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The History of Ulster
Defeat of the Royalists


The Nuncio and O'Neill disagree - Lord Taaffe defeated by Inchiquin - O'Neill deprived of his Commission as General of Ulster - He proclaims War against the Confederates - Inchiquin's Description of the State of the Country - O'Neill retires to Ulster - Colonel George Monck takes Munro Prisoner - He is appointed Governor of Belfast and Carrickfergus - Coote takes Culmore Fort - O'Neill's Negotiations with Governor of Dublin - Ormonde returns to Ireland - O'Neill proclaimed a Traitor by the Supreme Council - Peace ratified at last - The Nuncio leaves Ireland - Execution of Charles I.

Colonel George Monck, whose name sprang into prominence at this period, arrived in Ireland on the 9th of March, 1647, in the train of Lord Lisle, who had been appointed Lord -Lieutenant by the Parliament. Lisle found himself unable to cope with the opposition with which he was met, and returned almost immediately to England, taking Monck with him. Monck, however, returned in a short time, having been appointed commander of all forces, both English and Scottish, in Ulster, those commanded by Sir Charles Coote, Governor of Londonderry, alone excepted.

Money becoming scarce, the relations between O'Neill and Rinuccini became strained. The Nuncio's influence waned when there was no longer cash to support it, and Owen Roe's applications for coin with which to pay his men were met with maledictions. Not satisfied with these, Rinuccini now wished to repudiate his having had any share in robberies and murders done "under cover of religion" by Ulster soldiers, "barbarous enough by nature, although good Catholics". O'Neill, according to the Nuncio, was now the devil incarnate. "If I had not sent my confessor to dissuade him from so unjust a resolution," declared Rinuccini, "Kilkenny would have been sacked and much innocent blood shed." The "Catholic Army of Ulster" was now anathema to its former paymaster, who became as fierce in his denunciations of it as he had formerly been prodigal of his praise. The people who had recognized the prelate's patronage of the Ulster army continued to identify the Nuncio with O'Neill's followers; and when, complained Rinuccini, they "perform any act of cruelty or robbery, the sufferers execrate His Holiness and me, and curse the clergy, whom they consider the patrons of this army". Mountgarret being one of the sufferers, he directed a crowd of women to the Nuncio's house as the residence of the chief cause of the trouble, whereupon "they made a dreadful uproar with howls and lamentations, thus giving it to be understood that I countenanced the cruelties perpetrated by the Ulster men".

An event which contributed greatly to weaken the power of the Confederates was the severe defeat of Lord Taaffe (formerly an adherent of Ormonde, but who after his departure had taken the oath of Confederacy) by Murrough O'Brien, Baron Inchiquin, at Knocknanuss on the 13th of November, 1647, when Taaffe lost nearly 6000 men, more than half his army, and Inchiquin only about 150 men. The General Assembly of the Confederates, which met at Kilkenny on the day before this disaster, had already begun to show signs of weakness. In 1646 there had been seventy- three representatives from Ulster; on this occasion, "from poverty or some other cause", there were but nine. Among the orders made under a new constitution inaugurated at this meeting was one for the regulation of the creaghts, a body of nomadic herdsmen of whom O'Neill's army was chiefly composed, to whom law and order were words without meaning. The Nuncio now made a last desperate attempt to dominate the assembly. He asked that, as the war had hindered the province of Ulster from sending its complement of seventy-three representatives to the meeting, the nine members present might be allowed, not alone to vote on their own behalf, but also on behalf of the absent representatives of Ulster. The opposition proved to be sufficiently strong to be able to reject this proposal, for "the lord nuncio's excommunications had now by his often thundering of them, grown more cheap", and had little or no effect save on the rude and ignorant followers of the rival generals. Being friendless, the Nuncio, on the 7th of May, 1648, returned to O'Neill, who was encamped at Killminch in Queen's County. The northern chieftain now received more money, the Nuncio having sent Dean Massari to Rome for financial assistance. With the aid of this he augmented his forces as quickly as possible, and thus was able to be independent of the Council, who, on learning that he had sided with Rinuccini, revoked his commission as general of Ulster.

Rinuccini, though he had lost power with the Council, was still strong in the support of a large body of the Irish clergy, including many of the most influential ecclesiastics. That he still held sway over the rude rabble of which the army was composed is proved by the fact that when the Confederates determined to attack those who supported him, and sent James Preston, son of the general, for that purpose with a large force to besiege Athy, 2000 of Preston's men, smarting under the excommunication, hearing of O'Neill's approach from Longford, immediately deserted their commander and joined Owen Roe. That redoubtable leader, having made a truce with the Scots in the north, collected his forces from Connaught and Ulster, and, being now at the head of 10,000 foot and 500 horse, proclaimed on the 11th of June war against the Supreme Council.

The state of the country may be gauged from the description given in a letter to Ormonde written by Inchiquin, who, disgusted at the neglect with which he had been treated, by Parliament, had declared himself Royalist, and joined the Confederates. In imploring Ormonde to return he writes: "Divers of my men have died of hunger, after they had a while lived upon cats and dogs, as many do now. And if, while I am in this condition, the Parliament shipping should arrive according to our expectation, grounded upon good advertisement, with some officers, money, clothes and victuals, and make tender thereof unto our soldiers, if they will give up the officers they have now, a greater strait than I shall be in cannot be imagined."

O'Neill now commenced a campaign against the Confederates in which he expended much force and gained little or no success; even Nenagh, which he took by storm, being recovered in a short time by Inchiquin. He made an effort to reach Kerry, which had the double attraction of being as yet undevastated and of being mountainous, thus holding forth a prospect of both food and shelter from attack; but being unable to achieve his object he returned in high dudgeon to Ulster.

The dissensions amongst the Confederates and the actions of O'Neill freed the Parliamentarians in Dublin from the restraint with which they had been hampered; and Munro and his Presbyterians, who, although Monck had been appointed by Parliament Commander-in-Chief in Ulster, still held Belfast and Carrickfergus, became uneasy, and covertly sent George, the General's nephew, to Scotland with a large number of men from the various Scottish regiments. Monck, acting under instructions, appeared with a strong force before Carrickfergus at midnight on the 12th of September, and, the gate being opened by a friendly hand, Munro, who had retired, was seized and sent prisoner to England. Carrickfergus being taken, Belfast at once surrendered without a blow, and the successful Monck was given by a grateful Parliament the governorship of both towns.

The Parliamentary party was slowly gaining ground in Ulster. Encouraged by Monck's success, Sir Charles Coote, Governor of Londonderry, determined to dislodge that ardent royalist, Sir Robert Stewart, who held the fort of Culmore, from which his guns swept Lough Foyle, and threatened to cut off Coote's supplies. As the dislodgment could not be achieved save by a ruse, Sir Robert was induced to visit Londonderry to attend some social function, whereupon both he and Colonel Audley Mervyn were seized and sent to join Munro and other Royalists in durance in England. With the surrender of Culmore fort and Lifford, every stronghold in Ulster was held by Parliament, with the sole exception of Charlemont, which still remained in the hands of Sir Phelim O'Neill, in whose possession it had been since 1641.

While Carrickfergus was thus being seized by Monck, O'Neill was making proposals to Inchiquin, employing as his envoy Rory O'Moore, the originator and instigator of the rebellion. O'Moore was authorized to offer Inchiquin the Province of Munster, on condition that he did not interfere with O'Neill's tactics in the other three. Owen Roe also approached Colonel Michael Jones, Governor of Dublin. Jones deputed his brother Henry, Bishop of Clogher and Scoutmaster-General, to act for him, which disconcerted O'Neill, for one of his strongest adherents, Ever MacMahon, a somewhat bellicose bishop, who was afterwards hanged, also claimed to be Bishop of Clogher. It is therefore not surprising that nothing came of these negotiations. The Parliament determined not to be hoodwinked; and that they were not is evident, for they declared that "as Owen Roe and the Bishop of Clogher (Ever MacMahon) mislead those adhering unto them with deep protestations of their loyalty, and desires to advance the Catholic religion, and His Majesty's interests, and his aversion to Jones and his ways; so of the other side Jones with his Protestant Bishop of Clogher, by the same acts and illusions (while they be practisers with O'Neill) endeavours to persuade his officers and soldiers that he intends to prosecute him as a pestilent blood-sucker, and a sworn enemy to the English nation and Government; and we are informed that when despatches come from Owen O'Neill, and the messengers of VicarGeneral Edmund O'Reilly are seen at Dublin, Jones gives out that they are sent from the Council at Kilkenny".

Ormonde, as requested by Inchiquin, now returned, landing at Cork on the 2Qth of September, 1648, and he forthwith issued a manifesto declaring that his intention was "to employ his utmost endeavours for the settlement of the Protestant religion, for defence of the King in his prerogatives, and for maintaining the privileges and freedom of Parliament, as well as the liberty of the subject". Being requested to prove that he had still powers to deal with the Irish, he applied to the King, who in his response from Newport, dated the 10th of October, was remarkably frank, bidding the ex-Viceroy to " be not startled at my great concessions concerning Ireland, for that they will come to nothing". The Assembly at Kilkenny warmly welcomed Ormonde on his return, and appointed Sir Phelim O'Neill with others to negotiate with him the terms for "a well-grounded and lasting peace". The Council, now deeming that by Ormonde's advent they had acquired additional strength, proclaimed Owen Roe O'Neill a traitor, Sir Phelim, as one of their body, assenting, and all his followers were called upon to lay down their arms by the 24th of October, on pain of being considered traitors also.

The influence of the Nuncio was very greatly minimized by the return in November of Bishop French and Sir Nicholas Plunket, who had been sent by him to the Pope with a request for monetary aid in his mission to Ireland. The ambassadors returned empty-handed, and reported that His Holiness appeared to regret having expended so much money, of the disposal of which he had received no account. The envoys had been detained four months at the Vatican, and had during their stay tried to get all who entertained "pious intentions" towards the Irish to carry out their intentions, but without success. They added that just before their departure from Rome the news arrived of the rupture between the Nuncio and the Assembly, upon which they "heard from some eminent persons" that though His Holiness also had pious intentions towards the Irish, he could not carry them out; for as regards money, "he knew not to what party he would send it, we being flushed in blood one against the other". The fact is that the Ottoman Empire just then threatened to invade Italy, and the Pope was at the moment so deeply interested in Turks that His Holiness had neither money nor time to devote to the conversion of infidels in Ireland.

While Sir Phelim O'Neill and his fellow-Commissioners were engaged in negotiating with Ormonde as to the terms of the well-grounded and lasting peace, a mutiny broke out in Inchiquin's army at Cork, originating in disappointment arising from the fact that the ex-Viceroy arrived with promises only and no arrears of pay, and Parliament appeared to be possessed of plenty of money. Officers and men alike seemed to be inclined to forsake the Royalist cause. Inchiquin acted with characteristic promptitude, and succeeded in quelling the mutiny, but he thought that Ormonde's presence might be beneficial, and accordingly to Cork Ormonde went. Here he found Sir Richard Fanshawe, who had arrived opportunely with letters from the Prince of Wales announcing the departure for Kinsale of Prince Rupert and sixteen frigates with ammunition and supplies, and also announcing the approaching visit of James, Duke of York. The Prince of Wales himself was unable to visit Ireland, having only recently recovered from an attack of smallpox, but he promised to follow soon. Ormonde, gratified by this intelligence, and having spread the good news, returned to Kilkenny.

At this moment the Remonstrance of the army in England, requiring that the King should be brought to trial, reached Inchiquin, and was sent by him to Ormonde. The evident danger in which the King was placed alarmed the Confederates, who felt that their own safety depended in some measure upon the preservation of Charles, and they acceded without further delay to the terms proposed by Ormonde. All parties being now satisfied, the treaty was ratified on the 17th of January, 1649; after which, amid general rejoicing, the peace was immediately proclaimed. The Articles of Peace differed but little from those drawn up in 1646, which had been so fiercely opposed by the Nuncio. Everything was referred to a free Parliament to be held in Ireland in six months, and no man was to be molested for any matter of religion in the meantime. The Confederacy was dissolved, and the powers of a provisional government were vested in a body of laymen, later called "Commissioners of Trust". The first of these were Lords Dillon, Muskerry, and Athenry, Colonel Alexander MacDonnell, Sir Lucas Dillon, Sir Nicholas Plunket, Sir Richard Barnwell, Geoffrey Browne, Donough O'Callaghan, Turlough O'Neill, Miles Reilly, and Dr. Gerald Fennell. The Church was complacent, having "received a good satisfaction for the being and safety of religion", and it declared that "by the temporal articles lives, liberties, and the estates of men are well provided for".

Rinuccini, reduced at last to silence, was now ordered by the Confederates to leave the country, Ormonde declaring that "'the Nuncio is a foreigner, and no subject of His Majesty's; therefore not at all interested in any agreement between His Majesty and his subjects, and may have aims prejudicial to both"; he therefore "withdrew . . . preaching damnation to the traitors who were deserting the cause of Christ; and soon after he shook the dust of Ireland from his feet and returned to Italy".

The Peace, as stated, was ratified on the 17th of January, 1649. On the 30th, Charles "laid his comely head" upon the block, a striking proof of How much of pain it takes To purify the World. On the 10th of February Prince Rupert with his fleet entered the harbour of Kinsale, and, the news of the execution at Whitehall being received about the same time, Ormonde without delay proclaimed Charles II.


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