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The History of Ulster
The Flight of the Earls


Sir George Carey resigns - Sir Arthur Chichester appointed Lord Deputy - James and the Oath of Allegiance - He enforces the Act of Uniformity - A Petition presented by the Catholics of the Pale - Sir Patrick Barnwell, Tyrone's brother-in-law, imprisoned - Proceedings against Sir Patrick stopped - He is liberated - Tyrone, Tirconnell, and others flee the Country.

Those who, being in supreme command, have also the untrammelled control of very large sums of money, occupy a position far from enviable. Such was the position of Sir George Carey, Viceroy and Vice-Treasurer; and there is no doubt that it was due to the fact that he endeavoured to fulfil the duties of this difficult dual role, involving, as it did, the holding of both sword and purse, that he was accused of corrupt methods of acquiring wealth. There is not the slightest evidence that there was any truth whatever in the allegations made, and Sir George himself, we know, wished to retire. As Lord Deputy he drew only one-third of the salary attached to the office, the balance being paid to Devonshire as Lord-Lieutenant, although he resided in England until his death. Carey suggested Sir Arthur Chichester, Governor of Carrickfergus, as his successor but Chichester refused, saying that the salary was insufficient; whereupon an additional 1000 a year was granted, and Chichester accepted the position, and was sworn in on the 3rd of February, 1604.

One of the first questions with which Chichester had to deal was that of religious toleration, for the widespread belief that the King favoured Catholicism led to a general movement throughout the country, and, to the great alarm of the authorities, priests and Jesuits swarmed everywhere. Tyrone posed, as did Shane O'Neill before him, as a Defender of the Faith, and there is no doubt that the war in Ulster was essentially a religious war. Chichester had taken part in the war against Tyrone, and had been more than once worsted by him; the Earl held his abilities in contempt; and Chichester, vested with authority, was now in a better position to deal with him. Jesuits, he held, came into the country "not only to plant their religion, but to withdraw the subject from his allegiance, and to serve the turn of Tyrone and the King of Spain".

But though James had been baptized a Catholic, he had, owing to his having been removed from the custody of his mother, been brought up as a Presbyterian, and was a Calvinist of a most pronounced type. He exhibited, however, no tendency to tolerate religious persecution until the ill-advised Gunpowder Plot made him anxious for the safety of' his own sacred person, which he now deemed to be in jeopardy. It is generally recognized that James, either through heredity or some like cause, was of a very timorous disposition. The genius of Sir Walter Scott has depicted the King's aversion to gazing upon a drawn sword, even when the weapon was to be used merely for the innocent purpose of bestowing knighthood on the kneeling recipient of the honour.

Deeming, therefore, that his life was threatened by the Catholics, James determined to exterminate them, or banish them from the realm, and accordingly, on the 4th of July, 1605, he issued a proclamation formally promulgating the Act of Uniformity (II, Eliz.), and commanding the "Popish clergy" to leave the kingdom; and, in addition, an unwise commission was issued to certain respectable Catholics, requiring them, under the title of inquisitors, to watch and inform against those of their own faith who did not frequent the Protestant churches on the appointed days.

The Act of Uniformity in itself could, when enforced, do little more than annoy, for the strongest of its provisions was that a fine of a shilling should be imposed on all who did not attend church on Sundays and holidays; but another Act of Elizabeth prescribed an oath acknowledging the Queen's supremacy, both civil and ecclesiastical, and denying that any " foreign prince, person, prelate, State, or Potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction", in the good realm of these countries England and Ireland. This oath, it was proposed, should be administered not alone to those holding office under the Crown, but also to ecclesiastics, justices, mayors, and aldermen. It was resolved to put these Acts in force.

In the famous proclamation above referred to, the King denied that he ever intended "to give liberty of conscience or toleration of religion to his subjects in the Kingdom of Ireland, contrary to the express laws and statutes therein enacted", and proceeded to declare that he would never do any act to "confirm the hopes of any creature that they should ever have from him any toleration to exercise any other religion than that which is agreeable to God's Word and is established by the laws of the realm". Against Jesuits stern measures were to be taken, not so much because of their religious tendencies as on account of their meddling with affairs of State, "taking upon themselves the ordering and deciding of causes, both before and after they have received judgments in the King's courts of record ... all priests whatsoever made and ordained by any authority derived or pretended to be derived from the See of Rome shall before the 10th day of December, depart out of the Kingdom of Ireland".

James doubtless was perturbed by such reports as those to the effect that the country swarmed with "priests, Jesuits, seminaries, friars, and Romish bishops"; for it had been pointed out to His Majesty by Cecil and others that to be a Catholic was to be a rebel, anxious for the dethronement of the King, and therefore James gave more attention than he might otherwise have done to such admonitions as that contained in the following: "If there be not speedy means to free this kingdom of this wicked rabble, much mischief will burst forth in a very short time. There are here so many of this wicked crew, as are able to disquiet four of the greatest kingdoms in Christendom. It is high time they were banished, and none to receive or aid them. Let the judges and officers be sworn to the supremacy; let the lawyers go to the church and show conformity, or not plead at the bar, and then the rest by degrees will shortly follow."

The great Anglo-Irish families of the Pale naturally remonstrated against this severity, and presented a petition for freedom of religious worship; but the leading petitioners, of whom five were peers, were confined in Dublin Castle, while their principal agent, Sir Patrick Barnwell, Tyrone's brother-in-law, was sent to England and committed to the Tower. When, as a preliminary, he was imprisoned in Dublin Castle, on 2nd December, 1605, he remarked, with fortitude: "We must endure as we have endured many other things, and especially the miseries of the late war". To this Chichester responded: "No, sir, we have endured the misery of the war, we have lost our blood and our friends, and have indeed endured extreme miseries to suppress the late rebellion, whereof your priests, for whom you make petition, and your wicked religion, was the principal cause". Sir Patrick Barnwell, after detention in London for many months, was allowed to return to Ireland, and further proceedings against him were dropped.

Of course we must not judge the religious emotions of the early seventeenth century from the semi-scientific attitude adopted towards matters spiritual in our own day. Even "Broadbrowed Verulam, the first of those who know", could not, at a time so early in the history of social progress that the burning of a witch received the grave consideration of a king, and when "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" was accepted as a mandate from on high, be much in advance of his fellows on questions of the soul. That he gave the matter some thought is proved by his advising Cecil that "a toleration of religion (for a time not definite), except it be in some principal towns and precincts, after the manner of some French edicts, seemeth to me to be a matter warrantable by religion, and in policy of absolute necessity. And the hesitation in this point, I think, hath been a great casting back of the affairs there. Neither if any English Papist or recusant shall for liberty of his conscience transfer his person, family, and fortunes thither do I hold it a matter of danger, but expedient to draw on undertaking and to further population. Neither if Rome will cozen itself, by conceiving it may be some degree to the like toleration in England, do I hold it a matter of any moment, but rather a good mean to take off the fierceness and eagerness of the humour of Rome, and to stay further excommunications or inter-dictions for Ireland."

Such was the state of affairs in Ireland in the opening years of the "high and mighty Prince James", and what is true of Ireland of necessity includes Ulster, for the province suffered to much the same extent as did her sister provinces.

Tyrone continued to complain that he was so watched by the spies of the Government that the slightest of his actions could not escape their notice. It is said that even his secretary or clerk had a pension for bringing letters to the authorities. The Earl had, in addition to his many worries and anxieties, the sorrow of having a wife with whom he could not agree. Lady Tyrone, formerly Catherine Magennis, was the fourth who bore the title. No doubt, as in most domestic squabbles, for they can rarely be designated by any other name, there were faults on both sides, and it is unpleasant to learn that when examined secretly on oath by Sir Toby Caulfeild, she "recounted many violences which he had used and done to her in his drunkenness". It is, however, gratifying to be assured that Lady Tyrone, notwithstanding this treatment, denied that her husband, though discontented, was in any way disloyal.

It will be remembered that Spanish ships frequently brought wine to the coast of Donegal. The knowledge of this fact served Perrot in good stead when he rigged out a pseudo-Spanish vessel in which he succeeded in kidnapping young Hugh Roe O'Donnell. Spanish ships continued to call at ports in Donegal. Tyrone had a son named Henry in Spain. As a boy, Henry O'Neill became page to the Archduke Albert in Brussels, where later he commanded an Irish regiment 1400 strong. After his submission, Tyrone wrote to the King of Spain, requesting him to send Henry home; but he never returned, and his father, growing accustomed to his prolonged absence, sometimes boasted of the young man's influence at the Spanish Court, and of his authority over the Irish abroad.

Hugh Maguire, who died in 1600, was succeeded by his brother, that "desperate and dangerous young fellow", as Chichester described him, who bore the not very euphonious name Cuconnaught. The Government, deeming, no doubt, that it was politic, decided to divide Hugh Maguire's district between Cuconnaught and one of his kinsmen, Connor Roe. This division of his property greatly incensed the desperate and dangerous young fellow, who, however, was wise enough to dissemble his hate of the authorities and his resentment at such treatment. Maguire, as we shall now call him, communicated with the Archduke, who sent him a large sum of money, with which he went to Rouen, succeeded in getting a ship commanded by John Bath, of Drogheda, and, by the end of August, 1606, was able to put into Lough Swilly. This vessel was partly laden with salt, but also carried fishing-nets.

On Thursday, the 28th of August, the Viceroy, at Slane, was entertaining Tyrone, who was conferring with him about a visit he proposed paying to England. Here the Earl received news from John Bath informing him that Maguire had arrived in a French ship in Lough Swilly. On Saturday, the 3Oth, he visited Mellifont, the scene of his submission to Mountjoy. No doubt recollections came crowding fast, and the old man saw again that "red star of boyhood's fiery thought", the liberation of Ireland, on which all his heart had been set; and it is not therefore surprising to learn that in taking leave next day of his friend, Sir Garrett Moore, he "wept abundantly, giving a solemn farewell to every child and every servant in the house, which made them all marvel, because in general it was not his manner to use such compliments".

On his way northwards Tyrone remained two days at his own residence in Dungannon, and proceeded thence hastily to Rathmullen. On Wednesday he crossed the mountains of Strabane, in crossing which "it is reported that the Countess his wife, being exceedingly weary, slipped down from her horse, and weeping, said she could go no further; whereupon the Earl drew his sword, and swore a great oath that he would kill her on the place if she would not pass on with him, and put on a more cheerful countenance withal". On Thursday they reached Rathmullen, on the shores of Lough Swilly, where Tyrone found Tirconnell and several of his friends waiting and laying up stores in the French ship. They appear to have sailed the next morning.

The Four Masters, in referring to this flight, pathetically exclaim: "Woe to the heart that meditated, woe to the mind that conceived, woe to the council that decided on the project of their setting out of this voyage without knowing whether they should ever return to their native principalities or patrimonies to the end of the world". From this it has been surmised that the flight of the Earls was, in the opinion of their contemporaries, a rash proceeding, or that it was artfully prompted by their enemies.


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