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The Flight of the Earls (Irish : Imeacht na nIarlaí) took place in September 1607, when Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone, and Rory O'Donnell, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, and about ninety followers, left Ulster in Ireland for mainland Europe.
The event was first named as a "flight" in a book by the Reverend CP Meehan that was published in 1868.
Historians disagree to what extent the earls wanted to start a war with Spanish help to re-establish their positions, or whether they accepted exile as the best way of coping with their recent loss of status since the Treaty of Mellifont in 1603. Meehan argued that the earls' tenants wanted a new war: "Withal, the people of Ulster were full of hope that O'Neill would return with forces to evict the evictors, but the farther they advanced into this agreeable perspective, the more rapidly did its charms disappear."
After their defeat at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601, and the end of the Nine Years' War in Ulster in 1603, Tyrone and the Prince of Tyrconnell, Lord Tyrconnell's elder brother and predecessor, had been forced into exile in January 1602[ clarification needed ] by the victorious English government of Ireland under the leadership of the Lord Mountjoy. They retained their lands and titles, although with much diminished extent and authority. However, the countryside was laid bare in a campaign of destruction in 1602, and induced famine in 1603. O'Neill was pardoned under the terms of the Treaty of Mellifont in March 1603 and submitted to the crown.
When King James I took the throne in 1603, he quickly proceeded to issue pardons for the Irish lords and their rebel forces. As king of Scotland he had a better understanding of the advantages from working with local chiefs in the Scottish Highlands. However, as in other Irish lordships, the 1603 peace involved O'Neill losing substantial areas of land to his cousins and neighbours, who would be granted freeholds under the English system, instead of the looser arrangements under the former Brehon law system. This was not a new policy but was a well-understood and longstanding practice in the Tudor conquest of Ireland.
On 10 September 1602, the Prince of Tyrconnell had already died, allegedly assassinated, in Spain, and his brother succeeded him as 25th Chieftain of the O'Donnell clan. He was later granted the Earldom of Tyrconnell by King James I on 4 September 1603, and restored to a somewhat diminished scale of territories in Tyrconnell on 10 February 1604.
In 1605, the new Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Arthur Chichester, began to encroach on the former freedoms of the two Earls and The Maguire, enforcing the new freeholds, especially that granted in North Ulster to the Ó Catháin chief. The Ó Catháins had formerly been important subjects of the O'Neills and required protection; in turn, Chichester wanted to reduce O'Neill's authority. An option was to charge O'Neill with treason if he did not comply with the new arrangements. The discovery of the Gunpowder Plot in the same year made it harder for Catholics to appear loyal to both the crown and the papacy. As the Dublin administration sided with Ó Catháin, O'Neill was invited by King James to make his case in 1607 to the Privy Council in London, which he never did.
By 1607, O'Neill's allies the Maguires and the Earl of Tyrconnell were finding it hard to maintain their prestige on lower incomes. They planned to seek Spanish support before news of the Battle of Gibraltar arrived. When their ship dropped anchor, O'Neill seems to have joined them on impulse. He had three options:
Fearing arrest, they chose to flee to Continental Europe, where they hoped to recruit an army for the invasion of Ireland with Spanish help. However, earlier in 1607 the main Spanish fleet in Europe had been destroyed by the Dutch in the Battle of Gibraltar.
Also, as the Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604) had been ended by the Treaty of London in 1604, King Philip III of Spain wanted to remain at peace with England under its new Stuart dynasty. As a part of the peace proposals, a Spanish princess was to marry James' son Henry, though this never happened. Spain had also gone bankrupt in 1598. Tyrone ignored all these realities, remained in Italy, and persisted with his invasion plan until his death in exile in 1616.
The earls left from the town of Rathmullan with some of the leading Gaelic families in Ulster; they travelled down Lough Swilly on a French ship. Their departure was the end of the old Gaelic order, in that the earls were descended from Gaelic clan dynasties that had ruled their parts of Ulster for centuries. The Flight of the Earls was a watershed event in Irish history, as the ancient Gaelic aristocracy of Ulster went into permanent exile. Despite their attachment to and importance in the Gaelic system, the Earls' ancestors had accepted their Earldoms from the English-run Kingdom of Ireland in the 1540s, under the policy of surrender and regrant. Some historians argue that their flight was forced upon them by the fallout from the Tudor conquest of Ireland, others that it was an enormous strategic mistake that cleared the way for the Plantation of Ulster.
From 1616 a number of bards outside Ulster had a poetic debate in the "Contention of the bards", and one of the arguments celebrated King James's Gaelic-Irish milesian ancestry through Malcolm III of Scotland. So it is debatable whether the Gaelic order had ended or was evolving.
The Earls set sail from Rathmullan, a village on the shore of Lough Swilly in County Donegal, accompanied by ninety followers, many of them Ulster noblemen, and some members of their families. Several left their wives behind, hoping either to return or retrieve them later. The late Tomas Cardinal O’Fiaich, Archbishop of Armagh, gave a lecture at Rathmullan in September 1988 and recounted that the Earl of Tyrone allegedly “had a gold cross which contained a relic of the True Cross, and this he trailed in the water behind the ship, and according to O’Ciainain, it gave some relief from the storm” during the crossing to Quillebeuf-sur-Seine in Normandy, France. They finally reached the Continent on 4 October 1607. [ clarification needed ] This supposed relic of the True Cross was probably a minor relic taken from that kept at Holy Cross Abbey, which they had previously visited en route to Kinsale in 1601.The act was significant as the date of the exile from Rathmullan was the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
Their destination was Spain, but they disembarked in France. The party proceeded overland to Spanish Flanders, some remaining in Leuven, while the main party continued to Italy. Tadhg Ó Cianáin (sometimes quoted by historians as O'Keenan) subsequently described the journey in great detail. While the party were welcomed by many important officials in the Spanish Netherlands, he makes no mention of any negotiations or planning between the earls and the Spanish to start a new war to regain the earls' properties.
Ó Cianáin's diary is important as the only continuous and contemporaneous account of the Flight. Its original title, Turas na dTaoiseach nUltach as Éirinn - the departure of the Chiefs of Ulster from Ireland - has been changed since the creation of the more dramatic phrase "Flight of the Earls" to the latter's modern literal translation, Imeacht na nIarlaí.
King James issued "A Proclamation touching the Earles of Tyrone and Tyrconnell" on 15 November 1607, describing their action as treasonous, and therefore preparing the ground for the eventual forfeiture of their lands and titles.No reply that is known of was made to the proclamation
Their titles were attainted in 1614, although they continued to be recognised on the Continent. The attainders were not considered legitimate in continental Catholic countries of the day. Even within the context of English and colonial Irish rule, the attainder came about six years after Rory, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, had already died. As accused, for him to have been properly tried, he should have been tried by his peers in the Peerage of Ireland, under the presiding authority of the Lord High Steward of Ireland. However, he was already dead, unable to stand in his own defence, and his title already inherited by his son Hugh “Albert” O'Donnell; therefore in order to attaint the title, the trial would have to have been of Hugh “Albert”, who had in fact committed no crime. The 6-year delay in hearing the attainders was unavoidable, as his peers in the Irish House of Lords next sat in 1613, and dealt with the matter in the usual manner.
The attainder was however considered a travesty of justice by his supporters, and was considered null and void by many on the Continent. The succession of the Earl of Tyrconnell's son, Hugh “Albert” O'Donnell, as 2nd Earl of Tyrconnell (1st creation) was therefore recognized as valid in the Spanish Empire, and he was given the same status under a new Spanish title Conde de Tirconnel.
Under the Common law, the title granted by King James and accepted by the earl had potentially lapsed as soon as the Earl embarked on the ship without his king's permission to leave Ireland, and when it lapsed it could not then pass down to his descendants without some special waiver. Assuming that Hugh Albert was being punished for a crime he did not commit, and was not being given a hearing, misses the whole point of the law of attainder. Hugh Albert was never issued a Writ of Summons to sit in the Irish House of Lords as his father's heir. Hugh Albert also never came to Dublin in 1614 to argue his case for a waiver, so far as is known, and never accepted James I as his king. Until he did so, his title and his claim to nobility was considered to be "in abeyance".
These attainders had a much greater impact on the people of Ulster. The 1603 peace arrangement with the three lords was ended, as they had broken its conditions by leaving the kingdom without permission, and their remaining freehold lands were confiscated. Chichester proposed a new plantation of settlers from England, Wales and Scotland, sponsored in part by the City of London merchants, which became known as the Plantation of Ulster. This had an enormous negative impact on the lower class Gaelic-culture inhabitants of Ulster.
In the Papal bull Ilius of 1555, the Pope had conferred the title King of Ireland on King Philip II of Spain when he was married to Queen Mary. Philip II made no claim to the kingship of Ireland after Mary's death in 1558.He engaged in a lengthy war from 1585 with her sister Elizabeth I, and he and his successor Philip III supported the Irish Catholic rebels up to the siege of Kinsale in 1601. He had been offered the kingship in 1595 by O'Neill and his allies, but turned it down. Given this lengthy support, it was reasonable for Tyrconnell and Tyrone to imagine that they might to solicit help from Philip III, but Spanish policy was to maintain the recent (1604) Treaty with England, and its European fleet had been weakened from several conflicts, and destroyed at the Battle of Gibraltar by the Dutch over four months earlier.
Therefore by mid-1607 Spain had neither the desire nor the means to assist an Irish rebellion. While the Flight is often described as a first step in arranging a new war, this must be seen as an emotional and false conclusion, as there were no plans or proposals at all from the Spanish side to support the earls. Spanish policy in the 1590s had been to help the Irish warlords as a nuisance against England, but they had been defeated by 1603. It could not be in any way in the interest of Spain to assist their unsuccessful former allies in 1607.
The 400th anniversary of the Flight of the Earls was marked on 14 September 2007, throughout Donegal, including a regatta of tall ships, fireworks, lectures, and conferences. The President of Ireland Mary McAleese unveiled a statue depicting the Flight at Rathmullan. There is a permanent exhibition dedicated to the Flight of the Earls and the subsequent Plantation in Draperstown in Northern Ireland and at the "Flight of the Earls Centre" in the Martello tower at Rathmullan.
In 2008 there were also celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Earls in Rome, with a celebratory performance by the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland in Sant'Ignazio Church in Rome.
Hugh O'Neill, was an Irish Gaelic lord, Earl of Tyrone and was later created The Ó Néill. O'Neill's career was played out against the background of the Tudor conquest of Ireland, and he is best known for leading the resistance during the Nine Years' War, the strongest threat to English authority in Ireland since the revolt of Silken Thomas.
Niall Garve O'Donnell was an Irish chieftain, alternately an ally of and rebel against English rule in Ireland. He is best known for siding with the English against his kinsman Hugh Roe O'Donnell during the Nine Years' War in the 1590s.
Rory O'Donnell was the last King of Tyrconnell and 1st Earl of Tyrconnell. although that family did not inherit the title, nor the related territorial Lordship of Tyrconnell, the remainders of which were destined elsewhere.
Hugh Roe O'Donnell, also known as Red Hugh O'Donnell, was an Irish nobleman of the Tudor era. A member of the O'Donnell dynasty, he emerged after a succession dispute as ruler of Tyrconnell. Along with his father-in-law Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone he led a rebellion against the government in Ireland from 1593 and fought the Nine Years' War from 1595 to 1602. After defeat during the Siege of Kinsale, he travelled to Spain to seek support from Philip III. Unsuccessful in this attempt, he died in Spain and was succeeded by his younger brother Rory O'Donnell. He is sometimes also known as Aodh Ruadh II or Red Hugh II, especially within County Donegal.
The O'Donnell dynasty were an ancient and powerful Irish family, kings, princes and lords of Tyrconnell in early times, and the chief allies and sometimes rivals of the O'Neills in Ulster.
The Nine Years' War, sometimes called Tyrone's Rebellion, took place in Ireland from 1593 to 1603. It was fought between an Irish alliance—led mainly by Hugh O'Neill of Tír Eoghain and Hugh Roe O'Donnell of Tyrconnell—against English rule in Ireland, and was a response to the then-ongoing Tudor conquest of Ireland. The war was fought in all parts of the country, but mainly in the northern province of Ulster. The Irish alliance won some important early victories, such as the Battle of Clontibret (1595) and the Battle of the Yellow Ford (1598), but the English won a decisive victory against the alliance and their Spanish allies in the Siege of Kinsale (1601-2). The war ended with the Treaty of Mellifont (1603). Many of the defeated northern lords left Ireland to seek support for a new uprising in the Flight of the Earls (1607), never to return. This marked the end of Gaelic Ireland and led to the Plantation of Ulster.
The title Earl of Tyrconnell has been created four times in the Peerage of Ireland.
Tyrconnell, also spelled Tirconnell, was a kingdom of Gaelic Ireland, associated geographically with present-day County Donegal in Ulster, which has sometimes been called County Tyrconnell. At times it also included parts of County Fermanagh, County Sligo, County Leitrim, County Tyrone and County Londonderry at its greatest extent. The kingdom represented the core homeland of the Cenél Conaill people of the Northern Uí Néill and although they ruled, there were smaller groups of other Gaels in the area.
Shane O'Neill, 3rd Earl of Tyrone was the youngest son of Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone.
Tadhg Óg Ó Cianáin (IPA://) was an Irish writer.
Flaithrí Ó Maolchonaire, was an Irish Franciscan and theologian, founder of the College of St Anthony of Padua, Leuven, and Archbishop of Tuam.
Matha Óg Ó Maoil Tuile, secretary to Rudhraighe Ó Domhnaill, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell and Hugh Ó Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone.
O'Doherty's rebellion took place in 1608 when the landowner Sir Cahir O'Doherty began an uprising against the authorities in the north-west of Ireland. O'Doherty had been a long-standing supporter of the Crown, but having been angered at his treatment by local officials he launched an attack on Derry, burning the town. O'Doherty may have hoped to negotiate a settlement with the government, but after his death in a skirmish at Kilmacrennan the rebellion collapsed with the last survivors being besieged on Tory Island.
Sir Hugh O'Donnell was an Irish Gaelic lord. He was The O'Donnell of his clan, and king of Tyrconnell in medieval Ireland.
The Treaty of Mellifont, also known as the Articles of Mellifont, was signed in 1603 and ended the Nine Years' War which took place in the Kingdom of Ireland from 1594 to 1603.
Sir Cormac MacBaron O'Neill (d.1613) was an Irish soldier and landowner of the Elizabethan and early Stuart eras. He was part of the O'Neill dynasty, one of the most prominent Gaelic family in Ireland.
Cathbarr O'Donnell was an Irish nobleman.
Conn O'Neill was a member of the O'Neill dynasty, the most powerful Gaelic family in Ireland. He was the youngest son of Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone who had initially been a supporter of the Crown but led Tyrone's Rebellion between 1594–1603. He then made peace and was restored to royal favour following the Treaty of Mellifont. Conn's mother was Catherine O'Neill, Countess of Tyrone, from the Magennis family of Iveagh.
Nuala O'Donnell was a member of the O'Donnell dynasty in sixteenth century Ireland who took part in the 1607 Flight of the Earls.
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