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The History of Ulster
Tyrone becomes "The O'Neill"


The Earl of Tyrone elopes with the Knight Marshal's Sister - Sir Henry Bagenal's hatred of Tyrone reciprocated - Turlough Lynnagh surrenders Chieftaincy of County Tyrone - The Earl becomes "The O'Neill" - Troubles in Fermanagh - Sir Hugh O'Donnell resigns in favour of his son, Hugh Roe - Tyrone's Last Aid to the English.

It is pleasant in the arid waste of political bickerings and sanguinary strife to come across such a wayward blossom as a love romance. The story of Raymond and Strongbow's sister, told in Vol. I, is now to be repeated, with a difference. In 1590 Sir Henry Bagenal succeeded his father, Sir Nicholas Bagenal, in the office of Marshal of Ireland. The Bagenals had acquired by various means a great deal
of landed property in the North of Ireland; we have seen how M'Mahon's estate was broken up, and the greater part divided between Sir Henry Bagenal, three or four English officers, and some Dublin lawyers, the Crown reserving for itself a quitrent. Sir Henry's relation to the Irish consisted of the fact that he had shed a good deal of Irish blood, and obtained a great deal of Irish land. The Marshal had a sister, Mabel, who was an exceedingly beautiful girl of twenty years of age. With Miss Bagenal the Earl of Tyrone fell in love, if such an expression can with propriety be used in connection with a widower of fifty.

Tyrone's first wife was a daughter of Sir Brian MacPhelim O'Neill, from whom, according to his own account, he was "divorced by orders of the Church". As to the validity of this divorce there were certain doubts at the time, but the divorced wife married again. Tyrone then married a sister of Hugh Roe O'Donnell. She died; whereupon, meeting Miss Mabel Bagenal in Newry, he proposed to her, and, receiving a satisfactory reply, asked her brother the Marshal's consent to the match. Sir Henry was furious at the very idea, and would not consent, giving as his reasons the possible opposition of the Queen, and "the incivility of the Earl's country not agreeing with his sister's education, and the uncertainty of a jointure to be allotted for her maintenance after the Earl's death ".

It must be remembered that Tyrone was much more of an English politician and courtier than an Irish chieftain. He had, as already stated, served in the English army, had fought with credit under Grey in Munster, and was intimately acquainted with all the leading Englishmen of his day. Even his religion, unlike that of most Irish Catholics of the time, sat very lightly upon him. Captain Lee, an English officer quartered in Ulster, in a very interesting letter to the Queen, written about this time, assures her confidentially that, although a Roman Catholic, Tyrone, with whom he was closely associated, "is less dangerously or hurtfully so than some of the greatest in the English Pale", for that when he accompanied the Lord Deputy to church "he will stay and hear a sermon", whereas they "when they have reached the church door depart as if they were wild cats". Lee adds as a further recommendation, that by way of domestic chaplain he has at present but "one little cub of an English priest". Lord Essex, in still plainer terms, told Tyrone himself when he was posing as the champion of Catholicism: "Dost thou talk of a free exercise of religion? Why, thou carest as little for religion as my horse."

Bagenal, in order to keep his sister out of harm's way, sent her from Newry to the care of Sir Patrick Barn well who was married to another of his sisters, and who lived a Turvey, near Swords, a village about seven miles from Dublin. Thither Tyrone followed the fair Mabel, and was courteously received by Sir Patrick. He had also, it appears, many friends among the English. After another pleasing interview with Miss Bagenal, to whose girlish imagination he must have appeared to be a veritable knight of romance, he presented a gold chain worth a hundred pounds, and made arrangements for her abduction, which later were carried out. A dinner being given two days after his arrival in honour of the Earl, he came attended by two or three gentlemen, one of whom, named William Warren, acted as his confidant. After dinner Tyrone engaged the rest of the company in conversation, while Warren, accompanied by two servants, rode off with the lady safe behind him, and carried her to the residence of a friend at Drumcondra. "When I understood", said Tyrone, "that my prey was well forward in her way towards the place where we had agreed upon, I took leave of Sir Patrick Barnwell and his lady and followed after; and soon after I was gone, the gentlemen which were in company with me took their horses and came away privately."

When these facts reached Sir Henry Bagenal's ears his wrath knew no bounds. "I cannot", he told Burleigh, "but accurse myself and fortune that my blood, which in my father and myself hath often been spilled in repressing this rebellious race, should now be mingled with so traitorous a stock and kindred." Tyrone appears to have understood women, for the giving of the gold chain had its influence on an impressionable girl. He was accused by the Marshal of enticing Miss Bagenal away "by taking advantage of her years and ignorance of his barbarous estate and course of living", and deceiving her, but he no more deceived her than Othello deceived Desdemona. Sir Henry, in his haste, said that Tyrone did "entice the unfortunate girl by nursing in her through the report of some corrupted persons an opinion of his haviour and greatness". How honourable Tyrone's actions were may be seen in the fact that the couple were married by prearrangement at William Warren's house on the day following the elopement (being the 3rd of August, 1591) by the Bishop of Meath. Even the selection of this high dignitary of the Church to perform the wedding ceremony proves that the Earl carried out a definite plan in carrying off Miss Bagenal, and all might have been well but for the Marshal's undisguised hostility. Instead of accepting the situation, and recognizing the futility of further fuming, Bagenal became Tyrone's most implacable foe, and Tyrone retaliated by saying in the presence of his young wife that there was no man in the world he hated so much as the Knight Marshal her brother. Thus "ill kept echoing ill", and an atmosphere of hatred had its effect on the poor young Countess, who died in January, 1596, less than five years after her marriage, and by so doing had not the sorrow of witnessing the last scene of deadly strife between her brother and her husband. Tyrone certainly had a genuine grievance in that Bagenal refused to pay him a legacy of ^1000 left to the Countess by her father, and his frequent applications for this money kept the Marshal in a constant state of irritation, and he resolved to leave no stone unturned to ruin Tyrone. He now began trumping up to the Council and the Queen accusations of treason on Tyrone's part, and basely intercepted the answers which the Earl made to the charges brought against him.

A perpetual recurrence of outrages against the northern chieftains served effectually to prepare the way for the crisis which was now fast approaching their province. O'Donnell collected an army at Lifford, and under his influence Turlough Lynnagh surrendered the chieftaincy of Tyrone, and being secured certain property and income for his life, agreed by deed, dated 28th June, 1593, that "the Earl and his heirs should hold the territory and lands of Tyrone against Sir Turlough and his heirs, discharged of all such title and demand Sir Turlough claimeth to have in the same". By this agreement Hugh O'Neill became The O'Neill as well as Earl of Tyrone. Turlough further consented to dismiss his English guard, so that Ulster was left once more subject only to its ancient Irish dynasts, O'Neill and O'Donnell.

In May, 1593, serious disturbances broke out in Breffny and Fermanagh. George Bingham, brother of Sir Richard, the President of Connaught, entered Breffny, with an armed force, to distrain for rents claimed for the Queen. Brian Oge O'Rourke asserted that no rents were unpaid except for lands lying waste, and which ought not to be rated. Bingham nevertheless seized the cattle of O'Rourke, who thereupon took up arms, and marching to Ballymote, where Bingham resided, retaliated by acts of plunder. O'Rourke's neighbour, Hugh Maguire, was next provoked into hostilities. He had purchased exemption from the presence of an English sheriff by giving FitzWilliam 300 cows; yet Captain Willis was appointed sheriff of Fermanagh, as already stated, and went about the country with 100 armed men and as many women and children, who were all supported on the spoils of the district. Maguire hunted Willis into a church, where he would assuredly have put them to death had not Tyrone interfered, and saved their lives on condition that they immediately quitted the country. The Lord Deputy was enraged because Tyrone did not punish Maguire, and he even called him a traitor; and Bagenal seized the opportunity to forward fresh impeachments against him.

Hugh Roe O'Donnell still suffered from the effects of his exposure to the frost in the Wicklow mountains, and, the doctors finding it necessary to amputate both his great toes, he remained at Ballyshannon under their care from the February until April. A general meeting of the Cinel Connel was then summoned, and, all having assembled save the partisans of Calvagh O'Donnell's family, Sir Hugh abdicated in favour of his son. The young chieftain proceeded, according to ancient usage, to at once make a hostile incursion. He entered the lands of Sir Turlough Lynnagh, which he laid waste; and that " dutiful old knight", having applied for the aid of some English forces, Hugh Roe paid him a second visit, and drove his adherents to seek an asylum in the castle of O'Kane of Glengiveen, where, being under the protection of a friendly chief, he would not molest them. Later he besieged Sir Turlough and his Englishmen in the castle of Strabane, and burned the town up to the fortress; but as these proceedings amounted to an open defiance of English authority, Tyrone, fearing that a premature and fruitless war would be the result, brought about a meeting at Dundalk between Hugh Roe and Fitz William, so arranging matters that the former obtained a free pardon for all his misdeeds, including his escape from Dublin Castle. This recognition by the Government of Hugh Roe's chieftaincy induced the adherents of Calvagh O'Donnell's sons to admit him as their chief, so that his power at home was considerably augmented.

Tyrone's object in coming to peace with Turlough Lynnagh was no doubt to keep things quiet, but neither he nor O'Donnell ever enjoyed much peace. Maguire, noting the results of Brian Oge O'Rourke's attack on George Bingham, determined to attack Bingham himself, and with that object he invaded Connaught, penetrating to Tulsk, in Roscommon, where the President of the Province was encamped. At the time Edward MacGauran, titular primate of all Ireland, encouraged Maguire, and even went so far in his enthusiasm as to accompany him on this expedition, of which the result was that the English party were outnumbered and put to flight, while one of the English officers, Sir William Clifford, was slain, as were also Archbishop Gauran, and the abbot, Cathal Maguire. Bingham, knowing that the dead
archbishop had recently returned to Ireland as bearer of promises of aid from Spain, denounced him as "a champion of the Pope's, like Dr. Allen, the notable traitor; but, God be thanked", he added, "he hath left his dead carcass on the Maugherie, only the said rebels carried his head away with them that they might universally bemoan him at home". Mr. Richard Bagwell, in his admirable Ireland under the Tudors, gives the text of an original intercepted letter from Primate MacGauran to Captain Eustace, which he states is preserved at Hatfield. The letter is dated Madrid, June 28, 1591, and the writer says: "I hope in God Ireland will soon be free from Englishmen, and notwithstanding that the Catholic King his captains be slow in their affairs, I am certain that the men now purposed to be sent to comfort the same poor island, which is in distress a long time, will not be slow. I ought not to write much unto you touching those causes, for I know that a Spaniard shall be chief governor of them. The Irish regiment is written for."

The Lord Deputy now collected all the troops of the Pale and marched into Fermanagh, where he was joined by Tyrone and the Knight Marshal. To the latter was committed the chief command, and at the same time Sir Richard Bingham and the Earl of Thomond approached from Connaught. For Maguire to attempt to resist such an overwhelming force was madness; but, having driven his flocks and herds into Tirconnell, he defended, with great bravery, a ford on the River Erne, to the west of Belleek, losing 200 of his men before the ford was forced. Tyrone, who crossed the river at the head of the cavalry, was severely wounded in the thigh. O'Sullivan Beare says that Hugh Roe O'Donnell was marching to the aid of Maguire, and would have attacked the English the night after the battle of the ford had not Tyrone privately requested him to refrain from doing so while he was in their ranks. "Maguire's assailants", adds O'Sullivan Beare, "had 700 horse against 100, and musketeers against archers, and the leaden bullets went farther than the arrows. The musketeers in the woods bordering on the river shot down with impunity the Catholics, who stood in the open, while the archers could take no aim at men protected by thick clumps of trees." O'Sullivan says that Bagenal asked Tyrone to write to the Queen and FitzWilliam praising his valour, and that Tyrone replied that he would tell a plain unvarnished tale to both when he got an opportunity. This victory increased the mutual hatred of the brothers-in-law, each protesting that the credit which should have been given to him was given to the other. Tyrone entertained the idea that the Marshal might treacherously arrest him, and withdrew to a safe distance. This was the last appearance of Tyrone as an ally of England. The campaign led to no result except the superseding of the legitimate chieftain of Fermanagh by Conor Oge Maguire.


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