renounce all manner of dependency upon the King of Spain, or treaty with him, or any of his confederates, and shall be ready to serve Her Majesty against him or any of his forces or confederates. I do renounce all challenge or intermeddling with the urriaghs, or fostering with them, or other neighbour lords and gentlemen outside my country, or exacting black rents of any urriaghs, or bordering Itfrds. I resign all claim and title to any lands, but such as shall now be granted to me by Her Majesty's letters patent.

"Lastly, I will be content to be advised by Her Majesty's magistrates here, and will assist them in anything that may tend to the advancement of her service, and the peaceable government of this kingdom, the abolishing of barbarous customs, the clearing of difficult passes, wherein I will employ the labours of the people of my country, in such places, as shall be directed by Her Majesty, or the Lord Deputy in her name; and I will endeavour for myself, and the people of my country, to erect civil habitations, and such as shall be of greater effect, to preserve us against thieves and any force but the power of the State."

In return for this abject submission Tyrone was promised a full pardon, and a patent for nearly all the lands which he held before his rebellion. Thus, after six years of war or negotiations, the Earl retained Tyrone on almost the same terms as those which he had himself proposed in 1587. He had, however, to face the significant fact that 300 acres were reserved for the fort of Mountjoy and 300 for Charlemont, and Ulster was to submit to a composition, as Connaught had done. Still, with characteristic common sense, he made the best terms for himself, and resumed his position as the first subject in the realm, nor is there any reason to doubt that he was perfectly loyal and sincere in so doing.

On the afternoon of the next day, 4th April, he ,rode into Dublin with the viceregal party, and on the 5th Sir Henry Danvers arrived from England with official tidings of the death of the Queen. King James was at once proclaimed, the announcement of his accession to the throne of England being received with plaudits by the populace, but Tyrone, who naturally was the cynosure of all eyes, burst into tears on hearing of the death of Elizabeth. "There needed", says the alert Moryson, "no œdipus to find out the true cause of his tears; for, no doubt the most humble submission he made to the Queen he had so highly and proudly offended, much eclipsed the vain glory his actions might have carried if he had held out till her death; besides that by his coming in, as it were, between two reigns, he lost a fair advantage, for (by England's estate for the present unsettled) to have subsisted longer in rebellion (if he had any such end) or at least an ample occasion of fastening great merit on the new King, if at first and of free will he had submitted to his mercy."

The last year of O'Neill's war cost the English treasury 290,733, besides "contingencies", which, according to Cox, amounted to at least 50,000 more, making the last year's expenditure for this Irish war at least 340,733, while the revenue of England at this period was not more than 450,000 per annum. During the last four and a half years of Elizabeth's reign it has been computed that the Irish war cost her about 1,200,000 an enormous demand upon the slender revenue of those days. The drain upon the life-blood of England was also great, her soldiers perishing by thousands like rotten sheep in the bogs and dank woods of Ireland; and not recruits or rankers only, but distinguished officers like the Norrises, Clifford, Bagenal, and Bingham. As we have seen, on the very day of her death the great Queen's thoughts were fixed on Ulster. She had firmly resolved, with all her imperious will, that she would subdue Ireland, and it is not by any means improbable that, as she lay fully dressed, propped up by cushions on the floor of her palace, dying, her last fierce flickering thought dwelt on Tyrone.


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